As I sit here trying to decide how I feel exactly, this Latin phrase rings through my head in a chorus of simple four letter words. I came, I saw, I conquered or in this case WE came, WE saw and WE conquered.
Rocky Raccoon 100 did not transpire the way it was planned. SURPRISE! You can make all the plans in the world but when it comes time for execution of those plans you have to be ready for the inevitability that you cannot control everything. Really? Have you heard the phrase, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray? (Robert Burns) Well, this past weekend was a perfect example of this.
Now you may be wondering how in the world can I say that we came, we saw and we conquered IF things did not go as they were planned. I’m going to tell you! With the help of well qualified people, I trained for this event for 4 months because of an inner belief that if one fails to plan then you plan to fail. 100 running miles is not a distance that anyone should take lightly – respect the distance. I knew what to expect going into it since I’d ran the distance before, yet one can never fully prepare for it because there is so much that is left to chance and the unknown.
The weekend began as it was planned. I felt well rested, hydrated and as ready for the event as one can be. I won’t bore you with the minute details, but trust me when I say that when we were walking to the starting line I felt….calm and ready for the day ahead. Allow me at this point to give props where they are due, and give thanks to a fabulous coach and friends who are more like my family. The drop bags were in place, the plan was clear and after a few pictures and chit chat it was time to GO! (We CAME)
It was a stunning morning to run! The air was crisp with a touch of humidity thanks to the hours worth of rain we’d received earlier in the morning. The pine trees were emitting their spicy scent and as I breathed it in, while the dark of the predawn morning surrounded me, I still felt at ease. The darkness was complete with the exception of the multitude of headlamps bouncing off the tree trunks. Foot steps fell in a steady rhythm until there was a section of roots nobody wanted to trip and fall over, and then the rhythm slowed. Like a caterpillar we inched our way along through the early morning. I was content for once, running without the noise of music in my ears as I listened to the chatter of those around me. (We SAW)
After the third mile or so, the line stretched out and we no longer were inching along like a rubber band was attached to each of us. I settled into an easy jog and paid heed to the trail ahead of me. Roots are evil you see and quite insidious if you don’t pay attention! The first aid station floated into view, I did a quick mental check and found I needed nothing so I kept on moving through rather than stop. Aid stations can be like miniature black holes you do not want to get sucked into if you can avoid it! The next aid station again just kind of appeared and once again I was not lacking in anything so kept it moving.
It was somewhere around mile 15 when I noticed this little niggling jangle taking place on the inside of my left knee. It didn’t hurt exactly but it was enough to concern me because it was far too early to be feeling anything but GREAT. Told myself, it’s SUPPOSED to hurt so stop being a baby and keep it moving. So I did. That first 20 mile loop honestly felt effortless for the most part even though I was ahead of our “A” plan. I knew it would be necessary to slow it down.
The crew was waiting for me there asking me how I was doing, what did I need etcetera, so we took care of business, rubbed some Tiger Balm on my leg and I moved out with a backwards yell that I was ‘slowing down’ (intentionally). I walked out of the start finish line, ate some and started jogging again while telling myself that there was still a long road ahead and I needed to conserve some energy. Still I was feeling good! In order to ‘get outta my head’ as my friend Mike says, I slipped on the headphones and started listening to some music so I could tune out to tune in to that inner space needed to keep driving on.
Somewhere around mile 25 I guess my knee gave a real twinge of pain. There was not a precipitating event (though I had fallen at the end of the first loop!). I decided to err on the side of caution and slowed it down to a power hike. It was still possible to pull off some decent splits (14 min miles) even power hiking and then I ran into Dave from England by way of Dallas who was also hiking. We shot the breeze for the better part of the next 8 miles I suppose. He’s quite the jet setter having ran some of the most awesome marathons all over the world!
One of my awesome friends, Cindy, met me at an aid station and I told her of my issue with the knee. The message was passed along and it was decided we’d use some KT tape at the last aid station before the start/finish line. Cindy and I did a power hike/jog combination for the next couple miles until nature called. No details needed here only to say that as I was headed into the tree line, I stepped onto the forest floor covered in fallen leaves and twigs, only to feel my left knee give a TWIST and I growled LOUDLY. It hurt – A LOT! It was right about here I really knew that unless there was a miracle, I was not going to finish what I’d set out to do.
At that final aid station before the start finish my friends came into sight and sat me down for a ‘talk’. “Let’s tape it and see how it feels by the time you get to the turnaround point 5 miles away.” Okay. So as I sit and get my leg taped up by another friend, Tony the Footsteps for the Fallen Fireman, who appears as if by magic? My husband and three daughters!! This was quite the SURPRISE! My family has never came to any of my races in the woods!!
The tape job was completed and I was fed so it was time to be off to the turnaround! Tony warned me that the first mile with the tape may not feel the greatest and good thing because it pretty much sucked!! Those last 5 miles hiking and slowly jogging were full of a mental turmoil I am only still processing. I came to do a job! I had prepared – but had I prepared well enough?! Could I make it through another 60 miles of this WITHOUT seriously injuring my body? I had all these people here to support my effort and I felt as though I was letting THEM down by my inability to perform as expected. There were so many thoughts running through my head, even my music wouldn’t shut them up!
The start/finish line…..this is where we conquered! Conquered because I turned my control over to the capable hands of my crew and told them to make the decision of whether I’d continue or not. I’m a little competitive – not with others so much as with my own inner demons and if they’d not told me to stop, I would have kept going until I could not or was pulled. Emotionally WRECKED. Physically a mess, with the love and comfort of my friends and family around me the decision was made.
Today though, I am able to walk without a walker!! I conquered!! Today, I am able to move around with only a modest amount of discomfort that is expected after running 40 miles. I conquered! It’s okay. I’m not happy with it but I am slowly wrapping my head around the idea that although I didn’t finish, DNF stands for something else…..Did Not Fail. I didn’t fail because I TRIED.
We came….We saw and we conquered….
Until next time my friends