Saturday, 5 October 2013

The Long Run

"Hey Leigh, I wanted to tell you something" said a lady who I chatted with at the Captains meeting.

"I don't know what your reasons are for doing this, but our son died when he was 3 and a half of cancer, so thank you"

This exchange took place right as the race started, it shook me hard enough that I didn't even get a picture of Lexie taking off. I didn't even see the start, I was unsuccessful at fighting back the tears that came. Whatever anxiety I was feeling dissipated as I knew whatever pain I was in for that day would never compare to what she had been through. I didn't even remember her name, something I feel terrible for, but I know I'll never forget that exchange.

After I spent some time trying to negotiate that exchange in my head, it was time to get going. Jonelle and I wanted to be sure we got to the first exchange early enough to give Lexie directions and get the cheer train started. So we headed out of the starting area and started our long trip north to Blue Mountain. We passed the runners, and the excitement started. I could feel the energy and it was great. We stopped near the first exchange to give Lex the directions she needed and to cheer her on, it was good because we got to see her twice. She looked great in her running skirt and was running strong. I won't spend much more time recapping her morning, she already did a wonderful job of that. I will say though that it was a great time. Cheering, supporting, hanging out. The time flew by and I was more than inspired by the job she did, and the people we met along the way, including a High School Cross-Country team from Mississauga that was running in honour of a teammate who was undergoing cancer treatment at Sick Kids just days before the run. It was an uplifting and encouraging morning.

This is as good of a time as any to thank Jonelle. She gave up her whole Saturday (which is a big sacrifice for someone that works as hard as her) to support us. She provided us with all the help and encouragement we needed, she even took some video and pictures that I hope to share on here soon. So thanks, Jonelle, we couldn't have got to Blue, without you.

Lexie did a great job, and as we waited for her at the 50km mark, I was so proud of her, but also slightly jealous as she was now done this feat we had trained for, and I was staring down the barrel of it.

Because there was no exchange point at 50km, so we exchanged about 3km shy of one of the exchange points.

Getting Ready to go. She looks great for a 50k finisher, no?
My legs were tight to start. Tapering always does that to me, as I had experienced at the Ottawa Marathon. But it was nice to have some supporters drive by in those first few KM. I loved the honking horns and cowbells throughout the run. Large parts of my run took place on trails, and as much as I love me a good trail, I missed the cheering that was present on the road sections of my run.

I'm off
The first three KM were fine, it took me the entire time to warm up, but when you are running 50K, I guess that is reasonable. After 3K, I hit the first exchange point, at which I wasn't planning on seeing anyone, and didn't.

My next leg was 7km, after which I was planning on meeting Lexie and Jonelle to replenish my water and grab some snickers (that's right, 50K run = lots of candy). This leg actually flew by, it was a little hilly, but the rain that plagued Lexie had stopped, I had hit my stride and I felt great. I was clicking off 10 minute miles with ease. Near the end of this leg some kind gentleman flew by me with some encouraging words like "We are are almost there" and"Only one more kilometre". I just played along, had to save my energy. I also saw the lady mentioned at the start of this post. She rolled down her window and yelled "You're KILLING it Leigh!" That put a smile on my face that took a while to wear off.

I hit the exchange, grabbed my new bottles and food, and bolted. Then it got fun. Compared to Lexie's legs, mine were all relatively flat. But this 9+ km leg was rated a 4/5 for difficulty. Which as it turned out, mother nature promptly bumped up to a 5/5. This leg was LONG and HILLY. Which was fine by me, because long was the name of the game that day. However, it was also during this leg that the temperature dropped 7-8 degrees and it was pouring a nice cold rain. Now as you already know, I'm not nearly as tough as Lexie, so this was difficult for me. Although the leg was difficult, I felt good throughout. At one point my hamstrings were doing some kind of cramp they never had before, which was scary for a minute but after about 10 minutes it stopped, and thankfully never returned. The last KM of this leg was mercifully a long downhill. The next transition was kind of funny, I had hit 20K and my legs were starting to feel it, but as I saw Lexie hobble across the road with my water I realized that I was a long way from sore. I grabbed my water and a PB&J sandwich and carried on my way to Stayner, where if you don't know, they make vinegar.

The next leg was perfect. It was all sorts of flat and the rain stopped about 10 minutes in. About half of the 6K took place on a trail in Stayner. It was during this leg that I passed a couple of people, which gave me a bit of a boost because I meant I must have still been running fairly strong. I also had a fun exchange with a guy right near the end of this leg. He ran by me, I smiled and said hi, then a look for recognition cross his face. "Are you running 2 legs?" he asked. "50K" I said. He responded with a quick "You're Crazy" and took off ahead of me. I laughed, I guess I was a little crazy. The leg finished at a school where a whole crew was waiting for me. Lucas, Cooper, Jonelle, Lexie, Oma, Grandpa, TJ, Lesley, Avery, Brooke, Jeremy, Eliza, Grace, and even my dogphew Henry. I was pleased to see them, but by then I had run 26K was getting tired and REALLY needed to pee, so I said a quick Hello and took off for the potty. I was looking forward to this exchange because it had been decided earlier that TJ, my brother-in-law would join me for the next 12K (which was actually longer) leg. Lesley had run with Lexie for a while so I was looking forward to the company.
Heading to the potty!

Support Crew waiting for me at the exchange. Jonelle took the photo!
TJ and I on our way out
After the potty break and a bottle switch and food pickup TJ and I took off for our leg. This leg was 95% on a crushed gravel trail. Which was good for TJ and great for me. Most of this leg flew by as we talked about sports and teaching (the only things we know anything about). However, we were both under the impression that the leg was 12km long, it actually ended up being 14K. I was glad to have TJ with me for those extra 2K because I didn't bring nearly enough fluid for 14K and as a result I was super thirsty. By the time we had finished I had passed the 40.5K. It was here that the pain really started to kick in, it was awesome to have some distraction. This leg wins the award for best ended. As we headed down the never ending trail towards what was the end of the leg, we could see Grandpa up ahead with the kids, what we didn't expect was to be greeting by two mini Darth Mauls and a Hello Kitty. The kids ran in our last few hundred metres with us, which I enjoyed despite the grimace on my face. Lexie was waiting with a clif bar and some gatorade. I had brought along some Coke because I had read somewhere that flat Coke was good for people running Ultra Marathons. I asked Lexie to run and get it from the cooler for me and as I chugged it someone yelled "Get those calories in!" it was a nice boost of support. I drank as much as I could and headed off on my second last leg. I tried to eat the clif bar but it ended up partially chewed on the side of the trail.
Don't get scared now!

The crew that ran me in for the last 100 metres
Get those Calories in!
This leg was very lonely and took longer than it should have. Because the previous leg had been longer than expected, it meant this one was shorter than advertised (4Kish). But I knew that my sisters, Devyn and Kara, my cousin Siobhan, and my Auntie Lynne were waiting for me at the next exchange which made me want it over as fast as possible so I could see them. (they were volunteering at exchange 13, how awesome right?) This leg ran through Collingwood, so I recognized a lot of the sights and it was good to know I was so close (yet so far) from Blue Mountain. Although the leg was short, it was also eventful. Two things of interest happened; First, about a KM in I started to notice my breathing had really intensified, which struck me as odd as I had not picked up my pace at all, as a matter of fact it had slowed slightly. When I checked my pulse, it was somewhere around 170 BPM, which is waaaaaaaay higher than it should have been. I later discovered that it was my body trying to blow off some carbon dioxide to counteract the lactic acid build up in my body. It turns our your body acts up when you push it too hard. The other incident occurred as a turned onto a trail and headed towards towards the final exchange point. I had just passed a guy when I heard a bike bell behind me, I moved to the side, but had no energy to look back. After a few seconds the bike still hadn't passed so I looked back to find a lady mumbling about not moving over or something so I rather impatiently insisted she move along. She did, and so did I. As I approached the exchange I could see my family up ahead, I fought the strong urge to pull a Lexie-esque ugly cry. Which is good because I had very little fluid to spare and sobbing would have increased my already elevated respiration rate. My baby sister Devyn ran to meet me and ran the last few hundred metres with me, which was amazing, I couldn't really talk but managed to let her know I was cramping. She ran and got me a banana, which I ate half of and it really helped. It was such a boost to see everyone at the exchange. I needed some uplifting and some positivity and they provided it. After a quick banana/hug/coke/drink/encouragement stop, I headed off for the home stretch.

Now, one would think that after 44ish KM, 6 would seem like nothing, but I'll tell you what, those 6 were the hardest work I had ever done. The first 3 were a straight shot down a loooooong path. It seemed like forever by the time I had got the end of the path where the "Halfway" sign was. A nice volunteer was there and I blurted out "Is this really halfway?", he responded with a chipper "Yep, you are almost there!" I think we had our signals crossed because what I meant was "Are you $#@#ing serious, I still have THREE KILOMETRES TO GO!". The last three KM were on some familiar roads around Blue Mountain. I will save you the details, but the recurring theme of this part of the leg involved me turning a corner thinking it was the end, only to find something other than the finish line ahead. It was on this leg that I thought a lot about the exchange I had at the start line. I thought a lot about the pain that families go through losing a child. I thought a lot about Cooper and how lucky we are to have him healthy and with us. I knew the pain I was in was nothing compared to the pain people feel every day when they lose a child. I knew we were the lucky parents who took their boy home from Sick Kids, and the least we could do was give back.

I finally turned onto the road that leads into the Blue Mountain village. I could hear cheering and smell BBQ and knew I was near the end. I turned a corner and saw what I had been dreaming of for the last 49.6KM; Lexie standing on the road waiting to run with me to the finish. As I approached, she crossed the road and joined me and we headed for the finished line. I again fought the urge to ugly cry and instead asked Lexie somewhere between 100-200 times if we were "there yet". As a side note, as I approached her I also saw Jonelle running towards the village. It turns out I had surprised them and arrived a little earlier than anticipated. All turned out fine though, and as we approached the village, there was Grandpa with my boys. I was about to do it. I grabbed Lucas' hand and we ran the last 100 metres to the finish line. I was exhausted and sore, but it was a great feeling. Crossing that line was the culmination of a lot of things, and the feeling was surreal.

We had done it. Set another goal and realized it. In a word, I was grateful.

Smiles of gratitude

Still to come: Post Race party, Custom Tshirts, Thanks, and more!

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on completing a terrific run for a wonderful and worthwhile cause! It is magical how the cheers and comments of others can give us an unexpected burst of energy to complete a daunting task. We salute you!

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