Hi, friends! Long time, no blog. Anyone else feel as though they blinked and summer was over? Yeah, I thought so. For my fam, summer was filled with vacations (both the kids and I had summer adventures), baseball…lots of it, family time, and running. Here’s a quick catch-up.
So…running and racing. I was a little quiet on this subject over the summer because I was attempting something so incredibly daunting to me that I was scared to put it out there for fear of failing. I dipped my toes into the ultramarathon scene last year when I completed the Green Jewel 50K. It was such a rewarding experience, but I wanted to push myself further. When I heard about Lake Health Running Series’ Bluff Your Way endurance run, I knew I had to sign up! The premise of this race was complete as many 1.5 mile laps through the Lake Erie Bluffs as possible in 12 hours. I was drawn to this for a few reasons – 1) I could crew the whole thing myself, 2) it wasn’t trails because I can’t hang with those, 3) it was close to my parents’ so I could rely on them to drive me to and from, and 4) it would give me a chance to run another ultra. I will admit my training over the summer was average at best. I had no good reason for it except for the fact I was lazy and having a little too much fun instead of putting that time into training. However, I did buckle down for the last month and a half or so to be able to give it a fair shot. My goal for the race was to complete 50 miles, which would be about 20 more than my farthest distance ever. With 1.5 mile laps, that meant I had to run 34 of them, putting me at 51 miles. Piece of cake, right?!
On Sunday, September 23, my dad drove me to the run, and we were both taken aback by the darkness. I mean, aside from the headlamps and giant glow sticks lining the course, it was pitch black. However, the stars were beautiful overhead. We dropped off my bin o’ running stuff and had a little while to chill before it was time to start. While I was waiting to start, I saw my friend Tim from Team RIOT, and it calmed my nerves to see a familiar face. I also was introduced to another Team RIOT member, Emily, who showed me quite possibly the best running hack to date – wearing your headlamp around your waist! At a few minutes after 6:00AM, the run started, and I tried to mentally prepare myself for the miles ahead.
The start of the run was cool and crisp, a far cry from the heat and humidity that still lingered in northeast Ohio. With each lap, the sun rose across the horizon and filled the sky. These early laps were slow and consistent, just the way I planned. Aside from a bathroom stop after the second lap, I kept moving for the first 2.5 hours until I stopped at my bin to ditch the long sleeves. Around mile 20, my sister Sarah and niece Sophia stopped up to say hi and watch a few laps. I was still feeling very strong and focused.
It wasn’t long before I had more company. My mom and dad came around mile 30. By this time, it was full sunshine, which meant I decided to say hell with any body image issues and run in my Oiselle crop (ZFG). I also made the decision to switch shoes and put in music at this time. I swear that was like a shot of adrenaline to my body! I had to keep checking my pace because I was ready to fly.
Everything was going perfectly until about mile 40. Up to this point, I had no issues with fatigue, cramping, or injury, but I started feeling pain on the outside of my left knee. By the time I finished that lap, running was not possible, and I slowed completely to a walk. It was incredibly painful! There was no way I could quit now, but I needed some help. That’s when I saw my sister and felt a sense of hope. She was kind enough to run to the store to get me a knee brace while I walked a lap. By the time I made it around, she was back. I slipped that thing on, hoped for the best, and started off with a slow run. Although the brace didn’t alleviate all of the pain, it made it so I could finish. Thanks, Sare! I couldn’t have done this without you.
By this time, quite a few runners had already called it a day, so the course was sparse. With getting close to my mileage goal, I began to get anxious and tried to keep my mind busy. Only a few more laps to go!
My family was there to cheer me on at the end. At the start of my final lap, I threw up a number 1 and said, “Let’s do this shit!” I headed down the path I had already taken 33 times before and reflected on the experience. Physically, this was the hardest thing I have ever done, but I felt very strong and empowered. I rank this harder than all of my labors and deliveries. Even without drugs, those were a piece of cake. I was thankful for my family who showed up to support me. They think my running is crazy and borderline dangerous (I hear you, Dad!), but nonetheless, they were there cheering me on lap after lap. I thought of my kids and how proud I wanted them to be of me. I wanted them to see me train hard for a goal and put that hard work into action. I was setting the example that we in our household can do hard things, and I especially wanted my daughters to see their mother in a role that requires mental and physical strength. I made sure I ran that entire lap and took in every single ounce of pain and pride.
The path opened up to the parking lot, and I saw everyone waiting for me. It was at this point I began to get emotional. I had just accomplished something huge and terrifying, and aside from the knee, I felt great! I sprinted (or at least it felt like sprinting in my mind) to the finish, threw my hands up in victory, and sobbed huge, ugly tears as I hugged my parents. And that was that – 51 miles in 9:58:28.
Had the knee not taken a crap at mile 40, I knew I had the stamina to go another 2 hours, but bowing out at this point was a smart move to avoid any additional injury. I had nothing else to prove; my goal of running at least 50 miles had been met. Then it was time to celebrate!
It’s been just about three weeks since that run. While I am still riding the ultramarathon high, I am disappointed my knee is still giving me issues. I haven’t really been able to run since, and IT. IS. KILLING. ME. This run lit the fire under my ass to train hard because I am still in search of marathon redemption in Cleveland in 2019. While my original goal has been altered a little, the premise still remains – PR the eff out of the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon and have a ton of fun doing it! See you in May!