That Turned Into A Marathon
That Turned Into A 50k
That Turned Into A _ _ _ _ _ _ _
I don’t know much about recovery times of running long distance, and I don’t claim to. I think with an uber healthy diet of mostly raw whole foods, we heal faster and are generally most efficient mentally and physically, but who knows. Nonetheless, a day after the KC Marathon I was not sore therefore tempting me to do something else insane. I was now VERY curious about our bodies and how far we could push things; how much further I could go. So, two weeks after the KC Marathon, I decided I would run the Blue Springs 50/50. It included a marathon as well as a half, a 50k and a 50 miler. I decided to possibly run the 50k after some debate, it being 32 miles, 6 miles more than a marathon, but only if I had time. If I had time you ask?
It was Halloween and my brother had invited me to attend the Chiefs game with him. If I started the race at the early time of 6am, than I may be able to make it in time, assuming I did the standard marathon, all depending on my speed. I decided the night before that I was not willing to do a race whilst being pushed in time to make a game. So I planned on going to a friend’s house whom lived in Blue Springs instead and running the 50k. Even if the 50k took an 2 hours more than a marathon, I’d still catch the second half of the game. The fact that I was still concerned about my achilles tendinitis kept me from really considering doing this race until a couple days prior anyways. But it was very inexpensive, on a bike trail, and I felt compelled to see what I could do.
Let’s just say I missed more than the game.
I stayed at my parents house as to be able to sleep more and drive less, them living near the race. Ironically, I could not find the place of the race start, so I arrived later than the early start. I almost gave up and drove back, assuming I’d miss the early start and start late, missing the game. Yeah, the game again. Funny enough I don’t really care if I miss a game. My error was in my accepting invitations, turning down one, and feeling obligated not to turn down the second.
I finally found the place. There was about 20 people there and it was chilly. I was ready to run, having awakened early to have some oatmeal and then the chia and some fruit. I packed a bag of bananas, Gatorade, the headlamp, my VFF Bikilas and my new cyborg-esqe Garmin Forerunner 405; I was ready. I bought the Garmin in finding it on sale for half price and knowing in the future if I would do the long long distances, I’d maybe have to monitor my calories a bit as well as some other things and I really didn’t want to have to rely on anyone else. I also had on my Halloween Jack-O-Lantern shirt on I picked out of a box at registration the previous night.
I put my bag down in a place under the shelter and looked to start. It was pitch black in the direction we were to run. People were moving around nonchalantly. I was late for the early start and I didn’t wanna ask if I could start in between. I could wait til the 7am start and forfeit the Chiefs game idea. I was gonna run the 50k and was NOT gonna rush or have some football game on mind. I run as a meditation, and my intentions were to focus on each step.
Right then a guy I had run-talked to during the KC Marathon reintroduced himself to me. He was still curious about the VFF Bikila’s I had on in both races. As we talked, he had planned on starting the race early as well. Only a few had left before then. He found the director and we were allowed to start together alone. We got our headlamps and flashlights ready. I brought both since I was noob. And the director just said “ok go!”. So we took off into the abyss.
As we chatted those first miles, I realized we were moving pretty briskly and eventually I wished him fun and slowed down. The last thing I would do is let someone else dictate my pace, especially when I was planning on running longer than ever before. He ended up winning the race nearly 5 hours earlier than I. And then, like most of the race, I was left alone.
The Lonely Path
Advice: it probably isn’t wise to run run an ultramarathon alone on your first attempt. Or so I’ve heard. The reason? Because time stops. No one is there to help you through the tough times. If you lose motivation to continue, no one can root you on. You do not have much to look forward to. The camaraderie is gone. It is just you and your action. Nothing more and nothing less. Occasionally I would see another person running, or biking since so few were doing the longer distances. I would friendly chat with those at the rest stations, which totalled 3: the main middle hub, the end of the north leg and end of the south leg on a crushed stone bike trail. You would think running up and back a few times would encourage the chance of seeing others. Well, it didn’t. And that is just the way I like it: me vs me.
Following the half-marathoners, which was a couple hours, you did not have many people running at all. There were some families and such at the main hub, people having a BBQ and gettin their drink on. Even some kids playing catch with the football, which I gladly joined in near mile 22. After that, however, I barely saw anyone for the rest of the race.
The first marathon or so of the race was easy. I don’t know if it was due to the fact I knew I would go further or not. I remembered back when I started to run, a year prior, when that one day I convinced myself to run way more than usual, knowing I wouldn’t do it, but to see how much I would do. This was similar.
A Friendly Wind
The weather was weird. It started chilly, enough for me to wear gloves and 3 t-shirts. As the sun came up, it raised to near 60 for literally like 20 minutes. The rest of the day was overcast, with a strong cold wind blowing, temp dropped to upper 40’s I’d think. The wind didn’t chafe my face, but I thought the constant light coldness of my body would induce chaffing. Thanks to vasoline-ing my inner legs every hub stop, this was a no. It blew enough that I wondered how much it could slow a runner down in longer distances. It was one of my only friends in this journey. Well, maybe not a friend, but at least something that kept me company.
Is That A Banana In My Pocket?
The entire race was done slower than my usual pace on purpose, til the end that is. I didn’t know what to expect, so I took my sweet time. At every rest stop, I’d stop and drink whatever cool-aid (what I call sports drinks) they had and the same amount in water. If they had any fruit, I’d have some of that. I took some salt tablets to test them a couple times, based on others suggestions. Don’t know if they worked. I’d eat mostly bananas at the main hub. On the run, I’d eat a small portion of some energy bars I bought. I think I had two or three total. And perhaps 10 bananas throughout the day. Some of the run I’d have a banana in my pocket, with the banana in my pocket joke constantly going through my head. At one of the last rest stations I went to on the north leg, another runner saw me eating one and he asked “Bananas? Really? Is that it?” and I replied “pretty much”.
As I continued to the final turn around sign for the 50k, I did a systems check. I was tired but felt fine.My upper leg still hurt a bit since around mile 13, only from lifting the leg, probably due to not running much in months. My feet were worn but felt pretty good in those Bikilas, my new best friends for long distances for now. I was still smiling and I was not ready to stop. Eff it, I passed the turn around sign and yelled “TAKE A SEAT SIGN!”. I was not done for the day, I had 18 more miles to go. Did I have any idea what I was doing? Of course not! But I do know one thing, I’m good at paying attention to each step.
The Lonely Path Part II: Time Standing Still
After the buzz of the insane left me, time slowed to a crawl. I enjoyed the beep of my Garmin every mile, letting me know I hadn’t completely zoned out, but it was running out of batteries. I had started to do long walks, alternating with runs. I didn’t have any structure to it, I would just walk for a while, maybe a mile or two, then get back into jogging. I was past 8 hours then. Time was going backwards for me. Every mile seemed like an hour. I was not thinking much, if at all, just concentrating on every step. I was the zen master. I was all alone in nature, choosing to move. I was far over the idea of stopping. I’ve never known that feeling of time before or since of that moment. The feeling of that stillness in action. My perception slowing to the point of it extending clock time. It was simply beautiful.
As I continued, it became harder and harder to continue running after the walking. When I made it to the last water station of my race, I bid the volunteers farewell after they took down my number, apologized for taking so long, and thanked them for waiting for me and helping out, hearing the end of the Chiefs game on their radio as I continued. Their race was over. I still had to make it back to the start and then come back this route again, only the last leg is slightly shorter, ending with a 50 mile turnaround sign and no one to write down my number. No one to prove I ran the remaining way. And with that I started walking back to home base. I would run again I’m sure. But when I would try and lift my legs, they wouldn’t lift. Such a seemingly easy task had become nearly impossible. This was not the wall, this was all out exhaustion.
The Guinness Book of Worlds Record For Peeing.
It may have been induced by the cold. It may have been due to the salt tablets I took, or any combination of it all. So you all know, there is alot of peeing that goes on at an ultra it seems. There are no johnny’s anywhere, so one has to go when they gotta go. Girl or guy, at least there were trees. As for Mr. Number 2, there was a bathroom at the main station, which I readily used early in the race, for my first time, in a race. But that wasn’t the highlight of the day. The highlight was the fact that, although I cannot be exact, I had to have pee’d near 100 times that day. It wasn’t all at first, but after mile 30, I swear I would pee every mile. And often up to 3 times. It was unbelievable! It was never ending! And it was crystal clear. Sure I was drinking alot of water, but this was craziness. I wasn’t drinking THAT much. I don’t know what the world record is for amount of times peeing in half a day, but man, I had to be close. At one point I was trying to pee while running, doing a kind of sidestep skip. Massive fail with the wind. I wondered about just peeing on myself at one point since I heard others did that. I figured it would be fun. I only accidentally did once a little bit, which I started hysterically laughed for minutes afterwards. Call Guinness!
As I made it back to the hub, I had one more leg of the race, maybe 7 miles. I was still moving through time in a zone. There were not many people left at all anywhere, besides some couples on a walk and some bikers. There were a few groups of people at the shelter. I hadn’t seen more than maybe 3 runners from the race in hours and they were finishing. I had 7 more miles to go. But my time was up.
The race had a limit of 11 hours. I was at about 10. And the last leg I ran at 2 hours and 25 minutes and slowing. My body was worn. I was mentally and physically exhausted. I asked the race director if it was ok if I finished. I told him I understood I would not make it in an hour, and that they could leave if they want, I’d get my time when I finished if they didn’t disqualify me. Lou Joline, the race director, smiled and told me to go ahead. He’d be there when I returned. And with that I was in major appreciation at that gesture. So I told him I would run at least half of the remaining leg without stopping. Why on earth would I say that?
The Last Leg, the Sign, the Tears, and the Fastest I Had Ever Run
So I had a person waiting on me now. I had missed the Chiefs game, both going and watching, missed going out on Halloween weekend, decided to run to the end of the world, alone, and now I had someone waiting on only me to end his perhaps exhausting day. Or night. The sun was now heading to the set mode. I wanted to finish this before nightfall. And I had wondered if we were capable of pulling some kind of crazy energy out at the end of things, so now I had a test ground. Right?
I started the long walk. After about 200 yards, I tried to walk briskly. Without me even knowing it, I was lightly running. So like that, I was running again. And with that, I decided I would run the entire way. And faster than I had run all day.
The speed I was going was unreal, like I woke up from a long dream. I simply couldn’t believe it, and I didn’t think that they would either. I mean, although I wasn’t going THAT fast, it was still faster than I had ever gone in any long distance race. So how in the hell would I be able to prove it to anyone after going so slow before hand? I needed a sign.
The breathing was increasing and my blood was pumping. I was coming to the half way point; my turnaround. And the proof of my feat. I grabbed the 50 mile sign and pulled it out of the ground with a WOOOOOOOOOO! It was time to head back and finish this with my new friend!
I continued, not missing a stride. I had less than 3 miles and I started to think of how the end was near. I imagined the finish area and me getting to the time desk. I wondered what it would be like to stop. What happened after was something that hadn’t happened in a long time: I started to tear up; to cry. I don’t know why. It felt like an energy that needed to get out and it triggered hard. As the tears came down, I had slowed down, wanting to stop a while to get it all out. Instead I wiped my face with the hand not holding the sign, and kept on. It was near…
With half a mile left or so, I came around a bend and a Spanish accented lady that had been at the main hub all day had come out on the trail to greet me. She started waiving at me when I was in sight. This was almost too much for me to handle. I felt the tears coming even harder this time. I was overwhelmed. I thought it so nice of her to come and greet me this early, especially her not knowing I’d be running the entire way. This was one of the more touching moments of my entire life, due to the circumstances. So I did the only thing I knew to do at that point, I wiped my eyes and sped up.
Beautiful Friend, the End
I ran by her, apologizing because I felt like I couldn’t stop. The finish was near and I had such a surge of energy I might as well been in a sprint. Although I felt bad for passing her, I yelled at the top of my lungs “WOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”, so loud it echoed throughout the area and the lady yelled back. I was so overjoyed being there I did this over and over, yelling for the echo, getting to a near full sprint for the final 200 yards, like a steam train arriving at the destination. I could see the finish shelter. I was there. I was at the end.
I stopped. Dropped the 50 mile sign, telling Lou I didn’t want them thinking I had cheated. I wish I would have kept that sign, on retrospect, or at least taken a picture. Lou handed me the finisher award, and offered me a beer before he and another gentleman packed up and headed out. That nice lady arrived as well, running right behind me, with a big smile on her face!
I was beat. But I had won against myself. It was time to go. I was out of it enough that I nearly ruined the finishers award I received. It was a light switch cover with some paper over it with the name of the race on it. I, for some reason, thought it was a wrapping so I tore it open. Luckily I didn’t tear the entire thing off before realizing that. I started laughing hard as I walked back to my truck, amazed I could even laugh at that time.
Trick or Treat Anyone?
The drive back to my parents was riddled with peace. As it was dark now, I relished the fact I had run from the morning dawn to dusk. The sunrise and the sunset in one run is indescribable. 50 miles in a bit under 12 hours. That was 7 hours longer than I had ever run before. I wanted to turn on the radio, but instead opened the window for some more wind on my face. After 12 hours of it, our friendship had blossomed. We had shared Halloween together and now I was seeing trick or treaters in my parents neighborhood as I drove to their house. I still had my jack-o-lantern shirt on. I wondered if I had enough energy to go trick or treating myself.
And then I realized: maybe that was exactly what I had already done.
From Never Running To An Ultramarathon In A Year
Part 1: It All Started…
Part 2: Injuries!
Part 3: The Wall.
Part 4: The Marathon
Part 5: Putting On My New Feet
Part 6: The Alligator That Smiled At Me
Part 7: The Book That Plants
Part 8: First Barefoot Race
Part 9: Running Forever in the Park
Part 10: The Short Race Report
Part 11: Kansas City, Gonna Get My Baby Back Home
Part 12: The Return of the Long Lost Runs (no toilet humor please)
Part 13: Dorothy, We Are In Kansas Anymore
Part 14: Worn
Part 15: Valet = Achilles Tendinitis = No more running this year, well…
Part 16: Marathon Decisions: Screw It
Part 17: 9.5 Months After Losing Da Shoes: The Kansas City Marathon
Part 18: ULTRANESSSAUCISM: