I had read in many race reports that loop 4 is the most difficult to start, and if you can start it, there's a good chance you will finish. I was determined to start loop 4. I got back to my bag, added more clothes as it was getting really cold (at one point I had on 4 hoodies), my mittens, my lucky headband (found by my friend Cory on the Verrazano-Narrows bridge when I lost mine in the wind) and a hat. I switched out my shoes one more time, going with the Olympus – max cushion for feet that were getting kind of tired. Before we headed out, we stopped to fuel up, this time on hot chocolate and chocolate covered strawberries. YUM.
Also....sorry for the lack of pictures here....it was dark!
The aide stations during ultra marathons and trail races compared to those at a road race are like night and day. Instead of Gatorade and your occasional banana or orange slice, the aide stations are like buffets. So much food, so little time. Most of the volunteers are also ultra marathoners/trail runners, are so incredibly kind,caring and will do anything in their power to help. They are literally your trail angels and can make or break your race, but they always make it. In the dead of the night they greet you with a smile, even though they are tired, likely cold and fatigued themselves, they look like they are having a blast (I have no doubt they are!) and do their best to see you on your way. I truly think they are the reason most people finish the race. I was so lucky that at the hardest point in the race, the long damnation loop, I had some local friends, Libby and Agustin, volunteering. It was so great seeing familiar faces.
Back to loop 4 in the dead of the night. So far, so good. Even though we were pretty much power hiking, we were making good time and the miles were rolling along. It was so nice to get to spend some time with Lisa. We don't get to see each other very often, but we have seen each other twice this year! She was the maid of honor at my wedding! We always pick up right where we left off. We were having so much fun chatting and laughing, that the first 10 miles of that loop flew by. We hit the first and second aide stations and then the damnation loop (which this time, really felt like damnation). Somewhere along that loop, I got really tired. I hadn't gotten a whole lot of sleep the night before because of that thunder, nerves and excitement.
People had told me about hallucinations during 100 milers and it was one of those things that you don't really believe until you're experiencing it. It was happening. The ground seemed to be moving from side to side. I'm sure it was because of exhaustion, but it was getting more difficult to navigate when things weren't still looking through my eyeballs. It's really hard to explain. Then, some heavenly angel (another runner, I think - maybe it was an illusion) came by and offered me a caffeine tablet. Normally, I wouldn't take pills from strangers, but desperate times call for desperate measures and I've never met anyone out there that didn't seem trustworthy. That pretty much solved that problem and I felt pretty good again. We were slowing a little bit and getting really cold. We got back to damnation, sat under the heater for a bit, got our hot drinks,, which we later laughed about that we either needed sippy cups or straws to drink as half of the drinks were spilled all over our mittens, and headed back out.
Before long, we were at the dreaded rock road. Basically, it was a road that had been constructed for construction trucks, made of really sharp whitish rocks. This was and out and back portion, so I had already gone over it seven times and this would be my eighth. This blew. Looking back, I think it was where things really started to go wrong for me. My feel never really hurt the entire time (thanks Altra!), but those rocks felt like daggers this time. I could've swore I had spontaneously developed neuropathy. They didn't so much hurt my feet, but were making them feel like a pins and needles sensation. No bueno.
We were still doing ok on time, but I felt like I was consistently slowing, I feel like it was mostly because of the cold. I know I grew up in MN, but 30 degrees and 80% humidity makes for a very, very cold night for someone with thin Texas blood. There were people in the aide tents that looked hypothermic. At the very end of the rock road, I saw Lint again. He was out on his final loop and looked like he had just had a full night's sleep! He gave me a great pep talk and told me to get after it. It helped my spirits, a lot. Just before the final aide station prior the starting area, things really got bad. Now I had fully expected to endure a good amount of pain, tiredness and overall loathing for running during this race, but all of a sudden, my body just stopped working. We would stop and stretch. I kept trying to shake it out, but it just wasn't happening. I had poorly planned for cold weather and while I had on 4 jackets, mittens, a buff and a hat, all I had on my legs were a thin pair of barre tights and a running skirt. Just. Wasn't. Cutting. It. In hindsight, I'm pretty sure this is what earned me my DNF. The volunteers at the final aide station told me I still had 90 minutes to get back to the start to make the cut off, which was 4.5 miles away, something that would normally take me maybe an hour or a bit under. I just didn't see how it was going to happen, I could barely move. I tried to pick it up and run again, but that wasn't working either. Nothing really hurt, yet everything hurt. I was doing some kind of Frankenstein march. To make matters worse, I had started the race with a bit of a cough (the downfalls of doing a pediatric rotation – lots of sick kiddos spreading germs) and it was getting worse. I started getting teary about making it this far and considering stopping and could barely breathe. I started seeing things again. Buildings that were actually logs/trees. I was kind of delirious. Lisa did nothing but encourage me ,tell me I had this & couldn't stop, but I had already decided that this would be my last lap. I am pretty stubborn, but she just wasn't having it. I couldn't have picked a better sidekick. We tried to get back to the start and were within just a few tenths of a mile, when we finally saw a road. I called Ryan and he came and got us.
|at least we are still smiling!|
I was crushed. I had made it 80 freaking miles and couldn't pull it off. I think it would've felt less painful had I only made it 40 or 50. I know running 80 miles is a feat in itself, but I didn't go there to run 80 miles, I went there to run 100, it just wasn't possible.
Ryan took my timing chip back to the start and handed it in. He collected my parting gift as well. We were all exhausted. We chatted a bit with Lisa and Matt. I told all of them to promise that they would never let me do this again, no matter what and we said our good byes.
Ryan and I went back to the hotel for a little nap. Even the walk to the room was painful. A shower had never felt so incredibly good. Sleep was fitful and came in short spurts. I had started running a fever and my cough had gotten much, much worse. There were tears. At one point I woke up and couldn't stretch out my arms and convinced myself I had rhabdo (I didn't). Sometimes knowing a lot of things about medicine can be a bad thing.
|while I slept, Lisa stayed up to catch the sunrise Sunday morning - isn't this gorgeous?|
I was so mad and disappointed in myself over this. I feel like there could've been a much better outcome if only had I invested in some warmer tights, clothes, whatever. Over the days that followed, I feel like I went through stages of grief. I was angry, sad, angry again, but now? Now I am just more determined than ever. I had told all of my close friends that I was going to defer Leadville until 2017; that if I couldn't complete and “easier” 100 miler, how the hell would I be able to do one at 10-14k feet? Honestly, I really don't think any of them believed me, but being the great friends they are, went along with it anyway. I questioned my tenacity and toughness. Went over about 40 miles in my head over and over to figure out what I did wrong.
While I had been planning on this race since early fall, when I got into Leadville I had seriously questioned not doing it. My weekends are kind of precious to me right now, plus I had a crap ton of course work due that weekend. Yet after thinking about it for a day or two, I decided it would be a great confidence booster. Like I said, I had put in all of the training, I didn't want that to go to waste. Plus, I decided it would be really good experience to know what it feels like to pull a difficult all-nighter, which I hadn't done in over a decade. While I used to work nights as a nurse, this was nothing like working. Not even close. So after all of the anger passed, I really came to be at peace with the fact that I didn't finish. There were a lot of other people that dropped for the same reason I did, because it had gotten so cold and they weren't prepared for it. I learned A LOT and that made the entire experience worth it. I now know how to train myself better for Leadville. I would've hated to be unprepared there (although I've done my fair share of research on that too). I think I'm even more excited now the DNF will make a Leadville finish even sweeter.
So that's my long story...even though it didn't have an the outcome I desired, it was an adventure and that's what I want in my life - more adventure.
A HUGE thank you to everyone that helped me that weekend....Ryan, Lisa, Matt - their help was priceless. They all put up with my bossiness and grumpiness (especially Lisa). All of my friends who cheered my on virtually. Going back and reading all of their messages made me cry happy tears. It is good to be loved.
There is certainly more adventure to be had....