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."
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 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.
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...
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."
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
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.