Thursday, December 7, 2017

Rehoboth Beach Marathon #5: Humbled & Happy

Sunday - Post Race

The 4:00 sun is low and dark orange. It hovers in the sky, stretching the day a little further as I travel west. Mumford & Sons hums through the speakers. I've traveled this route 4 times before, but this was the first time alone, the first time at dusk. Christmas lights clicked on over front porches, in windows, wrapped haphazardly around trees. They are humble displays, often a mixture of lights and rarely with any semblance of theme.

I am content. My heart is full and my body aches. The solace gives me time to thumb through my memory file, smiling as I stumble upon the moments that will stay in my heart. For what good are our lives without the joy of things to reminisce about. Some will remain just mine, selfishly locked inside. But other memories will be retold, embellished with the best tidbits as time wanes.

Wednesday - Pre Race

I stepped out of the car and put my key in the seat while I fumbled with my hat and headlamp. Then I shut the door. With my key still in the car.


Waving down a stranger in the parking lot to borrow his phone, I managed to get a hold of Adam who thankfully answers weird numbers. He agreed to rescue me in about 35 minutes - plenty of time to run 4 miles. I took off into the night and dropped right into a comfortable sub-8 pace. I pushed a little harder in the second mile, but everything felt good. At the 2ish mile marker, I turned around to head back. About 20 strides in, my hamstring seized quickly, painfully. I stopped dead in my tracks. Gingerly, I hobbled forward with the first fear that Adam would be worried waiting for me. The second fear that I was not going to be running 26.2 miles Saturday.


I hobbled along for a few steps and then tried to run on it very slowly. It was not acute pain like when it happened, but it was definitely sore. My stubbornness overtook any sensibility and I pushed through the last 2 miles back to the car trying to ignore that it was tight.

Megan painted my nails that evening while I compressed the hamstring. I tried to become distracted with our conversation, but I was fretting inside. I was hoping that I would wake up and the pain would disappear.


I compressed, iced, elevated all day. The only steps I took were to and from the freezer at work. It was tight and noticeably painful.

By the time I got home, the pain seemed to have subsided a bit, but I was far from 100%.



I arrived to Rehoboth first in our group and dropped my car at the house. My hamstring was still wrapped and though I really wanted to go walk along the beach, I decided to keep my walking to a minimum. Dogfish Head was super close to the house so I decided to belly up to the bar for liquid carbs and pizza.

I had just about finished my lunch when Ken came and joined me. We caught up and then went to the house where we met up with Gwen & Bacon. At some point, I removed the wrap and my leg actually felt a little better. Soon it was time for packet pickup, a return to Dogfish Head, and then back to house where more Loopsters joined us.

Chris went to task as soon as she got there making lasagnas for 15 people. We ate family-style, filling our plates and topping off our calorie stores. As the night began to wind down, people stepped away to lay out their race clothes and began getting ready for bed.

Angie, Chris, and I were sharing a king-sized bed. At first, I was concerned about space, but as we climbed in bed, there was actually a ton of room. I was sleeping in the middle and was pretty comfortable in terms of space. But it was too quiet, my hormones/travel/lack of sleep sent my body temperature rising, and I had to pee twice in the night. So I slept like garbage.


By the time I heard people rumbling around after 5 a.m., I decided to get up. The hammy whimpered only a smidge. Maybe I could still run 26.2. I popped a couple of ibuprofen between my bagel and Snickers bar.

Bangle and I started walking to the start together. Soon, everyone would join us on the sidewalk for a quick selfie. Bangle, Abby, and I lined up next to each other in the start corral.

While I felt stiff from the cold and lack of movement over the past couple of days, I didn't feel the hamstring barking. I didn't dare look at my watch as I wove through the crowd down 1st Street. Bangle and I jockeyed back and forth until we finally came shoulder just shoulder.

We made the now familiar turns through town and begin to head north as the sun rose. Running shoulder to shoulder with Bangle was perfect. We helped each other keep the pace honest. I yelled at Ken as he went flying by in the opposite direction and then bid adieu to Bangle as the half marathon split from the full.

The course is now on one of the trail sections and I suddenly spot the 3:25 pacer. A group is packed in tight behind him and I methodically inch my way to latch onto the group. For the next few miles, I let him do the work of pacing and while I don't feel great, nothing is inherently wrong either. I shed my gloves and pull down my arm warmers as the temperature begins to rise.

Around mile 8, I have a 10 minute stretch where I feel really, really good. I am thinking that while I am far from PR territory, I can definitely still hold on to the pace rather comfortably. I begin to look for Bacon, Randy, and Jay as I head down the highway to the turnaround point. I see each of them and wave manically from the other side.

We reach the turnaround point and I eye the cups of Dairy Queen with remorse.

I followed the pace group down the highway, but the group begins to gain space on me. I keep them within about 20 strides, but I am hanging on to the back of the pack. Every now and then, I feel a small surge and try to force myself to rally.

It gets hard. I back off my pace and try to get comfortable. As I get close to the 13.1 mark, I start to calculate what I'd need to still BQ, what I'd still need to do to actually go to Boston. Somewhere in the back of my head, I knew I had nine months still to qualify, but I also knew that I wouldn't feel satisfied leaving a 1:41 half marathon split on the table.

The pace group slowly crept away until I no longer had them in my sight and my splits slowly crept into the low-to-mid 8s. I was experiencing bonking symptoms and I was just over halfway done with the race. I felt wrecked.

I actually stopped and walked for about 30 seconds, fully berating myself. The hamstring was FINE! It was everything else that hurt.

I started back into a shuffle and tried to latch on to anyone that was near me. At this point, some runners had fallen into what I was experiencing, but others came by looking strong and fresh. I tried to keep up with those people as best as possible.

Passing on the opposite side of the course, I could see half marathoners on their way to the finish. I started trying to look for friends in the crowd and saw Melissa and Sara as they finished their final mile. Once I got on to the second trail portion, I was excited to start to see the fastest marathoners come flying by on the other side.

Something clicked about a half-mile into the trail portion and all of a sudden, I started to feel good again. Though when I look back on my splits, the pace only dropped by about 10 seconds, at least it was not complete drudgery like it had been for the previous 10 miles. Rob and I waved at each other, followed by Bacon and then Jay.

A girl and I had been switching back and forth when she suddenly stopped to walk about 10 steps ahead of me. As I came by I whacked her on the shoulder rather hard with my hand and told her, come on girl, you got this! Half expecting her to be shooting me the bird, I was happily surprised when she came running back and held on next to my shoulder for the next mile or so.

I kept my eyes out, looking for Randy on the opposite side. Being a bit taller and wearing an orange headband, I knew he would be pretty easy to spot. My heart fell when I saw him going the same direction as me about a quarter mile ahead near the mile 22. As I reached him, I asked if he had any 9 minute miles left in him to run into the finish with me. The good news is that he smiled as I said that, the bad news is that he declined to follow.

There was sense of relief at the turn around. All I had to do was make it to the finish. I remember thinking I would allow myself to look at my watch just passed the mile 23 mark, hoping that it would show 3:10 or less. If that were the case, I knew I could run 3.2 miles in 25 minutes.

I kept looking for Caitlin, Angie, and Dave as I made my way down the trail, but somehow missed all three of them. Angie would later tell me that I looked as though I was deep in the pain cave. At that point, it was more just end of marathon pain as I new I was headed to the finish with a respectable time. Far from my best, but still good enough to qualify for Boston.

Coming into the last mile, I managed to pass a few people, hovering behind them for a few strides before I made my move. On to 1st Street, over the grated bridge, and into the roundabout, I felt ready to push to the finish. A group of Loopsters who had finished their half marathons were waiting on the right side of the road. I came by with high fives for all and trucked it down the street to make the final right turn.

As I would later say, my finish photo shows such joy because I was finished with the pain. Humbled and finished. 3:27:48

With the stupid running part over, I was now free to enjoy the rest of the weekend. There was a lot of beer, ridiculous dancing, terrible singing, and friendships that were made stronger. There was a trip to Dogfish Head between trips to the tent, a balloon dash, sidewalkies, fancy beer in fancy glasses, mango salsa that took me an hour to make, girly shots, arcade basketball, shutting down all the bars, Bulls on Parade, long walks on the boardwalk, and definitely not enough sleep.

Reflective, I know the things that were in and out of my control that day. I can control the lack of long road runs, the lack of speed work, and marathon specific training. I can get better sleep 2 nights before the race and the night before. I can front load my nutrition.

Later, I saw my hormone- induced spike in resting heart rate - a jump of 10 bpm in 1 day a and probably the worst cramping I've experienced in 5 years. Normally I'm not too affected by this and have run races without noticing, but this was one of those weird anomalies. Not a huge factor, but one to consider.

I am not proud of my time, but rather my ability to find the strength to push forward. Ultras have taught me to never worry about the moment I'm in. Top of the world or bottom of the barrel, it will change. So while I was miserable and hating every step at mile 15, it was indeed possible to find another gear.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Pinhoti 100: Adventures in pacing RR

It wasn't my race. I was simply pacing. When the idea came about a few weeks ago, I was still deep in recovery mode from my own 100+ miles. But I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get in some miles on a race that has been on my radar for a couple of years. The timing doesn't allow me to do Hinson and Pinhoti, but I do hope that I can race it.

We had a crew meeting at Taco Mac 2 weeks ago where Dan & I promised to get him through the last 45 miles and Sam promised to drive us all around. I knew that the later miles would mean that I would be running in the dark and likely when he was hurting the most. So it was imperative that I be as positive as possible and forget any of my own woes.

After running the Greenville Marathon the weekend prior, I felt pretty good about running 20-25 miles with John - more if necessary. I slept in until close to 8:00 a.m. on Saturday morning and putzed around the house until picking up Dan close to 3:00 p.m. We made decent time and lost an hour on our way to Alabama going from EST to CST. Luckily, we found Sam pretty easily among the huge crowd at Bald Rock and waited for John at mile 40.

The atmosphere at Bald Rock was unreal. There were so many runners and crew members around that it reminded me of videos I've seen of Western States. People were decked out in racing shirts, wearing belt buckles, sporting trucker hats and tattoos, and everyone was craning their necks for their runner. It was definitely a warm day for the runners, but a perfect day to be crewing. We saw Lauren with pacer Keith right when we hopped out of the car! As we got closer to the aid station, I saw Andy & Deano. More runner friends!

John came in and we walked with him to the truck asking him how the race was going. He seemed to be in pretty good spirits with 40 miles already completed. He chugged an Ensure and a Yoo-hoo before setting off down the road. All of sudden, we heard yakking and saw him hunched over in the ditch. Crap. All those calories were on the side of the road now. Luckily, he picked himself up pretty easily and carried on. We told him we'd see him at the next aid station and gave each other nervous glances.

Dan & I had yet to determine which legs we were running. So we had Sam flip a coin for who would get to finish with him and be "Runner 2". I called heads, it was tails, so Dan would bring him in the final leg. That meant that I was up first and had to be mindful of what I was consuming myself in the next couple of hours.

We drove to the next aid station at 45 miles and he seemed to be in better spirits. The sun was starting to set and he reached us just in time to grab his headlamp. After heading off into the woods, we started hauling ass to drop my car at the finish line. It was nearly an hour drive, but really quite beautiful with a very long sunset. Dan & I threw our gear in Sam's truck and then we made the drive back to the mile 55 aid station.

The crowd at mile 55 was huge as well. There was a fire pit, music, and people camped out in chairs, in cars, and all over the road. Runners came into this station in various states. Some looked fresh and happy whereas some were in an incredibly bad place. I had to go back down the road a ways to find a place that I could get far enough away from people to pee!

John came out of the woods and wasn't in a happy place. He hadn't been able to keep anything down and struggled to sip some broth. He sat for a bit in a chair near the aid station and tried to get some liquids in him. We walked about 20 steps down the fire road and he lost everything he had just put in his stomach. However, like earlier, he wiped his mouth and we took off down the road.

The first few miles were very long because were walking almost exclusively. I was hoping that he was going to be able to settle his stomach a bit by walking, but it seemed to revolt even water. It was extremely humid out and though the temperature wasn't too bad by southern standards, the humidity made it seem worse.

I actually really enjoyed the sections that I paced. The first one was half fire road and half easy single track. I like running on fire roads because the footing is generally easier to navigate in the dark and the grades are typically not as steep in either direction. After another failed liquid attempt at the mile 60 aid station, I started to get concerned. From then on, I tried to remind him every half mile or so to sip on his handheld to at least try to get something to stick.

Once we turned off the fire road, he actually wanted to run a bit on the single track. It was much different than the trails I'm used to running. Covered in pine needles, the footing was pretty easy. There were rocks and roots in some sections, but it was more the exception than the norm. Plus, most of what we covered in miles 60-65 were downhill. The temperature started to drop and fortunately got a bit more pleasant as the evening wore on.

At mile 65, we came to the Chandler Springs aid station. I gave Dan an update and we got John to drink some broth and a bit of Red Bull. Dan & Sam seemed pretty peppy and they said they were able to get in a nap because of the lull between aid stations. Dan took over the pacing duties at this point and I climbed into the truck with Sam. We drove to Porters Gap pretty quickly and I changed into a dry sports bra and shirt. Aaaahhh!

They were in and out of Porters Gap pretty quick and we got back in the truck to find the next aid station. And got lost. We drove for quite awhile, including on a spooky, foggy fire road with an old cemetery and dilapidated farm houses. Eventually, we found the road we were supposed to be on and waited at the Pinnacle aid station. They had music, tiki torches, and a huge set up. It was fun just hanging out, but I could feel the sleepiness coming. I knew I needed at least a 15 minute nap to keep going.

Luckily, the next aid station was 4 miles down the same road and we were able to get there very quickly. We set our alarm clocks and passed out with our chairs leaned back. I slept hard for 45 minutes. Okay, 5 more minutes because I had to snooze. I climbed up a steep embankment to use nature's porta-potty and then came back to the truck to gather my gear for my next leg. I was hungry so I grabbed a pack of Pop-Tarts and started eating one on the way to the aid station. We walked up right as Dan and John were coming in and I threw my remaining Pop-Tart to Sam.

The next section was just as pleasant as the first. A bit of fire road and nice single track. I think I lucked out on my pacer sections. The sun started to come up as we made our way and John was more apt to run a bit than when I was with him prior. We weren't as talkative in this section, but rather just doing steady work as we made our way from mile 79 to mile 85. I kept hearing music as we came into the final mile, but my GPS had gotten a bit ahead and I was expecting to see the aid station sooner than we did.

John really wanted his wife and kids to be at the finish line and so he asked me to text his wife while we were running to see if they were going to be able to meet him there. She was concerned about making it in time, but I reassured her that she would make it there so long as we stayed at the same pace we were going. When I told him that they were going to be able to make, it completely changed his tune. He looked relieved, happy, and had a new sense of determination.

A pile of runners came into Bulls Gap at the same time. I needed to refill my own water bottles and started looking around for Dan & Sam. They weren't anywhere to be found and John was ready to move on pretty quickly. I told Deano if he saw them to let them know we went on ahead. Luckily, I was pacing him through mile 93.

Our last section together was the hardest and the best. The hardest because I knew he was hurting and was struggling after not being able to really drink or eat much of anything for 50 miles. The best because we knew he was going to finish and our conversations got very silly. There were talks of magical unicorns carrying us to the finish and big life questions like, why are all beer cans/bottles tossed on the side of fire roads domestic cheapies?

Though I had covered far less distance than John, the fire road did seem to go on forever. I was actually getting really hungry and wanted real food instead of just the junk I had in my pack. But the funny thing about pacing is that I wasn't really as concerned about it had I been alone. It was almost as though John's pain masked any discomfort I had of my own.

A small group of runners & pacers bunched together at nearly the same time we came into view of the aid station. I was excited that John only had about 7 more miles to go and Dan would certainly bring him home. Selfishly, I was looking forward to a breakfast beer, a breakfast burrito, and a breakfast nap. In some sort of order.

Dan and Sam were ready to help with the pass off and got John what he needed. In the craziness of passing him off, Dan asked if I had 7 more miles in me. He looked fresh and ready to run so I was a bit confused at first. Then he explained that there was a female runner, Allison, chasing cutoffs who had been without a pacer all day. She had her parents and brother as crew and Dan & Sam struck up a conversation with them while everyone was waiting.

Dan & John took off and I went over to the parents to introduce myself and explain my offer to pace her. She came in not too long afterwards and was in major pain due to blisters covering half of her feet. At first, she was going to just tough it out and keep going with the blisters, but the aid station volunteers urged her to pop and bandage them. They had her needle them and once drained, someone found some medical gauze which was then covered in duct tape. Because, well, ultras.

I asked her if she wanted company on the last 7 miles and she was agreeable to the premise. I stuffed a few burritos in my mouth as the aid station began to break down. She had 14 minutes to get out of the aid station before the cutoff. 14 minutes!

When she was bandaged and ready to go, someone stuffed a few gels in my pack for her and then we were off. It was extremely slow moving at first. We were going at a 40:00 minute mile pace for about a quarter mile and I was really worried that she was going to have to DNF at mile 9X. But after we crossed a few hills, she wanted to run a bit and so we continued this pattern for about 2 miles.

The sweeper was on our tail and eventually we/I invited her to come and join our party. She was far more talkative than me at this point and walked behind or side-by-side Allison. I stayed ahead about 10-20 steps and would stop to help her over steep declines or water crossings. I could tell that she was in a lot of pain and every step was hurting her feet more and more.

The trail section in the last part was quite beautiful with the colorful leaves and nice downhills. I hated that she was so miserable that she couldn't enjoy any of it. We talked a little bit about running, work, etc., but then just let the sweeper fill the void of conversation.

Once we reached the fire road section, the sweeper's husband came running up from the other side and joined our pack. The fire road was full of loose gravel and each spiky rock was incredibly painful on Allison's feet. We were slow moving through this section as well even though it was reasonably flat and relatively easy footing.

At the pavement, I was hoping that she would feel ready to run, but it was still nearly 3 miles to the finish. We did pick up the pace for brief sections, but by the first mile, it was definitely tough again. I could see the pain on her face. Every step was like fire on her feet. And given that she had a nearly full handheld on a warm day, it was likely she was pretty dehydrated too.

I checked my phone at one point and the group text from Sam and Dan asked where I was. I responded and they said they were on their way. In my sleep-deprived state, I thought they were coming in the truck and I kept getting excited when I heard a car coming. Except it never was a white truck. Time keep ticking and I saw a text that told us we need to hurry up!

I was like, duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh!

But then I saw 2 people on the other side of the road coming towards us and I was like, hey, I think those are my hooligans! They had run from the finish line to where we were!

So now it was Allison, me, the 2 sweepers, Dan, & Sam in our entourage. Dan & Sam had plenty of fresh cheerleading in them and urged her to run just a little bit. I had no idea how close we were to the finish because I really wasn't looking at the actual time. Plus, we lost an hour going into Central time and gained an hour because of daylight saving's so I was all turned around. Dan gave me an update and we were cutting it close. Really close.

Luckily, they were able to convince her to run a bit and then when we were less than a mile a way, she continued to shuffle along. They called out the landmarks along the way and explained exactly where she was going as we neared the stadium. When we saw the lights of the stadium, I asked Dan how much time she had left. 10 minutes! She was going to do this.

We crossed the railroad tracks and neared the entrance to the grassy field next to the stadium. I heard her parents screaming and saw them waving as they came into sight. I fell behind and let Dan & Sam show her the way. Once we hit the track, the entourage stopped and let her cover the final 200 meters on her own to the finish. I walked over to her mom and immediately started tearing up as I gave her a hug. As we all walked across the field towards the line, there wasn't a dry eye in the group.

Watching her cross with 6 minutes left on the clock was far better than finishing my own race. It was incredible. Her parents were beside themselves excited and her brother was jumping up and down. After a couple of photos in front on the finish line arch, she made a beeline to me (who was actually trying to just let her have her moment) and gave me hug. Y'all, I was in serious tears. Dammit.

I went to go find John to congratulate him and Kathy had picked up some slushies from Sonic. It was the best thing I have every slurped in my life. Seriously, I could barely listen to John's finish because I was so enamored with my slushy. Kidding....kind of..... We laid against the cool wall of the football stadium for a bit, talking nonsense, and enjoying the sweet feeling of being finished. It was the best kind of adventure and I cannot wait to do it again!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Swamp Rabbit Marathon RR: That time I ran 26.2 miles dressed as beer stein

The first day after I ran 115 miles at Hinson Lake, I slothed like I had never before. My body ached from head to toe and though the brain fog seemed less intense than the prior year, it was still there. I lazed around the house, soaked my feet in an Epsom salt bath, snacked, and rested. I didn't actually feel any hungrier than normal - it is strange how sometimes I feel ravenous after a race and other times, it seems to have no effect.

Needless to say, running was out of the question for a few days. I was determined to be a little smarter about recovery this time around. The itch would come soon enough. Last year, I ended up with a couple of weeks of Achilles pain following Hinson Lake probably due large in part to too much, too fast, too soon.

It was a beautiful fall day the Wednesday following the race and all the soreness had finally dissipated. I decided to take an easy loop on the trail near the my house. Veeeerrrry easy. It. Was. Incredible. I don't know that I have ever had a run that was so good. I knew I should only do 2 of the 1 mile loops, but I couldn't help myself. I ran 3 loops. If I could bottle that magic and sell it....

But running isn't always magical. And in the runs following that one, they have been somewhere in the 3-6 range on a 1-10 scale. Some better than others and I attribute that mostly to the fact that the weather has been far less hot and humid than 6 weeks ago. But my legs have had no get up and go and an 8:00 minute mile feels like a 7:00 minute mile. I know I should be patient in the recovery process. But I am so anxious to run fast after nearly 5 months of longer and slower.

Knowing that I have been sliding more and more into being competitive in races, I needed a fun race. Last year, I ran the Greenville Marathon dressed as a donut large in part to remind myself to keep it fun. So after my friend Matt graciously helped me secure a race entry, I decided to keep it fun again this year.

Adam told me he ordered a costume online that I could wear to the race. However, by Thursday night, it still had not arrived so I told him to grab me a Wonder Woman costume at Target. They were sold out of course so I went with my backup.

I've been hating all my running shoes lately and ordered a pair from Amazon to arrive Friday. Except I got a notification they were damaged en route to me and were to be reshipped. So...I would be running in my trusty Clifton 1s that are now a half size too small. My feet have grown at least a size and a half in the past 10 years!

I ran 1.2 miles on the treadmill Friday night in the costume to make sure I would be reasonably comfortable. The handle was my biggest concern, but my arm swing is weird and short on my right side anyway so it kind of worked out perfectly.

I slept like a brick per usual on Friday night and awoke to my Garmin alarm at 4:15 a.m. I put on my race clothes, made a cup of coffee, warmed up some frozen pancakes in the microwave, and was on the road by 4:45 a.m.

Traffic was nothing and I arrived to Furman University by 6:30 a.m. Matt and I eventually found each other in the correct parking lot and I jumbled around trying to get my act together. Lots of Vaseline all over my arms and shoulders as well as the usual hot spots. There was a possibility of rain in the forecast and I was determined to not have to toss my costume onto someone's lawn due to chafe.
I talked with a few people as I made my way over to the start because wearing a beer stein is a pretty good conversation starter. I was probably the most calm I have ever been at a starting line because I really had zero expectations of anything for the day other than to make it to the finish line.

The gun went off and as we began, a safety pin popped open on the right side. Aw, shit. So I struggle to try to run and close a safety pin within the confines of the costume. It took at least 90 seconds before I got the stupid thing shut. I could have stopped to fix it, but I was trying to not be that jerk that stops right in the beginning of the race. I was already being a jerk taking up extra room in my costume.

Once I was secured, I spent the next mile catching up to the 4 hour pace group. It was the group I ran with last year and it felt like a reasonable place to be given my current fitness. Once I caught them, I tried to stay towards the back of the pack at first knowing that my personal space area was a bit, um, amplified. As we began to tick off the miles though, I slowly fell in place behind the pacer and eventually talked to her for awhile.

The early miles were around Furman and a mix of sidewalk and road. A few college kids were out ringing cowbells and cheering, but it was fairly quiet overall. Once we started running off campus, it got even more quiet. This part of the course was different from last year and I didn't care for it at all. It was through a residential area dotted with huge homes on acres and acres of land. The road wasn't coned off and though I was running with a group, I couldn't help but think about the safety of those who weren't. It wasn't clear what side of the street we were supposed to be on and the road was completely open to traffic.

I was feeling reasonably good and nothing was really bothering me which is always a happy thing while running a marathon. I remembered to start taking my Huma gels every 5 miles and a light, misting rain helped to keep things nice and cool. I actually got a little chilly for a bit and was kind of glad that I was wearing a non-breathable polyester costume.

The course had a bunch of rolling hills and I was pretty glad that I wasn't going for a PR. Nothing that was crazy, but a far cry from flat. As we neared Furman again, I was looking forward to getting on the much more scenic and tranquil Swamp Rabbit Trail.

The pacers switched off at the 13.1 mile mark and the girl pacing, Shannon, was the same one from the pace group last year. It was fun to talk a bit and then I ended up talking to Brooks for about a mile while we led ahead of the 4 hour group. He decided to slow down and remain with Shannon, but I was now kind of set on that slightly faster pace. So I just stayed ahead of the group and decided to do my own thing around mile 17.

There were a fair number of cyclists out on the Swamp Rabbit Trail and it was fun to get smiles as they came swooshing by. I was feeling happy and good at this point - a strange feeling in the last 8 miles of a marathon, but I guess I just needed an 18 mile warm up? The water stations towards the end were full of cheering people and it was energizing to run through the crowd.

It is hard to sneak by another runner in a beer stein costume so I tried to at the very least say good job as I went past. I ended up talking to about every other person in those final miles, asking them how many marathons they'd done, what their goals were, or how they were feeling.

As I headed into the last 10K, I knew I wasn't moving super fast by my own standards, but I felt pretty good all things considering. It was a perfect fall day and a wonderful long run. There were going to be snacks, beer, and football to nap to later. Life was good.

I passed a guy on a unicycle who said that is awesome and I said no, you're awesome! I actually laughed out loud when that happened because it just seemed so random that a person riding a unicycle and a person running a marathon in a beer stein costume would pass each other on a Saturday morning.

The last mile had a short, but steep hill and I powered up that beast ready to take on the mile 26. Except my shoelace started to come untied as I went flying down the other side and I actually had to stop and tie my shoe with less than a mile to go. Ha!

I forgot about all the uphill in the final mile and kept looking around for the entrance to the baseball field. Finally, a volunteer pointed me left and I followed a couple of runners onto the warning track on the first base line. There was a lady ahead of me who I recognized from earlier in the race and though I had a sprint finish in me, I decided to just stay about 15 feet behind her in case they were doing finish photos. Talk about worst photo bomb ever....

Crossing the line, I felt satisfied. It was still a marathon and it was still tough at times. But I felt a sense of relief that I could rise to the challenge after feeling so mopey for weeks. Having fun and running just for the sake of running was exactly what I needed.

Splits if you are into that kind of thing:
1 9:02.4

2 9:07.1

3 9:01.6

4 9:04.2

5 9:01.8

6 9:10.5

7 9:00.7

8 9:08.9

9 9:06.2

10 9:07.0

11 9:08.5

12 8:59.6

13 9:03.2

14 9:05.1

15 8:59.7

16 9:19.8

17 8:58.1

18 8:46.8

19 8:40.8

20 8:38.3

21 8:55.2

22 8:46.5

23 8:29.4

24 8:41.3

25 8:23.3

26 8:30.9

27 1:33.1

Summary 3:53:50
3:53:47 26.21

Monday, October 2, 2017

Hinson Lake RR: Relentless Pursuit

My brain is foggy. I will forget parts of the story - some temporarily, some forever. A runner who saw me finish my 100th mile last year recognized me and I had no recollection of our conversation. I apologize to anyone who I have forgotten to mention in this journey.

I am satisfied, but always in pursuit.

Maybe it seems unjustified to never be done. But I see it as a reason to keep learning. And to keep running. When it starts to ache and my mind goes to dark places, I do question my pursuit. I seek relief from the pain, but the will to push my limits is often stronger.

I ask myself to just run to that tree, finish this lap, get to the next big benchmark. It isn't about the entirety of the race - I cannot fathom the 115+ miles as a whole. It is too big. But it is manageable in parts.

Experience was bittersweet in my second 24-hour race. I knew the highs would be like no other, but the lows would be as well. It is in some regards far easier to fight the beast if you don't know how hard she punches.

I was not feeling great about running 4 weeks ago. I had logged so many miles and hours of running that I was teetering on burnout. So I ended up starting my taper early and hoped that reduced mileage would help me feel good again. It was slow to come, but my mojo (& VO2 max) slowly returned to normal. By race week, I was getting antsy that I hadn't been running as much so I knew something was in my favor.

My training and game plan were under control. Pretty much nothing else was though. I realized on race week that all of my Hoka Challengers (the 1s that are long ago sold out) had at least 400 miles on them. My first pair, though encrusted in a casing of mud, seemed to have the most tread left so they became my race shoe. I had 1 Huma gel left from a box I got about 6 weeks prior so I made a pit stop between work and a run on Wednesday evening.

Megan came over Thursday night after I frantically threw a bunch of gear together - re: overpack to the max. She came up with the best Minion/banana nails yet and even better, we finally caught up a bit. She left me a card that she said came from my former coworkers and I told her I would save it for mile 90.

Adam wanted to watch a TV show with me after she left and so I decided to forgo the alarm in the morning and get whatever extra sleep I could muster. Too excited to sleep, I got up at 7:00 a.m. and was on the road by 7:30ish. I got gas, I got Starbucks, and then I got a dead battery.


In Gaffney, South Carolina, I stopped to used the restroom at QuikTrip and came out to a dead battery. There was a slight panic and I quickly ran through my backup options if I couldn't get my car started right away. Luckily, I was able to get a jump from the people parked next to me. They ended up being super cool and reassured me that I would be okay once I got going again. They had college football magnets posted all over their car and of course I had to buy one! Thanks FlippyMagz for rescuing my day.
Once I was on the road again, I was afraid to stop. So I powered through to Rockingham and pretty much sprinted to the restroom as soon as I got there. Jenster was talking with Irene who makes the beautiful pottery pieces for the race winners and is the most badass lady in her age group. 72 years old and did 50K at Hinson and is running Chicago this upcoming weekend! Talk about an inspiration.

After Angie arrived, we went to Wal-Mart to pick up more supplies and I was able to wolf down some hummus and tortillas in the car as a really late lunch. Matt arrived to the campsite soon thereafter and we sat around in the shady afternoon, drinking beer and trying to relax.
We went to the lodge for dinner where $8 gets you a heaping plate of spaghetti, bread, salad, and a slice of cake. I ate every bit. Mornings can be hard to top off the calories so I tried to get as full as possible. The crew went back to the campsite and we made preparations before heading off to sleep.
Luckily, I slept pretty well and the noise was minimal. I woke up around 6:00 a.m. and decided to just take my time getting ready for the 8:00 a.m. start. I ate a couple of pieces of raisin bread, drank half a bottle of cold brew, and prepped all my stuff so it was easy to access. About 15 minutes until the start, I ate a mini Snickers (tradition!) and a Huma gel. I talked to Jay for a few minutes before the start and then lined up near Matt.

Ready, set, go.

I knew that 10-12 minute miles would be the pace to aim for through at least 100K. Too fast and I risk blowing up. Too slow and I risk not being able to catch up. It felt comfortable enough the first lap and I tried to just settle into a pace that seemed doable for a long, long time. Matt and I ran together for the first couple of laps, chatting and enjoying the morning.

I peeled off my tank early knowing that I didn't need it and would be more comfortable. After the 3rd lap, I decided to grab a gel and a mini water bottle from my cooler. On the 4th lap, I decided to just put my handheld on and deal with it. Luckily, it kept me hydrated all day and didn't annoy me too much.

By mile 10, I noticed that I actually still felt really comfortable. The temperature was really nice outside and it was partially clouded that morning. Runners and walkers were happy and chatty and I listened to the conversation snippets around me. I was happy to just be there - it took me by surprise that I felt so good.

Into the 3rd and 4th hour, I really just zoned out. In a happy way, I lost track of mileage and time. At one point, I was trying to guess if I was on mile 15 or 16 when my watch buzzed and it was actually 18! Sa-wheet!!! As we headed into the heat of the day, I tried to make sure I was eating lots of salty stuff like Goldfish crackers, pretzels, and pickle juice.
I really wasn't too interested in sweet solids the entire event. It might be because after about 3-4 hours of doing half Gatorade/half water, I decided to try half sweet tea/half water. OMG! It was so good. I'm not even much of a tea person, let alone sweet tea, but this was so good. Plus, I was hoping the caffeine would stave off some of the sleepiness.

I hit a bit of a slump in the 4-5 hour mark. Physically, I was okay, but I got super emotional? On the verge of crying and I really didn't have a good reason for it other than perhaps the impending 20 hours of running left. Someone ran with me (Laurie? Jay? Tim? I can't remember...sorry) and kicked me out of my slump.

At the marathon and 50K mark, I tried to just ignore the time and focus on the distance. As I crept closer to the 40 marker, the day grew considerably warmer. I put ice in my sports bra a few times and noticed that my shoulders, neck, and face were caked in salt. I kept reaching for the salty foods and refilling my bottle every lap. Though I was worried I was losing time stopping each lap, I knew that spreading out my food and drink was much better for my tummy. And I wasn't hanging out, I was grabbing my stuff and eating while running or walking.

At some point, a girl shot out from a 10x10 tent and started running alongside me. She was spectating and said that she had been challenged to see if she could keep up for one lap with the women's leader. I laughed and welcomed the company. We talked for 1.5 miles around the course and it was great to just take my brain offline for 20 minutes or so.

The afternoon wore on and the crowds started thin out on the trail. When I hit 50 miles in about 8 hours, 40 minutes, I was surprised that I still felt reasonably okay. My major problem was boredom and like Angie and I talked about, boredom is okay in ultras. Boredom means that nothing is too painful.
Right at that 100K mark, everything got a lot harder. In retrospect, I stopped eating as much by that point - I was just not really interested and it seemed like too much effort to decide. And though my mind and stomach seemed to be cooperating, my legs and feet were aching really badly. Yes, that isn't so surprising with 62 miles on them, but I recognized it as more of a bonk pain. I tried to remedy the situation in the upcoming miles with chicken broth, ramen, etc.

In any regard, I knew I had my "rewards" all set for miles 70, 80, and 90. I originally was going to call Adam at 10:00 p.m. like I did last year, but I was at mile 70 over an hour before then. It kind of put things into perspective at that point that I was actually having a really good race. I am sure I sounded like a mess on the phone because I craved any sort of motivation I could get at that point. We talked for a couple of minutes while I walked and then I hung up so I could shuffle on.

I originally planned to give myself music at mile 80, but then I wasn't in the mood to mess with it again. I think that was when I finally put a shirt on? I honestly don't even remember. I do remember thinking that it was a long time between miles 70.5 and 81. And that I needed a jolt of caffeine. Though I risked a revolt from my tummy, I did sip a little bit of cold brew.

My first Garmin died at 89+ miles. Here's the data:


Luckily, I had planned to read my card at mile 90, so I connected to GPS with Garmin #2 while I read the card. All the feels and exactly what I needed to read. This took less than a minute and I was ready to plug on until 100 miles. 10 daylight miles on fresh legs can go by pretty slowly. 10 nighttime miles on legs with 90 miles feels like infinity. The course was pretty much a ghost town at this point. There were maybe about 30 people out trudging along. The timing guy and the aid station volunteers were the only non-zombie people around.

Again, my recollection is terrible, but I do know I was running with someone (I think it was Aaron) at that point for awhile. We ran into Matt and by the time we looped back around, he kind of unknowingly took over pacing me the last 2 laps to get to my 100 mark. I was happy for a huge PR and really grateful that I was able to cross that mark with a friend by my side. Too tired to be emotional about it, I collected myself and allowed 10 minutes of chair sitting. I took off my shoes for the first time and changed into a different pair.

My legs were just too sore at that point to push for more running, but I was determined to keep moving. So at 3:30 a.m., after running 100 miles, I began power walking. Matt agreed to come with me and so we spent the next 3.5 hours walking and keeping each other company. The only thing I remember us talking about were the constellations at one point on the bridge when we turned off our headlamps. He was going full-on NPR-mode with the stars and typical me, yeah, those are nice, let's keep walking. (Deano/Matt, if you guys read this, know that your dude soulmate is out there) 

I felt like we were really walking hard and was just about to ease off our pace when both of us started cooking up ideas on the fly. Delirious from lack of sleep and too many miles, I decided I could still hit my PR. Then we had to hit 50 laps for him. Then I remembered the course record was like, 115 or something. My competitive nature came out and I grabbed my phone the next time we went by our campsite. I confirmed it was 114.6 and made Matt do a bunch of runner math to see what kind of pace I needed.

Shortly thereafter, he realized he could hit 80+ if he ran the last hour. I was in no place to keep up with sub-9 miles, but I encouraged him to go for it! He took off and I shuffled along at a 16 minute per mile pace. I got my banana a lap early and grabbed my phone again to get a picture.
Once I crossed over the timing mat with 115+ miles, I walked with my banana to our campsite and placed it in the pile nearby. Done.

Here are my lap splits.
1 15:2610:16/M1.50320
2 15:5610:36/M3.00640
3 15:3310:21/M4.50960
4 15:2710:17/M6.01280
5 16:0610:43/M7.51600
6 15:3110:19/M9.01920
7 15:4710:30/M10.52240
8 15:3010:19/M12.02560
9 15:2910:18/M13.52880
10 15:1810:11/M15.03200
11 15:3910:25/M16.53520
12 15:4510:29/M18.03840
13 15:3910:25/M19.54160
14 15:4410:28/M21.04480
15 16:3010:59/M22.54800
16 16:0610:43/M24.05120
17 16:0210:40/M25.55440
18 15:4210:27/M27.05760
19 15:3110:19/M28.56080
20 15:5510:35/M30.06400
21 15:3310:21/M31.56720
22 15:3810:24/M33.07040
23 16:1110:46/M34.57360
24 16:0210:40/M36.07680
25 15:00 9:59/M37.58000
26 15:1610:09/M39.08320
27 15:5710:37/M40.58640
28 15:4410:28/M42.08960
29 15:4310:27/M43.59280
30 15:0610:03/M45.09600
31 16:0110:39/M46.59920
32 15:4010:25/M48.10240
33 15:3410:21/M49.60560
34 15:4910:31/M51.10880
35 15:5310:34/M52.61200
36 18:1512:08/M54.11520
37 16:3511:02/M55.61840
38 17:3911:44/M57.12160
39 17:5911:58/M58.62480
40 18:0212:00/M60.12800
41 18:1212:06/M61.63120
42 18:5412:34/M63.13440
43 18:2712:16/M64.63760
44 19:4213:06/M66.14080
45 19:3613:02/M67.64400
46 18:5112:32/M69.14720
47 18:0011:58/M70.65040
48 18:4512:28/M72.15360
49 20:0913:24/M73.65680
50 18:4512:28/M75.16000
51 17:5311:54/M76.66320
52 17:4011:45/M78.16640
53 18:3312:20/M79.66960
54 18:1512:08/M81.17280
55 19:3213:00/M82.67600
56 17:4911:51/M84.17920
57 18:5212:33/M85.68240
58 18:0912:04/M87.18560
59 19:0712:43/M88.68880
60 17:1011:25/M90.19200
61 22:0814:43/M91.69520
62 18:5112:32/M93.19840
63 21:1414:08/M94.70160
64 20:1713:30/M96.20480
65 19:5713:16/M97.70800
66 19:5313:14/M99.21120
67 19:2612:56/M100.71440
68 36:4824:29/M102.21760
69 28:2518:54/M103.72080
70 27:4818:30/M105.22400
71 27:4118:25/M106.72720
72 26:0717:22/M108.23040
73 27:0217:59/M109.73360
74 23:5915:57/M111.23680
75 23:3115:39/M112.74000
76 24:0916:04/M114.24320
77 25:0116:39/M115.74640
Jenster and Angie were already huddled in their camping chairs trying to stay warm. My body temperature dropped almost immediately and I could barely move to get pants on. I grabbed my sleeping bag for warmth and sat in the chair shivering.

When the horn sounded, everyone dropped their banana and the race was over. With the happiest and worst pain, I hobbled to the timing mat for the awards. I found a very pointy rock to sit on and waited for the men's winner to come over.

I talked to Ron, last year's winner, for a few minutes. He had been tearing up sub-8s all day and came in 2nd place overall. Mark ran 136+ miles for the win overall and still looked amazingly upright. On the other hand, I was trying to figure out what camera to look at.
Crawling into my tent passing out for over an hour was amazing. By the time I woke up, pretty much everyone had left except our little group. I broke down all my stuff and with millions of miles on their own legs, they helped me carry everything to the car.

I followed Matt to Charlotte where we had noodles and then took naps in our respective cars for a half hour. I was so glad he suggested it because I was exhausted after eating half a bowl of macaroni. After the 2nd nap and a cup of crappy gas station coffee, he peeled off to go home to Greenville and I carried on to Georgia. Home sweet home!

Food early, often, & don't stop. Ginger chews and sweet tea are amazing. Dilute the soup and ramen with water to eat quickly. Walk for a couple of minutes to allow for digestion. Drink until you have to pee. If you haven't peed in awhile, hydrate. Ice in the sports bra when it gets hot. A clean shirt works miracles when temps drop. Use more Vaseline than you thought you should. Don't forget your butt crack. Mojo fixers: run with a friend, run with a stranger (who is now your friend), pet a dog for 20 seconds, get a high five, run through a mister, fake a smile until you have a real smile. When you want to stop, find the thing that made you start going in the first place. Remember that nothing ever lasts and that you are capable and brave.

It's been a rocky few months full of extreme highs and lows. Rudyard Kipling's poem If has this great line, "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same".

So thankful for all of my support, every day. It's a cheesy repeat from last year, but must be done. To all my former work peeps who check in with me, signed my card, etc., thank you - it really means the world to me and I miss you guys every day. To my new work peeps - the fun is just getting started! My Loopster network - this kind of crazy stuff never would have happened if you guys hadn't planted the seed. Jenster & Angie - I can talk to you about squirrel nut butter and puking up ramen like most girls talk about fashion and diet fads. Your badassery is my favorite kind of cray. Top 10 bitches!! Matt - thank you for so many hours of running this weekend and countless hours of runchatting. You are such a good human. Congrats on 81 frickin' miles! To all my Hinson people (sorry if I forgot anyone!! #ultrabrain) - Jay, Tim, Laurie, Ron, Paul, Aaron, Nathan, David, Bill, Irene, you make me want to run in circles every year because you are my people. To my local running peeps - Dan, Hal, Casey, John, Sam, Sean, Sarah, Deano, Kevin, John, Nikki, Brandon, thank you for making mornings suck less and being there when I needed you this summer. Thank you to Megan for not only the nail art, but being the best BFF ever. I love you fierce. Thank you to my family for being proud of me even though you think I'm nuts.

And of course, thank you Adam. For putting up with the long days away, the grumpy nights after training, the stinky clothes, runger/hangry moments, etc. You support my crazy dreams and give me inspiration to keep moving when things get tough. You are the first person I call in both Triumph and Disaster. I think they call that love.