Sitting at work and my phone buzzes, indicating an email was sent. Like a moth to a flame, my hand reaches for the phone to see what “junk” I had been sent. “You’re in! You made it off the waitlist! Register in the next couple days!” In true ultra runner fashion, I don’t think twice and click the registration link. My legs still wobbly from running Burning River 50 Mile just a few days earlier, but my finger clicks the “SEND” on the mouse just fine. In one click of the mouse, I find myself registered for a 24 hour race with Jen, Carissa, Steve and Rachelle. Excitement, Fear, Dread and so many other feelings flashed through my mind. Then the preparation – what exactly should I be running in the next month to get myself ready to run for 24 hours? Well, truth be told, there really wasn’t much time to prepare. Just run. . . a lot. . .
Race morning mist hovers over the lake, humidity thick and hazy, promises of a “hot one” with temps predicted to hit above 90 and I stood there with one thought in my mind. “What the Hell have I gotten myself into?” Race starts and off we shuffle. I’m thrilled to be moving and to have Jen by my side to give me the grand tour of her favorite race. As we approach Mt. Hinson, I am advised that this “mountain” serves as a good walk break. Hard left at the trash can and pick up running for the “massive” downhill. I kid, I kid. This really is not a mountain at all, but the tactic served me well over the next 24 hours of running 1.5 mile loop after 1.5 mile loop.
Much of the morning is a blur of fleeting conversations. The trail was full of people who had goals of distance PRs and time PRs. Personally, I had a few goals that I loosely had chosen for myself.
A – 100 Miles and a Belt Buckle – very, very lofty goal that was most likely only attainable on a VERY good day.
B – 80 Miles – Attainable goal given my training for the 50 and post 50
C – Anything over 65 Miles – Mileage PR!!!
D – Anything over 19:35 – Time PR!!!
E – Stay on my feet for the ENTIRE 24 hours and get as far as possible
My “A” goal was given up about noon with temps around 90 and still super humid when it became quite clear after a bathroom visit that I was dehydrated and I had better remedy the situation. Pickle juice, water and Tailwind over the next couple loops and I was feeling better. A ginger chew here and a pb&j square there kept my stomach fairly happy and I trudged through. I knew if I could stay hydrated and on top of my nutrition over the heat of the day, I’d hopefully benefit come the evening hours. The sun would eventually leave from overhead and begin its descent toward the horizon.
With my “B” goal still very much within reach, I picked the pace back up a bit with more running than walking as I watched the sun get closer to the tree line. Stopping by our prime real estate campsite to refill, refuel and change clothes/socks as needed was working pretty well. Having Carrie and her pupster to cheer us on a bit was a bright spot as well. As happy as I was to see the sun going away, I dreaded the LONG night ahead. The glow sticks began to appear, discussions of headlamps and the trail was again repopulated with those who had chosen to take a break during the heat of the day. Soon, I donned a headlamp and became just another bobbing light traveling through the woods.
Darkness brought eerie quiet. The chatter had ceased for the most part. Many people were towards the tail end of hitting their goal distances and the trail once full of life became sparse. I continued to put one foot in front of the other with the promise of music once midnight hit. In the meantime, just keep moving forward. On one pass through the Aid Station, I took a cup of veggie broth and it absolutely delicious. A half mile later, it was projectile vomit. The next loop was more ginger to settle the broth mistake. Potatoes with salt were tasting pretty delicious though. Bathroom stops were becoming a bit more frequent, but encouraging in that I had been very good about staying hydrated.
Just before midnight, I had to patch up a couple hot spots on my feet with the blister shields that I had bought on a whim. They brought a bit of relief. Grabbing my music was a HUGE boost. My legs started moving right along to the beat. The playlist is one my sister had created, which was almost as comforting as having her right there next to me. The next couple hours flew by and I was amazed at how great I was feeling.
But, as it goes in ultras, the amazing feeling was fleeting. I had crossed the 100K point. Four more miles, would put me a mile over the furthest I’d ever ran (C Goal) and in about an hour faster. My energy was starting to wane and my feet were starting to really hurt. After hitting 66ish miles, I rewarded myself with a bit longer of a rest and a bit more foot doctoring. The blisters were growing. After patching them up to the best of my novice ability and a fresh pair of socks, I hobbled away into the darkness. I bid farewell to any hope of hitting 80 miles on this loop.
With about 4 hours to go, I ditched the music and was in a really bad place. My feet hurt, my brain was telling me to stop and my body was in agreement. I thought about how I had to leave right after the race and drive to the airport. Having reached my D Goal, I had now went further and longer than I ever had before. That thought made me smile for a brief moment. Only one goal left. . . STAY ON MY FEET FOR 24 HOURS. If only my feet agreed that was a good idea. I kept plodding forward in zombie like fashion. Sunrise should be soon.
The sun began to rise and the sky lightened. I had hoped that my feet and mood may have improved with this occurrence, but that was not the case. With each loop I would try to convince myself that it was okay to stop and yet as I approached our camp, I refilled and refueled and continued on. Every damn time. Pure and utter stubbornness. 24 hours is what I came for and 24 hours is what I’d get. With about an hour left, I hobbled over to the Leaderboard to see how many official miles I had. I started about halfway down the page and couldn’t find my name. After scrolling from the top, I found my name 4th on the list for females. My eyes welled up as I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Finally, a sport where my stubbornness was rewarded.
I proceeded to finish two more slow laps before grabbing my banana and tossing it right by our camp with less than 10 minutes to go. Sure, it wasn’t ALL 24 hours, but 10 more minutes down the road would’ve meant I’d end up about a mile away and then off the clock I’d have to walk back. THAT would have been crazy!
Post race – I didn’t waste much time basking in the post race glow (stink). Baby wipe shower and dry clothes were my race reward. I packed up as quickly (seriously, snail’s pace) as possible and hugged everyone goodbye and headed back to CLT to fly home. Just over 73ish official miles (75ish Garmin miles) was good enough to snag me 5th Female and 25th Overall.