I woke up this morning to the news that my training partners both withdrew from their 100-mile race this weekend. These ladies are absolute beasts, so I can only wonder at the race conditions they must have faced.
It is this news that’s helping me put my race in context. Yes, I picked a much easier race than they did (steady fall temperatures, though I could have done without the rain and wind, flat elevation, ‘soft’ trail material), but you know what? I FINISHED A 100-MILE RACE in 26 hours, 3 minutes, and 27 seconds! I need a minute to let that last sentence sink in.
I know that most people will never attempt a race like this – and truth be told – it doesn’t matter. A 100-mile race for me could be the equivalent of a 5k or 10k or marathon for someone else. Running a shorter race doesn’t diminish the accomplishment. The genuine accomplishment is in setting the goal, preparing for it, constantly adjusting with new information, and having the mental strength to put it all on the line to get it done.
For those who have never done something like this, I’d like to share some of the thoughts I have about the race now that I’ve had the chance to think about it.
Expect emotional highs and lows – when you least expect them. I didn’t expect the worst to hit at mile 15 (yes, mile 15!) when my legs were already beat up because of the brutal head/side wind. I have never had IT band issues like this, and having them hit when I had 85 miles to go was not good for my head. I did, however, expect the low that hits about an hour before the sun came up. Oh boy, I was a mess. Teary eyes. Cuss words. Sheer exhaustion and pain. It was at this same time that I finally fessed up to my pacer, Troy, that I was literally walk/running while asleep and that he needed to make sure I didn’t fall into the canal that ran along the entire course.
Never underestimate the power of an excellent support team. I may have been out there running the entire race, but without the friends and family who were there to make sure I stayed healthy and finished, I definitely would have withdrawn. Thank you, Kevin, Max, Mom, Dad, Patty, Mary, Jimmy, Troy, Julia, and Adam. You will never understand how much your support impacted my race.
Make the best decisions you can with the data you have available. Troy, who I somehow suckered into running ultras with me, had some injuries going into the week leading up to the race, which forced a change in plan. I knew I had to find some additional pacers to help lighten Troy’s load – he was on tap to run miles 47 to 100 with me. Ultimately, my husband and 9 year-old-son would fly in from Washington and both take some sections at the end of the race when I knew I’d be walking. My nephew Jimmy who, along with his mom and aunt volunteered to work at an early aid station, would also walk a leg with me.
Make sure you have the tools you need for success. In this case, it was my support crew, two large suitcases of gear (who says running is cheap and all you need is a pair of shoes!), food, medical supplies, and a knowledge of the bathroom locations because let’s be real here, I probably thought about finding a bathroom for 24 of the 26 hours that I was running. Runner’s stomach is not a myth.
Recovery time is no joke. It took me 2 full weeks to put closed-toe shoes on because of the toenails I lost during the race. I had to wear workout pants for a solid week because my legs and feet swelled up so much at the end of each day I had no chance of wearing ‘real’ pants. I moved with the grace of a crippled animal, shuffling from spot to spot and taking forever to stand up or sit down.
You are probably thinking “that doesn’t sound fun at all. Why on earth would anyone do that?” I did it for CARA Chicago. As a company, BFO raised over $4,000 for CARA through this event. I did it for the CARA participants, one of whom sent me a letter after the race promising me that every time she gets down on herself while she is job searching and attempting to make a positive difference in her life, she will think of me and of the perseverance that it took to finish this race. I did it for my 9-year-old, so he understands the value of hard work and dedication. I did it so that I will remember when I get down on myself that I can do and have done amazing things.
My 9-year-old son walked with me the last 7 miles. I have never been so proud of him and will never forget what he said as we met the rest of my pacers to cross the finish line together.
“Mom, we are about to cross the finish line and people are going to be clapping and cheering. They aren’t going to be clapping for me. It is all for you. You earned this. You ran 100 miles!”
“No, Max, I couldn’t have done it without all of you.”