This past weekend I set out to do something spectacular and * spoiler alert * it didn’t happen. Not to say what I did wasn’t amazing or something, but it wasn’t my goal, it wasn’t anywhere near my goal and I’m not going to lie and say I’m happy when I’m not. I’m pleased/proud, but I’m not happy. Or some combination of those words.
Outrun 24 is a 1 mile loop in Lake Metro Parks, where runners “run, walk or crawl” as many miles as possible within a 24 hour time frame. Bare minimum I wanted to complete a 50K, I hadn’t done that since my massive hamstring injury in 2012. Mind you I was set to do one in the fall of 2013, but I made a poor romantic choice instead. This was to be my redeeming weekend. I wanted that 100K (or to stay active for the full 24 hours). I have been “training”, mind you not “running training”, but I have been working out, staying on my feet as much as possible and I lost weight! Yet, somehow it wasn’t enough.
The race started at 800 AM Saturday. I was packed and had my tent up from the night before. I was well rested and fueled and only slightly worried about having woken up at 500 AM to get there “on time” and with a “good” parking spot.
I milled about talking with people and feeling nervous. It seemed most people weren’t feeling as antsy as I was and it made me think this was going to be a very casual day. Which is good! Lots of hugging and “good lucks”. I even coincidentally met the guy would would later set the course record running 120 miles! He was wearing a running kilt! I thought about wearing my tutu, but decided against drawing attention to myself.
When the race finally started I was FLOORED to see how many people were actually running or at least slow jogging. For WEEKS all the chatter in the FB group was about going soooo slow and all the people who would be walking. Even those walkers were walking faster than I was able to keep up. From the start I was self conscious and devastated. Something like 150+ runners on a 1 mile loop and I was going to be so lonely. Now I know I’m being whiny, but I went into this event with the promise of friendship and silliness. With the idea it wouldn’t be a “race” so much as an all day walk and talk fest with my friends. So for me to be alone, that wasn’t what I signed up for or was promised. In the first loop a few people chattered near me and I got a feel for the land. The “hill” was more hill than I wanted, but less than I feared.
Miles 2-4 were on my own. It wasn’t the worst thing ever, I waved at people as they passed and enjoyed the day warming up. I managed to keep a 15 minute loop, which my goal was between 15-20 minutes so I was very happy. My 100K pace goal called for 20 minutes so I was actually buying time. After about mile 4 I met a woman named Jill. She was there with her friends, one of who (whom?) was celebrating her 40th bday! Jill was WONDERFUL company for a few miles, and she introduced me to her crew who had set up a table right before the counter mats, and allowed me to keep my water bottle at the table. This was a godsend because I was able to hydrate every mile, while not having to carry anything with me!
I went to the bathroom every 4-6 miles. Staying very well hydrated, but never over hydrated. My breakfast had been a pack of bel Vita breakfast biscuits and a bagel with cream cheese and blueberry spread. Around mile 5 I grabbed some Fitos and two hard boiled eggs. Near mile 10 I grabbed some Twinkies. The bad thing is I didn’t eat again until mile 20 and this was far far too late in the game to be getting calories into my system.
Around mile 12-13 I stopped for a deep tissue massage. Jill and I had parted ways by this point and I was VERY well on track and feeling great too. I probably didn’t need the massage, but she was about to leave so I took advantage of the situation. She warned me about how tight my hamstrings and ITB were feeling, but I didn’t think too much of it. (Side note, my legs are purple and green now, so yeah she was right). This break ate up my cushion and my legs were starting to feel the miles.
When on my own (which was most of the time) I listened to the RENT soundtrack and then AVENUE Q. Miles 13-15 went by quickly and I was super pleased with doing a 25K in 5 hours, which meant I was on track to PR my 50K! I think this is why I forgot to fuel. 16, 17 and 18, went by and I started to feel “off”. At mile 20 I sat down and wanted to cry. I updated my FB status letting people know I wasn’t feeling well for how I wanted to feel for the day, but I was doing better than I ever have before during a race. I ate 1/2 of a Subway meatball sub and ate a cookie. I also change my shoes into something with my cushion thinking the padding would feel good.
Miles 20-22 I allowed the food to settle and I felt 100% better. Sadly though, the damage was already done. By mile 25 I was a mess again because so many people had finished and dropped. I mean SO MANY of my friends going for the 100K were done at 50K for the day and done with that distance long before I was. My friend Gale developed terrible blisters and needed to stop too. I sat down at mile 25 and cried. My spirits were crushed. I drank some water, ate another cookie and changed my socks and shoes. Mother-Effer I had a blister. I have not developed blisters while running since like 2007 or 2008. Seriously. It sucked. My doctor had told me due to the cold my feet wouldn’t swell, well they did! Painfully I popped it and treated it then put on a different pair of socks and put on my trail shoes. They’re a size bigger to help accommodate swelling and they felt heavenly. It was getting cold so I layered up and headed back out, after a good cry.
Why crying? I felt defeated, I felt alone. It hurts SO MUCH to watch people have their friends and family come and crew or cheer them on and I know I don’t have that. I hope so much when I get married my husband and children will come to my events, but I know they may not. I know from talking to others on the trails, their families won’t come either. It was HUGE mistake to try and crew for myself. The thought of loading all my stuff back up and driving home tormented me. Having to remember to eat and drink each lap as my mind was fried, tormented me. I NEEDED fresh eyes and fresh ears to guide me as the day grew longer. I NEEDED someone else to clean it all up and usher me into victory. I didn’t want to do it on my own and I allowed my doubts and fears to get the better of me. Not to mention, I still fear our department closing down and not being able to afford to do this anymore. In my head I told myself this was my only shot at 100K and I was blowing it.
Miles 25-31 weren’t too bad. I caught up with Jill again, and my feet really didn’t hurt. She finished her miles while I had two more to go thanks to my mini breakdown break. I did one lap solo and my last lap I ran into a random guy who was calling everyone “Tiger” and walked and talked with me. He was actually very nice and very cute. He was probably also married, so no one make fun of me for saying that!
When I finished my 50K. I was very pleased with myself, but also so so sad. I collected all my stuff and put it in my car, including taking down my tent. It took a while and a lot of energy. The tempt and sun dropped and I wanted to have it in me to go back out, but I watched as everyone met up with their pacer or friends and I just didn’t feel like I belonged anymore. The race director even said more people were gone this year due to the cold than had left the year before come night fall.
My friends Melissa and Rick were there to cheer for someone so I chatted with them a moment, then my back and legs started to cramp. They helped carry my lone chair as I wrapped myself in a blanket with my 1/2 finished Chipotle burrito and headed to my car.
I made it 14ish hours before calling it quits and I made it 31 miles. I really really wanted to try again for the longer ultra distances. Maybe I’ll find a 50 miler. I mean those 12 miles really do make a difference. I also learned how to hydrate (yay) and was SO SO SO happy I didn’t have stomach issues AT ALL! I need a crew at that event. People to hand me food and water as I pass based on pre-determined instructions. A crew to carry and load all the stuff (which I so needed like 1/4 of what I brought anyway). I NEED pacers. I need company other than my fellow runners facing their own challenges, I need company who will cheer me on and focus only on me. I need to listen to my training more than I listen to doctors or other runners. If I know what works I should stick with it.
Yes, I was SUPER excited at how great I felt going into 16 miles and I am SUPER excited to realize if I had fueled better I would have felt great going into 20+ miles. This blows my mind, it really does. Somewhere in my heart I know if I keep trying physically and if I get past my mental and emotional issues I will one day finish a lonnnnnng distance event. I’m only 29, there’s so many years to do it. Maybe it won’t be next year or the year after that even. Maybe it won’t be until I’m 50 and my husband and children are there to cheer me on. It won’t make it any less special, but I won’t stop trying either.
So yeah, I’m happy I renewed my ultra runner status. I’m sad I didn’t upgrade it. I’m sad the weekend was NOTHING like I expected and I’m beating myself up wondering if I could have and should have done more. What’s done is done though, so it’s time to take the lessons learned and move forward. Time to keep up with my training, keep losing weight and keep building roots in my community again. Everything happens for a reason.
EDIT 5/3/14: It’s been a week now and many people have shared their thoughts or posts. The official results have gone up and time has passed enough to have a real reaction. Nearly EVERYONE I’ve talk with or read a review from reports it was a hard and brutal day. Things didn’t go as planned and no one seemed to have performed the way they wanted. In some small way this comforts me. The official results have gotten under my skin though. For my age group the top distances were 62 miles, 50 miles and 42 miles. The other three of us grabbed 31. I know I didn’t have another 31 miles in me and I didn’t think I had another 18 miles in me. Maybe though, just maybe I had another 12. I could have grabbed 3rd place if I just kept walking a little here and a little there over the last 10 hours. Can’t play the “what-if game” though. Maybe I shouldn’t have looked at the results!? At any rate, I’m in a new age group in a few months and next year I would have to grab 82 miles or better to place. YIKES! Then again, maybe it could happen? I have 358 days to train.