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Holiday Lake 50k ++ How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

So guess what folks, I ran a 50k.  Not just any 50k.  Ooooh no.  This 50k was a 50k++.  Don't worry I didn't know what that meant when I signed up either.   The 50k denotes distance (kilometers) and those plus signs mean you gonna go ahead go further than 50k.  Which is nice.  You know, if you're into that sort of thing.  The thing where pain doesn't come easy or cheap.  A thing where soul crushing windchill hits them negative digits son!  The kind of THING you told countless family members you would never try.  You know, that kind of thing.

All kidding aside (but just for a moment because I am kidder at heart) the 2016 Holiday Lake 50k++ was a special race for me and for countless others.  Holiday Lake enjoys the reputation of being the 50k you should start with when considering the Ultra lifestyle.  Mainly because the race director Dr. David Horton is not only an Ultra legend, he is a great story teller.  Whether you hear it through me or take the plunge yourself, you'll learn that running Ultras is mostly about the stories.  The stories you tell yourself along the way,  those stories keep you moving.  The ones you tell afterwards.  The ones you keep to yourself.  Most importantly the stories you hear from your friends. All of them make it the experience that I can't quit seeking out.

Another reason this race is recommended is because of the terrain and overall elevation gain.  Not too technical (bunch of rocks, climbing, creeks and locals wielding sharp sticks.  OK there are never locals with sticks) and not too "steep".  But it is challenging and beautiful.  One of the wonderful things about the Ultra crowd is that they want you to come back so they try not to kill you in the beginning.  Running Holiday Lake is a perfect beginning to a life long obsession and I think Dr. Horton plans it that way.
My Strava information from the race

I've never written a race report and since this is my first time I thought it would be fun to count the ways I loved Holiday Lake.  Counting is a great tool when running.  It helps to say your ABCs as well.  This is a key time to tell you I am not kidding.  Endurance training and competing does weird things to your brain.  It's hard to explain and I haven't researched it but, I think it has something to do with being stoned.  So to keep sharp saying repetitive things that are from memory seems to help you snap back to the here and now.  Repeating things, common things also takes your mind off of the pain.   Mao Mao tip #1.

Quick squirrel moment...I am currently flying to San Diego and I "purchased" an upgrade with some airline points that were getting stale.  They just served me the BEST french toast souffle I have ever eaten. Moist.  Sweet. Savory.  Truth, it is the only french toast souffle I have ever had.  But dang son, good.

Lets get to counting;

  1. My first Ultra.  As you can tell this was a huge accomplishment for me.  It was also the first Ultra for countless others in attendance  so I knew I was in the right place.  
  2. The number of "laps".  2 laps on this course.  One clockwise and the other counter clockwise. Which was nice.  You get to leave your drop bag at the start.  The bad part, you have to run it twice.  Yikes.
  3.  Number of new friends I made that I can remember their "names".  First is Chimney Sweep. Yes Chimney Sweep is what I called him.  Why?  Because he is a Chimney Sweep by trade.  I can't remember his real name, but I will never forget singing Chim Chimney to him.  And then him speeding up. Second was Chris from Danville.  This dude.  He kept me motoring when I was feeling a little beat up.  Royce had left me (as he should) when I stopped to take a pee pee. But then I ran (nyuck nyuck) into Chris from Danville.  Super good guy.  Third was Suzanne or Suzie or Susan.  It was her first Ultra too.  She smoked me and did it with a smile.  So.  Yeah Su-something.  Nah she was cool too. 
  4. Number of jackets I had with me.  I wore two.  My wonderful friends donated so many things to me because I am a noob.  I even wore my boy Trevor's socks.  Don't worry, he brought extra. 
  5. Number of Aid Stations.  May have been more but I think just 5. The real heroes here are the Aid Station Workers.  People willing to come and stand in some polar bear butt cold weather to serve snacks to some snotty, miserable people.   They had hot food this year.  I can't explain what that means to someone running 32 miles in the cold.  But  GRILLED CHEESE sandwiches.  Slap your momma. 
  6. Number of times I proclaimed out loud, "this is beautiful".  Sorry, but those memories are for me.  Maybe sometime if we are having coffee I will try to describe it to you.
  7. High fives from strangers!  Got a ton of those.  It's always a spirit lifter when someone looks you in the eye and lifts up their hand.  Hopefully they weren't telling me to halt.  
  8. My friends!  Yes I had 8 wonderful people with me on my adventure that day.  All equally supportive and all equally amazing.  Trevor, Ginger, Brett, Royce, Chris, Julia, Dave and Josh. Half were old hat at this Ultra thing but it was Dave, Josh and I who were bringing the new flavor.  I can't say enough about this crew.  And for everyone of those 8 physically there I had countless others texting me and thinking about me.  Best thing in life is community.  Suffering is truly better together. 
    Left to Right - Chris, Royce, Me, Trevor, Dave and Ginger (G$)
    Photo Cred to Julia Dale using an iPhone
  9. Number of times I have started to think while composing this I might have bit off more than I can chew with this counting the ways I loved Holiday Lake nonsense.
  10.  Number of GU/Huma gels I ate.  Cucumber Mint GU  and Apple Cinnamon Huma is where it is at. 
  11. Number of times I remember saying my mantra for the race.  Not the number of repetitions, but the number of times I started the mantra.  The mantra you ask? "I am proud of the other runners, I am proud of my friends, I am proud of myself and I am proud of Deborah".  It kept me moving.
  12. About the mile my feet warmed back up after crossing the creek.  What?  Yes a creek crossing and it may sound gross,  even diabolical but it was heaven.
    Trevor DOES walk on water

    Brett and Chris floating over the stream
  13. This is where I started to reminiscence about my first half marathon.  It was a half memory really...(just a joke).  I started getting a little choked up here.  That was a great time and I am truly thankful Keely talked me into.  Honestly, I wouldn't have been at this race had I not pushed myself then.  
    Left to Right - Keely, Me and Darc Vader
    Photo Cred...some rando using my iPhone 
  14. Where is the stupid drop bag?
  15. Oh look!!! Brett, Trevor and Chris!!!  Man they were fast that day.  So proud of them.  "Eat and drink Mao Mao.  EAT AND DRINK!" Trevor didn't want no bonking from this fool. This was the point where you started to realize you had to go back out again.  Kind of bitter sweet.
    Pain Train
    Straight stole this from Brett's Facebook.  Scooped that baby up swiftly
  16. Turn around!  What?!  Yes!  At this point Royce and I had been running together for a little while. He was helping talk me through some stuff and offering advice.  If I remember correctly he pulled in ahead of me right before the turn around.  Waiting there was Julia.  I call her "The Saint" because she greeted everyone at the turnaround and put up with us.  With a smile.  I can't explain what a spirit lifter it is when folks who barely know you are willing to help you get through this kind of ordeal.   Royce had a problem with his shoe.  So I left him.  It was the only time I had the lead hahaha. 
  17. Number of times if I wondered if I actually gave Trevor the key to the Jeep.
  18. GINGER!!!  This is about the mile where I saw Ginger.  Mid race hug, bam.  I also saw Dave about this point.  Both smiling ear to ear and looking strong.  I didn't hug Dave.  Sorry Dave.
  19. This was about the mile that Royce caught up to me and we hung for a while
  20. Number of times I secretly started flipping off the hard ground.  OK maybe not secret.  I'm not proud of my actions but that frozen ground and those unholy horse shoe prints.  I was laughing mad.  It's hard to ridicule an inanimate object such as frozen tundra but I found a way. Oh, I made it happen. 
  21. This is the mile where Royce started the math.  He said, "you know man...if we keep this up I might break 5 hours".  That was the last time I saw Royce (during the race).  I saw his Larabar wrapper at one point.  But no Royce.  I stopped to go tinkle and he kept going.  I felt like screaming "Royce...I'm sorry Royce...Don't leave me Royce"  but he was gone.  And I was proud of him. 
  22. Number of times I thought about my friends and Deborah back home.  What they must be thinking about me.  I hoped they were proud.  I hoped they knew how proud I am of all of them.  A warm blanket of appreciation fell over me.  I wanted to live stream what I was seeing, feeling.  But google wont get off their butts and make that happen. Come ON Google!
  23. Blah blah blah...I'm even getting tired of hearing me.
  24. Oh, yeah...My right nipple is bleeding at this point.  Should have taped that puppy.
  25. Number of hours Royce would have you believe I kept him up with my snoring.  It was literally all he could talk about before, during and a week after the race.  Yes I snore.  Yes I should probably get checked out.  It will come as a shock, but I am not perfect (gasp!).  Love ya Royce.  
  26. Hey... this number represents the previously longest distance I had ever ran.  Before running in the Richmond Marathon in November 2015 the longest I had ever ran was 15 miles.  When I hit this point in the race I felt pretty good.  And feeling pretty good at the marathon split is amazing.
  27. Number of times I ALMOST walked.  I did walk some, mind you.  But not 27 times.  Later in the race it is important to try and leave a little gas in the tank.  Plus some of the climbs, while runable, really called for some speed hiking by me.  As Trevor tells me often "it's amazing what you can do when you actually eat and don't red-line it 100% of the time"
  28. So mile 28 was about the mile where we crossed the creek again.  This time it was thigh deep. This time I LOVED it.  
  29. Times I wondered why I gave up video games as a hobby.  Blisters on your fingers are an entirely different type of hurt than a middle toe that looks like Donald Trump and Sloth from Goonies had a love child.
  30. Mile of the Ramen aid station. So clutch. 
  31. So I ran 31ish miles and started wondering when this crazy adventure was about to end. Remember when I explained ++?  I don't listen.  Not well sometimes.  And my friends had told me how long the course was several times.  I knew it was north of 31 but for some reason I had 33 in my head.  So at 31 I asked this guy, I said "Hey guy!  What we got, about another 2 miles?"  He didn't answer.   Then he took his headphones out.  I repeated my question. He said, "nah...maybe a little over a mile".  Then we both looked right.  A sign.  A glorious sign sitting in the woods.  1 mile left.
  32. Downhill all the way.  The last mile is downhill all the way.  I battled thinking I was a giant around mile 14.  Seriously I started to think I was a giant.  Still not sure why.  I battled so much.  But all in all I was happy.  And proud.  So very proud of my friends.  I was looking forward most to seeing them and hearing about their race.  Giving them hugs.  I crossed that finish line and at the end I found a beginning.  
    Left to Right - Chris, Me, Trevor and Brett
    Photo Cred to Julia Dale using Brett's iPhone and then Brett using them Insta skillz son

That's it.  I'm American, we use miles.


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