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