March 29-30th, 2014 – Ottawa Kansas
1) Finish under 30 hour time limit
2) No major injuries – lots of racing ahead
Day before departure, my coach Liza Howard met me with gifts: Cheez-Its for my drop bag (box covered in inspiration), runner girl temp tattoo, & Team RWB bracelet with WWED lettered on the side. WWED = “What Would Edward Do” – for Edward Lychik, fellow RWB member & veteran who lost his leg in Afghanistan. He runs trail ultras with joy, courage, & fierce tenacity. (Note: you can’t quit while wearing that bracelet. You can cry, swear, throw up & fall down – but you can’t quit.)
At pre-race dinner the night before, race director was fierce! “No whining” “Not going to apologize if anyone is offended.” “Not interested in your opinions or comments”. Yikes. Last year’s inaugural race ended in a blizzard, so guessing emergency actions caused a bunch of unpopular emergency actions & criticism. I kept my head low, ate dinner, & went back to hotel for early sleep.
Start: Dark-but-not-scary — — Race started at 6 a.m. dark, but enough light around the edges so as to not need a headlamp. Course is not at all technical –none of the twisting tripping roots I stumbled around at Rocky 50 — & the best part, for me? it was under a big huge clear Kansas sky. Beautiful.
Miles 0- 51: Cruisin’ — Trip out to the turnaround at 51.5 miles was smooth & uneventful. Warm (swapped capris & long sleeves for shorts & tee from my drop bag), cruised through the aid stations, listened to music, stepped over a painted tortoise sunning on the trail. Noted the time as I passed the 50-mile mark – 11:22! an hour faster than I had run Rocky 50, & I still felt good. Yes!
Miles: 52-69: Meltdown + Some Whining – Was fast in & out of the turnaround aid station, scrambling to get bathroom stop + grab food + pick up my pacer*. A little too fast, as it turned out. At about 60 miles I could feel energy getting low, calories low, it was getting dark & I was looking at a long night of running.
Would like to say I sucked it up & powered through stoically– but I didn’t. I sobbed, swore, wailed about how I couldn’t possibly run another 40 miles. (Kudos to my pacer for reminding me “this too shall pass” –our agreed phrase from the pre-race dinner & a nicer way of saying “get your shit together, you signed up for this & you can do it”.)
Gagged down a couple of gels for calories, wiped off the worst of the tears & snot, pulled on the sweatshirt I was carrying & kept running. About this time I realized my pacer had picked up my Cheez-Its from my drop bag & was carrying them. Kind, yes? Though I remembered from race doc & pre-race dinner that “muling” (pacers carrying stuff for you) was expressly forbidden — & I’m a stickler for the rules. (Don’t get me started on cheaters at R50 + drafting packs at IMs. For shame.) So I cursed my (long-suffering) pacer for taking my food, ate another stinking gel & kept moving forward.
Miles 70-86.5: It Gets Better – More calories & sincere apology for Cheez-It freak-out, then into survival mode. Coach’s strategy for structured walking breaks worked beautifully & I was able to keep a decent pace – not especially speedy, but decent. Pacer kept track of the time so I could focus on smooth running, calorie levels, just deal with whatever was coming up. I was able to appreciate the hugely beautiful starry sky & coyotes singing like crazy all around us.
Miles 86.5 to Finish: Let There Be Light – Temperatures were dropping fast & I got increasingly worried about the cold (my body doesn’t hold heat well, have been pulled from race for hypothermia before) so grabbed the puffy jacket I had stashed in my last drop bag + warm hat. Better. Ate a couple squares of grilled cheese from aid station & headed for the finish. Another tough patch about 90 miles, but nowhere near Great Meltdown proportions – mostly minor whining. Then it started to get lighter around the edges, not light but less black. Then lighter & streaks of sun & then full-on blast of sunrise. I was gobsmacked (my friend Chris’ favorite word) by the hugeness, beauty, awesomeness of the moment. I’m not a church person (spiritual, not religious) so that last 7 miles was my own kind of prayer: of gratitude, appreciation, & holy-shit-this-is-amazing. (It’s been two weeks since that moment & I still get goosebumps at the memory.)
Finish: My pacer peeled off & I ran/stumbled through the finish chute. Got my finisher’s belt buckle from the race director. Was crying hard enough that he asked if I was ok? & all I could say was, “I’m just so happy!” & that big fierce I-don’t-care-about-your-opinion RD? – he cried too. Dayam.
Finish time: 26:05, 2nd place age group & 9th female overall
* Pacer & I had a team motto: “We Do Hard Shit”.
* If you are interested, more from Edward Lychik. http://www.komonews.com/radio/home/featured/Tacoma-amputee-beats-the-odds-to-run-Boston-Marathon-254979641.html