Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Recap of New River Marathon State #50 Fleetwood, North Carolina

June 8th 2019

New River Marathon
No excuses, no prefacing, no self-deprecation...the time is now, the final state marathon (number 50) is here and it will be what it will be. It's also time to accept myself as I am. Time to embrace my flaws, imperfections, and mistakes. I must let go of the feeling of never measuring up to my own expectations. Always "the work" in progress status, but today I will run free and unencumbered by unrealistic whims of how I should be. I will run with respect and appreciation for the ability to run. I will run with gratitude...I am blessed my body can still carry me through such beautiful places.
With all the beauty to behold how can anyone run with anything but gratitude through nature's playground filled with a flowing river much of the way surrounded by fields and fields of Christmas tree farms on a mountainous course. Plenty of mud and monstrous hills are followed by miles of soaring winding downhills sections. 
 One thing we learn fairly early in the quest to run in all 50 states, you can't fight Mother Nature, prepare to accept whatever weather she hands out. We have run through snow in Pennsylvania, wind in New Jersey, extreme heat in Kentucky, but our running resume lacks a~state~run in the rain. CIM in 2012 was a crazy wet run, but not my official California marathon for the 50 states. North Carolina does not disappoint with rain, it blesses us with glorious downpours throughout the course. The harder and longer it rains, the more I smile and scream in delight. Tropical warm rain is the best kind! I can honestly say New River Marathon is my absolute favorite race~the course is stunning and the people are genuinely kind.
Hubby has bib #50 so why am I not holding it for pic?
In the final planning stages, I ask my husband if he wants to finish our last state in October 2019 with Hartford, Connecticut~the most popular one in that state~or power through with some smaller races and finish in June 2019. Of course he says, "Lets get it done!" As schedules and arrangements fall into place, I fail to consider the ramifications of running abundant marathons in rapid succession may have on the body, but soon find out. Once the plan is set, our bodies have no choice but to follow reluctantly along, we are dead-set on accomplishing the goal. Weariness and injuries be damned. We join the gym in January in hopes of cross-training to reduce our mileage, but that backfires real quick. I end up injuring my knees with lunges just in time for the Big Beach redo state in late January. Apparently, running knees don't like lunges in any form. Next, I pull a muscle in my back rib using too much weight for an abdominal exercise. The pull results in one of the most painful injuries to run through at Savin Rock, CT. Yes, it did take~just as my doctor stated...six weeks to heal! My advice...don't join a gym within six months of completing the fifty states. "Stick with running...wait until after the goal is accomplished to start something new," I tell myself in perfect hindsight. I rest and recover, but the downtime leads to some lackluster marathon 
efforts during the remaining states. I  make it to the final start line with my back and knees intact, but just barely. Good thing they can still carry me in spite of the increase in belly fat on extra jiggly legs. Okay sorry! I can't write a marathon blog without some self-deprecation. 
The weather does not cooperate for a drive up to Grandfather Mountain's suspension bridge. The fog and rain cancel our plan to walk on the bridge which normally provides panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains nor does it allow us to float down the river as planned on our free day before the marathon. Not to despair we find things to do, but mainly we snack. Maniac and fellow 50 Stater, Patti, talks about eating at Cracker Barrel on many of her marathon state trips. This being our last chance, we give it a try...turns out my mom and grandmother's southern cooking is still the best, but now we can check it off the "must do" list. We definitely indulge during most of our travels and I am not sure if that is good or a bad. It's a bad thing! Luckily, or maybe not so lucky, a Krispy Kreme
right next door to Cracker Barrel becomes a must stop. All I can say is thank goodness we do not have Krispy Kreme at home. With the "hot and now" sign illuminating, donuts become a pre-race carbohydrate loading fuel source. It turns out cold chocolate glazed is better than the plain hot glazed donuts. My knees and legs prefer I forgo the donuts and the added weight they cause, but what can I say...donuts win today. Maybe~with my delusional thinking~the extra sugar will fuel the numerous hills still to come. The rain puts a damper on our activities, but not our spirit and enthusiasm to finish the last state. The only thing of concern is the constant rain and lightning. The marathon officials put out a rain or shine statement. A delay or cancellation will be determined by the emergency management team in the event of severe weather only. By race morning the pouring rain turns into a light drizzle as we make our way to the "woodshed" extra early to get our bib and shirts and park at the bottom of the hill in the grass as directed. With a flight home right after the race I express my concern about getting stuck in the mud to my husband and one of the volunteers hears me and they allow us to move the car closer to the exit. The kindness we encounter from every volunteer and every person involved with the marathon makes it such a special event. I even run into a fellow 50 state runner, in the potty line, who I met one year ago to the day at the Hatfield and McCoy Marathon. Hey, John fun chatting with you again...enjoy your next 22 states! 
Marathon Winner!
Once the race is underway, it begins with a climb as we make our way up the driveway to the main road. Initially, I feel fatigued with a heaviness in my chest. Thursday's redo state in Tennessee leaves me with a tired body. The first few miles are the roughest miles of the day, but the beauty of the course and the excitement of running and completing the last state snaps me out of the momentary lull. I stop thinking and immerse myself in the moment, the river, the greenness and the beauty all around me until the need to pee becomes my primary focus. I seize an open potty around mile 3 just before the rain makes an appearance. Glad I stopped when I did because pulling up wet running pants is no fun. In North Carolina, it seems, rain falls in buckets...forget about sprinkles, just bring on the downpour. As the rain persists, I find myself smiling from ear to ear. No longer an old lady...I am a seven year old running through puddles. It is funny and great all at the same time. The lady behind me laughs when I scream and cheer the rain as it sloshes in our shoes. I pull out the poncho in my pocket and try to put it on, but it is so hot and suffocating that it goes right back in my pocket. Now don't get me wrong my delight, would be an entirely different story full of despair with cold rain!
I catch up with my husband after my stop and we run together until we reach the first muddy climb. We walk awhile together, but I choose to start running again and my husband elects to wait for the downhill portion of the muddy rocky mess to run. I catch up to Caroline from Durham as the downhill flattens out; it is her first marathon since 2001. It is nice to share a few miles chatting and the conversation pushes me to run faster to keep up. Her family greets her at the turnaround in Todd, NC and I pull ahead for a few miles until she passes me as I walk the steepest hill. Most runner's are locked into their set paces and spread out on the course. I leap frog with Caroline and a dad and daughter duo. I elect to walk the massive hill between miles 13-15 and power down the downhill portion with ease hitting every tangent as the course winds down the mountain. I cut into the curves hopeful not to come face to face with a car as I sail through the blind corners. I thank the people working at the rainy aid stations, who are all encouraging and ever so helpful. The people and the rain make it a magical day!
Caroline, the dad and daughter duo, and I, run as a pack until we reach another spectator section where hugs and high fives are dispensed by their families. I run alone for a long stretch of time passing only a few struggling runners. The miles fly by (no mile countdown necessary today) as I relish every last second of heaven on earth...cherishing every last mile of my 50th state!
I even look forward to the upcoming hills between mile 23-25. Runners are diverted off the main road straight into a muddy trail section where I am still all alone until I pass one lady who is walking through the mud. It is hard to pick a running path, mud sticks to my shoes in the ruts, but the grass is uneven and unstable in the middle. Even with the challenges, I am loving every last moment of the day. I catch up to a young runner who lets out a sigh when he sees the next hill. I encourage him to keep going...  
We run together for the remainder of the race. He wants to win a bet made between his buddies. He bet them he can finish under 4:45 and he doesn't think he can make it. I tell him he can do it. We work to get up that last cruel steep hill together with .7 to go and fight our way to the final downhill slope to the finish line. I tell him to go for it as soon as he makes the final turn and he finishes strong crushing his bet time by five minutes. Pay up guys...I wonder what he won? I too enjoy the downhill  and power my way to the final timing mat. 
As I sit under the finisher's tent, enjoying the delicious cookies and strawberries, he comes over and gives me a hug and thanks me for pushing him in the last two miles; it the icing on my marathon cake. After taking a minute to breathe I make the trek back up to the car and change out of my wet clothes. Parked two feet from the finishers' shoot, I am unable to wrangle out of my soaked sport bra without giving tired runners a shocking sight! Dry clothes with the exception of the bra with have to suffice. I walk back down in time to take a photo as my husband finishes and quickly check the results. Lo and behold, I win second in my age group. A nice lady comes up to me and offers to get my award so I can avoid the mud. She hands me a Christmas tree craved out of a tree stump. I shriek with glee...I had my eye on that prize, but wasn't sure it was possible. The race director, Ken, comes over and thanks us for choosing The New River as our 50th marathon. He and his team are so gracious and welcoming and honored we selected their race. The honor is entirely ours, we could not have asked for anything better. I get a picture with one of the guys who is out there all day directing cars and runners and helping push stuck cars out of the mud. You can't find a better example of the American spirit (kind, caring, genuine) than the people of Fleetwood, North Carolina. It restores my faith in humanity.
The drive to the airport is like our second marathon of the day. There isn't a second to spare. My husband changes in the car while I order some Chick Fil A. I am forced to speed all the way to the airport and we run (the 14 minute walk time) to the gate, boarding the plane just in the nick of time. United changed the flight time~two hours earlier than my original booking. I shouldn't have accepted the schedule change; in hindsight, but we really want to get home the same day! Thanks to every passenger who allowed us to cut in front of them in the security line...we make it home to sleep in our very own bed. We agreed to assume the persona of "Tigger and Pooh," the night before the race and no matter what happened~race cancellations, delays, missed flights, fatigue~there will be no negativity! We embrace the day with unbridled happiness and joy and it makes our last run "magical." Sometimes life is a fairy tale.
I am not sure if Kitty believes in fairy tales...she just doesn't care as long as the 50 states business is done and the focus is back on her comfort.

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