Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Burning River 100

Last fall, when I failed to qualify for the Boston marathon in my fourth attempt, I decided I was going to go for the 100 mile distance.  I also decided it would be the Burning River 100 because I was familiar with the race and had been on parts of the course since my brother has run it and sister has crewed for him for the past 4 years (now, four races).  As most of my friends and family know, my strong pull toward this race, was not to be about myself.  It was definitely to be run because I love running distance events, but I was to use this love of running and train physically and mentally for the good of others.

I'll admit, I felt silly admitting I felt this was a God-inspired journey.  At times, there was still that barrier that made me feel like people thought I was a "Jesus Freak".   I suppose there will forever be those dumb insecurities that we carry around about what people think of us.  I do like to meet people wherever they are in their faith belief (even if they have none) and never come across as a zealot, because dear God, I have a lonngggg way to go.  Some are way farther along than I am and some have not even begun.  But I have experienced first hand, the miracle of faith and trust in my own life.  And if I can relay just a fraction of what these things can do for our lives, then that is a wonderful thing.

It was risky putting my goal out there, as was the belief that this was where I was being led, with the enormous chance of failure in something like this.  But the whisper in my ear was constant, "With me, you CANNOT fail."  If you have read my training entries up until right before the race, you will see the miraculous way that the race outcome was precisely what I knew it would be.

Friday, July 26th, 2013:

With the car packed FULL, John, Sarah, Maria and I began the drive to Cleveland with Nancy and Kristie driving behind us.  With a quick stop at Chipotle for lunch (and believe me, I chose VERY carefully what I was NOT to eat given the next day's task...), we made good time.  Kim was somewhere ahead, towing her large camper, aka "Crew Headquarters" and Greg, Erin and Jen were a couple of hours behind.  It was a beautiful day in the high 70s and brilliant sun.  I was nervous, but so distracted with the fun people surrounding me, I was not consumed by nerves.  We arrived at the hotel, checked in and headed to the "expo", which if you are a marathoner, you are picturing something completely different than what was.  An ultra expo consists of a couple of tables with gear for purchase and a guy handing out bib numbers.  There are not booths set up and massive numbers of vendors selling stuff.  It's very, very low key.  Looking back, I think this is a godsend to the nervous runner... the more hype, the higher the heart rate... at least in my case.

The expo was a a restaurant/wine bar.  It was a quaint and cozy little place, dimly lit, awesome food and from what I hear and saw, good beer.  Once Greg, Erin and Jen arrived, the whole gang was present... the runners (Jack, Sean and myself) and the rest of the crew.  Also, Sean's friend, John Kennedy (no lie), had joined us as he was pacing Sean from mile 54 to finish (he is an experienced ultra runner, hence his ability to pace for 45 miles on the fly).  That was where we also met Chan Wol Park, also running the race.  Her husband, Chris, was a high school classmate of Kim's.  Chan Wol's pacer had backed out last minute and my friends had happily agreed to help pace her as well.  Since there were plenty of pacers to go around, it worked beautifully.
The cast and crew (runners sitting for obvious reasons :)

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and said our goodnights.  At my door was a pretty little pink gift back with tissue sticking out.  I brought it in to the room, got ready for bed, hopped under the covers and opened it.  It was from Sarah and along with beautiful journal, was a card.   I opened the card and out dropped the St. Sebastian prayer card I had given her before she left to run the Boston Marathon.  St. Sebastian is the patron saint of athletes and was known for his endurance and resilience under extreme distress.  Needless to say, he was hard at work in Boston as evidenced by Sarah's performance and the safety of both Sarah and Suttan, also running that day.  She wanted me to carry the prayer card with me during my race.  It was on loan... and I love the idea of a traveling prayer card.  So far, so good, St. S!

I knew it would be hard to settle down and sleep, so I turned on the TV, hoping I would fall asleep within 10 minutes, like I normally do at home.  No such luck as I stumbled across a hilarious movie starring Kevin James and Adam Sandler.  And so... nearly two hours later (11:30 pm), when the movie ended, I was indeed, wide awake.  I tried not to think about the 3 am alarm that would be ringing in 3.5 hours.  I was determined not to let panic seep in as I began to fixate on the math of exactly how much sleep I would be getting from that point to Sunday at 11:00 am when the race ended.  I said a quick prayer and prayed to "just enough".  I was certain that I'd be asleep within minutes, but when I glanced at the clock nearly two hours later (1:20 to be exact), I assumed Jesus was really going to show me just how much endurance I really had.

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

The blaring of John's cell phone alarm at 3 am startled me awake.  Proof that I did actually sleep a little.  I am guessing about an hour.  My body felt like a brick getting out of bed and the sudden reality of the task at hand hit me like a mack truck.  I quickly calmed myself down and walked to the bathroom.  I said a very stern "DO NOT DO THIS!" to myself as I began to feel weak legged from anxiety.  I also felt the calm of Jesus, "I got ya.  Just get ready."  I decided it was best to put all the responsibility on Him as I said "Ok, you got me here.  This is all yours.  Do your thing."  I took a shower and scrubbed really well as I knew how gross I was going to get.  It was almost like I was trying to wash off the nastiness that I didn't yet have :)

I dressed and John handed me a cup of freshly brewed hotel coffee with powdered creamer.  I could stomach half.  Food was the last thing I wanted, but what I really needed, so I forced down a peanut butter and coconut flake WHITE FLOUR tortilla (we forgot the jelly...).  I chugged half of a gatorade and then applied my makeup and braided my hair.  Damn right I put on make-up!  And they all made fun of me.  I said this in my blog about the JFK 50, there is no reason to not look pretty when you are kicking ass :)  Race photographers have a knack for making you look like the running dead.  I think they actually add cellulite to your legs and wrinkles to your face (at least I tell myself that).  And I know how many pictures my husband takes when he watches a race, so go ahead and make fun.  Doesn't bother me a bit because all the race volunteers said I looked wonderful!  Of course I heard them say that to the muddy, limping, half dead runner too.  I did text Maria for waterproof mascara, to which she replied that she had some, but she still had 3 minutes before her alarm went off.  Nice.
Jack, me and Sean

Sarah and me before the start

John, Maria, Sarah and I arrived at Squire's Castle at about 4:15.  This was where the race start was.  We met up with Jack and Sean quickly, who both, as I knew they would, slept wonderfully.

We got a few pictures, and two I am missing are ones with Maria and John.  They must've been taken on another camera so I can't add them here.  I also had "nervous bladder", but amazingly, there was no place to go the bathroom!!  That shocked me.  I am used to a marathon where there are 500 portolets lined up at the start!

I kissed my husband, hugged Maria and Sarah and lined up.  At 5 am sharp, the race began and we were off!

The first 6.2 miles were on a technically challenging trail portion.  We had our lights to guide us, but every step had to be taken with caution.  My anticipated pace was around a 12:30 min. mile for that.  I could feel the nerves still lingering, although the act of running released a huge amount.  The taper is always hard as you are not able to do what you are used to doing most days.  There is a ridiculous amount of energy built up, dying to get out.  The start of the race provides  immense relief.

Sean and I had decided to start out and run together.  I was hell bent on sticking to my planned strategy and refused to get caught up in who is passing or how good I felt.  Truth was, for a race that still had over 90 miles to go, I didn't feel that great.  I hadn't had enough caffeine, I was incredibly sleep deprived and I was running and fixating on each step, making sure I didn't fall.  Normally, the realization of how I felt in that moment would have taken me down.  I would have suffocated under the thought how much further I had to go when I don't even seem to be able to hit a groove in the beginning.  But again, that voice of reassurance came quickly, "Remember all those training runs when you felt terrible at the beginning?  Remember how after several miles your body felt better?  You are a distance runner and you are fine.  One step at a time.  Stay in the moment, don't worry about what's down the trail.   Keep going, I got ya!"  Now just think about real life and our problems and how we are supposed to approach them.  Amazing, isn't it?  Same concept.  The other huge part of all this is that I had brought my a Word Doc with a list:  "100 reasons to finish".   I assigned each mile to a person and dedicated that mile to them with prayer.  And so, with my friend Tammy leading the list at number 1, I began the routine of the Lord's Prayer, a Hail Mary and whatever intention it was that they needed prayer for.  I did this every time my Garmin beeped with a mile split, indicating the next mile.  That brought much joy and comfort to the miles.

Before I knew it, we had arrived back at Squire's Castle for the 6.2 aid station.  My splits were right on my planned pace.  A quick grab of some Powerbar and a drink of Heed, and I was off.  John was there, snapping pictures (sweet, proud husband!!).  I handed him my stuff, ducked into the woods and FINALLY went to the bathroom.  Folks, that is the stuff ultras are made of and often it is so not pretty!

Sean went on, walking until I caught up.  I was feeling a bit more relaxed and warmed up.  I had hit the first aid station and it was now daylight.  The trail was very nice and runnable and life was good.  With each mile, Sean joined me in prayer for designated person.  At around mile 11, we met a guy who was walking and was having some stomach trouble.  At mile 11 of a 100 mile race, that is a HUGE problem.  I asked him his name and he said "John".  "Well, John, I'm praying every mile.  I'll say a prayer that this ends for you shortly."  Now John could have been an atheist for all I knew.  I didn't care.  I just did what suddenly felt right in the moment.  John replied with a humble and grateful, "Wow, thank you so much.  Please do!"  

The miles clicked by and we were getting some rain.  My papers were getting soggy and tearing and the ink was running.  I was straining to see who was next on the list... but I could still tell.  At each aid station, I looked around and ate what just seemed to hit me in the moment.  I didn't calculate or think too much.  I just seemed to know what I needed.  Or rather, "Someone" was telling me what I needed because I am a rookie, remember?  Electrolyte caps, energy gel, water... ok, now sports drink, sweet potatoes, pretzels.  I fueled as I ran and walked and ran some more.  By mile 21, I could feel fatigue set in my legs.   I thought "I need protein or I am going to be burning muscle on down the road..."  I texted John ( I had decided not to text or call during this run for fear of using up all my battery.  But I would text the crew if I needed something) and let him know that I needed turkey or something like that at mile 26.2.

Mile 26.2 aid station and there was the crew!  What a beautiful sight to see them all.  They were amazing.  I sat down and they began to bring me food and drinks.  They took off my wet road shoes, dried my feet, gave me body glide, put on dry socks and dry trail shoes.  They fretted and pampered and smiled.  They were having a blast.  I did not want to leave them.  But I did not want to linger at the stations as they just suck up time.

And so Sean and I were off again.  The next time I would see the entire crew was mile 41.  We had aid stations that were deemed "no crew access", so I would hit an aid station and rely on the race volunteers, who were awesome, to get what I needed.  I know at certain points, John and Sarah caught up to get pictures and they have no idea what seeing them did to my spirits!  Again, the miles clicked by and I felt so led, so cared for that I can't even explain it.  At mile 33, I realized I had surpassed my training distance.  I did a quick body check... feet were ok, upper body... perfect with no aches or pains or muscle soreness (THANK YOU SARAH HEFFRON AND EVOLUTION STUDIO FOR BUILDING THE CORE AND UPPER BODY STRENGTH NEEDED FOR THIS!!!)  I was amazed after carrying two hydration bottles and having my arms bent in a 90 degree angle for nearly 7 hours, I wasn't sore in the least up top.

I reached mile 41 in very good spirits.  Sean and I had a good stretch running to 41.  My legs were sore and fatigued and at times, I had to put on my music and just be quiet.  Sean was cool with that as his stomach was iffy here and there.  We each had our moments of feeling good and then feeling not so good.  But we both knew it was part of the package and we were ultimately ok.
Jack at 41 getting a massage from Sarah.  Man,  this crew really went above and beyond for all of us.  He was an hour ahead of Sean and I at this point.
Coming into mile 41 aid station.  Sean and I had leap-frogged these gals in front of us for the majority of this stretch

More sock changes, eating and drinking.  More encouragement, smiles and pictures.  More effort and care than you can even imagine from John, Jen, Nancy, Sarah, Erin, Kristie, Maria, Kim, Greg and Chris (Chan Wol's husband).  It was here that I learned that Chan Wol's feet were giving her trouble.  And with the rain we had gotten, it was no surprise.  I, too, began to feel hot spots popping up that hadn't been.  I tried not to let this rattle me, as blisters are a huge reason for DNF's in ultra marathoning.  I drank an Ensure, ate some tortilla grilled cheese wedges and had my bottles refilled.  And then headed into the next stretch, where I would not see crew for another 13 miles.  Mile 54 was where I would pick up my first pacer, Erin.

This stretch was the beginning of trouble for the majority of the drops.  I learned after the race that 50% of the field DNF'd that day.  This next part was likely why (this, however, was not the reason my brother Jack dropped).

Mud.  Oh my gosh, it was unreal.  Over the next many, many miles we encountered mud that brought us to a snail's pace.  The mud was so thick that when you tried to lift your foot, it nearly came out of your shoe.  It was here that people began to fall.  Both in body and spirit.  This was a frustrating and demoralizing stretch.  Sean took a major spill going uphill.  The mud was in our shoes and in our socks.  Dry socks quickly became wet and muddy.  It took seconds to undo what my crew had so carefully cleaned up and put on my feet.  I actually called John and told him we were slowing and not to expect us on time at the next station.  It was then he told me that runners were coming out of the woods complaining and upset and behind schedule because of the mud.

BUT... ultimately we made it out and here I am arriving at mile 47 or so where a no crew access aid station became a John and Sarah picture taking moment :)
Hurray!  I mostly stayed vertical :)

It was here I learned that Jack was now only 20 minutes ahead because his stomach blew up.  He was experience severe nausea and was vomiting.  My heart sank for Jack as he seems to have this problem over and over.  And once it starts, it is extreme.

My next stop would be Boston Store, or rather, mile 54.  Sean and I continued to battle mud and we continued to pray.  My spirits stayed up and I over and over felt an overwhelming sense of being led throughout the race... "Eat, hydrate, walk, run.  I've got ya."  I told my friend Deb that it was if I had a little command center in my brain, controlling every move I made and telling me what to do.  I honestly had no guess work.  Remember, this was my first 100 mile race.  When I allowed myself to think about Who was behind the scene, I began to tear up.  I knew I had to stay in control of my emotions because when overwhelming, they cause me to weaken physically, so I just decided to really wait until after the race to absorb the impact and just allow God to do His thing. 

Mile 47 to 54 don't stand out as being muddy or horribly hard.  I know it was all trail, but I don't recall it being too muddy.  My feet were becoming a problem and I began to experience discomfort with each step.  It was nothing that I fixated on and nothing that broke my mojo, but I knew it needed to be tended to at mile 54.  I needed another sock change.  It was in these miles that my right hip began to get a little tighter.  But with each mile came a prayer for someone on the list and the opportunity to "carry" so to speak, any burden they may have through my discomfort.  That thought made my pain more of a responsibility and I was good with that.  That was my goal to begin with.  Not only that, I always had the reality check that I signed up for this.  I KNEW the pain would be bad and I KNEW it would hurt.  So this was no surprise to me, hence it wasn't a monumental deal.

I arrived at mile 54 and was greeted by this crazy bunch...

Pacers were ready!!!
This was technically a no crew access station, but where my first pacer could join in.  The crew had come and set up, but were not allowed to do anything for me... they could not touch me or help me in any way.  In fact, they had to be at least 100 feet from me in order for me not to be disqualified.  Only my pacer could help me a bit.  This was where I had finally caught up with Jack.  He looked terrible, but as always, in good spirits.
Jack on the ground with an ice bag on his stomach.  Sarah was going to begin the task of pacing him next

Erin would join me for the next 10 miles.  After another sock change, a bathroom stop and some food, we left took off.  As we came out of the aid station, I noticed my hip was really giving me trouble.  I told Erin I needed to let things loosen up before I could run again.  So we walked a flat gravel section, which became road.  We could see a group up ahead, which were Sarah, Jack, Kim (pacing Chan Wol).  I knew that the shape Jack was in, we would likely catch up on this next stretch.  Sean now had John Kennedy and they were already up ahead and on the trail.  I took an S Cap (fancy name for salt tablet), some ibuprofen and a gel and a swig of water.  Before long, my hip pain indeed lessened and I was able to begin running.  Erin and I had a great trail stretch.  We encountered some, but not too much, mud.  Erin is such a delight to run with.  She is an amazing athlete and as sweet as they come.  We talked a lot about her experience so far with crewing and about our love for running distance.  We came across John and Sean and hung with them for a bit.  We said our prayers out loud with them.  It was awesome. The miles went very quickly with Erin.  We did catch up with Sarah and Jack and then with Kim and Chan Wol, who's feet had to be in horrible shape.  But she was still doing quite amazing considering.  I knew that at the next crew access aid station, Jen would take over and pace Jack and Greg would begin pacing Chan Wol.  This was where I would pick up Nancy for the next 5 miles.

Mile 65 came quickly because I enjoyed Erin's company so very much.  We had a nice road segment which we ran/walked.  Darkness had now fallen.

Nancy and I disappeared into the woods.  At this point, I couldn't run much.  This was the beginning of a mentally difficult and very technically challenging part of the race.  On top of fatigue and soreness was a relentless trail of roots and hills to make a grown man cry.  Nancy could not have been better.  We talked about everything and she lit the way, pointing out the roots and rocks so I would not fall.  As I knew she would, she made me laugh often and I seemed to forget so much of the discomfort.  Looking back, that 5 miles flew by with her too.  At this point, I was certain God had hand-picked which pacer would jump in when.  And I mean this for all of us... myself, Jack, Sean and Chan Wol.  This race was so divinely designed.

The tables turned dramatically at mile 70.  John was to pace me for the next 15 miles, where Sarah would pick up and finish with me.  My feet were terribly blistered and I was given dry socks again.  I had the opportunity to have "foot people" treat my blisters, but I declined.  I just didn't want anyone touching them at all.  I wanted to just go.  Chan Wol opted to get hers treated, likely saving her race. It was here that Greg began his pacing of Chan Wol.  The trouble started immediately.  Because I spent some time sitting in a chair at mile 70, my hip was locked up so tightly that I was having trouble getting down the hill from the aid station.
Pretending to feel good at mile 70 and Kim promised my makeup still looked good.

I think John was not prepared for the fact that I could barely get down the hill.  But he was patient and calm and took his time.  Again, more S Caps, gel and water.  It was too soon to take any ibuprofen.  Once we hit a flat stretch, the hip loosened up once again and we jogged just a bit.  But mostly we walked.

I have always believed in God.  But it was this stretch of the race where I could finally say I loved Him and know what it meant to love God, or anyone.  For me, at that moment, it was the willingness to offer up extreme physical suffering out of love for someone.  It was something I had never been able to really do.  It was the defining moment.  The one God had been preparing me for over the course of training and until now.  From mile 70 - 85, I battled unrelenting fatigue, extreme pain, mainly in my feet and quads as I tried to climb up and down monstrous hills covered in deep mud and mind demons.  I begged my husband to recite the rosary, just so I could hear it.  I could not say it with him, I just needed to hear it and think about.  The man said three full rosaries... out loud.  Although he is a deeply spiritual man, he is a quietly spiritual man.  I don't think most would guess the depths of his faith.  He is also a private man.  Being his wife, I knew it.  I've seen it and lived with it.  It has sustained our marriage and made it unbreakable.

"THE" moment was this:  I was climbing a hill and I hit a root.  The pain shot through my foot like a bullet.  I could not imagine anything worse, nor had I felt anything worse in my life.  John was saying the sorrowful mysteries.  I imagined the pain that Jesus went through being beaten, then crowned with thorns.  I thought about my pain.... my back was not aching, my shoulders were good, and I could not for the life of me think to compare myself to Him.  Suddenly I was fine.  It hurt, but I was ok and I knew it.  That had never happened to me before.  Normally I get hurt and suddenly nothing matters... not God, not my kids, nothing.  It's me and all about me and my pain.  I am convinced that it's the worse pain ever, even if it is just a stubbed toe or something.  Here I was at around mile 80 of a race.  I had no sleep, was actually slurring my words and weaving.  I was filthy and sore and hurting.  And I was able to say "This doesn't even compare.  Just keep moving forward."  

That, my friends, was God.  That was when I knew it was all true... the pull for the race, the prayer, the trust, the voice, the calm.

One other time we were climbing a hill.  I was saying over and over, "I'm so tired.  Oh my gosh."  My feet were sliding backward down the mud and I had no strength.  None.  I looked up and wanted to cry as the hill kept going and going and going.  I did not know how I would get up.  The clock was ticking and I was now wondering about cut off times.  Would I make it?  Had this section slowed me too much?  I would not stop, that I knew.  My crew had given so much to get me here.  They were so excited and wanted this so badly for me.  They had given every ounce of what they had that day to make it possible.  What if I didn't make the cut off?

As I climbed that mountain, I reached for John, who literally pulled me with all his might.  He turned around at one point when I said "I can't" and simply said, "Calvary".  I looked up and out of no where, I said, "and you are Simon."

Many months ago, and I've told this to many people, my sister Ruth and I were talking on the phone.  A friend of hers with small children was in and out of the hospital with a dangerous illness (I forget what it was).  She told me how she was helping with the children, which led to a conversation in which she said, "When we encounter people in life whose crosses our heavy, we are called to be Simon."  In other words, we help them, just as Simon helped a beaten and broken Jesus carry his cross up Calvary mountain where His death awaited.

My husband was Simon at that moment.  My cross was self inflicted and chosen.  I realize that.  So many do not choose their crosses in life.  But nonetheless, at some point, we are all called to be Simon to someone.  And perhaps we can recognize those that are Simon to us in our dark moments.  In a moment when I had no strength and little hope, my husband physically pulled me to the top of that hill. Simon.

I was mentally prepared for this stretch though.  I had read the blog of another ultra runner who said that night time is when the demons come out in your mind making you think you cannot continue and is when most people drop from a race.  It is when you are at your lowest point and if you can just make it to daylight, you will finish.  Knowing this was good ammunition.  I would keep going no matter what.  Just keep moving forward, no matter how slowly.

Unfortunately during that stretch, we did come across Sean.  It was around mile 82.  He was slumped over, pale looking and clammy.  John, his pacer, was leaned over him.  Sean was dizzy and having extreme pain.  Looking at him, I knew his race was over.  He looked terribly shaken and defeated.  Thank God Sean had the humility to recognize it was over and did not go on to finish and end up in serious trouble.  He had made a promise to his wife, Sue, that he would stop if it got iffy.  His wife mattered more to him than his goal.  He ultimately decided it was best to drop from the race.

John and I finally got to mile 85.  It was there I learned that Jack had dropped out at mile 70 due to severe vomiting and ultimately, dehydration.  He would not be able to make the aid station cut offs if he continued.  I had only 45 minutes cushion before the aid station closed.  Compare that to the 3 hours I had earlier in the race at some of the aid stations...This was now a race against the clock on an extremely spent body.  I prayed for 29:59 or under as the race ended at 30 hours.

Now it was Sarah's turn.  With a quick cup of coffee, some food and the mistake of sitting down again, Sarah and I were off.  She immediately tells me "We are going to run this."  I told her she was crazy as I was once again, limping with hip pain, now even more severe.  I told her to let me work this out and I'd see what I could do.  We reached the road and she said, "Ok, let's run.  Pick up your feet and shuffle."  Reluctantly I tried and surprisingly, I was able.  Who knew?  Sarah did.  The more we ran, the better I felt.  The sun was beginning to rise, as was my spirit.  We had a small trail portion, but mostly we would have flat road and toe path.  If we could run this with an occasional walk, I'd be in good shape with time.  We ran and ran and talked as if out for a long run.  We said or prayers and remembered intentions.  The air was cool and I felt 100% better.  Sarah said, "I can't believe how strong you've been.  How good you've looked and how amazing you've done.  This has been awesome."  I replied, again careful not to fully absorb my words as this was no time to become weakened with emotion, "This is not me.  You have to know I could not do this."  She said she knew that.  I think she could see and feel that.  Not only that, but Sarah and I have had so many talks about this very thing.  What is our purpose in life?  Why are we here?  What is God asking us to do?  She was by my side twice in Columbus when I was after a BQ and didn't make it.  She ran alongside me with a heavy heart for my disappointment.  In this moment, she was sharing in the most glorious of races, running me to the finish of an unspeakably incredible journey.  Tell me now that my pacers were not hand picked by God. 

As I looked at my watch, I was surprised.  I did quick math and thought that not only would I make it to the finish, but I would likely break 29 hours.  I dared not say that out loud for fear that competitive Sarah would kick in and make me try to run faster.  So I kept it to myself, but got excited.  Meanwhile the crew had been waiting at mile 93 and then 96.4...
Feeling a bit celebrity-ish with my crew gathered round

Off we go to finish this beast!
Jen pacing Chan Wol before Kristie takes her to the finish

At mile 98 or so, we encountered some crazy steps in the woods.  I got up them fine (holding on to both sides) and we came to a flat, run-able portion of grassy trail.  This part would lead us to the road and take me to the finish line.  As we neared the bridge where we hit road, Sarah called John and I had him come run with us.  I had a mile to go.  We had a slight hill to get over and then I could see it.  The orange cones indicating the finish.  We began to run again.  I looked at my watch and figured it was safe to say out loud, "I am going to break 29 hours..."  Sarah seemed oblivious and just ran along side not pushing the pace, just running.  John was on the other side telling me it was right past the Sheratan Hotel, which was, right there.

And then I could here the cheers from my crew.  They were waiting at the finish line, screaming for me.  I ran across the line and straight to the lady with the medal/belt buckle.  I was done.  100.9 miles in 28 hours, 52 minutes.  I won't even try to describe that moment.  I wanted to fall to my knees, but I knew full well, my weak legs would never let me up.  So instead, I chose a wall surrounding a water fall.  I bowed my head and said "Thank you SO MUCH.  You did it just like you said you would.  Every last bit.  You said to trust and I said ok and you said I would not fail.  And I did not."  Kim captured that moment on her camera so perfectly without me knowing.

So ends this journey and I begin to seek guidance for the next.  To all who pledged for my charities, THANK YOU!  What a gift!  Do I apologize for making the full distance since you pledged by the mile? :)  Many of you prayed and cheered and stayed up late or got up early to see how the race unfolded.  Thank you.  I was lifted in prayer to a level that made this, dare I say, easier than it should have been.  I had a friend who is a priest saying mass for me (THANK YOU, FR. JACK!).  And it all came together so perfectly.

I also cannot thank Kim Vogelgesang enough for her constant, real-time updates throughout the nearly 30 hours.  How cool it was for so many to not have to wonder and look up results!  Thank you, Kim!!!

I will never again fail to trust that God knows the right path for me.  I only pray that I will follow it.  I know without at doubt, he wants only happiness for us.  He knows how much I love to run and so He gave me a reason to run and by His reason, I experienced more joy that I could ever have imagined.  Every injury, every setback, I simply trusted that if I was meant to do this, it would happen, even though at times it seemed highly unlikely.  I experienced a decently sprained foot and hamstring tendonitis in my training.  My longest distance run was 31 miles.  I went 70 miles further on not only little to no sleep the night before, but also that entire day and night.  I know that alone, I do not possess that kind of strength or mental fortitude to have achieved this.  I crumble in a 26 mile race when it is all about my goal.  This was different.  I knew if I made it to the start, I would make it to the finish.  I just knew and I had been telling people that all along.  In a 100 mile race, it is risky to say that because of the high drop rate.  The elite guy has just as good a chance as the back of the packer when 100 miles is traveled.  

Here are some more pictures from the race:
Parking lot party

Kristie :)

Clearly exhaustion is making them this happy...

Waiting for the finish

Erin's turn at pacing

The sweet road to the finish line

Getting my medal/buckle

Needs no caption

Amazing crew

My now favorite shoes!

1 comment:

  1. It's a joke that you compare running an ultra to the crucifixion. Get a grip on reality.