What is this story about? Getting to the finish line is difficult, but if you do, it feels good.
If I tell people that I ran 50 miles last weekend, they say they are amazed, but actually, they have no idea what running 50 miles could be like. It is inconceivable. That I am able to do it is inconceivable to me.
So, part of my brain thinks that 50 miles is easy and that part of my brain signs up for a race thinking it will be fun. Then, another part of my brain kicks in and says, \”well the race is in so many weeks. We need to get on the training.\” And I do get on the training because I like running. And if I am lucky, I don\’t overdo the training and I don\’t hurt myself. Then, several days before the race, a sense of dread sets in. The logical part of my brain speaks up, \”Why have I signed up for this race. It will hurt and I might not finish.\” And the logical part of my brain tries to come up with some really good reason for not going to the race. Or maybe no reason, just don\’t go. \”You are 62 years old, what makes you think you can run 50 miles. Forget it. You could really hurt yourself and have to quit. Wouldn\’t it be nicer to stick around home and have a nice 10 mile run in the forest?\” Since most races involve an effort of travel and picking hotels, food for the journey, planning nutrition for during the race, and preventive measures like taping, and shoe choice, just getting to the start line is a major undertaking. So many hurdles beyond the training.
Just that many hurdles came up with the Aslinger Endurance run which took place last weekend. Throw in there a mid-week COVID shot, and I had an excuse. I would tell myself, and everyone else, that I didn\’t go because of the COVID shot. There. Face saved. No need to stress myself out with a long drive and a run all night. Don\’t worry about how your feet will feel, just don\’t go. So, there. Many mental hurdles to overcome.
Hard things involve doing what some part of the brain doesn\’t want to do. A step-by-step process got underway. I needed to go to the store to buy food for the journey. I needed to haul my little wagon out of the basement and pile the necessary stuff in it. I also lollygagged and took it easy, resting my legs. I wrote in my journal, asking myself: Why are you doing this? Why would you want to do this?\” I remembered a race in 2019 where I did 50 miles and remembered how amazing I felt as I finished.
I also backstopped myself. I set off several foggers in the house so I knew I couldn\’t come back for at least a day. And off I went on my 5-hour drive.
I made it to the site.
I set up my personal aid station. The wagon is filled with extra clothes, drinks and snacks.
The course was a 1.15 mile loop. 50.6 miles was 44 laps. You get a belt buckle if you go 50 miles. About 80 people were entered into the race.
At the start of most races, they play the national anthem. The men take off their hats. People put their hands over their hearts. On this day, I put my hand over my heart. 2020\’s numerous disasters flashed momentarily through my head and I became a survivor. Tears welled up in my eyes. This 62-year-old lady is still kicking. I ran so many virtual races. Finally, I am at a race in person and plan to run 50 miles.
The race starts at 7 pm. Now, for a 24-hour race, the point is that you stay on course for 24 hours. But I already know that I can\’t force myself to stay on my feet that long. Part of this has to do with poor nutrition execution and a lack of crew and painful feet. I am bad at eating during running so I bonk around 34 miles. I look at those snacks I bought just for this race and don\’t want any of them. So, for a 24-hour race like this, I just plan on taking a long break in the middle of the night when I retreat to a hotel to eat and rest and make any necessary repairs (if I had a crew, they would solve my problems for me). Then I come back to the race and complete the miles needed for 50. I don\’t try to do as many miles as possible like the race would seem to demand because I already know the results of completely trashing my body. I don\’t prefer to need weeks or months to recover from one race. So I go to a limit of health and well-being. This attitude is somewhat anti-ethos for ultra-running, but hey, I\’m 62 years old and still out there so let me manage my body as works for me.
This particular race was projected to have clear weather, though a bit chilly in the night. We start off at 7 pm. I begin with my easy pace of 5 miles per hour. I figure that I will run like that for about 14 miles, then add in walk breaks and quit sometime after mid-night with more than 20 miles. Then the next day there would be plenty of time to finish off the rest of the 50 miles before the race ended. My feet started to hurt sooner than I thought they should. I began to think that I had made a mistake with my shoes. I fought with the idea of canceling Saturday night\’s hotel reservation, finishing 26 miles on Friday night, collecting a medal for a marathon, and going home on Saturday morning. See? I\’m trying to escape, to quit. But somehow, I never got the energy to pull out my phone and cancel Saturday\’s hotel. As 11:59 pm passed by, I realized that I was going to have to pay for the hotel anyway so I would for sure need to come back to the race on Saturday. Backstopped by a hotel reservation.
I left the race a little after midnight with 23 miles. That left 27 miles to finish on Saturday. No biggie. But not all was great with my body. The 23 miles had been more painful than I thought they should have been. In the night, I ran in two long sleeve shirts and a fleece, but I must have been more chilled than I realized. After I got into my hotel room, I ate and cleaned up. I decided to switch shoes for the next day. I planned to just go to the race and lazily walk around if I felt bad until at least check-in time for the next hotel (the next hotel was 90 minutes drive up the road. I knew I didn\’t want to drive all the way home after the race but just far enough to get near a city where the hotels were nicer). After I got in bed, I began shivering uncontrollably. My heart was racing like my metabolism was working hard on fixing my chemistry. What was happening? Well, nothing really. I drank more water. Read my book. Put in earplugs because the hotel was noisy even at 2 am.
I got up at 7. I drank coffee. Ate a large peanut butter and butter sandwich. Packed up my stuff and went back to the race. The sun was out. I felt good. The shoes felt good. I set my Garmin for 3 minutes jog x 2 minutes walk. I really felt good. My feet weren\’t hurting at all. Even with a terrible night in the hotel, my body had healed itself. And so a very uneventful but glorious day unfolded. I actually was in a sort of zone. My feet never really hurt. I stayed enough ahead on nutrition that I didn\’t bonk. The miles passed easily. This is why I do these races, this zone feeling. Soon I was on the last lap. I rejoiced, \”Hey, look, I did it. I met my goal!\” All those tons of quitter thoughts had been refused. Here I was, finishing my race.
I packed up my stuff. I gave the race director a hug (my first mask-less hug in a year but who gives a shit about masks when they just ran 50 miles) and collected my belt buckle. The actual running time was 11 hours and 15 minutes (damn that\’s fast). Elapsed time was 21 hours.
I look like a little kid. My dream came true. This little old lady is still out there.