Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Rookies and Youth Rule

Wasatch Back 2008 was a different experience for me for several reasons. First, I had my oldest son Braden on my team. I was nervous for weeks for him. He is only 15, and this would be by far the hardest thing he'd ever done. His work up at scout camp had kept him from doing much training for 3 weeks. I just hoped his youth and enthusiasm would se him through.

Second, I was sick. I hadn't kept anything in me since Thursday at lunch, and it wasn't getting any better. Not to be overly gross, but this year the relay would involve over 20 bathroom breaks for me. I knew I would get dehydrated, but I just hoped I could somehow survive.

Third, half the team were rookies. These were for the most part people I had talked into doing this. I have to work with some of these people. What if they didn't have any fun? What if they were injured? What if the magic I had felt as a first time participant was not there for them?

Fourth, I knew myself and the other veterans were not in peak running shape. The first year, 2006, Terry, Gary, Jason, Ryan and I were coming off the St. George marathon. This year, we had done some running, but nothing like what we were pumping out two years ago.

Basically, I was a nervous, sick wreck. I was hoping for the best. My van conisted of Erik Gillilan, Gary Gillilan, me, Braden Elquist, Scott Shepherd and Cheryl Gillilan. We decided to rename Scott to Scott Gilliquist, so he would fit in better as a family member!

We started off at 9:00 am, with Erik running. His time was good, but he really seemed to struggle a bit. He was very tired after his first leg. This did not help my anxiety. Erik is our ringer, our stud. If he isn't feeling it, then what doom is in store for me?

Gary was up next, and he ran great. He seemed so happy, so confident. He was amazing. We also noted at this point that we were being blessed with great weather. The temperature was lower than expected, and we had cloud cover off and on.

Now I was up. I had nothing. I had projected myself at 10 minute miles, but I could tell that wasn't happening. Maybe I could fight through and come up with 11 minute miles. I was so dejected. I didn't want to let the team down. My first three miles were great. I was actually just under 10 minute miles for them. At that point, my body really had taken all it could. My legs were gone, I was cramping up from dehydration and I was mentally beaten. I somehow made it through the last 2.3 miles and kept my pace under 11, but it was one of the hardest runs I have ever done.

Handing off to Braden and watching him go picked up my spirits. That was my boy out there! His run seemed to be 5 miles of steady climbing. He surprised me by gutting out the whole thing. He found his pace and just got after it. I was so proud of him.

Scott had the next leg. It was a climb up Avon pass. It is a brutal run of over 7 miles climbing over a dirty, rocky road. He just kept going and going and going. His pace was incredible. He is one of the strongest runners I know.

Cheryl had our last set for this cycle. It was about a mile climb, then a bone jarring descent into the Ogden valley. She was great. She is also a strong runner. I would guess she and Erik's son Logan will be a super athlete.

We made it through our first legs and down to the park in Liberty. I waited in a long line for a shower, and ended up with a sunburn and an ice cold shower for that. The line for the free lunch was long and in the sun, so we bagged that and went to Subway. I continued to try to refuel and rehydrate, but I wasn't getting any better.

Sadly, we were back up way too soon. Erik was up to get us down into the Morgan valley. He was awesome and Gary was awesome. Lots of awesome going on this time - the only problem was I was next. I felt so weak and was cramping up before I even started. I told them to check on me each mile, as I wasn't sure if I would make it.

Something about running along Morgan Valley Drive really helped me. Maybe it was all the memories. I recalled who lived in many of the houses along the way. I saw several roads I used to take down to the Weber River to fish. I ran along the corner where I nearly rolled my car when driving too fast. Before I knew it, I was in front of my childhood home! I did pause to walk by it and check things out. The new owners have really fixed it up nicely. I was sad to see all the changes, but also happy my home was in good hands. I picked up running again, passed my grandparents home and my old church, and handed off to Braden in Milton park. I survived, and actually completed my run. I felt like I was going to collapse, and was cramping like never before. My pace was not good, but at this point for me it was more about completion and survival.

It was dark at this point. It was Braden's first dark run, and he loved it. He met his 10 minute mile goal and was so happy when he finished his leg. He was really having a good time.

The second half of our team consisted of Jason Neuwirth, Terry Wong, Karl Debrine, Sara Robertson, Ian Robertson and Wendy Busath. I didn't see them running, but from the phone calls and text messages I could tell they were having a great time. I had driven up Ian and Wendy's first legs of the race, and they were steep and brutal climbs. The information I was getting from the others was that they were both amazing on those runs. I so wished I could see those other six running. I just knew they would be great.

My part of the team made it to dinner in Coalville around 1:00 am, and then we tried to get some rest from 2:00 am to 4:00 am. It was finally at this point that I ate and drank and actually kept it in my system. I didn't sleep any, but I rested and physically felt a bit better.

We started in again just after 5:00 am. Erik was struggling. A snickers didn't do it for him, but some Gu sure did. It was like a magic potion! He went from down trodden and struggling to the Energizer bunny.

Gary should get the award for happiest, steadiest runner. I was so happy he did so well. He had complained a bit before the race, and had worried about everything from the weather to his conditioning. In the end, he proved to be rock solid.

For my last leg, I felt a bit better and had some energy. For the first time, I averaged just under 10 minute miles. I was sad to have let the team down twice before, but at least I finished strong.

Braden took off now. I was so worried about him. This was a 5 mile climb up and over Jordanelle, and he just hadn't trained like this. I have to tell you, he proved himself a stud. He found a pace and just picked away at the run. He gave it all he had. I really think he amazed himself. Scott and Cheryl finished things off for us. We were done!

It was already getting hot. I was very concerned about my runners in the second van. I wished I could drive along the course and cheer them on, but van one is not allowed on most of the course from this point on. There is also not much cell reception for van two at this point, so it's about 5 hours of waiting and worrying for van one.

Scott had to take off to attend a wedding, and the Gillilans met up with their family, so Braden and I were on our own. We had breakfast, then spent about an hour cleaning the Suburban. We then took some treats to my three volunteers - my daughter Kaylee, my sister-in-law Emily, and Kaylee's friend Jessica. They got stuck directing traffic, so they were kind of disappointed about that. I sure am grateful for them being willing to volunteer for the event. It really helped me out. They made the most of it, and found some ways to have fun while baking in the sun for 6 hours. They were good sports.

We met up with the rest of the team and waited for our 12th runner Wendy to come in. Everyone was so happy. I was so proud of them. I heard reports about how strong Karl and Sara were climbing up over Guardsman's Pass. What a collection of warriors I had assembled! Jason and Terry were the veteran leaders I expected. Karl, Sara, Ian and Wendy had the rookie enthusiasm that really makes the event fun. My team was awesome! We finished in 30 hours 30 minutes, which was about a 10 minute pace. We definitely met the under 11 minute requirement.

As I write this Sunday morning, I am filled with mixed emotions. My left ankle is completely swollen and my legs are sore, yet I want another shot at this, when I would hopefully be in better health and could train better. Braden fell asleep on the couch around 7:00 pm last night, with his medal still around his neck. I would love to experience something like this with him again. I would also like to actually be able to experience this with the members of van two as well. Yet experience has shown me that these moments are hard to replicate. I guess I will just see what life brings me for my next adventure. I'm sure something will pop into my little brain soon.