Get comfortable, it’s a doozy!
So there I was, falling apart at the Mile 40 pit stop. The crew lept into action and within minutes had me on the mental mend. Liz gave me a huge hug as I said to her, through tears, “just tell me it will be ok. I always believe you when you say it will be ok”. In her most reassuring “everything will be ok” speech to date, she rallied my spirit and topped it off with an interpretive dance that had me in giggles. I sat down to roll out the glutes and was laughing through tears as everyone took turns making me smile/telling me how close I was and that I was definitely going to make it. Laur was at her most serious and told me in no uncertain terms that I was going to have to eat something. I was starting my battle with nausea (which was ameliorated through the occasional ginger candy, worked wonders!), which would last the remainder of the run and is not uncommon in ultras, and did not want anything. I had prepared Laur for this and she rose to the occasion beautifully, gently but firmly letting me know that I had to keep eating. Instead of saying “do you want something?”, she would say “do you want a GU or animal crackers?”, etc. We bargained for the rest of the run – she would let me put off eating or drinking, but not for long. Anyway, I was rolling out my hammies at this stop and looking longingly at this beautiful stand of spruce trees. All I could think was that I wanted to take a nap under them. But the nap would have to wait, because this was the Kashi Classic 50-miler, not 40 miler! I summoned my strength and stood up. The crew sensed that I really needed them and a whole pack of us started running, save for Liz and GD, who had to man the two support cars. We started running and everyone was chatting away. I was definitely too tired to really participate, but I remember listening to Carrie and Scott talk about tris and Laur and Melis making idle chit-chat. At this point, I decided to employ a game Laur and I always play on roadtrips where one person asks a question and the rest answer. So I asked and they answered: what was your favorite race? when was your first kiss? We learned that Melissa was the early bloomer of the group but that we all had pretty rough first kisses, lol. Carrie also spent these miles using props for my entertainment; including a shopping cart and a traffic cone that doubled as a megaphone (Laur was jealous) as well as carrying a handful of Twizzlers just in case I wanted one.
It was also at this point that I started feeling pains that I have never experienced before while running – there was the normal long run muscle aches and sore feet, but I also started to notice that I was getting some tingling in various body parts and my skin hurt to the touch. We made our way through Rio Grande and got onto Seashore Road, which was really exciting because I was now on very familiar ground. I had been running these roads over (and over) the last 6 months thinking about this day and it was one of those trippy “whoa, this is actually happening” moments. I started mentally checking off the cross streets as we passed them – Breakwater, Tabernacle, Academy, Townbank. I pointed out a few favorite trees and concentrated on the next big check – crossing the canal and getting on Cape Island.
I decided to skip the Mile 45 pit stop because it was getting to the point that I knew if I stopped, even for a few minutes, it would not be easy to start again. The runners out there can surely identify with that feeling of just wanting to get to a finish line and not let anything delay that! It was here that GD joined us – this was such a welcome addition because I absolutely adore running with my husband. It does not happen often, but when it does, it’s like the two loves of my life are in sync and it feels… well, it feels like if I died right then, there would not be a happier way for me to go. The boost of him joining us gave me the energy to run up the West Cape May bridge. I had originally planned to walk it, but I hate walking and especially hate walking bridges! At the base, Laur forced some Nuun in me. With 4 miles to go, I knew I had enough in the bank to refuse food and be ok and she knew that too. But she wanted to keep me hydrated, so Nuun it was! We came into West Cape May and our friends Sam and Tom drove past us and blasted “Eye of the Tiger”. I wanted to thank them, but the time for words had passed.
We turned on Fourth and were heading west to home! This was a long straightaway on a quiet road where we could all spread out. Carrie yelled to everyone we passed (ie strangers enjoying an evening BBQ) that I was at the tail end of a 50 miler and I appreciated their confused cheers, lol (“Wow, that’s great? Way to go?”). We crossed over to Stevens Street and were getting close enough to taste it, less than 2 miles. We passed Michael and Louise’s house, and they cheered their cute little tails off too. I was in a lot of pain (I had to take Garmy off because it hurt to have anything on my skin and he also seemed to be making my fingers tingle) but it was starting to hit me that I was actually going to make it. This was a welcome thought, but did not do much to erase the pain.
Crossed over to Seagrove and made that last left onto Lighthouse Ave. Words cannot describe the feelings washing over me, but this is a blog and words are the point, so I will try 🙂 Setting and reaching a goal is something that is written into my DNA. I find it immensely satisfying and it is a defining characteristic of my personality. Things like checking off chores on a to-do list bring me the warm fuzzies, so you can imagine how good it felt to reach this one. I loved having that last mile to really soak it all up – the fact that GD was still running by my side (he had run longer than he thought he would too!), and having people I love so much around me just meant the absolute world to me. Is there really anything better in life than loving people? No, there is not, unless you are running while loving them. I thought I was going to explode from happiness, pain, or both. I have never felt anything like it.
The lighthouse came into view, beckoning me home, and I obliged. Gave one last push and we all ran it in! In a beautiful topper to her amazing day of signs, Laur had also made a finish line for me to run through. Most of us were running so there was no one to take pics, but here is what it looked like later:
The crew let me run through it alone and then I touched the SP sign as the official end (I always need to touch something to signify a turnaround point or ending point, weird runner thing), immediately bent over and cried. 10 hours and 38 minutes had elapsed since I had taken my first step and it was hard to comprehend that it was over and had gone so well.
The crew gave me a moment alone to process it, which I deeply appreciated. When my eyes reopened to a world where I had run 50 miles, I just wanted hugs:
I was high on the victory of completing the run and we all agreed a walk to the ocean was in order. This went smashingly well until the pain set in:
We went back to our house and I began the slow recovery from this longest of long runs. My legs were screaming and would not be soothed for hours. No matter, though, I was so enjoying relaxing with everyone. People slowly started heading home but Laur, Scott, GD, Lizzy, Sam and I all ordered Chinese (well, Sam tried to order Chinese, but we forgot to place his! He scavenged off everyone else’s orders and filled his belly just the same). Usually after a long run, my appetite is nil, but I was ravenous and would remain that way for the next 48 hours. I laid in bed that night with pulsing legs and sleep did not come easy. I woke early the next day, relieved that the worse pain had passed and proceeded to eat more food than I think I ever have in one day without feeling full or sick. I rode the wave of contentment for days after.
A Month Later
I took a full week off after the run and my body recovered well (I was a little more tired than usual for that week, but my muscles quickly felt like themselves, within 2 or so days). This was the longest break I’d had since 2011. Amazingly, I had not missed a single run in 6 months (I have to be near death to skip a run when I am training for something and I had made this a priority so there were no dealbreaker conflicts) so rest was in order! The laidback approach to running has stayed with me since the break. I have gained a few pounds, stayed up later than usual, and have run anywhere from 16-25 miles/week since I have been back at it. I expect this relaxed version of Kashi to last until the end of next month, when I start gearing up for the Philly Marathon, where I hope to cozy up to a new PR.
The question I get asked most often (after “why would you do such a thing??”) is “what’s next?”. Well, part of the motivation for this race was to push my body and find its upper limit. Though it did hurt, I did not hit the ceiling just yet and so I will likely try for a 100-miler one day. Not any day soon, but one day. And when I do, I will take with me the memories and joy that this ran brought me and crash right through the next wall with them as my lance.
Thank you to everyone who supported me on this run. My amazing in-person crew: GD, Laur, Scott, Lizzy, Mom, Dad, Melissa, Kat, Carrie and Lisa. And to all the wonderful friends who emailed, called and facebooked words of encouragement, especially Becks and Meg.
The creative people who did things like send me pics of their babies dressed like this:
Or had their kindergarten class do a before/after of the run:
You are all the kind of people that we think only exist in movies and in books and I really, truly could not have done it without every single one of you. Thank you.
Run on, friends!