100 miles

For my 34th birthday, I ran 100 miles. Seriously – I did. Well, I didn’t RUN 100 miles, but I ran, walked, hiked, slogged and limped my way through 100 miles. Want to know more? Read on.

Why run 100 miles? I have no idea. Honestly. It’s quite a ridiculous thing to do, that’s for sure. It all came about because the 50K race – held at the same time – sold out in 17 minutes. I was on the road and missed registration. I was really set on doing that course again since I had such a good time there the year before. I was left with a decision to make: what do I do? I could do the 100K again, but I really wasn’t game for trying to PR, necessarily. I realized that I would have fairly good mils under my belt by helping Anne train for the Laurel 70 miler. I presented those and several other compelling reasons to Sovanna and was given the okay to shake up our family’s life and train for such a ridiculous event.

My training didn’t quite go as planned. Midweek runs were often shortened or missed due to lack of chlildcare. Weekend runs were cut short by business trips, birthday parties, baby showers, etc. Weight training was skipped because of lack of energy or ill-timed naps. Diet was sidelined by beer, pizza, cake, and beer. Yep – I said beer twice. I love me some beer.

The race always seemed so far away. It always seemed like I had more time to train, and that I would get in better shape. Suddenly the race was a week away, and I was shaking in my Cascadias (trail shoes). What the heck was I doing? I couldn’t possibly run 100 miles, could I?

I showed up to race headquarters at 4:30am. (It was 25 degrees outside!) I got my ankle chip and traded bad jokes with Ryan while I met some other nut cases. I told Ryan I was going to vomit, and he told me there would be plenty of opportunities to do that along the course . . . such a pleasant thought. Is it too late to quit? I want to be home in bed, snuggling with my son and husband.

The race started off in the crisp, cold, clear, pre-dawn morning. We ran for 2 hours in the dark, and it was quite beautiful! We hit the first aid station while it was still dark. I wasn’t hungry, so I passed through quickly. Dawn came, and it was beautiful. Happy birthday to me!! My elation was short lived, though. I tried to jump over a rock and aimed to hit a level patch of leaves which I assumed was solid. I was wrong. The leaves gave way and my right foot landed in a hole. My ankle twisted pretty harshly. For a second I thought I’d be fine, but I quickly thought I might be wrong. Crap. I had 90 miles to go. What was I going to do? I had no choice, really. I had to keep going.

I got through aid station #2 (mile 14) quickly, thanks to Jen’s crewing experience. Once again I wasn’t all that hungry. I got two potato chunks and sea salt (my fav!) and headed out to climb another hill. I made it through the next two sections (17 miles) feeling pretty okay, but was having trouble on the sections that were on an incline and were causing my right foot to be slightly higher than my left. Unfortunately, that was much of the last 17 miles. Awesome.

I ended the first loop a little worried that it was “fast”. I ran it in 7:24, which was faster than I had planned, and really close to what I did last year. I was afraid that I was going out to fast, but didn’t feel like I was pushing. I figured I’d just keep doing what I was doing. Jen had to hustle to keep up with her supa-fast husband, so an amazingly accomplished ultra-runner, Randy, stepped in to crew for me. He made sure I was okay and got me on my way.

I ran the first 31 miles alone and was hoping to hook up with another runner or two on the second loop, especially before darkness fell. I am a complete and utter chicken in the dark, and beyond that, was getting a little lonely. I got behind a couple of guys and chatted with them for a couple of minutes and thought I’d stay with them, but I found that I was going too fast for them. I passed them. I was worried then too because they had a lot of ultra experience. Here I was, a newbie to this distance, passing them. Rookie mistake? I guess I would find out. (Note: I couldn’t find them on the finishers list. I guess it was good I didn’t stay with them?)

I kept passing people. With each person I passed, I grew more and more concerned. My ankle was still hurting, but I had taken 2 Advil at mile 31 so it was bearable. I hadn’t found anyone to run with in the dark. Again, crap.

Randy met me again at aid station #2 and got me on my way, making sure I had my lights since it was going to be getting dark soon. I was getting a little worried for another reason by this point: every time I tried to eat I felt a little sick. It was enough to make me want to skip eating. That’s not good when one knows she has to be running for 28+ hours. My concerns were mounting. Did I mention it was getting dark? Son of a biscuit.

I managed to make it to about 53 miles before turning on my lights. I broke out my ridiculously annoying bear bell and pepper spray (overkill, I know, but I promise S I will always carry it when I’m alone). Despite my discomfort with the idea of running alone in the dark, and despite the annoying noise of that ridiculous bell, I quite enjoyed that time. I don’t know that I want to repeat that experience, but at the point in time, it was nice. My foot was nagging again, but it was again bearable due to 2 more Advil I popped at the last aid station.

I finished my second loop – 62 miles – in 15:34. I just about freaked out when I saw the clock. I ran my 100K race last year in 15:54 and was completely astonished at that point. To beat that time as part of a longer race shouldn’t happen. It just shouldn’t. That spells trouble. Double crap!

At this point I was picking up my pacer. Anne had just run the 50K race that morning, but was geared up and ready to pace me. I was thrilled beyond measure to have some company. I felt like a million bucks, but admitted to Jen (who was back to crewing for a moment) that I wasn’t really eating. She gave me a baggie of grapes and my half sandwich and insisted I try to eat it. I knew she was right. I tried to eat but only got down a few grapes and the half sandwich. About 20 minutes later I started to feel sick. At first I dismissed it, but it got worse and worse. Then I started to feel dizzy. I had to stop a few times to collect myself. I felt like I was falling apart. I told Anne about it and she told me we’d get some crackers at the next aid station. I was convinced it would be days until we got there. I felt miserable. I can deal with pain, but when my tummy hurts, I want my mommy. All I wanted was to lay down. This got worse quickly because my eyelids grew heavy like lead. I couldn’t keep them open. I was afraid that I wasn’t going to make it, and that Facebook Land would know I failed.

We got to aid station 1 and wanted to sit down. Last week I told Anne that she couldn’t let me sit down no matter what I said. I looked her straight in the eye and told her that I had to sit down or I wasn’t going to make it. I put my head between my knees and an angel appeared. (OK, he wasn’t an angel, per se. He was an aid station volunteer.) He sat with me and talked with me for about 15 minutes. He helped me get some ginger ale, a saltine and some Ramen broth down. I finally managed to haul my tired ass out of that aid station and started to slooooooooly climb “sWITCHback mountain”. It took me forever. I also decided to use one of those crummy gel pouches. Soon I started to feel better. I don’t know if it was the “food” I managed to consume at the aid station, the gel packet, the Advil leaving my system, or – as I became convinced at that point – the meth that I was sure they laced into the Ramen (joking, of course). Regardless, I found new life.

Our progress was slow – much slower than I had hoped. My ankle was hurting and I was hungry. I kept plodding on and just ate Ramen noodles and a fig newton at each aid station. It wasn’t a lot of calories, but it was salt and sugar, both of which were incredibly useful to my poor, tired body.

Did I mention that it started to rain? Oh yeah – it did. It was light at first when it started around 9. I knew that the last 17 miles were going to be tricky if it kept up. Those areas were already a little wet and slick. By the time we got to those areas, they were slippery like ice in spots. It definitely slowed our progress.

Anne and I started playing a word game. Even in my tired stupor, the language part of my brain was functioning well. My physical self was another story. My ankle was hurting but at least my stomach was okay. I could deal with pain much easier than a bad stomach. My quads and hams were getting really sore. My pace was slowing, and I found that irritating. I don’t know if Anne noticed it, but I was getting crabby.

(Oh yeah . . . and I thought I was seeing things. Shadows were manifesting themselves into all sorts of things, mostly inanimate ones. I swear that I saw a stop sign at one point. Wishful thinking, I guess. I didn’t see any cool, trippy things though. I guess I was in too good of shape.) 😉

The last 8 miles were really painful. My Achilles had completely stopped working, so every step uphill was pure agony. I whined so much. I felt so bad for Anne. I would bet all of her experience as her mother, mixed with her profession as a physician’s assistant, gave her the patience to deal with my whines and moans.

I experienced my second sunrise of the race. It was slightly less beautiful than the one the day before, but I was way more thankful for it. It was nice to rely on nature’s light rather than my flashlight. With every step I wished for the finish line.

Finally Anne’s pacing job was over. We came into aid station 4/the finish line (mile 93) at about 8am. I had been moving (more or less) for 27 hours at this point. I just wanted to be done. I was so incredibly hungry, but couldn’t eat more than my gourmet Ramen noodles and a fig newton. (Note: At this point in a race, chicken flavored Ramen noodles indeed tasted gourmet. There was zero sarcasm in that remark.)

Jen did her best to keep me moving. She brought some new energy to my final 7.7 miles, which was very necessary. We can crack crude jokes with ease, and despite my fatigue, I was still able to do so. We managed to laugh, which felt good. But then we had to climb. My foot was absolutely killing me. I nearly cried. The tears were right at the edges of my eyes, but I kept them in. She kept encouraging me to run, but unless I had a gentle downhill heading into a flat stretch, I just couldn’t. She tried to motivate me several ways, but all failed. I just didn’t have much left. At least, I thought I didn’t. At one point, I just couldn’t take the slow progress anymore and summoned up everything I had. I managed to “run” for a bit. It actually felt good for a minute. But it was short lived. I kept trying to run when I could. I didn’t care what damage it might do; I just had to be done.

We finally came to the corner just prior to the finish line. All I had to was run about a half a block to the finish line. I could see S and Little Dude. I felt my face break into a smile. But then I said to Jen, “It’s so far.”

“Of course it is. It’s 100 miles,” she responded.

“No, not the race. I mean, the distance we have to go to the finish line. It is sooooo long,” I whined. It couldn’t have been more than 30 yards, but it seemed like an eternity. I finally made it to the curb. I had to jump 10 feet in the air (so it felt) to get up on that curb, and then it was several more feet to the finish line. I saw Ryan smiling with his camera up in the air. I got past the finish line and started to cry. I was done. I did it.

I RAN 100 MILES. Me – the girl who used to hate to run. Me – the girl who did the mile in high school in 11:58. Me – the girl who was terrified of trail running. Me – the girl who swore up and down that she would never run something longer than a half-marathon. I did it. And I have the belt buckle to prove it.

I also have a fat, swollen ankle and foot that won’t let me stand on it to show for it. Ouch.

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