The Green Lakes Endurance Run was a fantastic event. It was well organized with plenty of volunteer support. The course was nice, with excellent footing and the potential for very fast running. The trails were wide and a bit overly-groomed for my taste, but I enjoyed them anyway! There is a 5km stretch in the middle of each loop that is single track through brushy fields. I even liked that part of the course. The wildflowers were beautiful and the field offered some great views and some nice rolling hills. The scenery was pretty and the lakes really are a wonderful shade of teal. The only thing wrong with the race was the way I ran it...poorly!
I ran the first 7.75 mile loop with Zsuzanna Carlson. She had it in her mind that this race would be an exciting contest between herself and me. She is a very nice woman and a very spirited competitor. I have beaten her each time we have raced in the past, but I knew I wouldn't be running at my best and wouldn't be giving her any competition on that day. I didn't say anything to her about feeling "off" because I didn't want it to sound like I was playing some sort of psyche out game with her. I did warn her that Ruthann was also in the race and was a very strong competitor. I had fun running that first loop with Zsusanna, but knew I should drop back on the next loop.
I held back a bit at the main aid station before starting my second loop, wanting to let Zsusanna go so I could slow down to a more sustainable pace. Ruthann had been right behind us and she and I headed out on the second loop together. I was still going faster than I should, but I had a good time chatting with Ruthann for most of the second loop. Near the end of the second loop, we came upon Kevin who was out on his mountain bike exploring the park. I stopped to talk with him so I'd have an excuse to let Ruthann move ahead of me and I could really slow down to where I needed to be in order to finish.
I actually felt pretty good for the first 50K. Then suddenly I just felt terrible. The last 50K was a lesson in will power. I had to struggle to put one foot in front of the other. Every so often I would say to myself the words of the infamous Joe Hayes, "A.F.F. beats a D.N.F." (Any F#*!ing Finish beats a Did Not Finish!) I don't know if that always holds true, but at Green Lakes I needed a finish to help with my sagging running confidence.
I saw Kevin on and off all day. He literally rode his bike all day. He was a great help in encouraging me to keep going, no matter how badly I was doing and how poorly I felt. I can't remember his exact words but they had something to do with praising my persistence and tenacity, which were about the only things I had going for me on that day. Nothing hurt, I was just tired and heavy legged and my loops were pathetically slow.
People at the main aid station and the first aid station on the course were very helpful in cheering me on and lying about how great I was doing. They called me by name, even though I had never met a single one of them before. It is that kind of special touch that made this event so nice. Another thing that impressed me were the great course markings and the volunteers at all the intersections on the first few laps to point runners in the right direction.
On my second to last loop I came face to face with Zsusanna on one of the sections with two-way traffic. She was still in the lead, but paused to tell me she was "scared to death" to be leading. She also voiced concern about how my run was going (sucking) and wanted to be sure I would be heading out for my last lap and finish no matter what. I told her I would be finishing eventually and I told her to keep going, she was doing great!!! I was very happy to hear that she did go on to win. I believe it was her first win at any distance.
Eventually I found my way around the loop for one last time and ran over the finish line. All the 50K runners had already gone home and there were only a few volunteers and a few 100K finishers left. But they cheered me in enthusiastically and you'd never know by hearing them that there were only about a dozen of them left there. I had just finished one of my worse and most difficult races of my life, but I was smiling! There is something oddly rewarding about pushing one's self to the finish line on persistence and tenacity alone. So there is some truth in Joe's saying that A.F.F. beats a D.N.F. I am pretty darned happy with my finish.