Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Afton Sweet Afton!

Oh Afton, Sweet Afton!

Really, Afton 50K is pretty sweet. John and Cheri have the RDing of the Rocksteady Races down and they go on without a hitch. Afton was my first 50K, way back in 2002. It was a training run, in March of 2002, before my first 50 miler, Ice Age. I bonked big time and actually had to be carried off the trail…I blacked was pretty crazy scene. I hadn’t eaten -although I was instructed too-I drank WAY too much water and the course was more than I had ever handled before. However, I learned so much and I did not die.

Afton holds a special place in my heart. I’ve run the race 10 times, have trained there numerous times with my closest of  friends and have had so many laughs and smiles.

I am thrilled that I am feeling so great this year and able to run the race two weeks out from my last. It’s not like I’m ‘racing’, I’m running, building back my endurance and having a ball.

My alarm buzzed me awake at 3AM Saturday. After spending a week at the cabin I was tired!  I eventually moved out of bed and got ready for the day, heading out before 4, arriving at the course at 530. Plenty of time to get my packet, my shirts, visit with friends. So many friends!

Maria and I hung at the start line, had the obligatory UMTR photo shoot and were ready to roll.

Mike Wheeler Photo

Photo by UMTR

The morning was warm, it was going to be a hot day. Slow and steady was the plan…with lots of fun sprinkled in!

I didn’t feel any anxiety while running Afton. I know the course, I know the peeps, I’m less than 2 hours from home, I felt great. I brought my iphone along to try music if I wanted but I never played any. I just enjoyed listening to my thoughts, my breathing, to nature.

The first few miles were congested as we all found our place. The aid stations came quickly and I was glad that I had decided to wear a pack as I never have while running Afton before. However, my time between aid stations is a bit longer than the past and it was a holy hot day.  I cruised through the first few aid stations, not needing anything. At around mile 8 the speedsters of the 25K race began to pass. At first this was fine, I just moved aside, but eventually I found myself becoming SO irritated. There were over 600 of them and most of them passed me during that first loop. I was constantly being run down – sometimes on both sides, so I just stood there, letting them pass as many shouted out that they were on my left or right, expecting me to step off of the trail. After I while I told myself to chill out, but I did find myself not stepping off of the trail as much and just letting them get around on their own one way or another.

I planned to fill my pack at AS 5 where I knew my old running pals would be. Sure enough, as I ran in I spotted Nancy, Tom and Alicia. Tom filled my pack and I was greeted with hugs by the others. It was so great!  As I was running out Jeffrey caught up with me for a big wet hug. I’ve missed these guys! 

Speed work hasn’t really come into play yet since I began to run in February so earlier in the race I decided to try it out. I was feeling so good, why not?  I ran faster minutes here and there in the open field areas, thinking I’d see if I could get 16 miles done in 3:20 or so, then thinking I’d slow down the second loop to finish in 730-800.  The 320 would be fast for me in the shape that I am in, but it would be fun to try.

Sure enough, I came into the start/finish at 317. Wow. Super. I feel fine. OK, now I’ll do loop 2 in 4:30, I figured, finishing in 745-8. I slowed down, enjoyed the fact that I was no longer being run down by 25Kers and just really enjoyed myself. I was by myself most of the 2nd loop, feeling the heat, feeling my body move, enjoying the run.  I didn’t have any foot pain, I felt strong. I felt hydrated and had plenty of energy. I took in the course, reliving all of the memories that it brought with it. 2014 was the last year that I ran the race. The course was stunning with the river, the hills, the singletrack, the new downhill trail recently completed and of course  all of the happy faces at the aid stations.

Freshtracks media photo

At mile 22 I was ready for COKE. I came into the aid station and drank a few glasses, then again at the final aid station. I was ready to run into the finish.  Sure enough, a few miles out, I’m running downhill and catch my foot on a root. Boom, I go down, fully sprawled out and sliding down the hill. Good grief!  I pick myself up, collect myself and run on. Time to wrap up this race.

At 702 I ran into the finish line; faster  than I intended and feeling better than I believed I could.  What an amazing day.

Mike Wheeler photo

The finish line was bustling with people so I hung out for an hour or so before heading for home, fully gratified and feeling blessed.

Paulette Odenthal photo

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