Sunday, December 11, 2016

Rehoboth Runparty PR Bonkfest

A year ago, I thought I didn't need to go to Rehoboth again. It had given me my first BQ in 2013.
A tutu PR in 2014.
And the best race ever in 2015.
What else could I need from this race in Delaware?

Apparently nothing and everything.

I had everything I could want in 2016. There is so much to recap, but I'll do that in a separate post. I signed up for Rehoboth mid-year without any goals or expectations in mind. In fact, I still would have been satisfied with merely a medal around neck. The finish time never mattered.

And not that I'm dissatisfied with a PR (spoiler alert!), but it solidified that my relationship with running and racing is not always measured by the clock.

Thursday, 8:30 p.m.
Megan came by as promised to paint my nails. She found a fabulous nautical theme that matched my previous finishers' medals.
She also dropped off an envelope for me to open on race morning.

Thursday, 11:00 p.m.
I brought our senior dog, Luxy, downstairs to go to the bathroom outside. She had been whining off and on all evening, but I couldn't quite figure out what was going on. When I set her in the grass outside, she started having a terrible seizure. I watched helplessly as she shook. After a few minutes, I brought her trembling body inside and called for Adam to come down. We watched over her lying on her side, wordlessly wishing that the pain would be over for her soon. Neither one of us spoke much and eventually, I pulled the bed over by the family room rug so I could lay on the floor.

Adam eventually fell asleep on the sofa with Torrance and Moe. I dozed off and on, resting my head on a cushion on the floor, one hand on Luxy's failing body. I changed out paper towels at intervals and fretted about what I was going to do when it became imminent for me to leave for the airport.

Friday, 5:45 a.m.
Wrecked with guilt, Adam and I were forced to discuss how/when to take Luxy to put her down. I hated to leave him to take care of it all. It seemed so wrong and selfish of me to go. But I was also relieved as I knew that I didn't want to be sitting around for 4 days (that I had taken off work for Rehoboth) at home, surrounded by sadness.

It took me 15 minutes to walk out of the house after I tried to leave the first time. My slow tears grew into big, ugly sobs. I kissed her forehead 100 times and held her in my arms. I ran upstairs before I left and grabbed her collar (which she hadn't worn for a few months as she was no longer a flight risk) and stuffed it into my purse. As I stepped out the door and forced myself to close it for good, my heart ripped apart. The drive to the airport was about an hour and I spent a good 30 minutes gasping for air while I cried uncontrollably.

The tears subsided as I parked, checked my bag, and went through security. When I reached my gate, I texted Adam for an update. He called me back and told me that she had passed at home while he was getting ready. I tried to keep my composure among a terminal full of strangers, but tears streamed down my face with the news. I was relieved for the end of her pain and the feeling of closure, but I allowed myself to feel grief. Sweet girl, you are missed.

Friday, 11:30 a.m.
I was so wrapped up in the my thoughts when I stepped off the plane that I didn't even notice Steve was waiting for me in the terminal. I started walking with a purpose towards baggage claim and he had to catch up to me. Seeing a good friend gave me a sense of relief. Though my heart was heavy, Luxy's death was also a reminder that our time here on Earth is short. I could allow myself to be sad when the moments washed over me, but it was okay to be happy too.

We went to pick up the rental car, got a free upgrade (!!), and headed out to Rehoboth Beach. There was the usual stop of Subway and a supply run before we pulled up to the beach house right behind Erin and Bacon.

Friday, 3:30 p.m.
Erin and Bacon were wearing the race shirts from packet pickup because both didn't have an extra long sleeved shirts. They were about to do a 20 minute shakeout run and suggested we come along. I decided to walk the block down the street to packet pickup (awesome rental house location!!) and then I switched shirts in the street so the 3 of us could wear our race shirts during our shakeout run. Unnecessary and superstitiously bad? Yes. Hilarious and worth the odd stares from strangers? Also yes.

Friday, 5:00 p.m.
While waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive, we headed over to Dogfish Head to grab a beer or 2. DFH never disappoints and I had two brewpub exclusive IPAs.
A few more joined us for the second round and then we all walked back to the house. Dinner was started (thanks Caitlin and Chris!) and soon, we were sitting around the huge dining table cramming spaghetti into our mouths. Others joined us later and a total of 12 stayed at the house this year--a small group compared to the first year I went, but the smaller number kept things like meals much easier to coordinate.

Friday, 8:30 p.m.
After dinner, we sat around talking about running as runners do. I was exhausted from barely sleeping the night before and was having a hard time keeping my eyes open. Once the first suggestion was made to call it a night, I bolted upstairs to get some sleep. Caitlin and I were sharing a room and we laid out our flat girls before snuggling into bed.

Saturday, 5:15 a.m.
I heard Caitlin's alarm go off and I laid in bed knowing that I didn't have to get up right away. My alarm was set for 5:30 a.m. and that was plenty of time to get ready with the start line only a couple of blocks down the street. I got a bagel and coffee first and then went back to change into my race clothes. I tore open the envelope Megan gave me when she painted my nails and inside was a bracelet inscribed with the words she believed she could, so she did.
I immediately knew that I had to wear it while racing. I touched Luxy's collar in my purse and then met everyone downstairs.

I had a Snickers bar right before we left and felt completely at ease as we walked towards the start. A PR was definitely possible given my year, but I knew it would completely depend on how I felt once my legs got moving. The weather was perfect at the start. Chilly and sunny. The wind seemed to be okay.

Saturday, 7:06 a.m.
Everyone was murmuring about when we were to start, but the gun finally sounded a few minutes after 7. I took my time easing into the first mile and tried to relax as we spread out. People position themselves fairly well for this race and I didn't have to do too much weaving. I tried to stay close to the right hand side of the road, knowing the first few turns were right.

My legs felt pretty good from the beginning and I decided that I would make a go for it when I hit the second mile. If I failed, at least I had given it a shot. The wind was noticeable as we headed on the straightaway along the 3rd mile. If it kept up, I knew I would be in for some tough miles later on. 7:39, 7:13, 7:22

I saw Erin, Bacon, and Ken on their way back after the turnaround for the half-marathon. Then the full marathoners split off onto the first section of trail. I noticed the slight increase in effort right away, but it became ridiculous when I hit the crosswinds next to the lake. 7:17, 7:30, 7:24

I was still trying to reel in runners in the single digit miles as the course wound through Cape Henlopen State Park. I'd run shoulder to shoulder with someone and then one of us would slowly fall back while the other inched forward. At the out-and-back I saw 2 females ahead of me and a bunch right in my shadow. 7:33, 7:15

The highway section felt particularly tough this year. The headwind going into miles 9 and 10 was ferocious and I tried to stay in the back of a pack of runners. There were 3 guys and 1 other girl and the 5 of us fought together, jockeying for various positions as we ran down the stretch. 7:31, 7:32

At the turnaround, I felt a sense of relief as we picked up the tailwind and headed back towards town. There were still 16 miles to go, but there was something about running "back" that felt good. The other girl we were running with dropped back along with one of the guys and the other 2 guys in our pack took off in front of me. I saw Steve, Caitlin, and Angie on their way out and mustered waves and smiles as best I could. 7:23, 7:16

I wavered a bit at mile 13. I was about to annihilate my fastest half marathon split in a full. But I started to feel the efforts of the first half catch up with me hard. As we ran up a very teeny hill around the lighthouse, I knew the second half was going to be tough. I hated having these negative thoughts so early, but I allowed myself to know that I would still had an awesome afternoon/evening no matter what it said on the clock. 7:20, 7:40, 7:30

There were big stretches where I was alone at this point. My thoughts drifted to Luxy and a few tears dripped down my face. Running in the cold had my nose dripping enough; this was just excessive. I touched the bracelet on my wrist a few times and fought through the dark places. 7:31, 7:40

The course travels back through town at mile 18 and runners (cruelly) can see the finish line. I was not in a happy place. As the course hit the road section that connects to the second trail, huge gusts of wind nearly stopped me in my tracks. I felt as though I could have leaned into the wind and it would have held me up. Gah! 7:44, 8:00

There were still a good number of half marathoners on the trail and so it became quite crowded again. I was actually glad for the mass of humanity as it gave me small targets to hit with each step. But without looking at my watch, I knew that any chance of my second half matching my first half was not going to happen. I saw the first place female who was way ahead and then I saw the second place female about a minute ahead of me! 8:06, 8:11, 8:02
Whoa. Third? I ran a 3:20 at this race last year and was 10th? I saw a few females not too far behind me so I definitely had to find another gear for the last 4 miles. Except it wasn't anywhere to be found. I knew 4 miles was a long way to go at the end of a marathon and it could shred anyone no matter how close to the finish they were. I saw Steve, Caitlin, and Angie who all managed to shout or give high fives. 7:49, 7:44, 8:02

When I hit the pavement again and could spot the mile 25 sign, I was so relieved that it was almost over. And I was 3rd overall! I spotted JB crouched down along the road and whacked him on the head as I went by because I was so elated to see him.

The race photographer got a few shots along this stretch too.

The smile is fake. I am dying inside. I come around the sharp corners of Canal Crossing Road and then out onto Rehoboth Avenue. My arm warmers are annoying me and I take off my gloves. As I am shoving them into my sports bra, a girl goes flying past me in a marathon bib.


I try to find that other gear. Revved with adrenaline of being passed at mile 25.7, I dig deep and.....shred my calf.

What. The. Eff.

My gloves fly out of my sports bra as I struggle to even keep up with the pace I was at. My calf is screaming in pain and I am hobble-running into the final turns. 7:22

I come into the finish chute and feel wrecked. I cross over the finish line with a shiny new PR and am shocked at how pissed I feel about losing 3rd.

Who is this person?! When did I start caring about that kind of thing?!

I collect my race medal and heat sheet and then I have to collect myself. Holy emotion Batman! I should be happy about my PR. 3:19:22!

But it doesn't sink in yet. I am mad about losing 3rd. I am mad that my calf hurts. I am mad that the race was really hard. I am mad that my dog went over the rainbow bridge. I am mad that I am not happy.

I laid on a side street spread eagle on my back for a few minutes. I am exhausted and broken, but I know a few minutes alone dealing with it will point me back in the right direction. Eventually, I pull myself up and see Jenster walking down the street towards me.

Saturday 10:40 a.m.
Jenster and I walked down the street and wait to see Steve, Caitlin, and Angie come through the finish. There is nothing like watching people finish a marathon to cure you of moping. Within a few minutes of cheering and clapping, I shut down my sorry parade. It really didn't matter what the clock said or what place I came in or how tough it was. I'm lucky enough to be doing it and lucky enough to be surrounded by a lot of really, really great people afterwards. And that's everything I need.



Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Savannah Runparty BQ Extravaganza

The wind was whipping around the tent and waves crashed off in the distance. But I was snuggled warmly inside my flannel sleeping bag, comfortably out of the elements. The white noise lulled me to sleep and in what seemed like minutes, I awoke to another race morning.

My mouth was bit dry from the third IPA, but I wasn't concerned. I was relaxed, calm, and just happy to toe the line of another marathon. The time didn't matter. I'd just run 26.2 the week prior in a donut costume and it had only been 6 weeks since I'd run 109 miles. I had nothing to prove and everything to enjoy.

We packed up our campsite as quietly as possible at 4:30 a.m. and left Tybee Island for Savannah. The drive took less than 30 minutes and I sipped on prebottled Pumpkin Spice Latte while mindlessly chewing a bagel. We were obscenely early for the race, but the parking garages closed at 6:00 a.m. I decided to take a short nap and completely zonked out for another 30 minutes in the car.

When I awoke, I got my gear together and then we walked to the race start. There were porta-potty lines and drop bag lines and mobs and mobs of runners nervously milling about. It is my favorite part of race morning. I munched on a Snickers bar as we paraded back and forth trying to find the shortest lines to stand in.

I signed up for the race on the Sunday prior--the time when most people decide to run a marathon, right? I guessed I'd run a 3:50 or so and was placed in corral 4. Hal was in corral 2 and so when parted ways about 10 minutes before the race started, wishing each other good luck. The national anthem was played and then the guns were off. They hold corrals for a minute(?) to give enough space and so I started about 4 minutes back from gun time.

We headed west in the first mile and used the wide expanse of the street to jockey for position, despite the long crawl ahead. I settled into a comfortable pace and just soaked in the sights of the morning. There were spectators lining the residential streets in the second mile and I started to feel warmed up by the third mile. 8:38, 8:15, 8:13

The weather was absolutely perfect. I was very comfortable running in a tank and shorts. Sunny and chilly and just a slight tinge of humidity. I balked a bit at leaving my sunglasses behind as we headed east, but I tugged my visor down and just stared at the mass of shoes striking pavement ahead of me. In town, crowds sipped coffee and held funny signs. I was just cruising at an easy pace. I grabbed a gel out of my sports bra and mushed on. 8:12, 8:09

Mile 6 was one of my favorites of the day. As we headed down Harris looped back around Charlton, we could see the mass of runners in the field. Spectators lined both sides of the streets and I was happy, happy, happy.
Suddenly, I found myself a quarter of the way done with the race and got caught up having a fantastic time. I hit a groove and let my legs do the work. 7:53, 8:00, 7:45

By the time I got to mile 10, I knew my pace for the 3:50 marathon was way off if I kept up the pace. I didn't want to bonk, but I was feeling really, really good. I took at gel at 10 and tried to figure out to rein it in for a bit. 7:41

Mile 11 was the last full mile that the full marathoners ran with the half marathoner and I made a point to enjoy the crowds before it became lonelier. As I was finishing up the mile, I latched onto the 3:40 pace group. 7:54

We broke apart from the half marathoners and began to climb onto a highway overpass. It's taken quite a few races to appreciate the tenacity of a lonely highway climb, but I actually liked gritting it out. I tucked in behind the group and then slowly worked my way around as we jostled positions. 8:10, 8:19

I was feel anxious to go faster and when the 13th mile clicked off at 8:19, I decided to just run my own race. I picked up the pace and climbed out of the highway section on my own. Soon, I was playing rabbit and hare with a guy for about a half mile before we ended up running shoulder to shoulder. His encouragement helped me drop the pace back down and it felt GOOD. 7:56, 7:36, 7:47

We started seeing the race leaders fly by in the opposite direction and I was yelling and cheering for them. The energy near Savannah State University was contagious and I pumped my arms up and down as students lined the streets. Every kid that had his or her hand out, I gave it an energetic high five. I found a runner's high at mile 17 and the only thing that hurt was my face from smiling. 7:19

Whoa. Even I knew that there were still 9 miles left and that the marathon will tear runners up in those single digits. So I purposely backed off the pace, but not without realizing I had lost my shoulder running buddy in my excitement. Oops. 7:37

Miles 19-21 looped back with crowds of runners on the right fighting their own fights. Their expressions ranged from dazed and defeated to happy and chatty. I yelled at Marathon Maniacs and continued to share my unconscious dopey smile. 7:42, 7:41, 7:44

Mile 22 looped into a park area and I saw the 3:30 pacer about a minute or so ahead of me. This gave me great encouragement as I knew I had started about 3-4 minutes behind them. With 4 miles left, I could still run 9 minute miles and BQ! 7:43

The course turned out of the confined streets and onto the highway section again on mile 23. The wind whipped wildly around and though it kept the temperature comfortable on the exposed section, it made me fight for the those final miles. But I was so happy to push harder than I had since April that I was ready for the fight. 7:31

Mile 24 was completely on the highway. The zombies I had passed before paled in comparison to the ones I encountered along this stretch. Runners in both directions were spread out and the smiles were few and far between. 7:46

As I crossed over the 25 mile marker, I couldn't contain my elation. Sure, I had run faster before. My PR was nowhere near being touched. But the fact that I had run a marathon a week prior, had been dealing with a wonky Achilles, and was just 6 weeks out from my first hundo, I was pretty ecstatic to lay down a BQ.  7:36

When I came into the finishing chute with the biggest of grins on my faces, I somehow heard Hal yell my name from the sidelines and give me a huge high 5 as I came past. 7:38

I leaped over the timing mat and caught the most air I could muster after 26.2. The last .4 was at a 7:14 pace. BQ 2018, check!

It was such a surprise that it was almost as good as the first time I qualified. The fact that I felt so good and so comfortable the entire race was truly what made it an amazing experience. I had fun and there is nothing I'd rather be doing on a Saturday morning than bopping around with a bib pinned on.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Donut Costume PR-Spinx Runfest Marathon RR

Since December 2015, I've run a marathon or ultra each month. It started out as preparation for the 24 hour race and then turned into a streak thing. I have zero intention of keeping it up after this year, but it has done so much for me this year.

It has allowed me to say yes to random adventures. It has allowed me to push my body to new limits. It has offered me the joy of rekindling old friendships. It has given me the ability to create new friendships. It has provided me with the joy of travel--solo road trips, buddy road trips, plane rides, tents, hotels, and family/friends' homes. I am coming up on 12 of 12 months with races this weekend and all I can think is how lucky I feel. For my health, for the happiness running gives me, and for how full I feel when I think back of just 1 year's worth of racing adventures.

This past weekend was certainly no exception. Matt (who I befriended at Yeti Snakebite 50K in August) had graciously suggested that I sign up to pace one of the marathon groups at the Greenville Marathon back in September. Not knowing how I'd feel after my 24 hour race, I decided to just play it by ear and commit when I had a chance to recover a bit.

After the dazed and confused feeling finally wore off (a wholly different blog--I really need to talk about that!), I decided that I was physically and mentally sound to pace a marathon at the end of October. Except all the spots had been filled. Womp, womp.

Shortly thereafter, my Achilles was giving me fits and I was panicking about the possibility of being benched. I ran every other day, and then every 2 days, and then finally took nearly a week of running off. It seemed to feel more normal each time I gave it a bit more rest. The genius that I am decided that I'd be okay to run 26.2 after a week or so of rest, so Matt worked some sort of magic and got me signed up.

Knowing that there was a very real possibility of DNF if my Achilles was screaming did scare the shit out of me. But on the flip side, I had nothing to lose other than a Saturday morning in Greenville. So in the essence of keeping it super chill, I decided to run the race in costume. I had bought a donut costume the week prior not really knowing if it would the next weekend that I'd be wearing it. Not only would it help me to keep my pacing in check, but it would help me find the fun.

I got up at the most ungodly hour of 3:45a.m. to drive up to Greenville. The drive was quick and I actually felt pretty awake and alive when I got there. Maybe it was all the coffee?

I met up with Matt in the parking lot and we went to packet pick-up/the race start area together. Everything was pretty low-key and I was able to use the restroom inside the baseball stadium with no one else in there. The crowds started to come, but I was so relaxed with no agenda that I had zero pre-race nerves. It was fun just to soak it all in without being stressed about the outcome.

Matt was pacing the 3:30 group so before the race started, he headed up front and I walked towards the back. I didn't want to be the jerk in the donut costume that the fast kids had to stumble around because I was too far up front.

When the gun went off, I decided to just go out as easy as possible to test my Achilles. I started behind the 4:15 pace group and hung back for about a mile before I decided that 4:00 was actually a little easier to keep a comfy stride with. There were about 25 people in the 4:00 group that bunched up together. When the course started to narrow, it became difficult for everyone to stay close to the sign. Knowing that other people might be racing with a more serious agenda, I hung back towards the edge of the group just keeping the little pace sign in sight.

Around the 5 mile mark people started to get a little chatty and I joined in conversation with a first-timer from Nashville and a six-timer who had just recently moved to Greenville. There was the usual runner talk of weather, hills, and training. The weather was absolutely gorgeous when we first started and remained pretty pleasant until about the last hour.

We moved along through the Greenway path (I'm sure it has a name, but I call all running/biking paths Greenways) and through Furman's campus. I was not really paying too much attention to the splits or even the mile markers except to try to remember to take a gel every 5 miles. There were spectators randomly all over the course with their camping chairs, cow bells, and silly signs. It was just enough that you never felt alone.

As we ran along, we started losing people here and there. I estimate about 20% of our group dropped off every 5 miles. As we headed towards the second half, we started to see the race leaders followed by the fast age groupers come flying by. Our group cheered and clapped as they grimaced going in the opposite direction. I started looking for the pace group signs and kept an eye to spot Matt. He came by with a small group and we managed a stellar high 5.

Our pace leader changed at the halfway mark, but both were very consistent in getting us to just under the 4:00 hour mark. I started talking with a kid who was running his first marathon and he said he was feeling really good. When we got to 18, he said he really just wanted to take off because it was almost just 10K left (um...ish?). I cautioned that it was probably wise to hold off until about 5K left/mile 23 because those 20+ miles can be really hard. He stuck with the group for the next few miles and the fell into the zombie march. His excitement and positive outlook were a nice distraction for a few miles and soon I realized we were almost done.

There is a bit of extra mental strength I do feel I picked up doing these longer races this year. I was going to be done before lunch time. I still had time to do other stuff that day and the energy to accomplish it. The marathon is still a marathon. It still can chew even the most prepared runner up on a bad day. But I do know how much more my body is capable of and it gives me a sense of relief that another 5-10 miles is completely doable.

It started to get warm in the last hour and the sun was getting annoyingly hot in the sections without shade. The polyster donut costume was definitely not helping the cause. However, I was feeling really good and the Achilles was doing great. And hey, I was about to finish another marathon!

I talked with the second pacer for a bit and found out she was tapering for Pinhoti next weekend. I wished we had a bit more time to chat, but this was right when I decided I was ready to make a break for the finish line and get it done. I dropped my pace and tried not to feel like the world's biggest jerk passing a bunch of people in a donut costume in the last 2 miles of the marathon. If people were giving me the bird as I went by, it was well-deserved.

But my shit-eating grin could not be contained. I had a really fun time racing and chatting and being a goofball in my donut costume. The weather was great, the fellow runners were nice, the spectators were great, and most importantly, I felt really, really happy. It was just another wonderful day to be racing and funning!

The finish line was at home plate of Fluor Field and runners entered the stadium on the 3rd base side to "run the bases" to the finish. It was cool to come into the stadium with people in the stands cheering and milling about. I leaped over the timing mat as I came under the arch and happily took a medal from one of the volunteer kids.

3:55:30 ain't too shabby for a donut costume PR.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Hinson Lake 24 Hour Endurance Run: 109 Miles Of Transcendence

I am crying in the dark waddling on the backside of the course. Unrelenting stinging pain reduces me to walking and for a half mile, I sob and mutter obscenities. My inner thighs are rubbed raw from the past 80-something miles I've just run and though a reasonably proper facility is just 7 minutes away, a tree seems to be harmless. Instead, I realize with great horror that I can no longer squat far enough to avoid urine contact with my open wounds.

This is the low. Mentally, I am ashamed and broken. Physically, I am so uncomfortable that I fear my race is in jeopardy.

At my tent, I fight back more tears as I rip off my shorts and climb into capris. It is still warm even in the dark, but the chafing is now a bigger threat than the temperature.

Immediately, I am relieved of my acute physical pain. I toss the shorts outside of the tent and shuffle down the trail.


Race morning is like most others. Happy runners milling about, nervously excited about the impeding task.
The sunrise is incredible. I feel calm because I feel capable.
The race director gives a quick speech and then we are off.
Steve and I run the first 1.5 mile loop together. His goal is to try to maintain 21 minute laps. My goal is to stay around 12ish minute miles, knowing I will feel better early on (re: faster) and worse later (re: slower). The day is expected to be hot and I aim to be slightly faster in the first few hours when the temperatures are less terrible.

We part ways after the first loop as he switches to the walk part of his strategy. I throw off my tank as I passed our camp area.

For the first few hours of the race, I feel fantastic. The easy pace and tapered body are making me confident that I might actually pull this off. I grab my handheld out of the cooler after a couple of laps and begin to strategize my nutrition. At the fourth lap, I start making an effort to get something either at the official aid station or our setup.

I eat an orange slice or two and decide to grab a gel around 10ish miles. The Mountain Dew is too sugary in the heat and so I start mixing the blue Gatorade Endurance with water.

As the morning wears on, I am content to run by myself. Just chugging along and lost in my own little world. There are plenty of people of the course and I catch snippets of conversation in between my own thoughts. I see Steve, Jen, Angie, Rachelle, and Win. Sometimes we run together for a bit, sometimes we walk, and sometimes we just wave hello.
Miles 10-20 are a digestive nightmare. I am in and out of the porta-potties every other lap. They are insufferably hot and more intolerable than usual. Eventually my stomach settles and I decide on the 5th hour of running to try a bit of real food. I choose the tiniest slice of cheese pizza and walk for a minute to eat and digest. After a mile or so, nausea hits me again. Angie offers up her ginger chews and I start to feel a bit better.

Staying on top the heat is brutal. According to Garmin, the heat topped out at 91°. Factor in the humidity for extra fun. I stuff my sports bra and bandana with ice. I swap out my hat and bandana for frozen ones on the cooler. The only relief is that the course is mostly shaded and that the exposed sections total only a few hundred meters.

As we head into the heat of the day, I notice many runners taking long breaks. Many are lying in their campsites, seeking relief from the warmth. I am envious of their popsicle breaks and ability to eat real food.

I've crossed over the marathon mark, 50K mark, and begin to shoot for the 50 miles. The tediousness of the task is wearing on me and I am glad to pick up company for a few laps with David. It is wonderful to get out of my own head for a few miles and I am in a really great spot between miles 40-50.

Carrie stops by with her dog Farrah and I walk briefly with her and Jen. I am getting updates now about my placement which truly hadn't been on my radar given how much further we had to go. But admittedly, I feel a bit competitive when I find out I am in second place and the first female is planning to drop after a distance PR.

As the sun begins to drop, I know that despite getting relief from the heat, the night miles lie ahead. Dark and lonely, they loom. I fear how my body will react beyond the distance I know it is capable of running. I fear how dark my thoughts will go when I want to stop.

I cling to the good things. The gnomes planted all over the course that runners pick up and drop off at random makes me giggle. Eating pickles in the same bite as a potato chip and a cookie makes me giggle. Sharing a few steps or a few miles with my old friends or new friends makes me smile. Running through the makeshift misting station each lap makes me smile.

At dusk, I grab my headlamp and sigh as I prepare for a long night. My caloric intake has been abysmal thanks to the heat. I have started taking walk breaks from the aid station to the first boardwalk. The twilight hours reignite the field briefly and those who sought relief from the heat are back for a few laps.

I decide to change shorts somewhere around 100K. Sweet relief. I begin plotting treats for myself for the remainder of the course. Getting past 68 miles will be a distance PR and that's a treat unto itself. At 70 miles, I would allow myself to call Adam for a motivational pep talk. After midnight, I would allow myself music. At 80 miles, I would allow myself to change my sports bra. At 90 miles, I would open the card that Matt gave me "for emergency use".

Talking to Adam is like getting a hug and a swift kick in the ass. Our conversation is long enough to be meaningful and short enough that I don't lose much time. For a few miles, I am pumped up and motivated which is not something I expect in the 70-something range.

The walk breaks are making the laps longer. I spend a gross amount of time doing runner math. It is shockingly difficult to add 1.5 to any number after running for 15 hours. And forget about calculating time or paces. Who decided to make 60 minutes in an hour?! Why is it not 100?! 

Changing my sports bra is relatively uneventful and not as amazing as expected. I come around for my 82ndish mile and hear the aid station volunteer offering oatmeal. It seems rather unoffensive and perhaps a good way for me to get some calories. I scoop a few bites into my mouth as I walk down the trail. It feels good to actually eat something. I toss the rest in the trash can and walk a few steps. Immediateprojectilevomiting. Oatmeal and Gatorade come flying out of my mouth without warning. I am so shell-shocked by the velocity that I stagger a bit to stand upright. Other zombies runners ask if I am okay. I wave them on.

Is this rock bottom?

A few miles later, I would discover rock bottom in a volatile cocktail of piss and chafe. There is no sugarcoating this experience. No one comes here for the glory. It isn't comfortable or easy. You cannot cheat 100 miles. It will rip apart your spirit in an instant. But nothing ever lasts.

And just as I touched the darkest place, I starting climbing out. I can and I will finish this.

I started the countdown to laps to go. With 7 laps to go, I tore open the envelope from Matt and exclaimed to the group at our campsite that I was relieved his message was short and to the point. I tossed the card on my camp chair and enjoyed the boost from my treat.

It seemed a bit silly to grab music after such a long time without it, but 7 laps at my sluggish pace was daunting. I was determined to not need the crutch and spent more delirious time inside my head performing more terrible math equations.

Like out of a terrible movie (because really, who would want to watch this?), I latched onto Jay when I was on lap 66. He was on lap 62 and so there was a bit of sweet relief that we could technically slow walk our way to 100. It was just before 4:00 a.m. I had been running for 20 hours.

Somehow, the renewed vigor of sharing this experience with someone who was about to do the same brought new life to me. I did whine a bit about wanting to walk, but I was seriously grateful for the final push. We ran the entire last lap. It wasn't very fast, but it was running. And running after 99 miles was a feat unto itself.

As I crossed the timing mat, I jumped about 6 inches in the air. It was all I could muster. I expected myself to get emotional, but perhaps I was too exhausted to work up more tears. I felt a sense of gratefulness and relief. Grateful for the entirety of the experience and relief that I had set out what I had intended to do.

Though the overachiever in me would have preferred for me to push for more miles with 3.5 hours left in the race, I decided to take it relatively easy. I walked a solo lap and then allowed myself to change shoes and sit. Jen walked another lap with me and then I took a 5 minute catnap in her chair. Then I walked solo for a bit and enjoyed the sunrise.
David caught up with me and we ran for a short while. When it got close to 7:20, I got my banana for the banana lap and grabbed my phone. A banana is given to each runner with their bib number in the last hour or so of the race. Runners are to drop their banana when the horn is sounded at 8:00 a.m. Your banana lap is measured and tacked onto the last known time you cross timing mat.
I called Adam on my banana lap. It was strange to feel "done" before the race was over, but I was solidly 1st place female and solidly 2nd place overall and I felt satisfied with 109+ miles on a stupid hot day. My last 3.5 hours were slow, but I was moving nearly the entire 24 hours.

I ended up passing the timing mat around 7:50 a.m. and continued walking along to drop my banana near our campsite. It was a pretty perfect place to end the race.

Talking to Ron, the male winner made me feel a bit better as we compared stories of battling the heat and puke. Though he was running at my marathon pace (!!!) for a considerable amount of the day, he too experienced some rough patches. As we were presented our winner swag and buckles, I grinned like the dork I am.

At risk of sounding like an Academy Awards show, there are so many people to thank in making this dream a reality. I'm sure I'll forget someone who is awesome so please forgive me--I am still catching up on sleep. Thank you to Jenster for planting this seed in my head and for inspiring me to do crazy things--I also reread the Timothy Olson piece so I feel slightly less insane now. Thank you to Steve for all the miles, all over the country--let's keep doing adventures! Thank you to Angie for being one badass stubborn chick who I'm quite certain is part running robot. Thank you to Rachelle (first marathon! first ultra!!) and Win for being awesome camping buddies. Thank you Matt for the 90 mile letter; I definitely needed it. Thank you to Scott for logging hundreds of miles with me on the Greenway all these years and congrats on being an IRONMAN. Thank you to Mild Sauce and Team Matz for making me think it was cool to dip my toes into the ultra scene. Thank you to Todd who gives me encouragement before and after every race. Thank you to JJ, my party hard, run harder internet bestie for making me a better runner through your posts and real-life friendship. Thank you to Dan and Hal for running misadventures and a hell of a fun summer. Thank you to Megan for your incredible selflessness (the nails, the dogs, etc., etc.) and the first one to say DO IT; you make me a better person. Thank you to my family, in-laws, and extended who thinks I'm crazy, but still calls to congratulate me or humblebrags on Facebook.

And of course, thank you to Adam for letting me be me. I say half-jokingly all the time I do what I want. But I know it's because he knows that this crazy stuff makes me happy. And doing stuff that makes you happy is really what it's all about.

Links to the race splits here.

Links to my GPS data here. And here. And also here, because I killed 2 Garmins.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

100 Miles Ready

1,661 miles. 

Since the stroke of midnight on January 1st, I have run 1,661 miles. 

Five marathons, two 50Ks, one 6-hour race, one 50-miler, and one 12-hour race.

7 different states of racing.

Logged miles in 10 states.


Every single hour on the clock. 

I've run solo, with a friend, and with a group.

I've qualified for Boston twice.

I've stood on a podium 4 times.

3 sets of batteries in my headlamp.

9 different pairs of Hokas and 1 pair of Sauconys.

Climbed 58,369' in elevation.

252 total hours.
100 miles, I am ready for you.