Saturday, January 30th marked yet another milestone that I would conquer in my running career. With a lot of trepidation and wondering if my body could hold up I was about to embark on a 55 mile run with a 20 lb. pack upon my back. This was to be my final major event before my first 4 Desert run in the Atacama with a lot riding on not only how my body would hold up but nutrition and mental toughness as well. I literally was going to step into the darkness.
January 29th – Night Before Race
After checking & double checking that everything I would need for the next days run was loaded into my backpack along with bags of rice which would simulate the weight I would carry during the desert, it was off to the Hampton Inn where my husband (Randy) and I would spend the night so we could walk downstairs to the race start. That night we met up with the other Ultra marathon runners for their carbo loading dinner of which I did not partake. Sitting there with everyone, smelling the wonderful aroma of pasta & pizza I brought out my scrumptious freeze-dried meal. It was so hard to ask the waiter if he could please bring me 2 ¼ cups of boiling water to prepare my meal. Yes that was all I was going to have, another preparation for the desert runs! The meal was edible, but I am sure will be more appetizing after running in the hot desert with absolutely no signs or smells of pizza around.
7:30 pm - Dinner complete, good luck wishes extended it was back to the hotel for a restful sleep.
January 30th – Race Day
2:00 am – Up and time to get ready.
Pre-race Nutrition: 1 cup coffee
1 bottle SuperStarch
2:30 am - Weigh In
The excitement and apprehension was beginning to build as we all gathered for a last minute briefing. This was such a beautifully run race. Everyone associated with it went way out of their way to make sure that all the runner’s needs were met; nothing was missed or left out.
Nutrition Packed: 1 bottle SuperStarch
1 bottle Water
2 Electrolyte Tablets
3:00 am - Race Begins – Gun Goes Off
Here I was beginning my first of eleven, 5-mile loops. It was quite dark outside so having my headlamp to guide me was a blessing. I was also so very fortunate that Randy decided to pack his bike and follow me along the route. Not so fortunate for him though as he had to ride extremely slow something that later in the day, I was sure, would begin to ware on him. This would be the first time that he would be able to watch me in action from a very different vantage point. First couple of miles no problems as I went up and over the bridge, along side the riverfront and then rounded the corner to a decision. Which side of the bridge was I suppose to go back over? I couldn’t remember so chose the right side….wrong! Now I had to figure out how to get back across to the other side after running all the way over – not a good way to begin. In the dark everything looked completely different. I managed to navigate back to where I was suppose to be (probably put an additional 300 feet onto my race) when the spotter car appeared and took me in the right direction, or what I thought was the right direction….wrong again! I followed the car only to find out I should have went straight rather than turn right. Well now that the first lap was complete I headed back to do it all over again saying to myself “I won’t make that mistake again!” Wrong again. I took the wrong right turn thinking I was going to be heading up the bridge again but couldn’t find the opening. This was going to be a very, very long day. I stopped, looked up to find the bridge and get my bearings, headed back to where I turned and eventually was back on track. To say I am directionally challenged would be an understatement. Sure hope the markers in the Desert are BIG!
Well, all the mishaps that could possibly have happened were over with. My compass was finally working and no more wrong turns happened the rest of the day. After the first loop one bag of rice was taken out to lessen my pack by 5 lbs. I ran quite comfortably through mile 25 when I decided to lessen my pack again by 5 lbs. At this point I was actually feeling like I had a second wind and my legs kept going as if I had just begun. This truly surprised me. All the while I was self-contained within my head, Randy rode behind me alone with his thoughts as well. Perhaps this was partially why I felt so good. It was comforting to know that I had him watching my back and I was safe. I am a very lucky woman to have a husband like him.
I had run through the darkness, watched the sun come up and now headed into the rain. Thoughts were beginning to run wild in my mind. “Oh no puddles, I might have to stop to change shoes.” “No, keep going, run another lap and see how it goes.” Stopping was not on my agenda except to refill bottles, which I only had to do twice. Happily for me I was able to run around and not through most puddles. I know this probably added a few more feet onto my course but it was worth it not to have to switch out shoes. So on I went and before I knew it I had made it to the 40-mile mark. I had pre-planned in my head that once I hit that mile I was pretty much done, only 3 more laps to go. So, passing through the aid station I forged on, still smiling!!
The last 3 laps did seem to take a bit longer than I had wanted. By now I was getting a little tired of going up and down the bridges but especially dreaded the stretch towards the end of the loop that just seemed to go on endlessly. At this point there really wasn’t any scenery to look at just a long stretch of empty road. Time to kick my head back into gear and focus. Break down each 5-mile loop into even smaller increments. 2 miles to the riverfront where we had the most amazing cheering group. Each time I ran past them they had me laughing, so excited I believe my feet were sprinting to the next point. 2 more miles and I was almost to the dreaded long road. Once there it was just down it and then heading back to the beginning point. This strategy absolutely propelled me through to the last lap.
The victory lap – I took a deep breath and began my last and final loop so happy to be finally finishing. After reaching each aid station I thanked them for helping but more importantly encouraging me to continue on. It would not have been the same without such wonderful volunteers. As I came back down the long desolate road to the final quarter mile before the finish I turned to Randy and asked him to please ride up next to me so that we could finish together. His response was no, this was your race. My response to him was no, we’re going in together because we ran this together. This day was so much more meaningful and exciting for me because I had him by my side or rather at my back, all day. Happily, almost hand-in-hand, we crossed the finish line in 10:43:29!!
1 bottle SuperStarch 1 hour before race
3 bottles SuperStarch throughout the entire race
3 bottles Water throughout the entire race
2 electrolyte tablets every hour up to mile 40 & then 3 tablets per hour until the end.
3 ½ g protein/hr
510 mg sodium
11 oz. fluid/hr