First of all, I did it! It was fun, tough, beautiful, cold, windy, and great. It was a gorgeous fall day, and I had an amazing crew to see at each aid station starting with my mom and dad. They went with me to Nashville Friday night and Mom took me to the start that morning. I ran the first 16 mile loop before coming back to the start line and from there Mom and Dad were at every aid station.
Around mile 18 I got a really bad ache in my right knee. It was my IT band, and it worried me a little because I knew it was WAY to early to be hurting that bad. I stretched it out a little and when I got to the next aid station I took some Ibuprofen. I'm not totally sure how I feel about taking it - whether I should have or not, but I didn't have any more trouble with that knee, other than the usual aches and pains that come with running 50 miles, and I didn't have any tummy issues because of it either.
After I parted ways with Patty, I got a little more focused. I stuck one ear bud in and listened to some music, laughing a little at the crazy, eclectic mix I'd put on my ipod to entertain myself. Some songs reminded me of my sister and I growing up so when I'd see Mom at an aid station, I'd pass along a lyric for her to tell Julie, and then Julie would pass along the rest of it back. It helped to know Mom was posting updates on Facebook and texting with Julie - like it wasn't just me out there but I had the support and strength and courage of my friends and family (and it was SO FUN to get home and read everyone's cheers and encouragement on Facebook when it was all over).
Around mile 29 Jason showed up with Eloise and his mom, Debbie. Jason joined me for the next 6 miles, which would take me to my turn around point. It was this loooooong stretch of greenway that just went on and on and on. It was windy and a short rain shower blew up while we were out there. It was COLD, but thankfully short. I was SO glad to have Jason with me for that endless stretch. By the time we got back to the aid station where he'd joined me, it felt like we'd been gone an eternity. I ate some chips, took a salt tablet at Jason's prompting and drank red Powerade. My appetite for anything was slowly leaving, but I knew if I wanted to keep going, I had to keep eating.
Mom joined me for the next 3.5 miles and then Jason joined me for the rest of it. It was tough. I was tired. It felt like the ground was coming up to meet me with hard, pounding force that was worse than a simple footfall. Jason kept encouraging me to eat and drink, he carried my water bottle and my tiny bag of chips that I'd gotten from an aid station. I walked on and off, running about a 10 minute pace when I was running. Just as I knew it would be, miles 30-40 were tough mentally. I'd run such a long way yet I still had so far to go. Jason and Mom kept my mind off of that and seeing all of them at each aid station re-energized and encouraged me.
On the way back, just as on the way out there were 3 miles of trails. These were mostly flat, grassy trails with a few rougher patches, but nothing bad at all. It was here that I began to pick it up a little and to pass people. There was a lady in a blue shirt who kept passing me and then I'd pass her, back and forth and to Jason I said, "Let's pretend she started with the 5:00 a.m. group." (This was an optional start time, but the race started at 7:00). Jason told me I lacked "killer instinct" and I could work on it that very moment. "Do I have to work on it NOW?" I said to which he responded, "You gotta start sometime." We took her down and I'm not sure I would have if Jason had not been with me.
There was a group of four runners with two guys and two girls who were only wearing sports bras (which made me cold just to see them). I held them off as long as I could but they passed me in the end and I couldn't do a thing about it. I could tell by the way they ran that they were feeling stronger than I was. When we got off the trails, the ground came at me hard once again and I could feel each footfall all the way up my body. My legs had had enough!
I ran the whole last mile. I was so excited to have done it! I met my main goal of finishing under 10 hours, coming in at 9:31 and I was the 12th female out of 38 who ran the 50 mile race. It was an amazing experience full of strength, emotion, weariness, perseverance, family, support, love, beauty and so many other things. It was more than just a race, but I can't explain that very well. It is an experience to be savored long after it is over. There was almost a grieving period the next few days as I was so sore and a little sad that the journey was over. Post race blues, I guess.
I had a wonderful time, but I also wanted to feel stronger throughout the race. I didn't want it to feel as hard as it felt at the end. While I was strong and I pressed on, I wanted the end result to have been a little better. So it left me hungry, I guess you could say, whereas I thought it would leave me fulfilled in the conquering of a goal. But maybe that's what running, racing, training and recovering is about.
Either way, it made me grateful. Grateful for the desire to do it (which I can't explain). Grateful for a body that will cooperate. Grateful for sweet family to support my craziness. Grateful for friends who cheer me on. Grateful to God for the whole thing. I know all good things come from Him and to me, this is a good thing.
C.S. Lewis is quoted to have said, "If one could run without getting tired, I don't think one would often want to do anything else," and I suppose that is my explanation for wanting to do it in the first place and then wanting to do it again and again and again.
|A cool picture Mom took at the start.|
|Eating a chip after an aid station (I did this a lot).|
|My new friend, Patty.|
|Jason joins me at mile 30.|