Today is my little sister’s birthday! Months ago, before life changed, she was planning on running 37 miles for her 37th birthday and I was planning on joining her for a good chunk of that distance. Fast forward to where we are now, and that was no longer an option on the table. But, I still wanted to honor her and her special day, so I committed to 37 miles of movement this weekend.
I’ve been somewhat on the “injured list” for the last couple of weeks, so running those miles was not an option. That meant I needed to hike and bike. My road bike has been out of commission since 2012 when it somehow had a flat tire upon collecting it from the transition area after finishing my last Ironman triathlon. Yes. You read that right. It has had a flat tire since 2012… What that meant is that my bike miles would be on my mountain bike, which is fun, but not quite as easy as they would be if I had ever fixed that flat tire!
There was a part of me that thought I could get all of the miles done yesterday. I started the day with a 3 mile hike with Blu (I’ve actually been starting A LOT of my days that way lately).
Then I headed out for a dirt road bike ride. It was pretty windy, but I made it 14.5 miles. Wahoo! Got home and headed out on a family adventure, which included 2.5 more miles of hiking. I was up to 20 miles for the day and kept thinking that I only had 7 miles left…. I was pretty disappointed when I realized that my sister was not turning 27 years old, but that she was, in fact, turning 37. HA! I decided I would have to wait and finish the last 17 miles on Sunday.
I felt really lazy this morning. There was no part of me that was excited to move my body 17 miles. But, I also didn’t even want to wish my sister a happy birthday until those miles were done. I lounged around for too long to have time to take Blu on a hike, which meant that if I wanted to get 17 miles in before the family birthday Zoom call, I needed to bike all of those miles at once. (Note: I also haven’t biked 17 miles at once since 2012!)
Since I rode 14 miles yesterday, and I have a normal 9 mile loop, I was pretty set on where I was going to ride to get my 17 miles in. So, I told Will where I was going and headed out. HOLY. WIND. So much wind! I soon realized the ride was going to be much harder than I was hoping.
And then! I had an idea! I should ride the loop backwards! For some reason, I always ride this loop in the same direction. And, by doing so, am forced to climb two GIGANTIC hills. Now, I would avoid these two hills and life would be good.
False. A big fat false. Turns out, that by doing this loop backwards, I put myself on the most wide open, exposed roads while riding directly into the wind. AND, I apparently forgot about the NUMEROUS times when I am normally gliding down glorious hills that now, I was huffing and puffing and climbing up!
And that’s when it hit me. THERE ARE GOING TO BE HARD PARTS. Always. No matter what we do to try and avoid it, life is not going to be easy.
I held onto this thought and it gave me strength, which is kind of odd because it’s a bit of a daunting thought. However, I realized that the only way to help ease the blows that life throws at us is to be as prepared as possible. So, after I FLEW down the biggest hill that I purposefully avoided going up today, I turned my bike around and climbed that thing with all I had in me. I was huffing and puffing and thought I might puke, but I was NOT going to skip that hard part that was going to make me stronger. (And turns out I PR’d that climb by 20 seconds today!)
I finished up my ride and sent my sister a Happy Birthday message. I was so relieved to be done with 37 miles to honor her birthday. It was hard, but if it hadn’t been I’m not sure it would have really meant that much. It’s the challenge that makes it worthwhile…meaningful.
That’s how I want to keep living life every day. Especially right now. I want to remember that all of the hard parts are making me stronger. They’re making all of us stronger. We can’t avoid them, so let’s use them to become better versions of ourselves.
I cannot tell you how nervous I was for this race. It was a mix of excitement and nerves, but mostly, I was terrified. Having DNF’d my one other 100 mile attempt at the 75 mile mark, I was having a bit of anxiety that maybe I wasn’t tough enough to cover 100 miles. But, I was determined to give it my all.
For this race, my good friend Leigh Ann was coming to run with me and attempt her third 100 mile finish. My sisters, Tanna and Rondi, were coming to crew me, and Rondi was also planning to run the last 30 miles with me so that we could check Wisconsin (state number 12!) off of our list for our goal of “26.2 and a Brew” in all 50 states.
We arrived in Wisconsin on Friday afternoon and headed straight to a brewery to check that off of our “to-do” list. We ended up at a place called Second Salem and the brews and grub were delicious.
Next up, we headed to packet pick up, which was at the race start/finish area.
After that, we headed back to the hotel to organize our drop bags and meticulously plan out where we wanted dry shoes and socks, because we had heard there was a muddy/wet section on the course that we would hit twice, and we wanted to be as prepared as possible. Tanna and Rondi also looked at the aid station maps and tried to prepare for where they could be along the course. Nerves were high as we said good night and turned out the lights at 8:30pm, with our alarms set for 3:45am the next morning.
From the second the alarm went off, the eating contest that would last for the next 30 hours, began. My stomach is never very cooperative when it comes to pre-race nerves and having an appetite. Basically, I lost my appetite about 4 days before the race, and didn’t get it back until a few days after the race. But, if I don’t eat, it’s a disaster, and I knew that the only way to a successful finish was to keep getting calories in my body.
So, I heated up an instant Quaker Oatmeal breakfast, worth 241 calories, and managed to choke it all down. Meanwhile, Leigh Ann was eating everything in sight and I couldn’t help but be jealous of the fact that she didn’t feel like she was going to vomit at any moment. For me, pre-race anxiety leads to nausea and lots of trips to the bathroom. So, before we headed to the start line, I took two imodiums to help solve that issue, and I also managed to eat a Nutrigrain bar. Boom. I felt like so far, I was winning this eating contest.
The vibe at the start line was pretty great. People were busy with last minute preparations. Drop bags were being left in their appropriate places. Pictures were being taken. Timing anklets were being picked up and put on. Announcements were being called over the loud speaker. Port-a-potties were being used. And LOTS of bug spray and sunscreen was being applied. I was definitely feeling less anxiety and more excitement at this point! We. Were. Ready.
Miles 0 – 7.6 (6am – 7:36am): There were about 400 people that crossed the start line at 6:00am on Saturday. For a few miles it was a bit crowded, but we weren’t in any hurry and were happy to just go with the flow. The weather was nearly perfect. Overcast and around 60 degrees, with thunder rolling pretty steadily. These miles flew by and it was hard to believe that we were already almost 8 miles into the race when we saw Rondi and Tanna for the first time at the Bluff Road Aid Station. I decided not to wear a watch for this event because I really didn’t want to focus on how far I had run or how far I had left to run. The only thing I wanted to know was how far it was to the next aid station. This proved to work really well for me mentally. There were so many aid stations that every time I asked how far to the next one, the number of miles was small and felt completely attainable.
I had eaten two “Take 2” minis and drank 16 oz of water and 16 oz of Tailwind in the first 7.6 miles. Tanna and Rondi refilled my water and Tailwind, and stuffed my pockets with more food. And then, we were on our way, just 3 mins later.
Miles 7.6-15.5 (7:39am – 9:31am): This was our first section of real single track on the Ice Age Trail. It was beautiful, and the true feeling of “trail running” began. It was a slower go with more rocks, roots, and just things to look out for. By the time we reached the Emma Carlin aid station, I was ready for some real food. I had eaten four peanut butter crackers and one granola bar on this stretch and had a bit of stomach cramping…so I took another imodium. Rondi and Tanna had lawn chairs set up for us to sit down and change our shoes. We were about to be entering our first 5ish mile stretch of muddy trails and we wanted to put on some older shoes that we didn’t mind getting trashed. After a quick bathroom break, shoe change, watermelon eating, and bottle refilling, I was sent off with half of a turkey sub, which I ate one bite at a time over the next several miles.
Miles 15.5-23.9 (9:41am – 11:36am): We were told there would be mud, and there was mud indeed. Miles and miles of mud through a grassy area called “The Meadows.” The weather continued to be decent, with temperatures warming up, plenty of humidity, and a bit of a drizzle. There was still some thunder and lightning, but nothing bad. My old tennis shoes were bothering me during these miles and I regretted switching to shoes that basically had no cushioning left. I couldn’t wait to get to the next aid station to get my comfy trail shoes on, and these mud soaked shoes off. Once we arrived, Tanna and Rondi again had the lawn chairs set up and Tanna even wiped/rubbed down my disgusting feet for me before I put clean shoes and socks back on. It felt AH-MAZING. Again, we ate some food, used the port-a-potties, refilled bottles, and headed out for the next stretch.
Mile 23.9-31.6 (11:50am – 1:40pm): This stretch was long and hard, and felt like it would never end. The course had some technical spots and very steep climbs and descents. It was hot by this point, nearing close to 78 degrees, with ample humidity. I was struggling to take in enough calories (I only ate the half a turkey sub and drank my tailwind and water) and by the time we reached the Scuppernong aid station, I was ready for some food, not because I was hungry (I was never actually hungry during this race), but because my energy was zapped. My groin/hip flexor on my right leg was also starting to bother me, and I took some Tylenol at this aid station. The food here was amazing. I ate two turkey roll-ups, one rice crispie, and an orange slice, refilled water and Tailwind, and wiped my face down with a wet, cold washcloth. Thank you, Tanna Sue! It was just what I needed for a reset.
Mile 31.6-36.5 (1:58pm – 3:13pm): This stretch felt so good! The calories, plus the cool wipe down, made all the difference in the world. We cruised right through this tougher section with no issues. When we reached the aid station I grabbed my hat back from Rondi, because it looked like it was going to rain again, and we headed right out.
Mile 36.5-39 (3:18pm – 3:48pm): We were right, and the sky let loose on this section. It was pouring rain when we came into the Hwy 67 aid station, so we tried to make it a quick stop. Refilled fluids, peed, ate a peanut butter tortilla, threw on our rain jackets, and headed out into MUD.
Mile 39-47.3 (3:56pm-6:30pm-ish): So. Much. Mud. This was the 5 mile stretch of mud from earlier in the race, but it had stretched longer, deeper, wider, and wetter with all of the rain that was coming down. Parts of the trail that weren’t muddy before had turned into unavoidable mud pits.
My stomach started going south, and I was feeling pretty low when we hit the Emma Carlin aid station for the second time. When Rondi asked me how I was doing, she got a negative head nod, with no words. To which Leigh Ann responded, “She says she’s not doing well, but she’s doing great out there. She’s fine. I promise.” And really, she was wasn’t completely wrong. I was moving along fine, and I wasn’t complaining while I was out there, but once I hit that aid station, the realization hit hard that the SUCKFEST was well underway. The temperature was starting to drop, so we put on some warmer clothes, changed our shoes and socks again, ate some food, grabbed our head lamps, and I also took my trekking poles with me because my groin/hip flexor was hurting and I thought they might be helpful on all of the steep descents. I also mustered enough enthusiasm to request a picture with Scott Kummer, the host of the podcast, “Ten Junk Miles“, who managed the Emma Carlin aid station.
Mile 47.3 – 56.6 (6:40pm-ish-8:55pm): The mud didn’t end. It was supposed to, but it didn’t. Also, my trekking poles were driving me crazy. My mantra for this race had become “when it’s runnable, you run.” This just wasn’t as easy with trekking poles, so I ditched them after this section because I felt like they slowed me down and were taking more energy than they were worth. We also realized that we were dressed a little too warm, and I ditched the jacket and just stuck with a buff on my head and arms sleeves with my short sleeved shirt (which I had changed because the other one was sweaty). That’s honestly about all I remember from this section. The night time fatigue was definitely setting in.
Mile 55.6-63.1 (9:20pm-10:59pm): I felt surprisingly good through these miles. It was the first time in the race where I wanted to lead. Leigh Ann had led nearly the entire race and I had loved it. But, her headlamp wasn’t quite as bright as mine and she wanted me to lead. So I did. We eventually stopped so that she could change her battery, and that did the trick, but I still kept the lead. Slowly, she started to drop back. I slowed a few times to make sure she was still with me, and eventually she said she just wanted me to keep going, because I was feeling strong and able to run really well. So I kept going, thinking she was just a short ways back.
During this section there were a lot of 100 milers coming towards me as they headed back out for the second out and back. Although it was nice to see people and give/receive encouragement, it was also a bit daunting how far ahead of me they were, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was going to miss a cut off. It began to consume my thoughts. So I continued telling myself, “If it’s runnable, you run.” And that’s what I did. I made it to the 100k mark ahead of the cut off by one hour and 1 minute. I told Rondi and Tanna that I wasn’t sure how far back Leigh Ann was, but that I was sure she’d be there soon. They tended to my needs before finally telling me that Leigh Ann had called to say she was dropping at the 100k mark. She just didn’t feel as strong as she knew I was (her words, not mine) and she didn’t want to hold me back. As this started to sink in, I could feel myself holding back tears when Rondi jumped in for a picture…
Rondi said she would be there to run with me at the 70.7 mile aid station and that I needed to get my a$$ moving. And THAT is what your crew is for! I grabbed some food and went on my way, having every intention to get this thing done.
Mile 63.1-70.7 (11:13 pm-1:00 am): Shortly into this section, I crossed paths with Leigh Ann and told her she still had time to keep going! But, she didn’t bite. I pressed on and ran my only solo miles of the race. It’s weird that I’m terrified to run in the dark at home, but I was never scared out there. I even turned off my headlamp a couple of times to pee (which was now happening VERY often). My groin/hip flexor remained an ongoing discomfort from this point forward and I regularly reminded myself that “that’s just how it is now”. Because well, that wasn’t going to go away.
Mile 70.7-77.4 (1:07 am – 3:12 am): As soon as Rondi started running with me, I told her my “If it’s runnable, we run” mantra. This definitely became harder and harder as tiredness set in and the terrain grew more and more challenging, with a heavy fog setting in. And again, the wet mud was relentless. I found myself tripping more often and getting quite frustrated and increasingly worried about reaching the cut off points on time. As we neared the end of this section, I had extreme blister pain in my right foot and running seemed impossible. I couldn’t wait to get my shoe off at the next aid station and pop some blisters. That was something I’d never done before, but I had heard it could save your race, and right then, my feet needed saving. Tanna had the lawn chair ready for me and was armed with a lighter and a needle. An amazing volunteer came over to help.
He recommended that I pop my own blister and then he would tape me up and I could be back on my way. So, that’s what I did. It was pretty gross, and the alcohol that Tanna used to clean it up afterwards was torture. But, “that’s just how it is now”! Once it was all disinfected, the volunteer taped up my disgusting foot as I ate three slices of bacon and fretted internally (and maybe a little out loud) about the fact that I just didn’t have time for this and I needed to get going to beat the next cut off. (**Side note: trail running volunteers are the best humans on this Earth!!!)
Mile 77.4-81.9 (3:25 am – 4:45 am): As Rondi and I headed out of this aid station, there was a major problem. I couldn’t run. My groin/hip flexor was excruciating and I felt like I couldn’t lift my leg to move it forward. Running was out of the question. I began to have a mini meltdown because I just couldn’t believe that I had come this far to ONLY come this far. I decided then and there that I would be finishing these 100 miles, even if it wasn’t within the time cutoffs. I took some more Tylenol and moved as quickly as I could through the rugged, muddy trails. I figured that sitting in the lawn chair with my leg up (picture above) while my blisters were being worked on, had aggravated my already tender groin.
Eventually, my leg warmed up and I was able to run. Yasssss! I still had a chance to make the next time cut off and I was feeling more optimistic. Back to the mantra, “If it’s runnable, we run.”
But again, the water and mud was indescribable. Just before reaching the mile 81.9 aid station we had to cross a bridge that was partially sunk under the water of a murky, spooky lake.
I’m pretty sure I would have been too scared to cross by myself. It. Was. Creepy. But, we made it across and beat the next time cut off by an hour and 9 minutes. Game. On.
I scarfed down half of a grilled cheese sandwich, refilled bottles, and we were on our way…back across the creepy sunken bridge.
Mile 81.9-86.3 (4:55 am – 6:18 am): During this section we got behind some really fast ladies. Their speed was deceptive because they were mostly hiking, but it was fast. Mall walker fast. We had to focus to keep up with them. But, they had said this wasn’t their first time doing this race and they were confident we would finish with time to spare. So, I held onto that bit of hope and we kept pace with them as the sun came up. It was a glorious thing once we could turn off our headlamps. The fog was still present… and fog and headlamps don’t mix very well.
Coming into this next aid station and finding out that they had pancakes and syrup was amazing. It was my favorite thing that I ate during the race…although the bacon was a close second. I forgot to mention, but since Rondi joined me at mile 70.7, she never stopped making sure I was continually eating and drinking. Thanks, Rondi!
Mile 86.3-93.1 (6:25 am – 8:35 am): I was hurting. The mud never ended. And it seemed like this race wouldn’t either. My hip flexor was hurting and I was having to pee every 30-45 mins. And at that point, there wasn’t even much stepping off the trail to get the job done. We just checked for runners, and if it was clear, it was happening. “That’s just how it is now,” continued to make us laugh as things got more and more ridiculous. Because of the frequent “bathroom” usage, there was major chaffing developing, which led to Aquaphor needing to be applied with every bathroom use. It all was getting to be tooooo much! I really felt like it would never end. BUT, the trails really were beautiful. That was the saving grace.
When we made it to the aid station at mile 93.1, it felt like the home stretch. I took advantage of using a real port-a-potty, and we didn’t linger too long before heading out, breakfast burrito in hand.
Mile 93.1 – 100!! (8:44 am – 10:46 am): We walked for a bit while I ate, and then, it was time to run again. The only problem was that when I went to run again my hip flexor starting screaming at me and it wasn’t happening. I seriously couldn’t believe it! Had sitting on the port-a-potty for two minutes just ended my race?!?! Ahhhh! We kept walking and I decided that I needed to take some ibuprofen, because I couldn’t take anymore Tylenol yet and I had to have something to get me through this pain and to that finish line. So, Rondi ran back to the aid station to grab some ibuprofen. I kept walking.
As I was walking, another runner stopped and asked if I was okay (my walk was more of a step, followed by a dragging forward of the right leg). I told him I was having some hip issues and he offered me some ibuprofen. Ultra runners are so nice! I took his offer and kept hobbling on. Rondi caught back up with me, and didn’t mind that I already took the medicine I needed. Eventually, my leg warmed up and I was able to run again.
Those last 7 miles were a long 7 miles. The hills didn’t seem to end. I honestly was never actually confident that I was going to make the cut off until it was 10:32 am and I was only about a mile from the finish line. I finally felt relief and excitement. I was actually going to do it.
Rondi decided to run up ahead so that she could be at the finish line when I got there, instead of crossing with me. As I came up that last little hill and heard the cheering, I was completely overcome with happiness. I had actually done this really, super hard thing.
After our celebrations, we stayed at the finish line for the next hour and 15 minutes to watch the final finishers cross the line. It was incredible. So much determination and grit was shown out there.
To sum up those 28 hours and 46 minutes, I can just say that it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I have completed two full Ironman triathlons, and this was MUCH, MUCH harder than those. Mentally, I was in a very good place through this race. The thought of quitting never crossed my mind. I had a goal, and I was going to get it done. Physically, I’ve never hurt so much, during or after a race. So. Much. Hurt.
The Next Few Days After the Race:
Content. That’s mainly what I felt. Everything seemed to go by very quickly as I reflected on the previous few days. The race had felt soooooo long, and yet, looking back, it seemed like it was over in the blink of an eye.
Physically, my body was angry. My feet were swollen, red, blistered, and tender to walk on.
I had taken Monday off of work and spent much of the day in bed. When I headed back to work on Tuesday, I had to wear my husband’s tennis shoes because my feet were too swollen to fit in any of my shoes. And I still wasn’t close to walking normal.
The first full week after the race, I had to lay down and take a 20-30 minute nap after work every day. I was completely exhausted and couldn’t shake it. My appetite took quite a while to return to normal as well. I would feel starving, but nothing really sounded good to eat, and then when I’d eat, I’d feel full immediately and then my stomach would be a little upset. That lasted 3-4 days post race.
In addition, the post race “lows” hit a few days later. That feeling of emptiness and…what now? This is a normal feeling that comes after I’ve worked so hard to reach a goal, and then all of a sudden, it’s over. There’s a sense of loss, sadness. It leaves me wanting to rush right into finding a new goal to work towards….but I haven’t signed up for anything yet and that sadness is passing.
I’m now nearly two weeks out and almost all of my aches and pains are gone! My groin/hip flexor is still a little achy, and my right ankle is tender too. I haven’t done any runs yet and have decided I won’t run again until nothing hurts anymore.
Would I ever run another 100 miler? Yes. Absolutely, yes. This race was phenomenal. The volunteers, aid stations, other runners…everything was so perfect. I’ve never run another race where everyone I encountered was so positive and encouraging. It left such a good feeling in my soul and made me realize trail running and ultra marathons really are for me! It will be a long time before I do another 100 miler, but as long as my body is up for it, I’ll be back.
I can’t thank Leigh Ann, Tanna, and Rondi enough for all that they did to help me reach this goal. Their love, support, and extremely hard work made this day so much more special than it ever could have been without them. The support and love from my friends and family back home was amazing as well. I can never say thank you enough.
More Photos from the day:
It should probably be noted that while I was out there, I decided that I didn’t want to fast pack the Hardrock 100 mile course, and I didn’t want to do the Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim, and I wasn’t really sure I’d ever want to do Western States if given the chance, and there was no way I’d ever do this race again. Luckily, I’ve come to my senses and almost all of those bucket list items are back on my “to-do” list!
Pushing my limits is what keeps me motivated to work hard and dream big. I’m so thankful to have finally met this 100 mile goal of mine, and I’m looking forward to many more adventures with people I love.
Current life status: Training for a 100 mile ultramarathon.
Things I’m succeeding at: Running all the miles. Getting my kids to their games/practices (or recruiting help for this). Listening to all the inspirational running podcasts. Feeding the children (most of the time). Doing all the laundry. Forcing my children to play outside (often by joining them in unending games of one on one basketball). Doing 100 push-ups a day (started for Lent and didn’t stop).
Things I’m kind of sucking at right now: Being a physically present friend. Having a clean house. Having a clean car. Reading my daily devotional. Strength work (besides the push-ups). Being one of the social moms. Being a mom that volunteers….for anything. Life outside of my house and running.
I don’t think it’s actually possible to be doing everything well at the same time. I think that this thing called “balance” doesn’t really exist. At least not a balance where everything is equal. In my world, balance means that what’s important is going to change depending on the season that I’m in. If everything was equal, life would be pretty dull, right? If I was putting equal thought and effort into everything, there wouldn’t be a true passion for anything.
Right now, what I am putting the most effort and time into is pursuing my goal to complete a hundred mile run. I’m also making sure that I don’t drop the ball on any of the things that are really important to my children and to keeping our home functioning. But, other than that, I’m letting things go.
In order to dream big and actually live out those dreams, sacrifices have to be made. But I’m okay with that because it brings me tremendous happiness to work hard towards a goal and to always have new adventures to look forward to.
I was reading a book the other day that explained how most people, when asked, admit to wanting to live a happier life. However, the majority of those people also say that they are not actively doing anything to make their lives happier. I never want to be one of those people. I want to be someone who is working every day to live the life I want to live. Balance? Screw it. Who needs balance when you can become a master at juggling the things that are most important to the happiness of you and your family?
If I can get these things right, I’m good with that.
“Don’t worry about failures. Worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.” – Canfield
This is where I’m stuck.
Over the last week, I’ve been struggling with the decision I made to not toe the line at the Euchre Bar Massacre. My sister, Rondi, and I signed up for this race back in May. We heard about the event through a group of pretty skilled runners and jumped at the opportunity to try something new, adventurous, challenging, and down-right scary. Originally, we signed up without being fully committed to the race. We figured we would register, and then make a decision a bit later as to whether or not we were going to commit to this off trail, unmarked 25 mile jaunt through the mountains of California, which a woman has not finished in the last 5 years.
Once we officially committed (and bought plane tickets), I knew there were some things I needed to do in order to show up as prepared as possible. First, I needed to put time and energy into learning navigation with a map and compass. I searched for a local orienteering class, but none of them fit with my schedule. So, I planned to just be self-taught with help from YouTube. But, in the end, I never did this. Any of it. Instead, I opted to rely on the map on my phone to show me the way.
Next, I knew I needed to work on incline and strength work, as the race profile looks like this…
We don’t really have any giant hills, let alone mountains, near my home here in Michigan that could properly prepare me. But, I vowed to do 30 minutes of incline work on the treadmill, 5 days a week, in addition to my marathon training plan, in order to be physically ready. I stuck to that plan for about 2 weeks, and then slipped into the “comfort” of just following a marathon training plan, sans true hill work OR strength work. Ya. Big mistake.
A few weeks out from the event, the race director posted this on the event Facebook page:
And at that, I went ahead and jumped right back into my incline work, fully aware that it was too late, and what would be would be.
All of this to say, I showed up at a campground in California for a race that I wasn’t really prepared for. And, in a moment of weakness, I let that fear of being unprepared keep me from starting the race.
Now, I could sit here and list every single GOOD reason we had to drive away from that start line at 5:30 am race morning, but that’s not really what this blog is about. This is just me, owning up to that decision. I said I was going to start that race and give it everything I had, and I didn’t do that. And I don’t like how that feels. I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY don’t like it when people say they’re going to do things, and then they back out of them. And that’s exactly what I did.
To try and make up for that, I decided that the only way I wasn’t starting that race was if we ran 26.2 miles in California and another 26.2 miles in Nevada before heading home. So, that’s what we did.
I can tell you that that was really hard, and beautiful, and fun, and hard and loaded with memories that I wouldn’t trade in for other memories. But, I’m left with the regret of showing up at a race without doing the work necessary to complete the race, and then, not even giving it a shot. I don’t ever want to be known as that girl who says she’s going to do something, and then doesn’t do it. That isn’t me. And it leaves me wanting to be better. Wanting to work harder. Wanting to not only do the things I tell others I’m going to do, but also do the things I tell myself I’m going to do.
In the end, I know the weekend went exactly how it was supposed to go. It ended up being amazing, just not in the way it was planned to be. We went to California (and Nevada), and pushed our bodies physically and mentally, and I know that most people completely understood why we didn’t do that race. It’s not really that hard to understand why someone would be too scared to give it a try. But, I don’t want to be that person that’s too scared to give something a try. I want to be the person that is terrified, but still finds the courage to saddle up anyway.
“Every runner will face off with their toughest opponent….the weakness that dwells in each of us and does its best to prevent us from finding the greatness that is in there as well. weakness volunteers itself.
greatness we have to seek….” – Laz
Euchre Bar Massacre. It taught me a lot, and I hope to go back and see what else I can learn.
The longer that you do endurance events, the more you hear about people doing some pretty crazy things. Two years ago when my sister, Rondi, and I made a goal to run a marathon in all 50 states, I joked that if we did one a year, we’d be done before I was 85 years old.
As we started running some races in other states,while wearing our capes (made by our awesome Mom!) that said “26.2 in 50” on them, people began to tell us ways that we could get this accomplished a bit faster.
Come to find out, there are actually whole race series that have marathons in up to 7 states in 7 days, having all of the states within driving distance from one another. So, in theory, you could check 7 states off your list in 7 days. This idea really stuck with us and we decided that we should at least try to run back to back marathons and check two states off our list in one weekend. (Did you know you can actually Google “pairs of marathons” and easily find states all over the country where this is possible?! Yeah, I didn’t either…)
And that is how this crazy idea came to be reality.
After doing some researching and looking at driving distance, the cost of the races, and the weekends that would work, we finally decided on Alabama and Mississippi. We marked it on the calendar, figured that we could leave Thursday after work and be home during the day on Monday, and honestly didn’t think much more about it until a few days before we left.
At that point, I decided to take a brief look at the course maps (noting that race one looked a bit hilly and race number two looked flat as a pancake), make sure there were breweries close by (because we also have a challenging goal of going to a brewery in all 50 states), and check what the weather might possibly be like on race day. Yes, approximately three days before the trip was the very first time that I looked into any of these things.
My older, wiser, sister, who was running her first half marathon that weekend! had looked at the course descriptions and made the brilliant decision to run in Mississippi (day two) because Alabama looked way too hilly for her. She is smart.
As it turns out, marathon number one in Alabama was INCREDIBLY hilly. Our plan was to just go slow, take it easy, and conserve our bodies so that marathon number two would be more tolerable. That was not possible. We ran our slowest marathon ever, and still felt completely beat up. There is actually no pace slow enough to make 26.2 miles feel “easy,” especially on a hilly course.
Immediately after we crossed the finish line, we headed into the golf course club house and hopped in the shower. Rondi was adamant that we needed hot showers ASAP to help our muscles recover. But, after each of us hopped into the two showers that were available, we found out that one (mine) had hot water and the other (hers) was freezing cold. She toughed it out anyways and claims that maybe cold showers are the way to go! And then, thanks to our big sister who played chauffeur for the day, we were on the road to find a Mississippi brewery before packet pick-up for marathon number two.
Upon arriving at packet pick-up, we found that our Mississippi marathon was going to be run in the middle of nowhere. We couldn’t stop laughing at the fact that we were literally going to be starting our marathon next door to a cow farm.
The laughing didn’t last long though, as the realization sunk in that our bodies hurt. Badly. And yet, there were goals to accomplish. Honestly though, if at any point before we stepped on the starting line, Rondi had said that she wanted to just wait and run Mississippi a different time, I totally would have bailed. There was NO part of me that wanted to run that marathon. Everything hurt so much and I just didn’t want to. In a short little video interview in our hotel room on race morning, I teared up because I just didn’t want to run that stinkin’ marathon. Luckily, Rondi cut filming and switched to a motivational YouTube video that reminded me that I don’t need to leave this earth with a body that’s in perfect condition. But, I do need to leave knowing that I’ve worked hard and done what I wanted to do. That I’ve set big goals, dreamed hard, and pushed myself farther than I thought possible.
So, that’s what we did. We waddled to that start line and kept putting one foot in front of the other. We actually RAN the first 3.5 miles without walking at all! Unfortunately, my stomach/butt started acting up and I ended up in the port-a-potty for quite a while, and came out with a head full of dread and a new plan. The new strategy would be to walk for 1 minute, then run for 4 minutes and just keep doing that the whole time. Also, I would eat and drink at every aid station. This proved to work to clear up my stomach issues, which was huge!
In addition, we listened to a motivational book, appropriately titled “Grit”, nearly the entire race. It was the perfect distraction from what was actually going on.
And, eventually, we reached finish line number two. It took even longer than the Alabama marathon, but that’s okay. We got there with zero mid-race mental break downs, and that’s honestly what I’m most proud of! Not once during the race did I think about quitting or did I feel like I wasn’t going to reach the finish line. I didn’t even ever really feel like I didn’t want to be out there running that marathon. I got over those emotions before the race started. Because, once we started, you better believe that we were finishing.
In the end, we decided it’s going to be a VERY long time before we sign up for back to back marathons again. It was hard. So much harder than we thought it would be. But, that just means that we grew stronger, both mentally and physically. And that’s what will help give us the courage to keep dreaming big and keep pursuing goals that might be a little too big for us. But, we sure are going to try and grow into them.
“If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.” -unknown
Dream bigger. Work harder. Do more than you thought you could.
Yesterday, my sister, Rondi, and I got to go on a run together.
This doesn’t happen very often. Honestly, we really don’t get to see each other much, but just about every time that we do get together, we make sure to squeeze in a run.
During our run yesterday we were talking about how hard it is for some people to understand why we do what we do. Nearly two years ago we decided that we are going to run a marathon (26.2 miles) or more in every state. In just under two weeks we are headed down South to do our first back to back marathons. We’re running one in Alabama on Saturday and another one in Mississippi on Sunday. It will be our first time running two marathons in two days and we’re hoping it goes well because that sure would speed up this process!
Anyway, that’s just one example of something that gives people a reason to think we’re crazy. Another, is ultra running. Last Fall I attempted my first 100 mile race. I made it 75 miles. Didn’t quite make it to the finish line, but sure did give it a go! I’ve also done a 50 mile race and a 50k. Plus, Rondi and I have completed two full Ironman triathlons (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). So, I guess there are a few reasons that we deserve to be called crazy, in the best way possible.
I like to think of the question everyone asks us as, “Why do you dream big? And what keeps you pushing so hard?” But really, the real question is normally asked in a somewhat what is wrong with you tone and goes like this…, “Why in the world would you ever want to do that?”
One reason is that it’s rewarding to see what your mind and body are capable of. If you can get past the “why would I want to do that?” and ask “COULD I ever do that?,” that’s huge. Because if you’re wondering if you CAN do something, and you’re willing to work hard and try, it will feel so stinkin’ good to do the thing that you didn’t know if you could do! And then, you’ll be hungry for more.
Another reason I like to set new goals is that there is so much personal growth that happens from working your butt off for something and then either achieving it, or failing to achieve it. No matter what the outcome is, I learn from it, and it makes me a better version of myself.
Also, I absolutely love to have something to look forward to and be working towards. It keeps me motivated to exercise and be healthy because I have so many things that I want to accomplish in life. I need my body to be in the best shape possible so that I can keep checking things off my bucket list for a really long time!
And the final reason I’ll give today is that chasing big goals keeps me sane, which makes life better for me and everyone I’m around on a daily basis. Seriously. Running is my therapy. It helps me clear my head when I run alone, and it gives me much needed girl time when I run with a friend. It’s absolutely my happy “me” place.
Those are just a few of the reasons why we will continue to be crazy, hopefully forever. I highly recommend giving it a try!
Lately, I’ve been kicking butt at running a lot of miles. They’re not always fast, but I’m spending a lot of time putting one foot in front of the other. In January, I racked up 154 miles, which is definitely more miles than I generally put down during the most miserable month of the year.
I’m staying motivated to get out there because my sister and I put a goal on the calendar in March that is a little bit scary. We are going to be running a full (26.2 mile) marathon in Alabama on a Saturday, then driving to Mississippi and running another full marathon there on Sunday. Two marathons. Two days. Two states. Yikes. It’s a bit terrifying, which is what makes it a bit easier for me to stick to my training plan.
That is always what works best for me. I set a goal so big that it scares me enough to get out the door, because I know I probably won’t reach the goal unless I put in the effort to get there.
So I work REALLY hard. And then, what’s been happening the last couple of years is that all of that really hard work makes my body freak out. And suddenly, all of that motivation to get out the door is interrupted by my body telling me I need to take it easy for a hot second.
That’s where I’m at.
Last weekend, I went out on Saturday morning for a 16 mile run. (I’ve been doing long runs on Saturdays and Sundays to try and adequately prepare for these back to back marathons.) I decided to try something new for fueling, and it didn’t sit well with me. Starting around mile 11, I was doing the butt clench, shuffle/run for about 1.5 miles until I made it to a bathroom. After that, I had stomach cramps and felt awful for the rest of my run. That day I was left feeling completely exhausted and dealing with Ischemic colitis. To put it bluntly I had diarrhea and blood in my poo all day long. Not fun. (Sorry….TMI, I know….)
Sunday morning I hit the road at 7:45 AM to meet up with a friend for an 8 mile run before church. I wasn’t feeling great, but this is a problem I’ve had in the past and normally it comes and goes. Well, apparently it didn’t “go” this time and by mile 4 I was off the road, behind a tree, squatting in the snow to find not poop, but just straight up blood. That stressed me out a bit, but being 4 miles from home, there wasn’t much I could do but turn around and run home. So, that’s what I did. And I felt awful.
By the time I got home, I was in the midst of another bathroom emergency and ran through the house to make it just in time. My stomach and bottom hurt so bad that I was on the toilet, taking deep breathes, trying unsuccessfully to hold it together, and crying tears of pain and frustration while beckoning my husband to bring me some Pepto. It wasn’t pretty.
I made it to church, but had to come home afterwards and take a long nap, and still felt miserable the rest of the day.
All of last week I took it really easy on my runs and still dealt with blood clots after every run until Saturday. Not cool.
I don’t tell you all of this for you to feel sorry for me. I tell you all of this so that you know it’s not easy. I love to post pictures like these:
Because I think they inspire people to get up and move. But, sometimes, I know that these pictures don’t portray the reality.
The reality is that any dream worth chasing is going to be hard. It’s going to have its ups and downs, and probably more downs than ups. It’s going to hurt. And it’s going to leave you questioning why in the world you’re doing what you’re doing. But, it’s going to be worth it.
So, fight through the pain, and keep chasing those dreams.
What is consuming your mind? Your thoughts? Taking up space in your head?
Recently, I had a long stretch (well….a few months) of not feeling super motivated to write. Not motivated to eat healthy. Not motivated to exercise regularly. And, not really inspired to set new goals.
Luckily, I pulled myself out of that slump and am back at those healthy habits that fuel my drive to be the best version of me.
So, naturally, I wanted to figure out what it was that helped get me out of that funk. And, although I know that part of it is just a normal roller coaster of life, I think that the other REALLY big part is what thoughts I’m allowing to flood my brain. By this, I mean what TV/Netflix/Movies I choose to watch, what I listen to in the car, what I read, and what I browse on social media.
I’m always looking for shows to help the time fly by on the treadmill and books to occupy my mind on the commute to and from work. Without thinking too much about what I was choosing, I was hooked on Shameless for a while as my Netflix go-to. If you’ve never seen it, it’s kind of like a car wreck that you just can’t look away from. It follows a dysfunctional, inner city family that is really, really rough. Like, reeeeeeally rough. The show made me feel like I was winning at life because no matter how much I was messing up, I was still doing waaaaay better than those people.
And for books, I was stuck on the author John Green. He writes young adult novels, and although I really did enjoy most of them, again, they didn’t leave me feeling inspired to change the world.
Well, at one point I ran out of audio books from the library and stumbled upon a running podcast that I really enjoyed listening to in the car. The host interviews different athletes (not all runners) and they chat about life, goals, accomplishments, challenges, and more. They also discuss book recommendations and talk about some really inspiring people.
All of that podcast listening motivated me to search for some documentaries to watch during my treadmill runs. And, ever since, I’ve been hooked on reading (and listening to) all of the books and watching all of the inspiring documentaries that I can get my hands on!
And that’s how I realized a couple of weeks ago that what I put in my head completely affects my daily thinking and habits. For real. All of the athletes that I’m listening to make me want to be a better human. They make me realize that I’m not dreaming big enough, and that it’s okay to fail, but you better get back up and try again. That you need to take risks! And, one of the most powerful themes that keeps recurring is that our THOUGHTS and our character are what will make or break us.
These are the things I want to drive me. I want my thoughts to wander to a podcast where they challenge you to “define yourself” instead of thinking about if some character on a show is going to have an abortion or not. I want to hear about amazing accomplishments and risks that people have taken and be driven to ask myself if I could do that. I want to fill my thoughts with dreams so big that there’s not enough time to reach them all, but there’s definitely the inspiration to try.
So, I will continue to fill every car ride and every treadmill run with things that motivate me to work harder, be bolder, dream bigger, and live more fully. That’s what’s going to fill the space in my head. Because when those are the thoughts running through my mind, they push me to be the best version of me.
My life is better when I’m training for a race. Now, I’ve recognized before that I don’t run consistently if I’m not following a training plan. But, what I realized last week was different than just that.
Over the last couple of months, there have been some stresses in life at my house. The number one being my husband’s hand injury. He accidentally stabbed himself in the palm and it went down into his wrist and damaged tendons and nerves. He had corrective surgery at the beginning of October, but it’s just not healing very well, leaving him in A LOT of pain and not able to do all of the things he wants to be doing.
Add to that the regular stresses of work, motherhood, and adulting in general, and I have found myself completely caught up in keeping very busy carrying all of those weights around and making it my job to worry about them. A lot.
So, when I was running on my treadmill the other night, I was thinking about all of these things, while simultaneously feeling so strong and good on my run. And, it came to me that that was the problem. I didn’t have anything to take my mind off of all of the bad stuff, the stresses. When I’m training for a marathon, I’m distracted. I am spending my energy trying to figure out when I’m going to get my runs in and worrying about how hard it’s going to be to do my speed work, or my hill work, or my long run. But, when I’m not following a training plan, I have extra time to spend worrying about all of the things that are much better off left for God to worry about.
And, in addition to having a distraction when I’m training for a race, I also have daily built in therapy! That’s exactly what running is for me. And I need it. My mind needs it. My heart needs it. And really, my family needs me to have that. It makes me a better mom, a better wife, a better friend, a better human.
So, as of yesterday, I’m officially training for another marathon. And, it feels SO GOOD.
I can’t even tell you how good it feels to “stress” about when and where I’ll get my runs done. For the time being, that’s what I’m deciding to carry around with me. I’m going to set everything else down and trust that God will handle it without my “help”.
December, you and I are going to get along just fine.
Last weekend, I showed up at the start line of the 100 mile race that I signed up for last January. Honestly, I had no right to be there. Having dealt with health issues most of the summer, my training was laughable. Most 100 mile training plans call for upwards of 60 miles a week minimum, and multiple marathon distance training runs. My longest training run was 10 miles. To put this in perspective, that would be like signing up for a 26.2 mile marathon and having a 2.6 mile run be your longest training run. Ummmmm….ya. Not prepared is an understatement.
But, my health symptoms had mostly subsided, so I decided I might as well give it a go and see what I was capable of. I figured I wouldn’t tell many people about it, so that I didn’t feel the stress of living up to anyone’s expectations but my own.
Luckily, my good friend, LeighAnn, had also signed up for the race (it was actually her idea that I was joining in on).
She was MUCH more prepared with the logistics and that pretty much saved me. I was able to borrow a couple of her pacers and that made all the difference!
The course was a 16.6 mile loop through mostly root and rock covered single track trails with a few miles of dirt roads and packed limestone mixed in. The race began at 4:00 PM on Friday, and we had until 10:00 PM on Saturday to finish. That’s a 30 hour cutoff. For the first two loops, you’re not allowed to have a pacer run with you. For the last 4 loops, you’re allowed to have someone run with you that is not in the race.
LeighAnn and I ran together for the first 2 loops. We probably ran a little bit faster than we should have, but it was fun and there was a lot of excitement as we ran off our nervousness. However, by the end of the very first loop, I felt nauseous. And, at the beginning of the second loop, I told LeighAnn that I was probably just going to do the 100K, instead of trying for the full 100 miles. Dropping down to the 100K is an option that you have, and you can still get a medal if you stop at that distance. I just felt sick and I couldn’t imagine running 5 more loops.
But, by the end of the second loop, I was feeling so much better. My friend Stephanie graciously offered to pace me for this night loop (about 12:30AM-5:00AM). Originally she was only going to run the first half of the loop with me because she was going to be pacing LeighAnn for her 6th loop. BUT, she’s an awesome friend and decided to stick with me for the entire 16.6 miles!! And honestly, they were probably my best miles of the race. Which is completely crazy because that put me at 50 miles, and it was pitch black the entire time…
By the time I began my 4th loop, I was pretty stinkin’ tired. My sister, Rondi, was my pacer for that loop. I also told her pretty early on that I was just going to do the 100K (62 miles). I reasoned that I had never done a 100K race and I would be really proud to make it that far with such a minimal amount of training. She was kind and allowed me to own that decision as long as I wouldn’t regret it. I assured her that I wouldn’t, but then we got to the point where the 100K runners went one way (a short cut) and the 100 milers went the other, and I just couldn’t bring myself to follow the path of the 100K runners.
So, I continued on. I decided that I had a little bit of gas left in the tank and I wouldn’t feel proud of myself unless I left it all out there. In my mind, I decided I would just take it one aid station at a time, and get as far as I could.
For loop 5, my friend Mike was my pacer. I was terrified to have Mike as my pacer because he is a very experienced ultra runner, and I knew he had no intention of letting me quit on his watch.
When we reached the first aid station of loop 5, at mile 71, I was spent. My legs weren’t quite working right anymore and I was in a lot of pain. My parents were at that aid station and I remember barely being able to muster up a smile for them.
As soon as we walked out of that aid station, the tears began to flow. They were silent tears, and I wasn’t ready to say it out loud, but I was done. 29 miles from being a 100 mile finisher, and I just didn’t want to do it anymore. Everything hurt, and my body just didn’t have that much left to give.
I shuffled and walked through the next 4.5 miles very slowly. At some point of that I did tell Mike that I was quitting at the next aid station. He was not okay with that, and I didn’t want to argue, so I didn’t talk about it much. He kept encouraging me to pick up my pace, and he was saying I was doing an awesome job, and overall, just being a great pacer. But I had already made up my mind.
So, when we got to the aid station at mile 75.5, I went to the bathroom, took forever, came out and declared that he needed to call my sister to come get me because I wasn’t going anywhere. Mike’s response was to throw a cup of water in my face and tell me that I wasn’t quitting. I responded by sobbing uncontrollably, sitting down in a chair, and reiterating that I wasn’t continuing. This argument lasted quite a while. I was ugly crying the entire time, aid station volunteers joined in to try and convince me to continue, and finally, Mike grabbed me by the arm and yanked me out of the chair.
I walked very slowly down the path that I knew would hit a road crossing in about 1/4 mile where my sister could pick me up. I told Mike I was only moving forward until we got to the road, at which point I would be sitting down and not moving until Rondi came to pick me up. And, that’s what I did. There was a lot more crying in there, but eventually Mike called my sister. He actually only called her because he thought she would be able to get me moving again. But, I don’t think there was anyone who could have done that. Mentally, I was done. I honestly hadn’t thought I could even get that far. So to try and convince my mind to keep going was useless. And physically, my body was absolutely done. Eight days later, and my feet, knees, and hips still ache. I’m thinking that’s partially due to my thyroid still mending and my inflammation markers being high….but still! That kind of distance take a serious toll on the body!
Mike and lots of strangers told me that I would regret giving up at that point in the race. They said I wouldn’t forgive myself for quitting. But, I can say proudly that I don’t regret it. For me, on that day, that was what I had to give. 75.5 miles. 20+ hours. I’m stinkin’ proud of that. No medal. No belt buckle. Just the knowledge that I left it all out there. And, the desire to get healthy, train properly, and go out and do it the right way eventually!
Thank you SO MUCH to Leigh Ann who was brave enough to sign up for this race (and she finished it because she’s an absolute bad a$$!). Thank you to Rondi, Mike, and Stephanie for pacing me. Thank you to Sarah for helping take care of me after the race. Thank you to Elizabeth for being there and supporting LA and I. And thank you to my parents for being there, showing your unending support, and bringing TimBits!!! I learned SO MUCH from this experience, and probably the biggest lesson was that it seriously takes a tribe of amazing supporters to reach that kind of goal.
“Set a goal so big, you can’t achieve it until you grow into the person who can.” – Anonymous
Dream big. Work hard.
Total miles run by our crew:
Sarah = 16.6 miles
Elizabeth = 16.6 miles
Rondi = 16.6 miles
Mike = 25.1 miles
Stephanie = 33.2 miles
Kendra = 75.5 miles
Leigh Ann = 100 MILES!!
Total = 285.6 stinkin’ miles run by an amazing tribe