I did it. I ran 62.2 miles in 19 hours, 8 minutes and 56 seconds. It was really hard, but really rewarding, and I think it went about as perfect as I could have hoped.
I went into the few days before the race feeling a bit of trepidation. Had I run enough miles? Had I done the training? Was I ready? Was I going to have food issues? Was I going to fall and hurt myself? How would I stay awake for over 18 hours? These questions ran through my mind, and I gave them a moment, then let them go without answering them. It was the day before the race. I couldn't train anymore, I couldn't change anything I'd done. It was time to do it.
Friday afternoon I headed down to help with set up, moving all over the place, moving boxes, chatting with folks I hadn't seen in a while, making sure I had my number and knew how everything was going to go in the morning. After some confusion, I found my pacer, Alisha and her husband, got her a number, and told her I would call her after my first loop to give her an estimate when to meet me at Aid Station 2 tomorrow. I said some goodbyes and headed home to sleep.
I felt crampy and nervous as I curled into bed, after double checking my gear, my drop bags, my head lamps. It wasn't the best night of sleep, and finally when I woke up at 3 am, I just got up and started my morning. I ate and had coffee, geared up with long sleeves with a short sleeved shirt over that, calf length tights, gloves, and a buff for around my ears. I braided my hair back, so a ponytail wouldn't give me an eventual headache, and headed out into the wee hours of the morning.
I drove to Titusville, and got to the highschool around 4:55, about 8 minutes before the 100 milers would start. I gave some well-wishes to some of my friends going that distance, then got my chip, pinned on my number, dropped my drop bags, and went to the bathroom several more times. I drank a cup of water, made sure my waist pack with my one bottle of gatorade and one bottle of water was secure.
I had my ipod and headphones, gels, my phone, and enduralytes. I knew anything else I needed would be at the aid station. A few minutes before the race started, I dumped my gps watch on the advice of a friend. I think it was the first excellent choice in a very amazing day.
At 6:00am we started. The stars and sliver of moon were amazingly clear, but it was COLD. I bounced around a bit without quite running just to warm up. I hung to the back of the pack with a few friends until I was chomping at the bit too much. I caught up with another friend of mine, Rob G., and he and I ended up spending most of the day together on the trail. That first hour in darkness was really beautiful and peaceful. It was much different than the 50k the year before. I felt like going slow was the right thing to to. Rob and I passed a few people here and there, then we would end up hanging out with a few different people. We were running the flats and the downhills, walking the hills, and I realized I need to work on my power-hiking, as Rob would lose me on the hills ( he was awesome at power-walking those hills), then I would pass him running the flats and downhills. The sun came up, revealing frost on the trees of the surrounding hills, and sparkling on all the clear areas. I was glad I had layered up, and the only thing that was cold was my nose.
I made it to the first aid station, and drank a cup of dr. pepper, my standard, and grabbed a couple strawberries. I had eaten a gel or two, and was drinking fine. My stomach felt strong, everything felt great system wise, so I kept going strong. We had a fun time, those first sections, just chatting and moving along. We formed a group of 5 or 6 of us through the second section, and joked about bears and chatted about why trail people are the best people, and so on. The day was going fast.
I played conservative with all my running, especially the downhills. I knew I would have to conserve some leg if I was going to run at all in the second loop, so I trotted the flats and took the downhills nice and easy. I made it to Aid Station 2, where Rob did some blister maintenance on his feet, I visited the port-a-john, had more doctor pepper and a quarter of blueberry bagel, then moved slowly into section 3. Walked that very hilly section, and Rob caught up, and the rest of that section was fairly un-eventful. More runners passed us as the 50k folk made their way by us. Saw a few friends, and made great time. We were set to reach the school at around 2:30 or 3, the way we were moving, which worked great in my plan. My feet were feeling a little hot - not exactly blisters, but I was looking forward to changing into my bigger pair of shoes and a new pair of socks.
Coming into Aid Station 3, Rob and I were lucky enough to see a bald eagle flying over the creek. We greeted the folks, and moved on, knowing we had a couple nasty hills. I hooked up with a very nice lady and her running partner, and again was amazed and happy by how friendly everyone was. I left Rob behind for a bit as we came down to the end of the trail towards the extra Drake Well loop and the bike path. I knew his feet would be hurting him, and I also knew I would probably take longer at the School Aid station 4 than he would, so I trotted ahead. As we came off the trail to do the extra loop, the train pulled along side of us, and I waved to the people on the train. I felt kind of like a superstar. I ran a lady in who was finishing up the 50k, then saw my husband and my kiddo there, and they ran me into the school to finish my first loop.
I was greeted by some other friends who were headed back out, and I told them maybe we'd catch back up with them (though I knew the way they move, it probably wouldn't happen), then stripped a layer of clothes off, got coffee, changed socks and shoes, realized that keeping the extra layer was probably not a bad idea, so I just changed out of my damp shirts for new too. By this time Rob had he feet doctored, and we had both eaten. I called my pacer and told her we would probably make it to Aid Station 2 to meet her around 6:30 or 7. This went great with my idea of reaching that aid station before full dark. I gave my boys a last hug before we headed out, then we were on our way. I lent Rob my extra headlamp in case he needed it(he had packed his into the drop bag at AS2), and we were off.
We walked the paved area towards the trail. I got a little nervous at this point, because my newish shoes were bumping the ball of my ankle. I had only worn the new shoes for maybe 20 miles, and I was a little worried I hadn't broken them in enough, and it was also the first time I had up sized a half size for shoes for running. I bounced on my ball of my feet as if I were running, and it felt ok, so I tried not to worry about it. I adjusted the tightness of the laces before we got onto the trail, and felt better.
I was tired. So was Rob. At this point we had both been up for at least 12 hours, and running for 8.5 of that. I think that stretch was the hardest. Rob got quiet, and we prodded each other a bit to eat and drink. I chanted mantras about coffee at the next aid station in my head. My legs felt leaden, but my feet felt refreshed by the new shoes. I had also wiped my face off back at the school, and I felt ok, except just bone tired. When we got to the aid station, I got a hug from the Aid Station captain, did my business (there was nothing wrong with the amount I was drinking during this race), and then drank 2 cups of coffee, ate a couple coffee beans, and waited until Rob was ready to continue.
The next section was not quite as bad, and I started opening up my stride again. Rob still was doing great on the uphills, so he would catch me while we were climbing, but then I'd run pretty quick on the flats and downs. It was section 2 of our second loop, and would be dark soon. I had two mini-goals in my head. Reach the aid station before I had to use my head lamp, and that I might as well toast my legs a bit, because I wasn't going to run much in the dark anyway. So I stretched it out, told Rob I'd wait for him at the Aid Station (though he stayed pretty close to me), and took the section as a good and steady clip. It was the first section where I was really alone, and my mind got a little dark and angry about some things I had been dealing with over the summer. I started singing a loud a little bit to distract myself, chanted about more coffee, and finally made it down the road to the aid station.
I came in, and was greeted by friendly faces, and my pacer. I gave her a hug, and started to get ready for the final stretch. I saw a friend of mine who had dropped, so I went over to try to cheer her up a bit, got my headlamp, more coffee, more doctor pepper, and a little more food. By this point I was very happy that my stomach seemed have turned into a steel trap. I had had no issues throughout the day. I sucked down coffee, made my goodbyes, and set off with my Pacer, Alisha. She was amazing.
The rest of the race was easy. I didn't run very much after that point. A little bit on some flats, but it was very dark, starting to get sprinkly, and I hurt. My legs were lead, but even worse than that, every part of my skin hurt. My organs seemed to ache with each bouncing step I took. Walking was ok. I could even power walk. But when I tried to run, the bouncing was too much. I ran a little here and there, but by this point, I knew I wasn't going to break 18 hours, so I was happy just to chew the ear off my Pacer and Rob and anyone else that caught our little group.
We got to Aid station 3, and it was raining pretty good. A friend of mine, Thea, gave me a poncho to wear, and I drank more doctor pepper and more coffee. We sat for a bit until Rob was ready, then the three of us took off. Rob took the lead, and once we had climbed the two monster hills, he took off, and it was the last I'd see him until we finished. I later found out he was getting into a dark place, and I didn't blame him for wanting to finish. Alisha kept me going steadily, making sure I was eating, and we talked and talked, which was what I needed. Those last miles went quickly in the rainy wet dark. I eventually took my poncho off, since it wasn't raining bad enough to need it, and the glare was bothering me more.
We broke out of the woods onto the road, and I tried to do a little running shuffle. My legs were willing but the bouncing of all my parts, my skin, my stomach, was just too much, so I walked as fast as my legs could go. I sprinted the last bit along the sidewalk into the school to cheers of a few people who were still there at 1:00 am. I got hugs and cheers and my silver buckle, and hugged and thanked Alisha and her husband Rich. I hung out with them for a little while, just feeling kind of floaty and in awe of just being done. I ate a little bit, and realized more than I wanted to get a shower and hang out, I wanted to go home and get a shower and see my family, even if they'd be sound asleep.
I stayed awake for the drive home, and after I showered and climbed into the warm bed, I had been up over 24 hours. I closed my eyes and saw the rocks and leaves and roots still passing in front of my eyes. I dozed, then woke, and Sunday was mostly fitful sleep. Today (Monday) I'm not too sore... probably not more-so than I ever am after a long run. And now I'm wondering what's next, if anything, on the great adventure that is my life.
I feel vaguely empty now that it's over. I think I did well. I felt good most of the time. I don't feel like I should've run faster, or done anything much differently. Maybe a pacer for that entire second loop would've been fun, if Alisha had been up to it, but would I have driven her crazy? Maybe. Do I wish I could've had more people there for me at the end... I didn't think I'd be as sad at the end without my family there, but my trail family was there, so I can't feel too terrible for too long about it. I'm kind of in a state if this is where I want to put the cap on distance, and just do 50ks or 50 milers in the future.
I love running. But I love the woods more. I love nature most. Am I missing out on the other things I could be doing out there by concentrating so much on training for distance? Am I letting my family down by how much I'm training.
There are a lot of deep thoughts going through my head after such a thing, that I did, that I can't wrap my head around. I know I don't want to ever stop doing this ultra running thing, but how far do I want to go with it. And will I ever be able to answer this question if I don't press on a little further...