Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Peanut Island 6, 12 and 24-hour run

Mary Gorski's Race Report:

Legos and champagne at midnight; watching fireworks with friends. A good way to celebrate the new year. It also made for a nice break in the midst of a 24-hour run.

This was the second year of the Peanut Island 6, 12 and 24-hour run on tiny Peanut Island, just off the Palm Beach coast. It was also the second year that the Li'l Mister and I were there, along with a few of our friends. Put together by Bob Becker and the crew from Ultra Sports Running Events (which includes his wife, Suzanne, the chief chef for the race), Peanut Island invites runners to cover as many 1.2+ loops around the island as either they can, or choose to. 

I generally fell into the "I choose to" camp.

Most of us have a variety of goals when we go into a race. An ultimate goal, a realistic goal and a "well, at least I think I can do this" goal. Every once in awhile we slip a bit further in the bag of goals, finding a goal mid-race that we never before considered.

In the end, my friend Nikki and I decided that it was all for Anna." Anna" is Anna Vitalis, a graduate student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She was looking for volunteers to take part in a cognitive performance study. Along with several others, Nikki and I agreed to be guinea pigs. It meant that every 10 miles or so –– every eight loops –– we would have to stop for a brief cognitive test. 

Not wanting to tax our cognitive skills too much, Anna and her staff counted the loops for us, telling us when we were coming up on eight, 16, 24, etc. Some of us had more "etc." than others.

This made for a nice little break in the routine. It gave me something to look forward to. "Two more laps and I sit and take the test." It also became an opportunity to change shoes, get a dry shirt or do other small chores.

By evening, it also became a nice break for a nap. 

Last year I went to Peanut Island with an injury that limited my running but I was darn happy to get in a 100K before calling it a day. When I signed up this year I thought "Surely, with my running legs coming back to me, I could crank out a few more miles. Perhaps even 100. Thus an "ultimate" ultra goal was born. But then a nasty cold a few days earlier left me with just a whisper of a voice and a lung-full of loogies. I believe in sharing, so gave the bug to my husband as well. Susan Donnelly received the same gift for Christmas. Snot was a very popular this year. 

I did a short run the day before Peanut Island and confirmed that a few goal adjustments were in order. My voice was coming back but my lungs were taking their time. I kept thinking of the Mucinex commercial where the Loogie family takes up residence. I think a loogie family reunion was going on in my chest. Everyone together for the holidays!

Waah, waah, woe is me. But why whine when the weather is gorgeous (sunny, temps up to the 80s) and the view is fantastic? Just about every step of the trail (paved trail -- individually laid bricks, right Nikki?) had an ocean view. We saw a school of paddle boarders out for a lesson. A school of fish (perhaps having lessons as well?). There were New Year's revelers enjoying the day (and night). Pelicans and other Florida birds. Flowers and greenery that have long since gone into hibernation in my home state of Wisconsin. 

So my goal was adjusted to simply taking as many of Anna's cognitive tests as I could. After my fourth, I realized that I needed a nap and settled down for a long one. Some might have called it going to bed, but I had no formal bed available so will call it a nap. I woke in time to make part of a lap to the outcropping where we celebrated the new year with race staff and other friends. Susan and Oliver handed out Lego party favors from their recent trip to the Lego Museum. Several champagne bottles were opened and shared. Darrell brought bourbon as well. We sang, and then oohed and ahhed at the Palm Beach fireworks. 

The group broke up and Nikki and I did our best to help. We offered to carry back the champagne bottles. Concerned about hydration (the beautiful 80-degree temps did leave me a bit dehydrated the day before) we decided to finish the champagne as well. 

And a couple of loops later we took another round of cognitive tests. Nikki thought that we should be sure to let Anna know of the added variable to our cognitive equation. 

"I think that I am drunk," Nikki told Anna. I admitted that I might be a bit tipsy myself. Poor Anna, she didn't factor this into her study. But to be honest, I think it was after our New Year's revelry that I was most cognitive. Or at least I thought so. Doesn't one have the most profound thoughts after a beverage or two?

Another test down and another nap. I woke to see the sunrise and joined Nikki once again for a few loops around the island. "It's all about Anna, we have to take a couple of more tests for Anna." 

And so we plodded on fueled by the most splendid egg and cheese sandwiches from the Becker kitchen. I must add this to our Tamarack Aid Station at the Kettle Moraine 100. 

I've read that eggs make for great brain food, so these would surely help my cognitive tests. Or so I decided as I ate my third egg sandwich. Any nausea I may have had the day before was long gone. 

As dawn turned to morning Nikki and I looked at our watches. We realized that we had to keep moving a bit more prodigiously if we were going to be able to fit in another one of Anna's tests. "It's all about Anna, it's all about Anna..." we chanted as we made those final loops. 

I got to Anna with 20 minutes to spare and took my final test. Six sets of eight loops. About 60 miles. Not my original goal for the race, but a nice effort nonetheless. The loogies were well under control. I thought that I'd wander over to the Li'l Mister, Jennifer and Darrell and celebrate the end of another 24-hour event.

And then Mike Melton handed me a flag. "Place this wherever you finish on the course." 

"What? I'm done. I've met my goal. I got to Anna in time to take another test!" 

"But the 24 hours aren't up yet. Run!"

And like a docile little puppy I took my flag and for the first time in hours I RAN. Why my legs would NOT do this earlier was beyond me. Had I known that they would have responded to Mike's command instead of my own I would have asked him to give them a good talking to the night before. Away I ran, catching up to Nikki, who was finishing up her last loop prior to taking Anna's test. And then we found our fellow traveler, Bonnie. We came across the finish line together. Three friends celebrating another new year.

I looked at my watch. DANG, I still had five minutes. So off I went again, still running and still carrying my flag. And I kept running until that horn blew. Then I planted my flag and jogged back to the finish. 

I think that's a good omen for the new year. I ended 2011 at a slow walk and started 2012 with a joyful run. 

AND, I squeezed in that last test for Anna. 

Happy New Year indeed.

Before I end this self-aborbed babble about my Peanut Island run, a quick note about the winner. Stephanie Miller not only broke the women's course record, she broke THE course record with 117+ miles and won the 24-hour race outright. Darn nice job there Stephanie. Darn nice efforts by all those who broke the 100-mile mark.

Looking for a good way to celebrate the new year? Peanut Island in 2012! Hope to be there again. 

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