Standing at the starting line of the race on February 7th, I was both nervous and excited. Who knew that a Facebook message would end up with me signing up for a race 3 weeks later. The night before the race had also been an interesting night. I did things I normally didn't do, eating burgers and fries for one, but also camping out at the course in sub-freezing temperatures without a proper sleeping bag (apparently, mine could handle cold temps... just not freezing). On the bright side, I could sleep in, and had more than enough time to prepare for the race. Being nervous, I didn't eat breakfast, as I could still eat during the race, after all, it was only a 12 hour race... right?
My Weapons of Choice:
4 pairs of Asics Gel Lyte 33 3
Red Breathable T-shirt (from my first ultra)
Old Sports Jacket
Assassin's Creed Jacket
Garmin Forerunner 310XT
Princeton Tec Headlamp
iPhone and accessories
Bengay and Aquaphor
Located in Ridgeland, SC. A 1.695 mile loop with hardly any elevation gain. Although it was a little muddy and wet, not technical. There was enough room on the trail for people to run together or to pass others. Beautiful scenery, various sights, shaded and sunny areas... just a wonderful variety throughout the course. Though the temperature started at about the mid 30s, I believe it went up to 60 during the day, and then went down to the 40s by the time the 12 hour race ended.
Run every lap, after finishing, walk to the aid station, drinking water/heed/coke and eating bananas or potatoes before feeling hungry. Every hour take 2 s-caps, pickles and m&m's when needed, and then ease back into running the next lap. Because of the lack of time for training due to coming off a different race, I was willing to look at 50 laps (84.75 miles) as the improbable A goal, 46 laps (77.97 miles) as my B goal, and 43 laps (72.885 miles) as my C goal.
Start - 3 Hrs:
Though the weather was warmer, the stomach issues continued, making my every lap harder as it became a heavy burden to continue at the pace I was previously going for, and at that moment, the hope I had of getting 50 laps in was snuffed out and from then on, I had to reevaluate where I was and whether 46 was even possible. Since my body was feeling pretty awful but my brain worked pretty fine, I thought that as long as I just did 12 laps in this next 3 hours and then 11 on the following and 10 after that, I would be able to get in 46 laps... but I wasn't sure whether or not my body could handle it. At this point, my hamstrings started to get a little sore from running. I wasn't sure whether it was because of the electrolyte imbalance with all the bathroom trips or because it was a flat course and I was only using my muscles in a certain way for an extended amount of time, but it was another mental thorn which tore at me, making this not just a physical battle, but a mental battle as well. If I fell under the stress and self destructed, I would end up ruining my race plan, running considerably slower than what I was capable of. It was crucial for me to intensify my focus and I said my mantra, "I'm a monster, I'm a beast" to keep a rhythm going and center my thoughts on this loop that I was on. I was still a regular visitor at the port-o-potty, but once I started running the loop, there was no stopping til I finished it. I still had some energy left in me in the beginning portion of the 3 hours, but towards the end, because I couldn't consume enough food, I was running out of gas, and thus I started to slow down. I needed energy, and the only way that I could get this energy was to put on my headphones and listen to "Happy" by Pharrell Williams on repeat for the duration of the race. I hoped that I wouldn't regret this decision. I was only able to finish 11 loops, and at the end of the 6 hours, I was at a total of 24 laps.
9 - Finish:
Things never work out the way you want them, and in today's case, it seemed like a lot of things went wrong. It was the final 3 hours and I was ready to step it up a little bit to finish 10 laps and get to 43, but little by little, I noticed the pain on my left leg getting worse. It was my IT band. It wasn't feeling good. I knew that for the time being, the adrenaline coursing through my body was preventing me from feeling the pain. I had to sacrifice some time to wrap it tight and keep my IT band from getting injured beyond repair. I stopped and asked the aid station guy for tape and if he could wrap it up. He did the best he could, and though it took more time than I wanted, the job was done and I was able to get back on my feet with my left knee wrapped. It didn't 100% fix the problem, but it did prevent it from getting any worse, and so I had to reclaim the time I lost. I had a little over 2 hours and I was starting a little behind already. Every second counted. After a lap, I talked to another volunteer, asking her to fill my cup for me, and get ready for the next lap, and from then on, I shaved off an extra minute each lap because I had someone supporting me. Gradually, I gained the time I lost, and with about an hour left, I needed to get in 3 laps in order to get 43 laps. I was pretty sure my knee could handle the distance, but still, it wasn't definite and as I ran the first of the final three, I was a little excited. By this time, it had gotten dark and I was running with a headlamp, and so one misstep and I could slip and fall and at this point of the race, I couldn't do that. After finishing the lap, I had about 44 minutes left for the final two, about 22 minutes per lap. More than doable. I finished the penultimate lap, excited, I drank the water, got ready, and off I went. I made sure to run at a slow pace to ensure that I didn't slip or fall, but as I came to the last mile of the loop, I started speeding up, and upon reaching the finish line, I was greeted by a good crowd, congratulating me on a new course record and first place overall. 43 laps completed, 72.885 miles.
I never thought that this flat and fast course would be as hard as it was. I would have loved to continue encouraging others as I ran, but focusing on my goal, I ended up passing others without speaking, and still kinda feel bad for doing that. Hyperventilating (instead of talking) was definitely my secret weapon, getting as much oxygen in my body as I could to maximize my running, and hey, no cramps during the race! During the race, I felt sick for 5 of the 12 hours, and though it was a physically exhausting race, what got to me the most was the mental aspect. There were multiple times during the race where I felt like giving up, as if the sick feeling in my gut was too much for me to handle. However, due to the support from the volunteers and friends that I gained during this run, I was able to continue to run solid. Also, during the tough times, I also thought of my Cross Country team and asked myself what kind of coach I would be if I gave up because I felt bad or tired. To me, as a coach, it was important to be a good example to my team, and despite how bad I was feeling, it would be better to give it my best no matter what went wrong. I ran a good race not because of the distance or the course record, but because I had the tenacity, the determination, never giving up despite the everything that worked against me. I still was able to enjoy the beauty the course had to offer, meet others that were running, and continue to pursue my path to become the best I can be, no matter what.
Thanks to Tim Waz for providing a spectacular race. I enjoyed everything you did, from the swag and awards to the volunteers and entertainment. What you put together was so awesome that it makes me want to be a RD and make a 6/12/24 hour race of my own here in Knoxville (if you have any tips, I would love to hear them)! Thanks to David Dowling for most of the pictures on this blog (Tim took the last two, I believe). Thanks also to Kirby Russell who sent me that Facebook message, getting me to take part in this awesome adventure, and also congrats for finishing 100 miles during the race! You really did an awesome job!