Around Mile 16 or 17 we stopped at Wawa (all told, I think there were 4 Wawas that I passed that day, plus the one we went to before the run!) for a pit stop. The day was starting to heat up and GD immediately started wiping me down with cold Wet Ones, which felt heavenly. I went inside to use the facilities, but as the norm on a Saturday morning there was a long ladies line. Ack! So I ran out back, dodged the truckers and used the woods (surprisingly, no line!). I went back to crew and ate the rest of the animal crackers. Kat had now run about 8 miles, so she swapped out with Scott, who was ready to take on the next section with me. When designing the course, I knew this next stretch was going to be mentally challenging. It was on 347/47, a pretty boring road that has a lot of traffic. Not the most exciting eye candy! Scott knew this, and had a whole list of interesting topics in his arsenal to yammer on about. I was hot and a little tired here, so I asked him to talk while I mostly listened. I asked that he give me a super detailed verbal race report of his half Ironman from a few weeks before, which was fascinating (I love RRs). The miles clicked off, but slowly.
The day continued to heat up and I started flagging mentally. This section was not getting any easier – there was no shade and the glorious wind we enjoyed earlier was blocked. We chugged along and Scott told me about the cool books he was reading, including ones about the similarities in human and bonobo sexual relations. This worked great in distracting me! Miles 21-24 were particularly tough and would be some of the roughest of the day. I reminded myself that mental dips are just part of the game and all you can do is tough them out and not give in to the feelings so they don’t overwhelm you. This is where having a science background comes in handy. I was able to kind of pull myself out of the situation and feel as though I was observing these feelings in someone else, like in a research study. So instead of focusing on “oh my god, i have already run 20 miles and have 30 to go!!! That means not even halfway, I’ll never make it!!!” I was instead thinking, “The research subject appears to be grappling with negative thoughts. This is expected and normal in all other test subjects. How she deals with them is what is currently unknown.” I felt fine physically, even better than I thought I would at this point, which was comforting. We carried on.
Hitting the halfway mark at Mile 25 was just the mental boost I needed to get back to a good place! It was so exciting knowing that I had just completed a near marathon and was about to start a second. There is something about running ridiculous distances that is just so appealing to me, who has theories on why people like me do this sort of thing? As I have quoted before, “it doesn’t have to be fun to be fun”! At this point, I scarfed down a mini-bagel with honey and a honey stinger waffle. I did not dwaddle too long because the skeeters were making their presence known, but they did not seem to bother me as I ran, so I was anxious to move on. I swapped out my Garmy for lil sis’ PMG (Prince Micheal Garmy) since I knew my watch would not make it the whole way on one battery charge and off we went… well, tried to go off that is. We were still in technologically challenged Cumberland County and PMG was having a hard time locking into satellites. We waited and waited – finally Scott gave us his Garmy and we starting running. Lil sis had hopped in with me and it was so great to have her by my side. I asked her to catch me up on her life since she had a lot going on – getting into grad school, work drama and recent dates with a very promising Mr. O.! Around Mile 28 we stopped at another Wawa where I peed for the first time in an actual bathroom and had some watermelon with salt on it. I had read about this on other ultrarunner’s food lists and it was as delicious, refreshing and easy to digest as promised! Soon after, I hit another slump. This one was different than earlier – instead of it just feeling like a crisis of confidence, I was feeling some signs of early bonking. I could still think clearly, but it was hard to talk. I asked Laur to run ahead of me so I could just look at her calves as we ran (I have mentioned this elsewhere, but not on the blog. When I need to concentrate or hit a rough patch while running, I find it helpful to watch another runner’s calves running in front of me. Who knows why, but it is like a graphic mantra that I can just hold onto and ride through the hard times).
Laur swapped out with Melissa and told her I was having some tough times and that I needed people to talk to me, but could not easily talk back. Melissa is a seasoned runner who knew exactly what to do in this situation – she kept very calm, did not bombard me with “are you ok??” questions and stares and instead just acted like we were on a regular training run. She and her adorable husband Will are about to move cross country, so she had all sorts of interesting and fun updates on that front. Between her tales of pending adventure and getting off Rt 47 and onto a rural, shaded road with access to wind, I started to feel human again and was able to talk more. We saw the crew and since Laur had informed them I was feeling a little rough, they were ready for action! Scott had the ingenious idea of loading his iPod with photos of cute baby animals to make me laugh – there were bunnies in teacups, kittens and picture of his dog Monkey (who was an official crew member and was in the car!) as a puppy. Oh my lord, so cute!! See:
They sat me down, pumped me full of honey and GU and within minutes I was feeling really, really good! Melissa and I took off and I felt fresh as a daisy!
This was an intense stretch as my emotions ran the gamut. At Mile 35, I felt insanely good. Like, scary good! We were in Cape May Court House and I started thinking “15 miles? That is nothing! I could do that in my sleep!” and feeling confident that I was really going to finish this puppy. Even if I started feeling absolutely terrible, I thought I could mentally hold up for 15 miles. This was an incredible sensation!
At this point, Melissa decided to keep on going (another rock star friend who ran wayyy longer than planned- 20 miles instead of the 11 she thought she’d do) and Lizzy joined us. This made me heart happy as Liz has been a great friend to me since our college days and having her by my side just makes me feel like everything will be ok. It was even more awesome because she is not a runner – she’s more the dancer/yoga type – and it meant the world to me that she would bang out a mile with a smile on her face. Next we were joined by Carrie. Carrie is a friend from OC, who along with her wife Lisa, is and always will be my running/tri idols. They are crazy fast but also the most generous, giving athletes I know. Case in point – when I was doing tris, I never bothered learning how to change a flat tire because I could always rely on these two to rescue me! They are both hilarious and manage to balance that with being intense competitors. They are my heroes. Carrie immediately began cracking wise and would do so for the next 15 miles (her stamina in mileage and personality is unmatched!). Lisa gave me positive encouragement and told me to stop talking! I shut up for a few miles, but that kind of thing never lasts with me, lol. I was feeling good until about mile 38 and then… not so good. No particular reason, I was just getting tired. The furthest I had ever run prior to this day was 31.85 miles and was asking an awful lot of my body. Where 15 miles had sounded so short, 12 now sounded super long! I listened to the conversation going on around me and moved on. I came to the mile 40 pit stop, saw Liz and started crying. I have experienced this before on long runs – when I get super tired, it’s like the toddler in me comes out and I react with tears! So I knew it was fairly normal for me, but my crew had last seen me at mile 35 feeling on top of the world and were probably not expecting for me to be a mess just 5 short miles later! Liz gave me a huge hug, Scott whipped out the cute baby animal pics, Laur queued up the honey and GU and GD gave me ice water. This was the biggest challenge the crew faced yet – there were 10 miles to go and they had a runner in tears.
Stay tuned for the conclusion of the Kashi Classic! Will the crew be successful and will I make it? Well, I think we all know the answer to that one already, but do you know: Who surprised Kashi the most with their support run? Who on the crew had their first kiss at the earliest age? Who never got a meal because we forgot to place his order for the post-run feast? Come back soon to find out!