I ate my usual breakfast of peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread and a banana and drank several cups of coffee. Hilde and I met Joni in the lobby and we headed out to the park. It was a beautiful clear morning, and not as cold as the weather people had predicted. So, I only needed the one pair of tights, my two long sleeve shirts and a light jacket.We checked in at the start and as we were waiting in line, we were talking to a guy named Paul who had flown in from Florida and had no support crew like Hilde and I. He set up his gear near my chair and used it as a pit stop along with Hilde and I. The funny thing… it turns out that he would be taking Steven back to the airport after the race. Now, what are the odds that I would offer a stranger a ride from the airport, and out of 700+ race entrants, the stranger that offered him a ride back would be the guy in line with us at the pre-race check in? Joe gave a few pre-race instructions and we were off to a good start! It was dark at 6am so we were out either with our headlamps or hand held flashlights. Even in the early morning dark, and all day… I was getting comments on my polka dot tights. Running Funky rocks!!!
20 mile loop #1 completed in 5:10:13, yes, that was a lot faster than I trained for. Aren’t we supposed to be a little faster during a race? Anyway, I did not waste any time at any of the aid stations which was my plan from the beginning. I was carrying enough water, Perpetuem, Hammer gel and Clif bar to get me through the loop with minimal aid station stops. My right knee started hurting at about mile 17 or 18. I was hoping that this would not happen so early in the race, but we take what we get on race day. It only hurt when I walked down hill, so I planned to gut it out for as long as I could before the leg actually started to lock up. I only took 5 minutes in the start/finish area to ready myself for the second loop and I was off with 45 minutes in the bank for the night hours on the course.
20 mile loop #2 completed in 5:30, this was my training pace and just right, even with the pain in my knee. I must have been about 6 miles into this second loop, or at about marathon distance when I figured out a way to get down the hills without knee pain. I simply turned my right foot outward at 90 degree angle when I walked down hill. The Hammer plan was working beautifully! Every two miles I would take one ounce of pre-mixed Perpertuem, and then the next two miles I took a slug from the Hammer gel flask. I was drinking plain water, and taking an endurolyte when I noticed my fingers swelling. I also had the aid station volunteers put Heed in one of my water bottles, just in case. And speaking of Hammer, I saw Amanda McIntosh working the Nature Center aid station through at least the first two of my loops! The only thing I picked up to eat at the aid stations was an orange slice or a piece of banana. I cruised into the start finish area at 10:42:03, cleaned my feet, changed my socks and shoes, and headed back out right at 11:00:00, now with a whole hour in the bank for the night hours.
20 mile loop #3 completed in 6:06:39, a lot slower than the last loop. The pain in my knee was getting worse, and was beginning to migrate to other places… the right groin, top of right foot, lower back… but I was still determined to walk this 100 mile race. As long as I could still move, I was going to continue. A couple of people offered me ibuprophen, aleve, etc. I politely refused. Those of you who know me well also know I don’t take anything for pain before or during an event. I may take it after to help with the inflammation, but only do so if absolutely necessary. My nutrition/hydration plan was still working well, but I was getting hungry. I ate one of mom’s fig cookies (AWESOME), and asked for hot coffee and a spoonful of plain peanut butter a couple of times at aid stations. The peanut butter on a spoon was a great idea and really hit the spot. Things began to get interesting on this third loop because it got dark at about 5 miles in. So, I was out there mostly by myself in the woods in the dark for about 15 miles. I stopped at Dam Road and got a clean pair of socks out of my drop bag because I didn’t have my gloves and it seems like it was in the high 30’s at this point. There was one other walker who traded places with me several times during the first 3 loops, and we had conversation for a while. It kind of takes the mind off of what you are going through when there is someone out there to trade stories with. When I walked in to the start/finish area, Kate was waiting for me. She refilled my water bottles while I put my thermal camouflage tights on over my polka dot tights put on two warmer long sleeve shirts and a light jacket and found my gloves. As soon as I put on those camouflage tights, I became invisible on the course… the folks at the Dam Road who had been razzing me all day about seeing spots didn’t recognize me until I showed them my dotted tights under my thermals. LOL Anyhow, Kate and I discussed my knee problem and I told her under the circumstances I knew at that point I would not be able to finish this 4th loop in 7 hours. I was simply hurting too badly and did not want to do any permanent damage. I called Richard, my 5th loop pacer and told him I knew I would not make the time cutoff to start loop #5, but I was still planning at that time to limp the miles from 60 to 80, and Kate was there to back me up. We took off for the 4th loop after I threw my watch in my drop bag.
20 Mile loop #4 would prove to be very interesting. It was getting colder and the first part of the 20 mile loop goes right down to the lake shore. The frogs seemed to be laughing at us in the dark… I mean, the frogs really sounded just like humans laughing. It was the strangest thing I have ever heard. We would go a few yards down the trail and wait for it… wait for it… there, they are REALLY laughing at us.
I was still in full control of my mental state, but at that point began to wonder. Kate and I were cracking up! We heard others commenting about the laughing frogs as they passed us, so we knew it wasn’t only us. On down the trail we go, and I commented how it was really funny that I had not fallen all day even though I had tripped really hard a few times. Next thing I knew, I was face down in the dirt. Kate offered me her hand and I told her just a second, let me make sure everything is still in tact. I got up and we kept going. I was getting progressively slower and apologized to Kate a couple of times, because I don’t want to be that sissy on the trail pissing and moaning about how this hurts and that hurts. The only time I would wince in pain was when I would hit the outer side of my right heel on a root. I always get a blood blister there after walking a lot of miles. It didn’t hurt at all as long as I didn’t bump it. That was my only blister… Smart Wool rocks!!! I didn’t do anything to my feet… no Body Glide, no taping or anything else and no blisters save that one that is most certainly caused by the insole of my Adidas Trail shoes, and only on the right foot. I still did not have any stomach issues, and knew when I needed to drink some Perpetuem and when to take some gel. We met Melanie, the 50 mile winner working the Nature Center aid station. I was so impressed to see her out there volunteering after winning her race earlier that day! We headed out to our first pass through Dam Road and the mud seemed to be multiplying on the trail. I know for sure there were more bogs than the last time I passed through. I ate some leftover lasagna (just what I needed at the moment) and Kate and I headed out for the 10k loop that would take us back to Dam Road for the second time. We were still having fun, but I was getting slower and finding it more and more difficult to bend my right leg. The more stiff legged I became, the more the rest of my body started to hurt. Top of right foot, right groin, right hip, lower back, etc. and the right knee would just not bend any more. Kate asked if I wanted her to push me to get to 80 miles and I told her I was finished.
The Dam Road volunteers thought otherwise. I still looked great… was having NO stomach issues, and was not too cold. I just could not move my right leg any more. The volunteers told me I would just have to sit and wait for them to break down the aid station to get a ride back to the start/finish if I didn’t just get moving and walk to the next stop 3.4 miles ahead. When they realized I was on my 4th loop and not my 5th, and it was already 4am, they relented and I sat in a chair, waiting for a ride. There were others there who were in worse shape than I was, so as rides materialized, I waited. Another injured runner and I were finally taken out with the trash run at about 9am. It was the perfect end to the race, being hauled out from the Dam Road aid station with the garbage. So, there it is… 72.22 miles, though the official results show 60 miles. They were not recording actual splits at each aid station, and I know where I was when I threw in the proverbial towel. I turned in my timing chip and race bib to let the race officials know I was out of the race. It was a real challenge gathering up my drop bag and chair and carrying it to the car. As I was limping through the wooded area close to the finish, there were a couple of folks looking about as bad as I did and they offered me a hand stepping down off that 16” high curb! I saw lots of folks walking like Frankenstein that day!
still to be continued...