by Thomas “T.O.” Okazaki
Huntsville, TX/Dallas, TX
December 9-10, 2006
My First Sunmart 50 miler/White Rock Marathon Double
Are you all right, Sir? I opened my eyes and peered upward toward the sky. A handsome, old gentleman was staring down at me, with a very concerned look on his face. “I’m OK, I’m OK, just give me few minutes. Seconds ago, I had tripped on a hidden tree root at mile 13 at the Sunmart Fifty Miler in Huntsville, TX.
As I was landing onto the soft sand, I pulled my right calf muscle. I was now on the ground, flat on my back, gritting my teeth and grimacing in pain.
Soon, another pair of concerned lady runners stopped and ask if there was anything they could do to help. “No, no, I’ll be fine, just go ahead with your run.”, I insisted.
I try and keep my cramping leg straight to prevent any further damage to that cramping calf muscle. Bending it only makes it worse. I wonder if my 50 mile run is now in jeopardy.
Another male trail runner comes by and pulls me up off the ground. I gingerly start to walk, trying to get the kink out of my leg. After about 5 minutes, I am starting to walk better again. Another several miles later, I was doing an easy jog.
I would have another bad fall again, later, in the race and stumble and nearly go down many more times during the day. But, hey, that’s trail running at this wonderful state park, just south of Huntsville.
After learning my lesson at the Heartland 100 miler in early October, I made sure and got a good night sleep at the same La Quinta Inn in Huntsville, TX the night before. I was thankful the toilet didn’t get clogged up like last year, but this time the shower wouldn’t work. Oh well, I was in a mood for a hot bath anyway.
My roommate, Mr. Marshall King tumbled in around 2 a.m., after a late ending office party prevented an early departure from Dallas. We were both up, again, at 5 a.m. and quickly dressed and checked out.
Even arriving at the start at 6 a.m., most of the parking lot was full at Huntsville State Park. I managed to squeeze into the last remaining parking spot.
After doing the 50K race at Sunmart last year, I wanted to raise the bar and try running the 50 miler, this time, followed by the Wellstone Dallas White Rock Marathon the next day. I had been looking forward to this weekend for almost a year.
I am running better now. The pain in my calf has subsided and my leg was loosening up again. The course seemed more hillier than I recalled. There is a remarkable section on the 50 mile course where you pass close to a dam. One can see the start across the lake and hear people partying. On the third of 4 twelve and half mile loops, I was ready to jump in the water and swim across, because I was tired and feeling bad.
I felt fortunate to find, Mr. Steve Tyer, at the start, who had picked up my race packet for me, even though we have never met before. He was a young, handsome fellow, who ran strong all day long in the fifty mile event.
Even though, I felt bad between miles 25 and 35, I made sure to keep eating and drinking to refuel and taking electrolytes. In long events like this when your running all day, the body does have the ability to recharge again. I have an ultra pace and a race pace. Right now, I was in neither; stuck in survival mode, trying to get past that critical cutoff time before the final loop.
In running ultra distances or even back-to-back marathons, the mental game is so crucial. I try to defeat the course with my mind first, by visualizing a successful finish and reaching of certain goals. Confidence, focus and perseverance are all key elements. Try not to limit yourself in what you think are capable of doing.
As I started my final loop, my spirits were lifted by the fact, I was going to have to navigate this course one last time. I also didn’t want to be out on these trails after dark, so that was another good reason to move faster.
I felt more alone during these final 10 miles. Most of the 50K runners had finished for the day and the 50 milers were now all spread apart. I enjoyed the solitude. Feeling strong, I did end up passing a good number of runner toward the end. After 3 loops, you become more familiar with certain landmarks. These were going by much more quickly, now. As the saying goes, it much better to do a negative splits toward the end. All these factors were contributing to strong finish.
The clock reads 10:38 plus change. Wow! What an enthusiastic and loud crowd at the finish. One could barely be heard talking over all the whistles and noise that was being made. I had lost my afghan blanket at Bandera last year, so I was so delighted to see that they were still being included in the finisher’s award selection. The newly designed Summart Tyvek jackets also looked sharp, so I glady coughed up some more dinero for that too. Hey, if you just run 50 miles you might as well reward yourself right?
The hot meal after the run never tasted so good. I had a burger with all the trimmings along with a cola. My appetite was surprisingly good right after the run. Good thing too, I needed to start refueling again for the marathon tomorrow. Your glycogen window for optimal replenishing is 30 to 60 minutes after your work out ends. That’s one thing I really like about trail runs is how well they usually feed you, during and after the event.
It was a good tune up run for the Rocky Raccoon 100 miler in February, 2007, since the course was going take place at the same state park. Loaded up the car and started zooming north up Interstate 45.
Finally left Huntsville at around 7 p.m. and got back to Dallas at 10:30 p.m., stopping several times for about 5 minutes to stretch my legs and prevent any chance of thrombosis occurring. Took an ice bath and massaged the legs with a styrofoam roll, ate a cup of ramin soup with some rice and it was lights out at 11:30 a.m.
The alarm clock goes off at 5 a.m., arrrgh, but fortunately, the White Rock marathon is a late 8 a.m. start, so I have plenty time to get ready. By laying out my marathon gear on Friday night, getting dressed was a snap. Anything else that I needed was still in the car, because I didn’t bother to unload it the night before. Too tired!
My favorite place to park for the WRM is the outside lot on the south side of the parking deck. Pay your $5 and your only a short walk from both the starting line and the American Airlines Center. Dug out my race packet, picked up by my good friend, Miss Kim Danahy on Friday and proceeded to put on my timing chip and racing bib. Also restocked my electrolytes and refilled my water bottle with Gatoraid.
I like to keep a sleeping bag in the car, to keep myself warm and read the Sunday paper as I’m waiting for the start. When doing back-to-backs, I like to stay off my feet and try to relax as much as I can.
The start of this year’s WRM was quite different from year’s past. For one thing the area surrounding the AA Center has been transformed into the visionary development that had it had long intended to be all along. Massive new video screens were strategically placed along the sides of these magnificent structures, broadcasting live videos of the race. The large crowds of runners, filling the surrounding streets, were truly fired up by this. .
Wanting to avoid the disaster I experienced last year, I made sure and visited the bathroom one last time before the start. A great rendition of the national anthem, an awesome fly over by a formation of military jets, the bang of starting gun and in a sea of red and white confetti, we were off.!
It normally takes about 2 to 3 miles to finally get loose, but I was encouraged how much better my legs felt than last year. I have found, I really prefer to get off the course as soon as possible, when doing these doubles, so I try pushing the pace for the first half and see how the cards fall from there.
I’m pleased to see a number of Sunmart shirt and jackets in the crowd. It good to know there are other crazies running today. I look forward to checking in on the RAW aid station at mile 10 and hope everything is going well for both the many volunteers helping out that morning.
When that moment came, that was definitely one of the highlights of the day. I gave a lot of high fives, hugged one of my aid station captains, Miss Bridgett Smith and gratefully chugged down a bottle of Sprite generously provided by Mr. Byron Benoit.
I was also carrying some Oreos and Chip Ahoy cookies in a zip lock back to keep me going. . I know gels are used successfully by many runners, but, to be quite honest, I prefer the taste of real food. I rely on cookies, cola, pretzels, PBJs on my longer ultra runs. The junkier foods get into my system quicker and provide the calories that I need.
I kept running into Miss Letha “Lethal” Cruthirds all day, long. Boy was she a sight for sore eyes! I saw here at least 3 times, during the run at miles 11, 19 and 25. After awhile, I was beginning to wonder if she had twin sisters. Even got offered a beer by her near the Dolly Partons. Now that’s what I call real crowd support!
Did the first half at around 2 hours. Said hello to both that fabulous Rockledge Rumble race director, Mr. Tom Crull and Mr. Mark Dick, along the way.
Started to feel bad along the east side of the lake. Kept driving my arms to keep the pace up. There was a 7 eleven, a little past, mile 18, I could use my credit card to get some more cola and a gooey apple pie if I thought I needed it.
As it turns out, this was one of the best supported sections of the race, traveling west on Lawther Rd. First you get bombarded with cliff shot samples handed out by the Greater Dallas Bicyclists. Then comes the Hooter Girls, followed by some free beer handed out by the Hashers. Next up are the big, “ugly guys” dressed up as Dolly Parton before the big climb out of the lake.
No legs cramps coming up that big hill, That was relief! Seeing both Miss Adrienne Stipe and big Jim Baudhuin also made the time go by faster during this tough section . My pace was slowing a bit, but I was still making good time. Started to get hungry, despite having cookies with me along Swiss Ave. Grabbed some starchy pretzels from a kind soul and that really seemed to help.
This year, they started the half marathoners an hour later, so there was now more company on this part of the marathon course than in previous years.
With 2 miles to go I knew then, finishing was no longer an issue. I wanted to come in strong so I started to push the pace. There is nothing more gratifying to be able to finish the last mile of a marathon flying down the road.
A little bit of a drizzle start to fall when I finally cross the finishline at 4:20:48. Ironically, it’s a PR, for this particular marathon, after 5 attempts and it comes after running a 50 miler the day before! Just another reminder, how much hard work and perserverance in your training will eventually pay off for, you, as a runner.
Doesn’t matter what race, sex or age you are or how much you make at your job. Once you decide to tow the starting line it’s just you, the clock and whatever goal you have set for yourself for that event. Run your own race and enjoy the day. See you on the trails!