Writing this blog seems to be harder than running 50-miles. There’s so much to tell you, but I really don’t want to bore you with the details, but I want to tell you everything! I’d actually be better off writing this:
I ran 50 miles.
It was awesome.
Will miss my toenails.
I have a draft written that’s already well over 1400 words and I’m only at mile 15. I could turn this into a novel if I wanted to, so I think for now, I’ll break this up in parts and start with just the highlights and then follow up with details later.
Finding Peace Before the Race
After having such anxiety over the week leading up to the race, I decided to do a drive by to the staging area to check it out so that I would know exactly where I was going in the morning. I made my way down there and saw the tents all set up and sat in the parking lot. I decided I needed to get closer and take it all in, so I got out and walked to the river. That’s when the calm set in. I looked over the water and up the trails and there was no scary monster, no boogie man. It was just calm, quiet mother nature. It’s the reason I fell in love with trail running to begin with.
I took it all in and felt a sense of peace, and for the first time, I knew with absolutely no uncertainty that I was going to finish the 50-miler.
I woke up around 2:45 a.m. to get myself together. Had a light breakfast, got dressed, did my business in the bathroom (’cause we all know that’s the most important part) and headed to the start. I parked, checked my drop bag in, and then a runner happened to catch my eye. That’s when I realized that I forgot my compression sleeves. PANIC! My stomach turned. I have to run with compression sleeves for long distances. I pulled my drop bag from the check in and went through it, nothing. I had to go back to the hotel. I can’t risk it not having my sleeves. It’s a good thing I got there an hour early as I was able to make a mad scramble back to the hotel and back to the staging area with 15 minutes to spare. Thank goodness that speed limits do not count around 4 a.m. in Virginia.
The First Miles
I hadn’t had much training running in the dark on the trails. Heck, I only did it one time, so it was a little weird and a bit unnerving. Andrea, whom I befriended at the start line, and I chatted for the first few miles so it took my mind off the fact that I couldn’t see very well despite wearing my headlamp. Note to self: Practice trail running in the dark. We ran for a few miles together until I realized that while my pace was comfortable, it was too fast too early for me. We said our good-bye’s and parted ways. I ended up seeing her just one more time later in the Great Falls loop. I wished I had gotten her contact information because she was really a wonderful person.
You know when you have a moment where you just shake your head and think to yourself, well, that sucks? Well, I had that moment when I reached Great Falls for the first time at Mile 15. While I didn’t have to go, I figured I’d stop to use the port-a-potty since there didn’t seem to be many on the course. I went in, tinkled, and then heard the sound of something drop. My inhaler. In the hole. On top of someone else’s poo. Well, that sucks. I have 35 miles of race to go, I have asthma, and now I have no inhaler. Oh joy. Nothing I could do about it cause I sure wan’t going to fish it out, so I kept going.
The best mile of the entire race. I felt absolutely perfect. No twinges, no cramping, no pain, just pure joy and happiness. I saw that I was half way there and knew that soon every step I’d take would be a personal best. Runner’s high at it’s max. Pure elation.
The second best mile of the entire race. While I was getting a little tired, I wasn’t hurting or no where near hitting a wall. This is when I realized I was as strong as I hoped I would be, and that I trained appropriately and that every thing that I did was falling into place. The hard work, the shitty runs, the early mornings, the emotional turmoil, and the sacrifices I made were all paying off. I was basking in the glory of it all. My reward for being disciplined, dedicated, and determined – more runner’s high. Yes, I’ll take another hit please.
The Roar from Beyond
At Mile 41 I had sudden GI issues. My stomach was cramping up and I felt that I had to “go.” This lasted for the next five miles. All I heard in my head was Kendra telling me, “Remember to channel your inner-Kendra if you have to poop in the woods. Just do it.” Well, ya’ll know that I’ve managed 2.5 years of running without christening the woods with my crowning glory. After fighting the issue for five miles, I decided, it was time. I made my way up to an adjoining trail while my pacer waited for me. I found a tree to hide behind and a smaller tree to hold on to. This was going to happen.
Well…not exactly. Five freaking miles of cramping pain, thinking I was playing peek a poo – all for a gigantic roaring fart. I was pissed and relieved at the same time. I asked my pacer if he heard anything, and he said no. I’m sure he lied.
The Hardest Miles
47 – 50 really, REALLY sucked. I was tired and my legs finally felt heavy. The blisters on my toes were annoying me and I could feel the burn of the chafe around my rib cage. I don’t know how to explain it, but it wasn’t like I felt like quitting, nor was I in any excruciating pain, I was just tired of running. You know, like the moment when Forest Gump suddenly stops in the middle of the street after running for over 2 years and says “I’m pretty tired… I think I’ll go home now.” That’s all and nothing more. I just didn’t feel like it any more. I wished at that moment that I had my PlowOn gum, which I had left it in the wrong bag. I was left to my own will power to plow on through with my pacer’s help. Conor took the lead and pulled me through those 3 miles. He walked a fast steady 14:30 pace while I shuffled behind him, arms tucked in, back rounded, hunched over, and head cocked to the left side, focusing on Conor’s feet in front of me. It was as if Quasimodo and T-Rex had a baby. Not a pretty sight. I would’ve taken a selfie, but I didn’t have the energy.
When I saw the finish line, I perked right back up. I did it. I FREAKING DID IT! And, despite feeling tired, I felt great! I did my usual sprint to the finish and was done! I had expected to collapse and fall to the ground crying like a baby relishing the fact that I just finished a 50-miler ultramarathon, but I didn’t. I just smiled and hugged my friends and stood there. It was over. It was done.
Unexpected Welcome Party
Amy and Tom are friends that I met during the HAT 50K training season and were there to run the 50k race. And while they said they would wait for me at the finish, I didn’t expect them to. They did. They waited for several hours for me to cheer me on at the finish line and I was thrilled to have a cheering crew. I couldn’t believe it! They waited for ME! All that time, just for me, with sincere open arms, big hugs, and huge smiles. They were just as excited for me as I was for myself. That moment will always be in my heart and every time I think of it, I realize how fortunate I am to be surrounded by such friends.
I couldn’t have made it through the race so easily without Conor. He was the perfect pacer, letting me run my own race, pushing me when I needed it, making sure I had enough to eat, reminding me to drink, making me laugh, allowing me to have the quiet to be within my own head, pulling me out of my head when I got too deep. If you are considering running an ultra for the first time and you are allowed a pacer, do it. Save the running solo, unsupported ultras for later. So grateful for him.
The runners that I met and befriended along the way were amazing. No egos, no dirty looks, just smiles and words of encouragement…the entire time! Every person that I met, Andrea, Kevin, Brian, Yoga-50K-lady with 3 kids, Mo, all amazing. I had a few folks that recognized me from my blog or Facebook page and they gave me a shout out was we passed. During the entire race I kept hearing “good job,” “looking strong,” and many other words of encouragement. The volunteers and race officials were just as amazing and just as motivating. Nothing but smiles and love from perfect strangers. The fellowship of runners is simply amazing. We are all there as individuals, but we are one at the same time.
I was so overwhelmed by the support that I was getting through the social media. EVERYONE was rooting for me, cheering me on, looking for updates, sending me messages of encouragement. I had a great time posting selfies as I was running and my partner in crime, Kendra, posted updates to my So What? I run. Facebook page. The love I felt and continue to feel from everyone is indescribable. Words? Seriously, there aren’t any.
I have been fortunate and blessed to have had a wonderful 2.5 years of running. Blessed with amazing weather for every big race, blessed with amazing friends who put up with my craziness, and blessed with an imperfect body that’s strong enough to handle the beating that I put it through every day. I don’t know why I have been so lucky as I have seen so many runners not have the good fortune that I had. Perhaps my late father as been making deals with whoever is in charge up there to give me all these things so that his kid can feel like a kid on a daily basis, or perhaps it’s just dumb luck. Whatever it is, I’m grateful for it. I know there will be a time when I have a horrible race in imperfect conditions, and will probably DNF on an ultra, but that’s okay. I’ll embrace those times too as it’ll only make me stronger.
The Sense of Accomplishment, Pride, and Gratitude
Sometimes all you need is a picture to describe an emotion. This is mine.