I tried putting together a running streak at the very beginning of the year, just a little bit every day, to jumpstart my motivation, and that kept up for almost a full month. But I was having to force myself to go and it got to be counterproductive, so I gave that up and went back to just once or twice a week. It wasn't until late April into May that the motivation started to trickle back. I found myself putting together consistent weeks of running in the 30-mile range and I realized I was back.
During the summer, I treated running like a timid animal that I was trying to lure to my hand so I could pet it. I didn't want to make any sudden moves and scare it away. I started running trails again, and it fed my soul. It all started to feel good again and the thought of going long again seemed like an attractive idea. And somewhere in there I thought it might be time to run an ultramarathon.
|These sum up how I felt about going longer than 26.2.|
|Back in October. If you look closely |
you can see Chris waaaaay up there.
I don't always run an ultramarathon, but when I do, it's after a week of heavy rain. Most of that was in the two days before the race, including the night before (I read somewhere we got an inch of rain overnight) and right up until the start. Seriously, it stopped just in time, so I guess that's something. I just kept telling myself it couldn't possibly be as muddy as OPSF. Spoilers: it could, just in a different way.
I woke up on race day at 4:30 a.m., which was of course fabulous, and got through my morning routine. Awesome friend Rebecca was down for the weekend to support all of us doing the Jackson County races, and staying with me. It was really nice to have someone else around to help keep my nerves down. The plan was for her to drive me to the start, and Mark would come down later after running a couple of errands.
|Photo credit: Rebecca Petrush|
I started off with longtime training partners and friends Chris Neoh and Alicia. Alicia and I ribbed on each other, each accusing the other of getting her into this mess. (But seriously, it really was Alicia's fault. :P) We had agreed we would try to stay together at least for the first loop to help prevent her from going out too fast. We got into a good groove at a comfortable pace. I didn't see any other women in front of us, but almost at once a woman with blond braids went sailing past. I named her Blond Braids because I am creative. "Just let it go!" I told Alicia, because I knew she instinctively wanted to chase her down. There would be plenty of time for that later.
The course is five 10-mile loops with about 8,000 feet of gain total. The first few miles have a couple of significant climbs, then it's rolling to flattish for a little while, then several more significant climbs just past halfway before a pretty manageable last couple of miles. When I say significant climbs, I'm talking head down, hands-on-thighs type climbs. Those hills were killer, but the views from the top were beautiful. The mud was not too bad at first, just enough to cover the shoes, with quite a lot of icy puddles.
We stayed pretty close for the first loop, not always right together, but nearly always in eye contact. At the very beginning of the second loop, I went thigh-deep into a sinkhole and full-on belly flopped into a kiddie-pool-sized mud puddle. Luckily I had kept my jacket on, which kept my core dry, and my gloves were in the pocket, so they stayed dry too. I had my phone in the front pocket of my pack (OF COURSE I had just taken it out of the plastic baggie I was keeping it in), but it was high up enough on my chest that it only got a few drops of water on it. But I'd gotten a generous splash on my face and everything below the waist was now soaked. BUT, look how prepared I was. I whipped out the baby wipes I'd brought along and cleaned up my face and hands on the run, then put the gloves back on. So I was actually pretty comfortable for the rest of the loop despite the dunking.
|Photo credit: Katie Yoder|
At 20 miles I refilled my pack and changed out my wet capris for shorts and compression knee socks. I kept shirt and jacket the same, but changed arm warmers for ones with mitts. Chris came in a few moments after I did and announced he was dropping. I wasn't surprised but I was sad, and it was compounded when I saw that Adam had dropped from the 50K as well. A true testament to how tough the conditions were. It was a sobering start to the third loop, but on the bright side I did not fall into the sinkhole again.
|Thirty miles in. Photo credit: Chris Banul|
After the third loop, I refilled my pack again, gratefully accepting Erin's help (she is one of the most knowledgeable and experienced runners I know, and is always willing to jump in for a bit of crewing where needed). I was mildly worried because Mark wasn't there yet, and I'd been sort of hoping my dad would show up (he had mentioned he might drive up and check out my race since my mom was at a quilt guild meeting that day). This was a big moment for me and I said so as I took off again: "Here I go into undiscovered country!" I'd never gone past 50K/31 miles before.
|Sorry about the feels. :(|
As I ran along the road, a car came up next to me and slowed down and who should it be but BOTH of my parents! They'd gotten a bit turned around looking for the start/finish and ended up in the middle state forest section. And with impeccably good timing too, because seeing them was a massive boost. I went on, not really moving any faster, but feeling better about it. Another boost when I stopped at mile 36 and got an update from Rebecca that Alicia was already into her last loop. I knew she had gone into first place, but it sounded like she was just getting stronger and stronger. I thought idly how cool it would be if I could catch Blond Braids too, but not really seriously--she had looked really good and strong when I saw her, and Rebecca had said she was "truckin'"--just not as as fast as Alicia.
|Forty miles in. Photo credit: Chris Banul|
I started this loop with fresh vigor. I didn't have it in me to really pick up the pace, but I could walk less as long as I focused. I promised myself I would run all the flats and at least start running up the gentle hills. This worked really well for pretty much the whole loop, actually. In fact, my legs felt okay, better than they had 10 miles ago. Chris kept up a steady stream of encouraging words and I joked around and quoted movies. At one point he reminded me to drink and I sang "Just keep sipping, just keep sipping, what do we do, we sip, sip, sip."
|Mile 46. Photo credit: Rebecca Petrush|
There were several others who had paused at the aid station and I realized with dull surprise that one of them was Blond Braids. I drank some of the magical tomato soup from the aid station and tried to get my breath. Don't freak out, Miranda.
She left a moment later. I finished my soup and we headed out soon after. I said to Chris, "Now I'm not going to flip out about this, but was that...?" He affirmed that I was only moments behind second place and mentioned that I had made up a lot of time to catch her; she must be hurting. I tried to keep my promise not to flip out, but it was hard. I was hurting, too. I knew I needed to relax and stay steady and I might very well be able to catch her. I thought how cool it would be if I could finish second behind Alicia, meaning BARA women would go 1-2, and how excited everyone would be when they realized it was me finishing.
But I was really starting to struggle now. I needed a pit stop (because obviously that couldn't have held off for TWO MORE MILES after running, you know, FORTY-EIGHT). And I was paranoid that being passed had lit a fire under Blond Braids and I imagined her charging right back past me. Finally I had to pause for the pit stop, but at least after that I felt a little better. Only a mile and a quarter to go. We started our way around the lake. From the lakeshore, you can clearly see the finish. In fact, you see it and have to run parallel and away from it for a while. I kept saying, "We're so close!" and in my head was quoting Red Leader from the Death Star trench run in Star Wars: Almost there, almost there...
At one point I had to walk a bit through an especially muddy section and I asked Chris, "You don't see anyone back there, do you?" He said no and I immediately felt relieved. Just keep it together for a few more minutes. I was thinking only up to the finish line and not one second beyond.
|BARA sweep! Photo credit: Erin Hazler|
After a whirlwind of congrats and hugs and photos, I went inside and sat down and before too long started to feel pretty terrible. My stomach was a little ehhhh and I was lightheaded, then I started getting chills. Luckily Erin and Chris Neoh knew exactly what to do and got some calories/electrolytes into me quickly. Erin helped me into the bathroom, where they had HOT SHOWERS. I had brief thoughts of throwing up, but it passed quickly, and I tottered over to the shower, where Erin had kindly laid out all my stuff and turned on the water. For a while I just sat there with my clothes still on, letting the water run over my legs, then I stood up and rinsed off all the mud. That was a bit of a fright, although it could have been a lot worse but for my friends' quick thinking. In hindsight I think I let my fluid/calorie intake tail off a little too much in the last three or four miles, just concentrating on making it to the finish. I was sipping but not really taking much in. Well, you have to make it through the finish too. Lesson learned!
Quick note on the race itself: This was the first year for this event, and I hope it will continue. As usual with DINO, the organization was great, the trail was tough but rewarding, and the venue was perfect, with indoor bathrooms/showers/warmth just a few steps away from the race start/finish. The course was well marked and easy to follow, even at night. And the aid stations were well stocked with good food and awesome people.
Recovery: I was quite sore the next day, but believe it or not, I would actually rate the muscle soreness as less than what I usually experience after a hard road marathon. My joints hurt more, and most of all my feet and ankles. The muscles and tendons down there had clearly been a little overworked in keeping me stable and upright (most of the time) in that slippery mud. My right foot/ankle especially was actually a little swollen, so I put on compression socks and spent most of the day with my feet up.
By Monday I could walk normally enough that no one at work noticed anything weird. By Tuesday I was still feeling some pockets of soreness, but I could walk and even descend stairs normally. I'm a big believer in active recovery, so either today or tomorrow I'm going to do a very short shakeout jog.
Finish place: 8th out of 22 finishers (34 started); 2nd out of 4 women
Official time: 12:46:43
Moving time: 11:38:02 for 50.7 miles
Approximate loop times: 2:02, 2:11, 2:42, 2:54, 2:51
Elevation gain: 7,611 ft. (mine tends to measure short; it was advertised as 8,000)
Trail falls, January 19, 1982, to December 5, 2014: 3
Trail falls, December 6, 2014: 4
Liters of water consumed: 5
Calories consumed: 2,200ish (about 175 per hour), most of which was Tailwind. Also a uGo bar, nibbles from the aid stations, and magical tomato soup.
Can't wait to do it again! I'm thinking pretty seriously about doing Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky next spring.