So, this weekend was the weekend I had been waiting for, Ghost Train 100. So much went onto getting to this race...and for me it was so much MORE than a race.
This last year or so has probably been one of the hardest years of my life. Some pretty intense personal stuff, along with assorted other mountains to climb ...all starting shortly before last year's Ghost Train. Last year I signed up for the 100 and unfortunately went in with a health issue that became quite serious during the race. I had to drop at 60 and it was a very scary time for my pacer and family. Much medical investigating later it was found that I had Silent Reflux and something called Runner's Ischemia except I get nauseous and puke instead of what is described in this article(don't read while eating breakfast...just a suggestion) My amazing GI doc told me how to deal with it, so that I could continue running. (once he heard what I did, he said "clearly running less is out of the question." Heh.)
I have done a LOT of personal growth over the last year, as well as focusing on getting as healthy and strong as I could. Not just for this race, but for life. I finally am over a year without Lyme symptoms and off ALL Lyme related meds which is something I have not been able to say for most of my adult life. So coming into this race, it turned into something very personal...I knew I was going to finish this race no matter what. It became clear to me early that I would probably not make the cut off and I didn't care. It wasn't about getting a *finish* or having my name on a list or in a magazine...it was about doing this for *me*...a coming full circle...of finishing something I started well over a year ago. Of knowing I could FINALLY trust my body, it was healthy and strong...I was going to do this no matter how long it took.
I am going to try and recap this race lap by lap...I want to remember this...I want to look back any time I am feeling down on myself and remember just how strong I am. :)
I got to the race early as I wanted a good parking spot as my oldest son Jeffrey, crew/volunteer extraordinaire, was with me and I wanted him to have easy access to the car to sleep, etc. As we were having breakfast in the car, my reflux kicked in. I could. not. believe it. It NEVER just *happens*. Instead of getting worried, I just packed some extra tums and knew I would need to be REALLY on top of hydration and eating. Got to hang out and stay warm, then the usual Hello's to all my peeps :) Got to chat with Lou, and see my client/friends Julie and Kathi who were there for their first attempt at 30 miles, along with the other usual suspects...gave the RD Steve a big hug and many other familiar faces that were there for this fabulous race. I was SO happy to see so many people out there, and SO many people with their first Ultra attempt! Best race to do it at, imo :)
Started off all the way in the back as I knew I wanted to go slow. Ended up spending some time alone getting into my groove and chatted with other ultra pals here and there. Fell into a good pace, but definitely knew something was off right away. I could NOT believe this was happening again...same as last year. But, I was not going to let it get to me. I knew I would just need to adjust my strategy, and stay on top of my drinking and eating, and be sure not to take ibuprofin too often.
Still feeling *off* but otherwise pretty good. The weather was amazing, people were so happy and it was great to pass people out and back. I was doing a fairly consistent run/walk at this point, and moving along pretty well. Towards the end of the lap, Mushie came out to greet me and I was SO happy. Mentally, knowing she was there was a huge boost. She ran in with me as we made plans for pacers for the duration of the race. I was eating at EVERY aid station, which I never do, and drinking to thirst. My Tailwind/Tang blend...Mmmm :)
This was a longer stop than I had planned, but change in pacing duties had Dave coming out with me for this lap and he was not ready as he thought he had a night lap :) This gave me a chance to refill my bladder, grab my headlamp, a sweatshirt and finalize the pacing duties. Mushie was leaving to get her night running stuff and try to get some sleep, and my other pacer Mike was on stand-by for the first night loop. Dave and I took off and had a great time. I cannot tell you how happy I was to be running with him. To do something I love so much with someone I love so much was SO awesome. To be able to share this crazy sport, to let him see first hand what its all about...was so fantastic. (and I don't think I was dreaming when I heard him say HE was going to run it next year...) We had a good lap chatting, doing the run/walk thing and enjoying the afternoon/evening. I was glad it was getting dark on this lap as I wanted him to see the pumpkins, which we did, as well as the luminaries(DAMN there were a lot of them, lol) He was a great pacer, making sure I ate and drank, and doing all the right things :) This would become VERY important later... I got back and washed up and changed into my night running clothes, grabbed my poles and refilled and get ready for the overnight which is usually the part that kills me as I HATE running overnight.
I knew the next 2 laps were going to be the most difficult mentally. This is the lap last year where things went downhill rapidly. I was glad to have Mike as my pacer for this lap as he is SO exuberant and I knew he would talk me through this lap (literally ;) ) He did just that. He kept me going, walking fast so I would keep up a decent pace, reminding me to run when the trail looked good. Made sure I ate and drank, which I did, and we just had a good time. I felt good, aside from feeling a bit tired at this point, but it was ok. The fact that I was STILL eating and drinking was both awesome and amazing as I typically cannot eat/drink past a certain point which is ultimately my undoing at many a race. I was even enjoying myself and the fact I was running at night, and feeling good aside from the usual pains at this point was big. The fact I wasn't a basket case about running at night was HUGE. As an added bonus, we had the company of Steve for a few minutes as he patrolled the course. I got to see him a few times during the race as he was out and about, and it always made me smile. Gotta love the big guy :) It was a huge deal mentally to get through this lap as this is where it ended for me last year, and to go through feeling good was a huge boost. When I made it past that point I knew I would finish.
Mushie joined me for this lap and we spent the first bit chatting away to the point that we hit the Bigl aid station before I knew it! I was shocked we were there already, which she used later as a way to encourage me, reminding me how short it felt. I used that myself in the rest of the laps. This was a tough lap. I was walk/shuffling at this point, and Mushie kept me at a fairly steady pace...I think it was one of my faster laps, lol. We got it done, she knows me SO well that she knows what I am thinking and exactly what to say. I was starting to break down mentally, getting emotional, as I was really feeling the effects of being up and on my feet for so long, and it was starting to show. Hitting the Tevya aid station was brutal as the pavement was excruciating at this point. Unbeknownst to me as I was not thinking clearly, my feet had started to swell and my shoes were too tight. Every step at this point was unbelievably painful, but on pavement it was to the point I thought I might puke from the pain. I did not remedy this until about mile 97...doh. She said all the right things though. And she kept me going. She knew why I was doing this and that NOT finishing, no matter how long it took, was not an option.
Ugh. THIS lap. This was the unknown lap. The longest I had ever run before was 75 miles. Mike and Crystal got me a coffee before this lap which was HEAVEN but did not wake me up much, lol. Crystal joined me to pace at this point and Mushie was going to meet up with us at the other end. I told Crystal where I was at, that I just needed to be reminded to keep switching up as walking actually hurt more than running. I was not feeling all that talkative as I really was so tired my brain could not formulate complete thoughts. She did great, walking fast in front of me to keep me going and running with me when I could shuffle. At this point the 15 milers were out and I wish I could have been more happy to see them as they were SO psyched to be out there...I was so focused on simply keeping myself upright, I fear I was not to pleasant...but I did appreciate all the words of encouragement even though I didn't look like I did. ;) We got to the other end and there was Mushie and Steve, happy and raring to go. The trip back to the start was rough. I spent probably half of it crying, I was NOT talking much, and I did not know how I was going to keep going, knowing I STILL had another 10 miles after this. When I passed the 100 mile turn around rock I lost it...knowing that was where I was headed the next lap and knowing I would do this despite how I felt was a very emotional moment. The last climb up towards the end was my undoing...I think I lost it(again) there. Mushie reminded me that I was NOT going to quit, I was going to get this done no matter what. She and Crystal had decided, unbeknownst to me that they were going to try to get me in under the 12:00 cut-off. Mushie informed me we would be running from the last road crossing until the finish and though it is probably only a half a mile it felt like 2 and I am pretty sure it brought a new round of tears. They got me through and I missed it by 4 minutes. It was ok because even thought I was not sure how the hell I was going to get this done, I had already told Steve if I missed the cut-off I was going out unofficially to finish.
I did NOT want to go out. There was NO part of me that wanted to be on my feet any longer. Dave was to take this lap but due to the fact we got in earlier than I thought and a soccer game that ran long, he was not there. We made arrangements for him to meet me out there and poor Mushie came out with me again...her foot was a mess and I know she too, was in tremendous pain...but she also knew I needed her emotionally, and this is what sisters do. I was a mess from the start. We walked and shuffled for maybe 2 miles and Dave caught up with us so Mushie could go back. We said our goodbyes and she headed back to the start, and Dave took me on. I LOST it almost immediately. The pain was overwhelming as was the fatigue, there was no part of me that wanted to do this. He did not get emotional, he just kept me going. I kept telling him I wanted to sit and he would not let me. We got to Bigl and Steve was there...he let us know there would be no aid station when we got back. We headed on for the 2 longest effing miles of my life...and of course the turn-around rock was further away than I thought- in my mind it was right after the pumpkin bridge when in fact it was not...and I had to keep going...when I got to that rock I lost it again...partly because I knew I would finish, and partly because i still had 5 freaking miles to go. On the way back I BEGGED Dave to let me sit for 1 minute. That was all. I was one hot mess at that point and he gave in. I was allowed to sit for 1 minute at each bench we passed. (and a tree stump once...) FINALLY I thought to loosen my sneakers and PRAISE ALL THAT IS HOLY what sweet relief I felt. It didn't take care of ALL the pain but the relief was enough to get me through. The last climb was brutal but I knew it meant we were almost there. When I got to the tunnel I was ecstatic. We were almost done. I was going to finish. I shuffled the last bit as my kids rand down to meet me. Of course that made me cry AGAIN. As we crossed the dam for the last time, there was a double rainbow in the sky. It is choking me up right now still. I finished. The rainbow was SO symbolic. It was probably the most beautiful one I had ever seen and I felt like it was there for me to see...I did it. I overcame it all, I never quit, it was never an option. I am not the same person I was a year ago, and that Chapter of my life is now officially closed. 100 miles...done.
It was so awesome to come in and see my family, Mike, Steve, Stas(congrats on YOUR first 100), and the other woman whose name escapes me(Sorry!)...I SO appreciate you all waiting until I finished. Steve, Mike, Crystal and Mushie...your gift for me was unbelievable and I will treasure it always. I was honored that Kind-Woman-Whose-Name-Escapes-Me gave me a finishers spike for my perseverance to go out and finish despite it not being Officially Official.
I am blown away at just how amazing the Ultra community is. I have met friends through this group who have become family. The support and kindness is something i have never seen in any other sport. I am so honored to be part of such a good group of people. The volunteers were amazing, most of them there for a VERY long time, always ready to help and get you anything you needed...the RD...what can I say. Love this guy, and can't say enough about him and this race. If you EVER thought about trying an Ultra...THIS is the race to try. There isn't another one out there that would be better for your first than this one.
By the time I got home my body was letting me know how it felt about this little adventure. Walking up the stairs was horrific and I was shaking from chills so badly I couldn't get warm enough. Shower(ouch) and straight to bed, after slathering Arnica cream on my lower extremities. Had the usual post-ultra fitfull sleep complete with night sweats, yeah...but this morning I have to say other than being completely spent and tired, I am in better shape than I thought I would be. Legs are sore, but swelling is not too bad and I can shuffle around the house pretty well. Only *injury* is one I expected, overuse in the front of my right ankle. Wrapped it up before i went to bed so its not bad this morning. Oh...and the chafing....we aren't going to discuss that...
My crew...I could NOT have done this without you all. You got me through this, talked me through some pretty bad lows and I am SO grateful for you all. Dave, NONE of this could have happened without your support of my crazy hobby.Thank you for loving me and being there to share this with me.
To all my friends out there who ran and those of you I don't know...a BIG congratulations to you. Even if you didn't hit the mileage you may have wanted, miles are miles and its something to be proud of. Besides....there's always next year... ;)