It was a big weekend for me, I completed my 10th marathon, my first on my own – truly on my own – and I also ran the longest I’ve ever run, a total of 28.5 miles as well as the longest time I’ve been on my feet – 6 hours. Whew, that’s a lot! And I did it all before most people even thought about what to have for lunch.
This is how my 10th marathon came and went.
- I signed up for a 6-hour ultra marathon, but I’m not considering it an ultra, to me I feel I need to run more than 28.5 miles to get credit for running an ultra. But in the 6-hours I was running I definitely ran 26.2 miles so that’s what I’m calling this race.
- This event was a good practice event because it caused me to think through a lot of items I’ll need to work out before the Fall 50. This includes making sure I bring along extra items such as socks and shoes (which I did need). It also gave me a better feel for how difficult it will be to eat during the Fall 50.
- Brian was out-of-town for the race and most of the week leading up to it, and while I missed him, it was nice having the house to myself before the race because it gave me the opportunity to obsess without being judged. And not that Brian judges me, but I felt I didn’t have to apologize or make any excuses for the fact that I started to lay out all of my race day items on Wednesday and had everything packed on Thursday and on Friday, I watched TV nervously while trying to tell myself, “it was just another training run”. And I did this all without having to explain myself to anyone or apologize for snapping his head off. Which is what I normally do when I’m nervous prior to a big race.
- But because Brian was out-of-town, I had a bit of extra anxiety to work through because I had no support crew. I was truly on my own. I was runner, support crew and cheerleader all rolled into one.
- Race morning started early; 3:30am first alarm, to be exact. When I finally got out of bed at 4am to feed Miles, we both looked at each other like… “dude, it’s fucking early, what are we doing awake?” After taking care of Miles, getting dressed, finishing up last-minute odds and ends, I was out the door and headed to the event.
- I got to the event about 20 minutes before the start and it looked like I was the last one to arrive. All other runners had their support bags laid out, were stretching and in general, ready to go. Compared to me pulling in and looking for a place to park. But I quickly laid out my items and tried to calm my nerves. As I was looking around the group of other runners, I felt very much like an outsider. Most of them knew each other from other ultra events and most had already done this event. I felt like I didn’t belong. But thankfully I didn’t have much time to obsess over it, because after a quick selfie and text to Brian and my sisters, re-adjusting my items on my blanket and a last-minute trip to the port pottie – we were on our way.
- The start wasn’t flashy, no National Anthem, cannon boom or other revelry, instead it was the organizer yelling, “go”!
- I purposely went to the very back of the pack and was the last runner to cross the start line. I figured that was where I belonged so I might as well start there. I wanted to run smart and run my own race and being in the back would help me not compare myself to others (too much).
- The race was on a 4.75 arboretum trail that looped around the UWGB campus. It has a lot of hills and the first two miles is a gradual uphill with some rolling hills thrown in for good measure. To be honest I hate this stretch of the trail. The gradual uphill will get you every time. I always run the loop clockwise as not to have to deal with the incline (running it clockwise I have shorter steeper hills to contend with compared to the gradual incline and rolling hills) but unfortunately this race was run counter-clockwise and I was dreading it.
- The first two miles were tough, as they always are for me running this section, so it’s not a good way to start a 6-hour run, mentally and physically tired and I had only just begun.
- I did not run with any music during the first loop, instead I tried to enjoy the moment and enjoy nature as best I good. I wanted to save my music for later when I would need it more and I consciously wanted to enjoy the run, enjoy what I was doing, and enjoy my environment. And I think I did a pretty good job. While I run this trail a lot, so the sights and sounds weren’t new to me, I can always find something to appreciate. Like the lone deer I found in a clearing about 40 yards away staring at all of us as we ran past. Or the birds, including cardinals, that were just starting to get active in the morning in the tree canopy and the many little critters that scurried out-of-site when I got near.
- When I completed the first loop I saw a gentleman who laid out his gear next to mine and who I had briefly chatted with prior to the race. He obviously had been there for some time as he had changed shirts and made some other changes to his gear. When he saw me, he said… “oh good, you made it in”. Which was both sweet and alarming. I thought it was sweet that he was looking for me but it was quite alarming that he thought I might not make it in. It was only 4.75… why wouldn’t I make it in?
- I was less than 1 mile into my second loop when I saw a group of incredibly fit looking guys breeze past me and one even gave me some words of encouragement. And as I thanked them, the realization that I just got lapped in less than 5.5 miles made me crazy. I even called out to them… “holy crap, I got lapped already?!?!” To which they replied… much to my delight, no they weren’t part of the race they were just running recreationally. WHEW! Side note: I think they felt badly for making people feel less than worthy as they blew past us all because during my next loop I saw them coming at me. They had obviously reversed the direction they were running, as maybe a way to show they weren’t part of the race.
- But I did officially get lapped at 8.55 miles. And I was okay with that. Really, I was. I know I’m just as surprised as you.
- Per my Coach’s instructions I walked a lot during the race. I had walk intervals built into my run and I also walked the hills. Even though I was incorporating walk breaks, it was still not easy. Having just run a marathon 13 days earlier, my body was not used to this type of back-to-back distance running. Some point during lap two I started to realize how hard this was and how much more I had to run. But I had an inspirational message I had looked at all week that said, “What if I can do this?” Well, for the race I even condensed that more and I had myself a four word mantra – “I CAN DO THIS!” Every time I started getting tired, I would say, “I can do this! Surprisingly it worked. I’m not sure it will work for me during all tough runs, but it did its job on Saturday.
- And while it was a tough race and I was playing games with myself to get through it, it wasn’t the race itself that was so tough, for me it was the fact that this was my second marathon within 2-weeks. The first truly hot, sunny run of the season and a hilly course that I had not trained for properly. If I were to train just for this race, I feel I would have had a different mindset and would have kicked butt! But that wasn’t the case, I hadn’t trained specifically for this race, it was just another training run in my journey to the Fall 50.
- At the end of my second lap I realized I didn’t want this whole race to go by undocumented. You know me, I’m all about the photos opps and preserving the memories. So as I stopped at my gear bag for more supplies, I remembered I had my phone packed in the bag too. (And yes, I know it wasn’t smart to leave my cellphone unattended for 6 hours but I was going off of the thinking that everyone would be too tired to steal my phone and besides runners are by nature… a good group of people). So I got out my phone, took a selfie and texted it to Brian and my sisters. That simple little deed made me feel like I had a bit of connection to people and that I wasn’t doing this completely alone.
- Speaking of alone, this race was a major milestone for me as not only did I run it by myself, but I didn’t have one support person on-site or one Route Rocker cheering me on. It was the first time I had ever been truly alone and it was the longest race/run of my career up to this point. It was weird but strangely comforting. I needed to get this 6-hour run under my belt and I needed to get it done on my own. My husband had left me a great card and flowers before he left town, but other than that… it was me, myself and I doing the “race day” chant before sunrise, it was me creating my own inspirational sign (I taped it to the dash of my car) and it was only me having to figure out my support needs. Weird sensation. But I’m glad I did it.
- Loops 3 and 4 I broke out a podcast. I had started listening to a podcast called “Serial” and it takes listeners through an actual, true crime that was committed. The narrator was asked by the defendant to look at his case because he claims he is innocent. I’m new to not only podcasts but also to listening to them while I run. It’s a bit difficult to listen to podcasts while running because I can’t simply rewind if I miss something. So I noticed that listening while running on a busy street is really difficult because the car noise makes it too hard to hear the details, and with the podcast Serial, the details are what matter most. But listening to the podcast for two loops was a nice distraction.
- Another distraction was not being truthful about how much more I had to run. I’m going to spare you the “bad math” I used to trick myself into thinking I didn’t have much more to run. But just know that it worked and that I’m not really as bad at math as I lead my “runner self” to believe.
- At some point during those first few loops I developed horrible blisters. My shoes are just crap – yes I know I need new ones but that’s a separate post – and since I’ve run in them I’ve been plagued with blisters. I can normally deal with blisters pretty well but I could tell these weren’t normal blisters. I could feel the fluid in them building and building. I realized I needed to do something to prevent them from getting even worse because I thought if they pop and I run on raw skin, that would not be ideal. And since I obsessed about what to pack in my gear bag and had put in extra socks and shoes, I might as well change into them. So that’s what I did. Not before taking a picture of my blister and sending that to Brian and my sisters too.
- Loop 5 I switched back to music, the podcast was getting a bit too hard to follow and I didn’t want to miss anything so I decided to turn it off. And let’s just say that by now, I was pretty damn tired. The hills and sun were taking their toll. I had developed a bit of a vampire persona at this point and the sight of sun on the trail had me shrieking in horror. It’s amazing how much difference shade from the trees made and how dreadfully hot direct sun was on a runner who’s been running since 5am. I knew the sun was zapping me of my energy so I contemplated walking during the sunny parts of the trail. And while my “old-self” would never have allowed myself to puss out that much, my new… “I’m-training-smarter-self” realized it’s all about time on my feet and getting to the Fall 50 start line as healthy and ready as possible. It did not mean I had to kill myself because I can’t tolerate heat and sun. My coach wants me to take walk breaks, so a smart decision is to walk. So I did. But I was so afraid I wouldn’t start running again. The sun and fatigue had me ready for a hammock and pizza so if I allowed myself even more walk breaks, would I actually start running again or would I end up walking the whole thing?
- Well, much to my surprise and delight, I did start running again. I somehow had the mojo to get back at it. I guess this was my stubborn side coming out again. I wasn’t going to use walking as a way to cop-out, it’s a way to train smarter, not lazier!
- As the laps were being ticked off, I again had to tell myself… “I CAN DO THIS!” During the first few hours of my run, I often thought about all the things people do that are much harder and much more difficult than what I was doing. I thought about my sister’s friend who passed away earlier in the week, after losing her battle with cancer. And how, what she had dealt with the past few years was much harder than my little running around in circles. At that point I decided to run my last loop for Dalia… her strength was going to keep me going.
- As I was starting my last lap, the reality of how close I was to completing this run was hitting me and I was so excited but yet, I just wanted the damn thing done. And part of the lies I had told myself earlier was that I didn’t have to do a full lap, just get to the half way point and I’d be done. In reality, I knew I’d be running the whole lap, but the logical side of my brain was not in control at this point and I had the fatigued runner part of my brain looking forward to getting to the half-way point in the lap, or to the second aid station and then being done.
- But to get to that aid station I, once again, had to do the dreaded two-mile gradual incline section of the trail that I simply hate. I was very grateful when I arrived at Aid Station # 2 and when I got to flip my middle finger to those hated two miles.
- Being at the Second Aid station not only meant that I had finished the hated 2-mile incline but it also meant that I had officially run the equivalent of a marathon. I was so so happy at this point. That was truly my only goal. I wanted to run at least 26.2 miles.
- As I checked in at the Aid Station – to make sure I got credit for how far I ran – I asked the volunteers what the real-time was and that’s when I realized I had 30 minutes left before my 6 hours was up. I hadn’t really anticipated this, I – during all the lies I was telling myself – always thought I’d be done running when I got to 5.5 loops, but with 30 minutes to go, I knew I could complete my 6th and final loop. This both made me happy and extremely angry at the same time. When I thought I was done running, the last thing I wanted to do was run another two miles. But that’s what I was going to do. Onward, Maney… Onward!
- The last two miles were among the longest two miles and shortest two miles of my life. I was hot, I was tired, I was sore and I was done. Mentally and physically. But I just kept telling myself to keep moving forward, that “I CAN DO IT” and that it would all be over soon.
- I was now less than a mile from the finish and I was still listening to my music when, The Man by Aloe Blacc came on. This song very much reminds me of my husband’s Ironman journey and I loved the fact that I was going to finish this race to this song. It made me smile and it gave me a final distraction on the last half mile of my run.
- Not anticipating finishing the 6th loop, I wasn’t really thinking about my time or finishing under the allotted 6-hour mark. To me it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter, that is, until I came within a quarter-mile of finishing and a stranger ran past me and while offering me encouragement said, “you don’t want to miss the cutoff”. Oh crap… yeah the cutoff!
- I asked him what the real-time was and he told me we had 2 minutes left, to which I replied by picking up the pace a bit. As he exited the trees and could see the time clock he turned and yelled back to me… “ONE MINUTE”.
- Holy crap! Pick up the pace Maney!
- As I came out of the woods and could see the clock and the finish line ahead of me, heard the volunteers cheering for me, I was so overcome with emotion and as I crossed the finish line at 5 hours, 59 minutes and 20 seconds I raised my arms in celebration and I said…
- I DID IT!!!
Until next time,