24 June 2012

Pacing Ray K in Great NY 100 Mile Running Exposition

The Great New York 100 Mile Running Exposition was happening for the first time ever this year. When American 48 hour record holder Phil McCarthy asked me to run it, I wanted to but thought it was too close to VT100 - only 3 weeks away. Turns out I got the dates wrong, it was 4 weeks away, but I thought pavement was probably a bad idea. In the days prior to the race, I was regretting not signing up -

but now, after the race, I'm glad I didn't.

The illustrious Ray K was running it, and as he's one of my good friends, and oh-so-entertaining, I decided to pace him. Mary offered to pace him 35-50, I'd pace him miles 50-100, and Wayne (on bike) and Mary would probably come together at the end so we could all do the amazing finish in Times Square. The course was pretty amazing - really pretty, tons of nice parks (Who knew there were so many beautiful greenways and parks in NYC?) - but all concrete. Ouch.

Wayne and I were following texts from Mary and ended up getting to Alley Pond Park (mile 50) an hour or two early - so we talked to other ultrarunners, paced Emmy and Paul for a while, ran with Mat for a bit. It was a lot of fun to see them, though they all complained abt the concrete. My favourite thing: when I asked Mat if I could get him anything he needed, he responded by saying, "Trails."

Finally, we ran into Mary and Ray, which of course involved in all of us screaming across a field at each other as I ran towards them. Ray showed us his shoe with a separated rubber bottom from the shoe - he used the electrical tape Wayne and I grabbed for him from our house and taped up his shoe. Oh my. And all those 5k runners throwing away their shoes every 300-500 miles and one of the top ultrarunners in history is running in shoes he bought at a thrift store that are held together with tape. We stopped every so often so he could retape.

Mary briefed me on how she was forcing Ray to eat, how he was doing. And then Wayne whisked Mary away in The Grey Fox (Wayne's pickup truck). And Ray and I were alone.

We were running, and doing the infamous "Ray K shuffle." I chatted with him about what Wayne and I had done that day, about training, about Burning Man. An extra ticket appeared and Ray was now coming with us, so we were all excited.

The course was pretty. We ran through parks, greenways, bike paths, occasionally pretty roads. It was really nice. We followed turn-by-turn directions and yellow arrows on the ground. The yellow arrows were mostly good, but there were a few times where they were scarce and it was hard to follow. Apparently, everyone got lost in the Bronx. Ray and I only got lost once, and of course it ended up with us running more. Grrrrr. Ray fell behind the cut offs so there were no aid stations - one time we passed a spraypainted H20 with an arrow and we filled up water there.

Ray started fading. It started getting dark, but luckily, headlamps were not needed because it's NYC and there are streetlights everywhere. Whew.

Ray was feeling down, really weary and in a lot of pain. It is so hard to see someone you care about in pain. My poor pacers at VT100, I'm going to be crying for sure for a while.

As the sky grew darker, the people grew drunker and weirder in the parks. Oh joy.

Luckily, the trees meant lots of easy spots to pee. :)

Ray needed food, so when we crossed Queens Blvd, we stopped and got sandwiches and a cookie for me. I was feeding him a homemade brownie every hour or so - I had a stash in my backpack and tried hard to feed him.

Ray got tired. Someplace close to Cross Bay Blvd, Ray crossed the street despite my scoldings and crawled into a park and napped for a half hour. I called Wayne, who was sick with worry, and worse, had lent his car to a friend so he couldn't even come out and support us. I assured him we were okay and told him I wouldn't leave Ray. "Well, you'll be by the A train soon," he told me. I told him we wouldn't need it - Ray would be finishing for sure!

Finally, Ray started and I was glad as I got chilled when stopping. We ran down Cross Bay Blvd and he got a frozen coffee drink and a Dunkin Donuts. He ate and drank while we walked. Finally, we got to the bridge, which was a hotbed of fishing and drinking. Then we had a nice long journey through the pretty Broad Channel bike path. I saw a dead fox, which wasn't quite as good as the raccoon family I had seen in Alley Pond Park earlier.

Ray was swaying and swerving and I tried to keep him awake by telling him stories, yammering on about Burning Man, my cat, work, my family, whatever. I was so tired all I wanted to do was sleep. I kept pushing us forward the best I could, trying to get Ray to drink Gatorade and go! It was rough because no one else was out there. The race was only 31 people (and apparently only 15 finishers) and we were behind and alone. It was not obvious what we were doing.

More drunk people, more swaying. C'mon Ray. I kept pushing forward, every so often texting Wayne or Mary to update them, posting photos on Facebook.

We arrived at Rockaway Beach! My dad taught here, so please don't tell my dad I was walking with a weary, swerving and swaying because he's tired man, down the boardwalk. Most people were very friendly, esp those who we told what we were doing. We saw bonfires and all sorts of fun parties. We were probably the only sober ones, though I was hallucinating due to lack of sleep and Ray was sleepwalking, so I don't know if we count as sober.

Ray kept wanting to sleep on a bench and I was fighting with him. "C'mon, I know what this area is like - you cannot sleep! When we get across the Marine Parkway Bridge." We pushed forward with him going towards the benches and me getting very worried. The sky grew pink - so pretty.

We got a little lost and then, the Marine Parkway Bridge. I hate this bridge. We talked about Ray's marathoning days (he ran a 1:37 en route to winning the 100k National Championships and has run 50+ 2:40-2:45 marathons). I got scared a bit because I hate the feeling like I could fall so we held hands as we made our way across.

And then, yay, we pushed on down a bike path. Ray began swerving. He wanted to nap. My feet were getting messed up - swollen and blisters. The socks were running socks, and because we were doing so much walking, it wasn't helping. Ouch. He fell asleep in the grass and I took off my shoes to inspect the damage. Pretty terrible. Red spots and splotches all over, blisters, ouch. When I put my shoes back on, I was in agony. I decided like Ray had said was okay to try to get a cab. Of course there was nothing around. I looked on my phone while he slept in the weeds. And then, like a mirage, a cab appeared. He turned around and waited while I woke up Ray and said goodbye.

The cab ride was long and expensive but I was glad to be off my feet. I felt bad leaving Ray but my feet were killing me - and I have VT in just a month. I need good feet!

I arrived home, waking up Wayne who had slept poorly due to worrying about us. I took a shower and we tried to figure out my feet - but because of callouses, the blisters cannot be penetrated. And the splotches, ugh.

I'm in pain, yes, but I'm so happy I helped out a friend. I wish I could've been there until the end, but alas, that would not be good for my tootsies.

Ray was pushing on. I left him at mile 74 and now I'm imagining he's approaching the Brooklyn Bridge.

GO Ray! Finish strong!

Pacing at a 100miler gave me a strong appreciation for pacers - but also for a clue on how completely insane running 100s are. Stay running shorter races - a lot less pain. Trust me.

1 comment:

Robin Goodfellow said...

Come the Zombie apocalypse, I have no doubts that you will outrun them long after my motorcycle has run outta gas :)

You go girl!