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Hinson Lake 24-Hour Run: The Recap

Number of hours on course: 16 hours, 33 minutes

Number of laps completed: 41

Total mileage: 62

I started crying around lap 37. 

Not an all out sobbing. More just a few silent tears streaking down my face combined with some sniffles. By this time it was around 11 pm and Blair was with me on the course, wearing the headlamp so I could see where I was going. My left ankle felt like it was broken and my right hip flexor, for which I'd received a massage around 7 pm when it locked on me, was acting up again. Soreness I could take, but my ankles felt... scary bad. Like maybe I was doing permanent damage to them. It had taken me 40 minutes to complete the last mile and a half lap. I was so done. 

Beside me in the dark, Blair either couldn't see that I was crying or--and this was brilliant on his part if he did know--he ignored it. "You're fine," he said, over and over. "You've got this. Keep going." 

Earlier that day...

It had been a good day. The thunderstorms forecasted never materialized. We had a couple of hours of light rain in the morning, but nothing that made running a challenge. We were grateful for the cloud cover. Humidity was still 97% and full sun would have made for a tough day. 

The daytime running turned out different than I'd expected. When I ran Crooked Road 24-run last November, it was cold. I never worked up a sweat and never once took a really deep breath. Even though I was running slower here, I was drenched in sweat from humidity and breathing heavy-ish from 12 minute miles. It took me a lot longer on this course to cover the same 53 miles I'd done at Crooked Road. Part of that was me intentionally running slower, part was due to the fact that this year I occasionally took breaks (and a 15 minute massage break - thank you Denise - you I think this was around mile 20?rock!) but the main reason was the humidity just zapped the strength out of me.

A quick summary of the day is that the mile and a half course was beautiful, the food was good and plentiful, and the runners were awesome. So many conversations with random people as I pulled up beside them or them beside me. It's the best part of these endurance runs--getting to meet and chat with all the runners. 

I felt great until about mile 45 or 50, which I think was right around the 10 or 11 hour mark. 

Support Crew

What helped is having friends on the course - Josh and Iris Sutcliffe were there running, and my friends Don and Kathi showed up again this year with hot tomato soup and Kathi walked a couple of laps in the dark with me. 

As for Blair, words can't begin to describe how grateful I am to have him in my life. He stayed on the course all day, proof reading my book that was due to my editor on Monday while also being the world's best sherpa. Shoe change? Fresh shirt required? Chocolate milkshake run? Words of support and encouragement? Blair was on it. And then there came the night time running...

Back when 70 miles still seemed possible... The Last Few Hours

Things got ugly around around hour 12. Real ugly. I was somewhere around 52 miles and though I'd long ago abandoned my original goal of 70 miles, I really wanted to make 60 miles. My ankles, however, were having no part of it. I limped into the covered shelter where Blair was sitting with the idea of lying on my back and propping my feet up the wall, hoping to drain some of the water, blood, or whatever it was pooling in my ankles away. 

There were 2 other runners there, a husband and wife, doing the same thing. I told them I just needed a few more laps to hit 60 miles, but I didn't think I could do it. I quite literally didn't think I'd be able to stand back up again without help, let alone walk/run. 

"You know," said the guy, "40 laps is 60 miles, but 41 laps would give you a 100K finish."

I hadn't thought of that. The couple then proceeded to give me the pep talk of a lifetime. "Don't leave, don't go to the hotel room," warned the woman. "You won't come back."

"Think of it this way," said the guy. "If you ever want to try for a 100K, you're going to have to come back and run those same 36 laps that you've already finished here tonight. How will you feel tomorrow morning if you wake up and you were only 1-2 laps away from hitting your goal? Will that bother you?"

Damn. It's hard to walk away from that. Blair got me back on my feet and to the course we went. 

It was slow going. It took me 4 hours to complete the last 6 miles. I stopped after every 2 laps and propped my feet back up the wall. I was "running" so slow that Blair was able to do an easy walk and keep up with me just fine. But I never would have made it without Blair's encouragement. I went into this almost brain-dead childlike mode where all I heard was his voice. "You're fine. Little root there, watch out. Okay, you're doing great. I'm so proud of you. Keep moving, that's it. You're strong. You've got this. Doing great. Keep going."

On the far side of the course. Proof I was actually moving.If he at any point had turned to me and said, "Poor baby," I would have burst into tears and been done. I hurt so bad. But just hearing that I was fine, I was strong, I could do it, and him not offering me any excuses out were exactly what I needed.

I can't begin to explain the hurt involved. Every small movement caused pain. I kept gasping with pain whenever my foot hit a root or I had to step (not exaggerating) an 1/8" inch "up" onto a bridge or down off it. But I did maintain my sense of humor.

"Oh God," I gasped on the final lap when my hip flared up as I hit a root.

"No honey, it's just me," teased Blair.

"I was referring to myself," I countered. 

And then it was over. I got my 41 laps for my 100K, Blair brought the car around, and we were done.

After the Run

Things got ugly about an hour after this...My left ankle's still swollen and sore and my right hip hurts, but I think another day or two of rest will have me back to more-or-less normal. Hope so, as I still have training to do for the Richmond marathon. 

All in all, I loved it. So much so that there is a desire to actually train properly for one of these races and see if I could log 100 miles. Probably not anytime soon, but one day...

Just wanted to say a heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone for their support. My text and FB page were lit up with friends and family cheering me on and yes, it does help to think about all the people rooting for you when you're doing something silly, like crying at lap 37. :) 

Mad props to Don and Kathi for the soup and for driving all the way down there. Thanks to best friend Trisha who sat home chanting "Don't die Dena! Don't die!" And of course, all my love and gratitude to one Mr. Blair Harris for being the best husband ever. 



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Reader Comments (19)

Dena, you are an inspiration. Knowing that pain is part of it and being able to keep going is awesome. I aspire to run something like this soon, though my goal will be quite a bit less. I'm looking forward to trying to do a 50K of some type in the near future. Thanks again for the awesome blog. -daniel

October 1, 2012 at 12:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Inman

So enjoyed reading your blog. I believe I must be the laziest personal trainer on this side of the hemisphere because the thought of running 100K makes me want to power walk..the other way! Today, however, you have seriously inspired me. I will go a little further on my late afternoon run because of your story. How far will I go, you ask? I'm so not telling you! No where near 100 k's. :)

October 1, 2012 at 2:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrenda

Aw, thanks Daniel. It means a lot to me hearing that from you. Was wondering if you''re part of the Woo-hoo crew doing Crooked Road this year?

October 1, 2012 at 2:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterDena

Brenda - you know you can win a best personal trainer award any time you want to! How do you feel about being a pacer for my next endurance run? Serious girl bonding time! :)

October 1, 2012 at 2:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterDena

Great job Deena - both for completing the 100K and for the written account of it!!

October 1, 2012 at 2:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Strother

Thanks Steve!

October 1, 2012 at 3:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterDena

Wow Dena--congrats on the 100K. Great recap--really hope recovery goes well. I bailed on running Sat morning and chose to do 12 on treadmill at Y, complaining most of the static route! Then I remembered your run--how silly of me to complain. Running takes us to new places literally and figuratively--sounds like you found both. It's cool that the pain has inspired instead of discouraged you! Get rest, run soon!

October 1, 2012 at 7:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterStan

Simply inspiring Dena! Way to gut it out! You should be very proud of yourself. I knew we are all proud of you! Blair is awesome!

October 1, 2012 at 8:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterShane

Dena, I'm seriously considering running Crooked Road with the Woo Hoo Crew. That would make another two race day as I plan on running with my student running club that morning at the Go Far 5k in High Point. I'm going to see how everything feels after this week and then make a decision. At the very least, I'll show and pace some of them for a few laps. Thanks again! -daniel

October 1, 2012 at 9:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Inman

Stan - treadmill for a long run day? Don't make us kick you out of the club. :)

Shane - Thanks! WP power activate!

Daniel - I soooooo want to run Crooked Road with the your crew. It's the weekend after Richmond which means I may be around to pace, if anyone needs me. Wish I could be there for the full thing! If you don't do it this year, let's plan on all of us doing Hinson or Crooked Road next year as well.

October 1, 2012 at 9:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterDena

What a fantastic runner you have are, your continued improvement, taking on new challanges, setting and obtaining your goals, it's just amazing. I am very proud to know you as a friend and fellow runner.

Iron Man Jack

October 2, 2012 at 9:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Plymale

One of my most prized possessions is still the plaque you gave me after my first marathon. You continue to inspire me--daily.

October 2, 2012 at 10:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterDena

Gutsy performance, Dena! I hope your ankle-itis heals and you return to running very soon.

October 2, 2012 at 10:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterScott

There are no words. As a non-runner, I am as far outside this club as a person can be, but still I needed to pop in and say how proud of you I am, and impressed by your strength and tenacity. Honeyman calls me a "willful ass woman" and I now get to tell him, "I haven't even begun to show you what that really means." Great inspiration you offer us all. And it's true - you have a seriously incredible gem in Mr. Blair Harris.

October 2, 2012 at 4:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterMelody

I'm glad I could help you, Dena! Soak those feet (or your whole body) in a nice hot Epsom salt bath or sea salt if you aren't allergic to shellfish. You can alternate with ice water, if that appeals to you. I am very curious to know which couple encouraged you to go for the 100K, and good on ya for enduring the challenge!

October 2, 2012 at 10:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterDenise

Wow - great job, Dena! Very inspiring! BTW, you really know how to sell an event... I can hardly wait to try this - it just sounds like so much fun!

Congratulations on your 100k!!!


October 3, 2012 at 9:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterDarrel Wells

Thank you, Scott and Melody. The ankle seems fine now. I think the hip needs another healing day or two.

Denise - you were a lifesaver. Literally. Can't thank you enough. And I'm all over the epsom baths.

Darrel - No, no! You read this wrong. This post is a WARNING, not an encouragement. ;) See ya on the trails!

October 3, 2012 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterDena

This is some of your very best writing. You are brave. The physical pain and the mental work combine to make a fascinating, gritty read. Xxxxxxx Michele

October 6, 2012 at 6:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterMichele van Gobes

Michele - Thank you. Your comment made my day.

October 6, 2012 at 8:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterDena

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