|So glad this girl enjoys suffering as much as me!|
It would be easy after doing that October marathon to just train in the winter and not do any more running races, but I wanted to really force myself out of my comfort zone; after all, that is how we grow, right? I needed to get comfortable being uncomfortable, and I knew that in order to keep myself motivated and accountable (and therefore, uncomfortable), I had to do some more running races. Racing rewards me for all the hard work I have been doing and it serves as a perfect assessment; I get instant results and feedback and it keeps me from getting too comfortable. I learn lessons from racing that I would never learn in training. I crave this accountability.
Another thing I wanted to do this year was complete a 50K. While I have done the Glenn Thrift Challenge, a 36 mile trail run, a couple times before, it was always an untimed, unofficial event that I did with friends for fun. It wasn't something that I actually raced. I wanted to do a 50K that was ALL running just to see what I could do. And I wanted to do it on the road, since that is where I feel most comfortable running, but finding road ultras are almost impossible. I knew that I could just easily run 31 miles on my own, but I also knew how tempting and easy it would be to pause my watch to take a potty break, stop to refuel, take off a layer of clothes, or stop meet up with friends. I needed an ultra that had a clock that I would race against that would hold me accountable. When I found the Resolution Run in TR put on by Upstate Ultras, I knew I had found my race. The race was free (participants were asked to donate to a designated cause and bring snacks for the group aid station); it was an honor system race without official timing mats or chips, and it helped support our local running community. I was sold.
This race featured three different time frames, a 3hr, 6hr, and 12hr, and runners would complete as many miles as they could in their respective time limit. I wanted to run 31 miles, the standard distance for an ultra, so Lauren (who had agreed to suffer alongside me) and I decided that we would
sign up for the six hour group and race against that time limit. Our hope was that we would finish in the six hour window, but if we didn't, that was okay, too.
The race was held at Trailblazer Park and the 12hr group began at 7am. Since it was NYE and the Clemson game was on that evening, Lauren and I decided to start at 7am with the 12 hr group. Since there was no official timing chips or bib numbers participants were asked to have their own cup that they could put rocks in to self monitor the number of laps they had run. Each lap was a 2 mile loop and would be run on a fairly technical trail and part of the old TR track. The benefit of such a short loop was that I didn't have to carry any fluids and I could set up my own personal aid station. It was 28 degrees race morning, so Lauren and I each had a bag full of hand warmers, short sleeve and long sleeve tops, and several sets of gloves, plus our fluids, gels, and sport beans. Since it was still dark at 7am, we had to wear headlamps and ear warmers for the first two laps.
Since my goal was to run a 50K against a clock and the race was not an "officially timed" race with numerous local runners popping in and out over the duration of the day, Lauren and I had already decided ahead of time that we would not restrict ourselves to the designated course. I explained my situation to the race director who said it was fine if I ran my own route provided I didn't confuse any other racers. Since I had six hours to run 31 miles, we decided to jump off the course after the second loop and run 2-4 mile loops on the road. Since I have a marathon in February, I didn't want to risk getting hurt running trails with no prior training, and I wanted to run a similar pace that I would in the marathon. Lauren and I decided we would continue to loop back to our aid station on a regular basis so we could refuel, take off layers, and place rocks in our cups.
Things were going amazingly well (thanks, Amanda Whitley for the 13 miles of company!) until mile 22. Miles 22-26 seem to freeze in time. Lauren even started asking me if my Garmin had lost its signal because each mile seemed to take so long. But we finally made it to mile 26, and I was pleased to see that I was ten minutes faster than I was at the Spinx Marathon in October. I had argued with Lauren when we decided to tackle a 50K that 31 miles wouldn't be any harder than a marathon because it was only five more miles. What was five more miles? Apparently it is a lot! I now know why you stop after a 26.2! Those last five miles were a test of true endurance. Until mile 26, my feet were the main thing hurting me, but by mile 27 my legs were starting to hurt all over along with my shoulders, and my back, and my wrist was throbbing from my Garmin. My pace had slowed significantly those last five miles as well. Lauren and I had walked once (about 20 ft when we hit mile 26 to celebrate another marathon) and the only time I had stopped moving at all was to use the restroom, drink fluid and fuel, or strip off layers of clothes (despite the cold temps and wind, I ended up in a tank and shorts for the last 10 miles).
|Starting our last four miles. I was pretty|
|Lauren was her usual chipper self.|
Our final mile was run on the TR track and knowing this was the final push, I felt my adrenaline start to surge. When I finally hit 31 miles in front of the amphitheater and saw my time, 5:28, I was thrilled. I finished well within my six hour time frame and pushed myself to achieve something that I would not have thought possible just a few years ago. Three years ago I celebrated New Year's Eve in the hospital following a nephrectomy. Two years ago, I had just finished my final round of chemo and spent New Year's Eve in bed feeling sick. One year ago, I was at home questioning whether I could successfully run long distance again after having suffered a painful 7 hr marathon at IM Chatty. But this year on New Year's Eve I ran a solid 31 miles and proved to myself that "she believed she could, so she did."
|Crossing the finish line.|
|Racing against this clock really forced me to be accountable.|
|Lauren finishing her 31.|
|Adding the final rock to her cup!|
I still have a lot to prove to myself in regards to running. And I still have a score I need to settle with an iron distance race sometime in the future. But that future is still far away. Right now I am enjoying spending time with shorter distances again, supporting my local tri community, and having time left in my day to spend time with my friends, pets, family, and my love. I am finding myself again, this athlete I thought I lost to cancer three years ago, and I am excited to see what she can do in 2017!
|Trying to sit down was very painful.|
|Things were starting to really throb and hurt once I sat down.|
|Another goal was to run over 1,000 miles this year. |
This does not reflect all the miles I did on the
treadmill though, only outside miles.