I don’t have a funny quip or smart quote for this part right here. It really was a down and dirty grind for miles. The 3rd loop began with us walking, of course, because the blisters were not getting much better. I had tried doubling up on socks thinking my feet were sliding inside my shoes and that’s the reason why they were such a mess. At the moment I am not sure if that was an accurate assessment. The us I speak of is Mike A. This man is someone, a runner, worth emulating. He has an easy, humble mannerism that makes him easy to just BE with. He was always aware of where I was at physically and with my nutrition. He counted not necessarily the calories I was taking in (or not) but also how long it had been since I had taken any. This loop was the second most difficult mentally and less so physically.
It was dark and I was kinda tired but I had chugged a can of Starbucks double-shot espresso in hopes the caffeine would help wake me up a bit. We walked for probably the first mile while I ate and drank and probably with an ode of things to come, in order for me to reacquaint myself with how to walk or jog comfortably with the blisters on my feet. They were treated but unhappy. Mike was masterful at saying the right thing at the right time to get or keep me moving forward. He cracked me up when he said something to the effect, let’s pick up the pace if you want….and, as soon as you’re ready we can pick up the pace…ha ha ha! I told him that was funny because at that point what I WANTED and whether or not I was READY was pretty irrelevant.
We talked about whatever subject came up and there were moments of silence. Yes friends!! Believe it or not…this girl DOES know how to not talk. For the most part, I didn’t miss my music but there were moments during this loop I really would’ve loved the distraction! This section is pretty much a blur. We made it aid station to aid station and I kept all the negative at bay pretty much until I think we hit Brazos or shortly thereafter because I remember thinking in my head that we’d made around 68 miles and then WHAM! I had a whole lot of WTF’s going on inside my head. Every.Single.Time. the ball of my right foot landed wrong on a stick or stone I felt the water inside the blister move. WOW! That will wake you up fast I promise!
As I said, this section is pretty blurry in my mind and I think because it was a combination of some moderate amounts of pain with extreme amounts of exhaustion. I am an early to bed early to rise lady so I am generally up by 5:00 M-F and in the bed no later than 10:30 and that’s only on the nights I teach until 9:00 and need some time to unwind when I get home. Because of this aspect of my natural diurnal tendencies this was a pretty rough patch. There were some pretty significant patches of mild nausea but I didn’t vomit (thank God!) and almost worse than the nausea was the dizziness that hit me. It’s hard to explain other than to say it was like my rudder was broken and no matter which way I wanted to go….I kept jigging left.
This was unlike any feeling I can relate to other than being tipsy. Just before you reach the point of no return and you are still aware of what you are saying and doing – before the downer occurs but your body betrays you in silly ways like a sway or a slur. That’s similar to what it felt like. I remember even commenting to Mike that I felt like I was drunk! He laughed a LOT….He told me stories about running in the fog on a mountain with narrow trails. There was very, super dense fog Saturday night, early Sunday morning. So dense in fact that it looked and felt like it had rained!
Guess what the dense, wet fog did for the slimy muck? Yep! Made it slimier and muckier…lol! That even sounds funny to my own ears! Did I tell you about the dips in the trail? They were kind of like moguls if you’ve ever skied but rather than just going up and over, you go down one then back up the other side. I (less than) affectionately call them dipsy-do’s….energy suckers they are! Anyhow…at this point we were past Brazos aid station and into the muck, I met up with Steve again and Reed who I had been playing cat and mouse with pretty much all day and we’d chat as well we could for a bit and then off I would chug in an attempt to keep moving. I told Mike several times – those guys cannot pass me AGAIN. It was great motivation to make me MOVE! I am moderately competitive….moderately. 😉
I managed to skate down the dipsy-do’s and leverage myself back up the other side and pretty soon we were on the homestretch. During this time I remember we talked about my favorite subject at the end of a long run……FOOD. I don’t know why this is. Maybe it’s the subconscious telling me that I need to EAT or eat more or something…The fog…and Mike just gently pushing me that’s mostly what I remember. The (old) song that goes something like this….’cause it’s easy, easy like Sunday morning’….not that the loop was easy but that his company and the conversation made the loop go by relatively quickly with a few exceptions. The low points didn’t last long and time just moved along…
Some snapshots…just moments in time that partially stuck: me saying “cuss word, cuss word, CUSS WORD..” and Mike telling me to just let it out and say what I wanted to say. There were some very colorful words I wanted to say but told him I didn’t want him to think badly of me the one and only time he ran with me…..Him saying that he couldn’t think of anyplace he’d rather be than having a great conversation on a beautiful trail. The moon was spectacular – even though it was only a half of one. The late night reflection of the moon off Hale Lake (I think Hale Lake) right between this little island like cosp of trees. It was stunning! We joked that it would be hard to express it in words that a photograph would be better and here I am attempting to explain the beauty of it.
Here’s Mike and Doug….another very humble, gentle yet so very STRONG man whom I admire and was instrumental in getting me through.
One of my favorite guys in the whole wide world picked me up for the final loop. I am just going to call him out because I know he will not mind. John Stasulli whose name used to be SOOO much easier to remember how to spell! LOL Anyway..he was waiting excitedly to begin when I arrived after the third loop ready to get hot. We worked on my feet again, changed out of some wet clothes? and ate something maybe and generally – I took too long in the aid station there at the turnaround. The third loop took me another 6:45 or so hours I think…so it was not a bad loop speed wise but I knew when we left for the final loop it was going to be CLOSE for me to finish and get my buckle. I was very worried about going through all these miles and also honestly, feeling like I wasted the valuable time of all my friends aka The Crew.
It was imperative that I banish any negative thoughts though since right at this point there was nothing I could do but walk. A previous bout with tibial tendonitis had snuck back up on me and was hitting me like a ton of bricks. For those of you not acquainted with your tibial tendon let me give you a quick class. This tendon attaches somewhere sort of mid way at the top of your foot and runs from there up to your ankle then all the way up that bone (the tibia) and it controls the flexion of your feet. When it’s ticked off….every single bend of your ankle/foot combo hurts. Imagine walking or running without flexing your ankle! Oh and then compound that with a blister that resembles a queen size waterbed on the ball of your foot and every time you move your foot the wrong way – the water in the waterbed….er the blister shifts. When that happens it’s like this immediate, bone chilling, hair raising pain all the way up that side of your body and then into your gut. Unpleasant….
I wouldn’t say I was ready for the final loop but I was determined. I had to overcome so many obstacles to even ARRIVE at this place, to even attend the weekend I had planned for 6 months…nothing good comes easy and nothing that comes easy is good said somebody other than me…that was something I had to keep telling myself. So, John and I laughed or not and walked and dumped rocks out of our shoes seemingly every 5 doggone minutes. At some point the ability to truly function as a sentient human being kinda went out the window….perhaps even more than normal. 🙂
For those of you who do not know John…you are missing out on some kinda guy! LOL Like the trees in the swamp at Brazos, I will do him no justice trying to describe him to you. I will say that he is steadfast, loyal, honest to a fault and the best part about John sometimes is his sense of humor! It’s quirky and sometimes off color (in the right company). Oh yeah and he is super smart!! LOL Makes having a conversation easier when one can hold their side of the conversation! So, we walked and talked and John searched with his super high-beam headlamp for gators to pet. (Liz….I protected him from his own silliness as best I could! At least I sent him home with all of his parts intact!)
Mile by mile and aid station to aid station…we walked. This is when I really started to wish for my music! His companionship was welcomed and I am ever so thankful for it. He refilled my bottles, brought me food and continuously asked how I was doing, what did I want to eat…I pretty much lost my sense of humor here. Just navigating the trail….the branch strewn, rock infested, wet, mucky, slimy trail seemed full of perils for me and my poor feet. The sun came up and I didn’t care. I heard the birds, saw the armadillo that looked white in the brightness of his light, the tree branches that made funny shapes and I didn’t give a HOOT…and that’s putting it nicely. Cuss word, cuss word, CUSS WORD!!!
Around 1.5 miles outside the Brazos aid station I was so DONE. The sunrise pissed me off. I was supposed to draw energy from it but instead it made me angry because I couldn’t enjoy it. It gave me no relief from the pain. Screw the dang sunrise….again, this is me putting nicely what was going on inside my tumultuous mind. My monkey mind was really busy chattering at me telling me all the negative things I really did not want nor need to hear – especially at this point. This may have been the very lowest of my lows. John and I talked about me dropping down to the 50 miler and calling it a day. He said to me, “Let’s just get to Brazos aid station and we’ll ice your ankle and decide what to do.” I KNEW he was doing exactly what I wanted or rather – needed him to do in order to get me to the finish but the other part of my mind was flipping him the bird! I wanted to SCREAM…not at him. At the sky. At the dang birds that sounded like chattering MONKEYS…ARGH. I didn’t want him to see me cry. I knew it was coming….the low black dirty chattering monkey and I didn’t want him to feel any worse than he did already. I told him maybe it would be a good idea for him to run ahead to the aid station to get the ice ready for us to use to bring the swelling down. He agreed and off he went.
It was all I could do just to SHUFFLE…this was not even an airborne shuffle…more like the shuffle of someone with bindings around the ankles that prevented them from moving their feet too far forward or backwards. Part of this was mental. I know after finishing that mile and a half or so was really just preparation for a future test. The minute I could no longer see his lime greenness….the tears came. With the tears came more pissedoffedness….not a word but it’s mine. 🙂 I won’t go through the entire inner dialogue with you. Just know that every possible negative thing one can say about themselves or others have said about you all avalanche on top of you like a Colorado blizzard. Tears were streaming down my face and I tried to pull myself together multiple times but it just wouldn’t stop. I thought about just sitting down on the trail and waiting for someone to come get me….shuffle, shuffle…..flippin shuffle.
Finally, after what I can only guess (no tech remember!) was 45 minutes I made it to Brazos for the last freakin time. A few runners had passed me and each set asked me if I needed anything, if I was okay, if they could tell someone I needed help…and each time I relayed to them NICELY that my pacer was just up ahead waiting on me. As I walked up the little trail to the aid station, I saw the nice guy from the HATR’s who’d been there (I think) every time I hit that aid station and he asked me once again, can I get you anything. Not sure I had a response. When I saw Johns face I knew before I even asked him about the ice that the aid station had NONE. Oh my gosh…I don’t think furious would even cover that feeling…I don’t recall saying anything – I just turned around and started back down the little trail. Shuffle…shuffle but now there was a little fire in my tank because I KNEW now that I had to walk 11 more miles or so to get back – buckle or no. There was nothing else until the blasted jeep road….
We talked minimally. John was trying everything he could. Texting Liza and tweeting and probably praying for a miracle. Dumping freakin evil rocks out of our shoes..They weren’t NORMAL rocks! They were like the winking trail trolls…they somehow got into your shoes then settled right at the ball of our feet like evil little pieces of sand paper. John kept reminding me about food simply by asking me what I wanted to eat and providing options. Blur……blur…Pain….PAIN. We discussed Mike bringing the pain meds when we were 3 miles out. Do you KNOW how far 3 miles out seems when you still have 6 miles to walk at a 22 (guesstimate) minute mile? FORever that’s how long. There were no more tears to come. I refused them.
Somehow….through the muck, the slime and the horse divits…and then here comes Mike and Doug, my boys in blue!! I don’t even KNOW how far we had left. Only that time was really running short if I was going to get my dang BUCKLE. Oh….I forgot to mention my friend I don’t see often, he is such an unassuming soul – Jason. Jason came along for the last 8 miles I guess so he joined us before the boys in blue. What I adore about Jason and really ALL of these men is that they came to give me a hand UP. They are humble, kind and positive men and will give you the shirt off their backs – literally. BUT – you have to be willing to do the work.
The boys in blue, Jason and John plus me…I felt awed. I took some pain meds and off we continued on a quest for the BUCKLE. Doug….oh Doug!! He looked at his watch adjusted his stride (he has legs to the sky I think!) and said, “this is the pace you have to make in order to get your buckle.” I would get into a decent rhythm pushing with my arms…how do you push with your arms when you are walking with your legs? Come see me some time in about 2 weeks when I CAN walk – I’ll show you! LOL Then I would step on a branch, a pebble or have to go down a dipsy-do and climb back up the other side and lose my momentum. Mike was walking next to me, reminding me to breathe, concentrate, focus your breath…he kept saying, “don’t think just move.”
For awhile that was a cadence in my head: don’t think just move, don’t think, just move…..then step on something and the waterbed in my foot would send that pain again. My heart was breaking it felt like. John was RIGHT THERE at my elbow…”you got this” he kept saying; “you’re doing great”….I didn’t have any energy in reserve to say much. I tried to hum a song and couldn’t come up with a tune in my head. 3 miles out Doug said….3 more MILES!!!!
I bent over, put my hands on my knees….I cannot DO THIS…there’s no way I am going to make it!! Oh my GOD I hurt so bad. Feet feel like raw hamburger meat…silence and then there was Doug. I couldn’t hear him really. It was like a foggy tunnel and I could see he was talking to me but not what he was saying – entirely. I heard him say…”WHY did you start this? Find that reason….you CAN do this.” So, we played the tree to tree game. Pick up the pace on the sore tendon in the left ankle with it’s own blister on the ball…and the waterbed of a blister on the right foot that was squishing every time I landed. Unpleasant….nah…Then walk, push those arms, breathe..you got this…you can do this..2 MILES…and up the gravel jeep trail that felt like HELL.
Move those feet and swing those arms!
Come on, another turn and you’ll be off this crappy jeep trail…keep pushing…I was thinking that this is like giving birth naturally. Just keep pushing until it no longer hurts…Sorry guys!! 1 mile put your dang head down and just go (I told myself!!)….a football field Doug said…we were jogging on and off…I heard Doug say something about a 10:30 pace – IN MY DREAMS I thought…keep going…you got it..I had to stop jogging once more just to catch my breath..then I saw the finish line and the CLOCK…the dang CLOCK..I couldn’t see all the numbers but what I saw showed 29 hours…crap!!!
I REFUSE to come all this way and be beat by a few seconds on a clock!! Push…get your asssss moving!! I refuse to let those who told me I couldn’t do it be right! I have all these awesome friends here with me who have VOLUNTEERED their time and energy to help us with this journey – do NOT let them down…think about the girls…the buckle!! The daggone BUCKLE!!! Pick it up…Pick it up……..cheering. John saying to me – “Go Lynn….it’s all YOU”…..DONE!!
Hope you enjoyed the journey to my (our) first 100! Thanks for reading. There will be one more about this race if you aren’t sick of reading about it already…LOL It will be all about the aftermath of running 100 miles as a newb.
Until next time….