The alarms were set in 5 minute increments between 3:15 and 3:30 Saturday morning and I woke up at 1:45 unable to go back to sleep no matter what I did. It’s RACE DAY MORNING peeps!! I meditated and tried to doze all to no avail. At 2:30 or so T2 woke also – having to pee is a great motivator to wake up and hit the bathroom!! Since neither of us could sleep we do what most females do in the absence of anything else – we talked. We brought a new meaning to the phrase ‘pillow talk’…ha ha ha! I crack myself up! I won’t bore you with the details….It was a new day…RACE DAY and it began at 3:30 telling N.D it was time to get up! That was funny!
The morning didn’t really go to plan exactly because we ran a bit later than intended but being flexible is important so I just rolled with it. The important part was getting in the line with that mass of humanity of the other runners at 5:58 after we had said a prayer of safety, guidance and strength! Here we were! Oh my GOSH! 6 months of planning, training and so many early mornings and some late nights too and it all came down to this very moment – or so I thought at that very sliver of time. There used to be a soap opera that began with an hourglass tipped up so the sand was running out – that image has new meaning to me now!
Mile one we ran with several other runners and I kept slowing myself down because the pace was far, far too fast. We’d been training at 14 minutes per mile except on fast days when we’d drop it down to 11 minute miles and the first 4 miles we ranged between a 12:01 and 12:45 or so! Waaaaay too fast for the 100 miles in front of us that was all unknown. Here we go with the plan – which was for us to stick together for 50 miles then N.D would take her pacers and go kick some tail. I needed to slow us down and I did. The key for me really is if I don’t feel like talking because I am focused on just breathing we are going too fast. So, anytime there was a conversation taking place around me and my overactive brain didn’t feel like participating, I told Norma we need to slow down. Miles 5-7 were respectable 14’s and then we were caught by some other folks we know and our pace went back up to an 11:18. Ironic as I look back! In order to participate in a conversation I have to run slower but whenever we run with other people it makes me run FASTER! Silly….
The first loop was fantastic! Seamless almost. We ran, we talked and laughed and we ate whatever we felt like eating – crackers mostly for me. My stomach is a finicky piece of work and I worked at NOT eating anything that could possibly upset it. About 90 minutes into the first loop the sun came up and we could see it poking its rays through the beautiful trees as we ran eastward on the perfectly manicured trail.
Oh yeah, I didn’t mention that! This trail we ran on was almost perfect for running! There were sections of pavement that I later cussed and at the end of the race was painfully looking forward to. Other sections were made of gravel that was probably one of the primary reasons I am in the situation I am in at this moment with my feet. Other parts of the trail were comprised of packed earth with crispy leaves overlaid, some with intermittent trail trolls aka tree roots and there were also some wooden pedestrian bridges going over the tops of bogs where the gators roamed. Like I said, almost perfect trails for running! Oh, and the trees….WOW! I cannot describe these stunningly beautiful trees in enough detail and do them any justice at all. Tall, majestic healthy trees with a circumference I cannot possible guess at times. Along with the trees there were the already mentioned stinky bogs, a tunnel of trees that seemed to stretch for miles, Some of the trees had spanish moss hanging from them which really accentuated the feel of the entire park. Okay, I digressed……
We hit the halfway point – or so – Brazos aid station in about 2 1/2 hours so we had covered 13 miles in that amount of time. I was happy! N.D was happy and all was well with the world! Then….we hit this awful, terrible sticky mud mess. Ugh! There’s Murphy with his ugly head! We had to sort of scamper through this because it was a combination of sticky mud and slimy mud and it made running hazardous. Well that sounds silly for a trail runner to say! Ha ha! But there are some hazards worth taking for newbie 100 mile runners and other hazards that are simply NOT worth it and this one was not worth the risk – so we scampered – running when we could and walking when we had to. We still made great time!
Like I said, the first loop was fabulous and we came in to start the second after 5:45 or so. Perfect timing and EXACTLY to plan with the exception that I was having tech issues and didn’t feel like fighting with my headphones and ipod for the next 75 miles so I dropped all tech at that point. A FIRST! I did mention to my crew that I had a hot spot on the ball of my left foot so we had to take some time to deal with that. Added some body glide and turned my compression sock inside out thinking the threading was causing the issue. In hindsight it was a combination of issues that caused the blisters I believe but we aren’t there yet. I honestly already do not remember what I ate at that stop. It took 10 minutes because we were unsure what to do about the hot spot on my left foot.
Back out on the trail for our second loop and we walked a bit at first because we had both grabbed something for food and were eating it while we walked. I was also trying to get the watch I borrowed from another friend to pick up signal to track the second loop…and it wouldn’t so I just forgot about it. So important to keep that forward motion and momentum going!! A truly valuable lesson to learn first hand! You can read it, hear it, etc, but until you have to live with your consequences…you don’t really KNOW. The second loop was not quite as festive but it was still a great run we felt like we were making great time. Our drop boxes were perfectly placed in the front half of the course so we were able to eat early and often. The minute my belly started remotely telling me it was hungry I made sure to have something to dump in. I have to say that ritz crackers and those squeezable fruit purees are a real blessing! The good thing was I didn’t eat too much of any one texture or flavor – except maybe the crackers – so it’s unlikely an aversion to a certain food will arise from this fabulous path we traveled!
I cannot tell you exactly where it happened but at some point around 4 or 5 miles from the Brazos aid station I realized that I had missed an essential task before we left the hotel or the turn around point and it was now coming back to haunt me. Most runners know what I am speaking of. The reason why if we are going to eat before running we give our bodies plenty of time to do what it must before we start running. There was no choice but to walk. N.D could’ve gone on ahead but she chose to hang with me and try to take my mind off it. Sure, there were trees on both sides of the trail but we were in a wildlife preserve where wild animals live – including feral hogs I was later told AND the kicker for me was the possibility of meeting with a poisonous snake. The last thing I wanted was to meet one of them while in a exposed position……so I waited for the next porta-john and we walked.
N.D kept saying, ‘I’m sure it’s right around that bend in the trail up there’, and we made jokes about how the RD must’ve been playing a trick on the runners and making the porta-john move from where it was in a disappearing act! LOL What fun!! I told her, we can try to jog a bit and she laughed and told me another story – so we walked. What a great training friend, battle buddy and friend she has been! We sort of started this whole thing as a fluke almost. I am a firm believer in a couple things. The first is that people really do come into our lives either for a reason, a season or a lifetime and the second is that there is 2 types of karma and whatever goes around is like a boomerang and will come back around – you just don’t know how or when it will get you. N.D has been patient with my talkative nature and kind with my spirit. She has given when she had no responsibility to do so and persisted when she could have easily just went and did her own thing. I am truly grateful for this woman and the impact she’s had on my life!! I could say that there’s no way to repay her but to put a payment on her gift of friendship would cheapen the relationship we have and I would never desire to do that.
Alright….so the porta-john was at Brazos aid station so we were back to approximately halfway through our second loop. Gravy baby! Neither of us were really having any issues at this point that I recall. We went back through the icky, mucky, slimy bog oh and I failed to mention, after the bog there are 2 fields where apparently horses play football or something. There were divits in the trail that were horrible to navigate. I determined during the first loop that there were about 6 miles of bog/divits to slow us down on the backside of every loop. Ugh! At this point we were looking forward to picking up our pacers. KdlP was going to take N.D through 50-75 miles and M.A was going to pace me through the same stretch. For me it was a little intimidating to run with him. We’ve never ran together before which was a good thing because I knew I’d need him to push me some but he runs 100’s pretty often and is super good at it. Very fast and agile on the trail!
Somewhere at this tail end of the 2nd loop we ran into Tony C and he of course made a joke about how he only had 8 miles left to go since he was running the 50 rather than the 100. Ha ha HA Tony!! You got jokes! LOL! Speaking for myself, at this point I was really looking forward to picking M.A’s brain about a future 100…….wait, WHAT?!!!! A future 100? Really? Where the heck did that come from and why was I even THINKING that at that moment? Insanity must be the explanation! Through this section, we ran into Brittany C and she was hurting so I stopped and gave her some of my aleve and encouraging conversation. I wanted to help but not take too much time and lose my momentum so off I went – wishing her well. A few miles later I ran into Romero another runner I know by name and by his picture on social media…he was laying down on a bench trying to stretch so I stopped and offered my assistance to stretch his IT band and move on out. N.D had left me when I helped Brittany so I was solo at this point and that was okay with me.
Running with music in my ears is generally the way I tune out the pain in my body or the negative thoughts in my head but at this point I was music-less and it was not a big deal. The day was beautiful though a bit sticky and the scenery was breathtaking in spots. Plus, we kept playing leapfrog with the same people. They’d run and pass us while we were walking then we would pass them up again when we ran our 15 minutes of the Galloway split we were doing…..except at this point it was more of a run when we feel like it and walk when the body says to walk. I had some wonderful conversations or moments of conversation with a few people out there and those help keep you moving.
Came into the turn-around point and the 2nd loop took us approximately 45 minutes longer than the first but that was expected so it was around 6:30 or so when we got in. I had to sit down and take care of my feet at this point and N.D was picking up her pacer to take off on her own adventure. This was my first experiment in really popping my own blisters and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be…..I really had to talk positive to myself at this point. My feet hurt but other than that I felt great! Grabbed a double espresso shot – I was kinda sleepy and we headed out. I was a little upset because there was to be a turkey dinner for the runners and I had been looking forward to some real food. The crew informed me that there would be no turkey dinner for at least 30 minutes from the time I was leaving. Really?! Too fast or too slow I was…either way I was unhappy with that situation….
To give credit where credit is due….I know there is someone or something I am missing from this accounting but runners brain is in full effect and my brain happens to be rapidly erasing the painful memories…..and some of the good ones too…
Interested? Look for the next one (hopefully) by the end of the day. It’s pretty emotional so be prepared.
Until next time…