Now that life has finally calmed down a bit (haha, funny Lacey), I can finally write about MY last biggest adventure.
Yes, that infamous 50 miler that I WAS posting updates about before life got nuts and I fell off the blogosphere. While I didn’t finish my updates about how training was going, I did actually finish the training. Mostly.
Running through chemo is no joke. Then, my ever so helpful immune system decided to wave the white flag in surrender to all the stupid germs and get sick a week before the big race. After a visit to my PCM for antibiotics, several moments at the brink of a breakdown over the possibility of wasting all that training, and a call to my oncologist, I got the okay to proceed as long as I listened to my body.
So, on Friday, November 8, 2019, I boarded a plane to Chatanooga, TN to tackle my very first 50 mile ultra, Run Amok. Originally the plan was for Bryan to come with me to crew/pace, but it was senior weekend for Jacey, so we made the call that he would stay and I would go alone. It was a little unnerving but I pulled up my big girl panties and dealt with it. Come to find out, a fellow Rockhopper, Rebecca and her husband were going to be there and offered to crew me. I didn’t know what all I might need since I do so much training alone that I have things pretty ironed out, but it definitely helped to ease my anxiety knowing that a friendly face (even if I hadn’t met her in person yet) would be there.
My trip went smoothly, only running into delays at the rental car counter of all places. They had three rental car agencies down to one desk on a holiday weekend. Major fail on their parts. After I got my car, I headed to check in to the hotel before packet pickup. There was the option to camp in the park, but if you know me, you know roughing it is a La Quinta. ;-) Packet pickup started at 5pm at the Harrison Bay State Park Group Camp facility (same place as the start/finish line). Packet pickup was a breeze and I got a few questions I had answered by the race director Courtney. They offer a pasta dinner on the night before the race, but I opted not to stick around. I’m not a huge pasta person (nor am I a strange group of people person) and I was tired from travel and still being sick. On my way back to the hotel though, I had to stop and take pictures of the sun setting over the lake. It was just gorgeous and the fall colors…*swoon*.
I grabbed dinner at Chick-fil-a and then attempted as best I could to prep for the race. Winter running is always a challenge for me because I have the tendency to go from freezing cold to burning up all in a matter of about 5 minutes and the temps were supposed to range from 26 to 57 then back down to 33 before I expected to finish. I ended up settling on a tank, short sleeve shirt, 3/4 zip long sleeve, capris, and my Altra Superior 4.0’s. I added a beanie, gloves, Feetures Merino Wool socks, and gaiters to round out the mix.
I usually don’t sleep the night before big races, but amazingly I slept really, really well. Maybe it was still being sick? Maybe it was the antibiotics? Who knows, but I will take it. I got up, pulled my Garmin off the charger and synced it one last time so I knew it would be connected to my phone and livetrack would start (so Bryan could stalk me from afar) when Garmin rudely informed me of this…
Exactly what you want to wake up to race morning, right?! Ha! Oh well, too late, I’m here and what happens happens.
I got dressed, filled the cooler with ice and headed out the door. I had about a 20 minute trek from the hotel to the start line which gave me a chance to eat my traditional protein ball breakfast on the way. *Thankfully* though, the drive, is twisty, turny, dark, and through the woods so I was too busy looking for deer to get into my own head.
Once I arrived, I found a spot to drop my bags, chatted with a lady that was doing her first 50 miler for her 50th birthday, and took a start line selfie.
While waiting for the start, I got to meet my fellow Rockhopper Rebecca and her husband and then we were off! The course was a lollipop with the 50 mile consisting of 7 and a “half” loops. There were aid stations at the start/finish and the other end of the “stick”.
The first thing that greets you is roots and lots of them. The first few passes were no issue, but towards the end, those suckers seemed to grow.
Once you passed the next aid station, you got to the lollipop portion and the adventure began.
I alternated directions each loop just to prevent boredom. The views were gorgeous and getting to talk to and high five people going the opposite direction along the way was fun!
Everything was going peachy until loop 5. I was fueling well with Tailwind as my primary source and then picking up random bites like cookies, pringles, bacon, m&m’s, applesauce, and soda at the aid stations. Midway through loop 5, I cratered. I’m not sure if it was sheer exhaustion, a mental low from sunset starting to kick in and the temps getting colder or what. I kissed my original time goal goodbye and just wanted to finish. When I stopped back by the midway aid station on my way through, the race director asked me how I was doing (as she had on each visit through). I told her nothing looked good and I was tired. I think she could tell it was more than that by that point and made me promise to get some chicken broth at the start/finish aid station.
Let me tell you, that simple little drink saved my race. I’m can’t say that those last 2 and a half loops were easy, but my body and my mind were back on the right track. I’m not going to lie though, I was VERY happy to see this sign on that eighth time out.
I was almost sort of numb crossing the finish line. It was the culmination of 24 weeks of training, many miles, two ER trips, GI distress, blisters, chafing, summer training, road, trails, falls, cuts, bruises, solo, and with friends, all while going through chemotherapy.
A few minutes later, once it finally sank in, all I could think was…
I f*&king did it!
It was the hardest thing I have ever done thus far.
My official time was 15:25:13, a far cry from the sub-14 I wanted to come in but you know what? That is okay. I finished and that is more than most of the general population can say.
After the race, Bryan and Jacey facetimed me to tell me congratulations. I felt so bad, but I had to cut them off after just a few minutes. Once I was no longer running, I couldn’t stop shivering from the sweat, cold (it was 31 when I finished), and adrenaline. I had extra clothes to change into, but at that point, I couldn’t fathom hiking back over to the bathrooms to change. I just wanted to get into the car and turn the heater on. Rebecca and her husband had checked on me throughout the evening (she ran a shorter distance) and offered to come to get me, but I was amazingly alert.
I swung by Taco Bell on the way back to the hotel, because it was the only thing with a drive-thru still open. Boiled meat nachos never tasted so good. :-)
There is something about long runs, but I never sleep the night of. Facebook and the TV got a lot of attention Saturday night. Sunday, I laid low, only leaving the hotel to hit Waffle House for brunch and City Diner for dinner/dessert. The rest of the day was spent taking an Epsom salt bath, muscle rolling, and napping.
Monday, I finally emerged. I spent the day sight-seeing around Chatanooga before my evening flight home. Other than being tired, my body felt good. I was walking almost 100% normal, only a little stiff after sitting for a bit. Not what I expected after how bad I felt during the race, so I was pleasantly surprised.
Once I got home, I wasted no time getting a new sticker put on my truck.
In my circle, 50 mile races can be considered just a drop in the bucket, so I was uber surprised and honored to be presented with the Rockhopper Performance of the Year Award at the annual Christmas party. I just see myself as a normal person, pushing her limits. Maybe just with a few more speedbumps than the average Joe, perhaps.