Where were we? Oh yes, I had arrived at Mohican, ate dinner, played games with friends, slept and was on my way down the dirt road.
Right away I was all smiles and happiness as I realized I was in minimal pain. Taking time off after my previous 25K was a good idea. In fact I was keeping up with the middle of the pack well into the first mile. Garmin alerted me to a 13:30ish mile and I was quite pleased, given the crowd was thinning and we were traveling over single track trail, bridges and random roads. Up until almost mile 3 I was near Gale too, which was a big confidence booster. Then I started to have the age old battle with my left leg. For some reason I am forever having my calf and foot go numb. Honestly, it’s a combination of old injury, too much weight and not enough training. Regardless, after a moment or two it’s almost too difficult to climb over rocks and hills and branches when you literally can not feel your foot.
Around mile 3 is when I encountered the infamous Big Ass Hill. I looked at it and wanted to cry. I also wanted to sprint up it…maybe someday? As I started my journey I kept wondering if this would be the thing that kills me and how quickly EMS could get to me if I collapsed. Half way to the top I looked at a women next to me and ask, “Can you feel your pulse in your ears too?” I smiled at myself as people commented on how impressed they were that I wasn’t wheezing or coughing. It occurred to me I literally would not have been able to climb this hill without the heart procedure. I honestly probably would have been hospitalized any other year. This fact alone brought a smile to my face as I forced my way to the top. Once there I turned around and gazed proudly at my accomplishment. Soreness and “slowness” be damned, I conquered a mountain. Sadly, there was not a good angle to take a picture and I was NOT about to climb down AT ALL. Working my way back onto the trail I was faced with a baby big ass hill. Trust me when I say this one was cake compared to the first…but take a look at it anyway and come to your own conclusions about hill #1. Hill #2 was long, but not nearly as steep.
After the hills I was back on my game and jogging over trails and road. My leg was still giving me issues, and I spent a few miles “chasing” Blue shirt, Black shirt and Pink shirt. In my head I called myself Grey shirt. By the time I made it to the Fire Tower (mile 5) I had lost all but Pink shirt and my leg was not getting any better. In fact it was getting worse. I started to think my race was over. At the AS I chatted with Kim a moment and refilled my bottles. 1 bottle water 1 bottle orange Heed. I ate some cookies, but passed on the PB&J (I don’t like strawberry jam). Kim took a picture of me and told me the next few miles are mostly down hill and I would get to the Covered Bridge in about 2-3 miles. I decided I had at least that much in me, asked her to snap a photo and was on my way.
I ran as much as I could this section and smiled at the markings for the upcoming Mohican 100 mile race. It is beyond my imagination how to train for 100 miles. Yet, I want to do it myself in the future. Before I knew it I saw Pink shirt! I wanted her to be my friend, I thought if we paced together we would be distracted and both perform better. I tried to speed up to catch up with her to at least say “hello”. While kicking it into a higher gear I realized my stomach was happy to have food and liquid and I needed to do better at the next aid station. I also decided Oreo should make orange creamsicle flavor.
Around mile 6 or 7 I learned Pink shirt is Liz and this would be her longest trail run to date. We chatted ever so briefly, but she seemed in her own world and I found another wind. Without wanting to be rude I took off on my own adventure for the next portion of the trail leading up to the Covered Bridge. This part of the course was pretty and quite runnable and I was keeping an overall average pace of 17:00, with a few parts faster than that to make up for previous walking. It reminded me of the Metro Parks, because it had a lot of man made bridges. Although these were complete with signs warning you to “Be Careful Where You Stop” because a windy branch could hit you in the head apparently.
The next aid station seemed to come out of no where and I was so happy to be about 1/2 way finished with the race! Nice workers made me my own PB&J sandwich (it was huge) I ate a few more cookies and pretzels, filled my bottles and took off to the Lyons Falls loop. Workers asked if I needed or wanted anything else, and I told them I couldn’t stay I was already running late.
One thing I loved about this section? It’s a lollipop shape and I was able to see some of the faster runners returning from their trip. Friends smiling at me and everyone having so much fun lifted my spirits and before I knew it I was back to running and my leg wasn’t bothering me as much. Along this loop you travel down into the river bed. Luckily I had been forewarned about this many times. It was much much cooler in this section, lending itself well to my running. It reminded me of Fern Gully or a Secret Garden. Being a slower runner I was alone. Alone with my thoughts, with the mist/fog, the birds and everything else. Magical.
I felt like an explorer when I had to climb over trees and sometimes through various branches if they overtook the trail too much. I knew eventually there was a water crossing, so getting my shoes muddy wasn’t an issue. The above photo? Had to go through/over that section. No way to climb up on either side, no way to move all of that brush…had to climb through it. Seriously so much fun! It was around this time Liz caught up to me again. I liked seeing her again, but was a tad sad my secret explorer club was over. Together we made our way to the root climb and up and out of the river bed.
For the next few miles we walked/hiked together. My quads were le tired and her knee was acting up. Let me tell you something about trail runners. We are the most interesting people you will ever meet. I have never met a dull person out on the trail. Liz was no exception. Listening to her stories pulled me through some rough HOT road stretches.
Back on the trail near mile 10, she was able to get a little more speed on me than I had in my tank. 50K runners were starting to pass, and I cheered on the ones I knew and tried to keep a smile. Slowly I was becoming more and more irritated, having less and less fun and feeling weak and finished.
When I reached the Covered Bridge near mile 12 I was going to drop. My legs were barely keeping me stable on the trail and it was simply a matter of not being safe if I kept trying to force them forward. A few people noticed I wasn’t doing well and loaded me up with fluid and sugar. I told Steve I was dying…he told me I needed to eat. While I was thinking of ways to end this race, Lee came by and into the river crossing. More than wanting to drop and be done with things, I did not want Lee to make fun of me or think less of me for dropping. Meaning, down went to the cookies and water and down went my little body into the river crossing.
EEEEIP! Cold water! My lungs quivered as I tried to keep a steady breath and steady steps. In fact I could have gone across more quickly, but the ice bath felt so wonderful. Reaching the shore I knew I suddenly had a few more miles left, and I decided all endurance trail events should have a built in ice bath.
I stopped at the potty (finally!) and made my way through a parking lot and into another trail section. Along the way I tried to run and my feet wobbled and buckled like a new born deer. I laughed and said “Whoa that’s not happening”. Just my luck, Rachel was behind me. Rachel took 2nd in the National Trail Champions for women or some such equally impressive nonsense. When she saw my awkwardness she smiled and called to me that I should do intervals like her. I seriously doubt the two of us have anything in common. ( ;
Ipod came out to keep me company and I worked my way across the last section, as moment after moment 50k runners passed me. Again, my spirits faded as my legs grew tired when the numb feeling from the ice bath disappeared.
A few more steep climbs and a conversation with a random hiker where he said I had less then a mile to go and I mentally promised to personally stab him if he were lying to me.
Tears and countless negative thoughts were in my head as I took each step. Whenever someone else saw me on the trail I wanted to hide my face. I was completely ashamed of what I thought was a terrible performance. I wanted to stop. I wanted to pass out. I wasn’t sure if anyone would find me so I kept walking. Err death shuffling.
Right when you need something the most, it happens. I came across this sign with approximately half a mile to the finish. It reads “On This Day You’re My Hero”. Not gonna lie, I teared up.
Suddenly I was swept up in emotions. I thought about being a member of FitFluential. I thought about how I will tweet that I finished with #PROOF and no one will ask or care about my time. I thought about how my friends will be waiting for me at the finish with a smile. I thought about how I am doing something amazing in general, let alone with everything I’ve been through and finally I thought the most wonderful quote of them all…
Some can’t and others won’t, but at the end of the day I was able to say “I DID”.
Sadly this new found belief evaporated when I came across the finish chute. I couldn’t bare to look at my friends and made a bee line to the cabin to cry in the shower and wash away all the suck. Before I could though Mark P grabbed me and asked what I was doing. In an instant I was breaking down and crying. Gale and Heidi joined me in a cabin area where the food was being served and sat me down. For 30 minutes or so I cried about how ashamed I was, how I don’t feel like myself and various other self-pity. They tried to convince me I was FINE. What they couldn’t fix, water and food solved. Apparently when you burn nearly 2,000 cals and you’re in 80 degree heat or something and you’re exposed and all sorts of other things, a person needs a LOT more food and water than I used. Oops.
After my cry, some food and yes a shower, I found I was damn proud of what happened and I am looking forward to doing it again next year. I wondered over to the finish line to cheer in other friends, before packing up and hitting the road for the long(ish) drive back home.
(Un)Official stats from the website.
102 out of 107 25K finishers 5:58:16