The taper leading up to the Fall 50 was tough. And while a lot of people go through doubts and ups and downs during the taper, this was different. This was a full-blown war on not only my emotions but also my body. As I’ve already mentioned in another post, emotionally I was a wreck. The roller coaster of emotions I was on was one helluva ride…. up and down, up and down. And physically I too was going on a ride. Every little twinge or ache had me doing an internal scream that could rival any horror queen’s scream. But while I was worried about my body not holding up, my Needle PT, Massage Therapist and Chiropractor all said I was ready. But their support wasn’t enough to calm my nerves, not when I still had shin splints. My shin splints had been getting worse throughout training and were becoming more debilitating. This was no longer just a nuisance, this was full-blown pain that was capable of stopping me dead in my tracks. I couldn’t run through the pain and nothing I did seemed to help it go away. My very last run before the Fall 50 was on the Wednesday prior to the race and I was supposed to do an easy 3-mile run. That “easy” 3-mile run was one of the worst I’ve ever run. The shin splints were so bad I walked over half of the 3 miles. Here I am, a person who is supposed to be getting ready for an epic 50 mile run and I can’t even do 3 fricken miles. This was not good! Needless to say that horrible 3-mile run was not the last run and impression I wanted to have seared in my head leading into the Fall 50. To put it mildly, it freaked me the fuck out and RUINED any chance I had at being able to muster some confidence heading into the weekend. And to clarify, the Wednesday, 3-mile run with shin splints was not my only bad run heading into the Fall 50. Shin splints had caused almost all the October training runs and a lot in September also, to be quite painful too. I knew I was in for trouble when I was in my taper phase and was recovering for the big day, and the mileage I was running was less than I had run in months and months and yet my shin splints were not only not getting better, they were getting worse.
Beyond a few workouts the week of the race, I was also trying to get everything packed and planned as best I could. I hate packing. Even for a nice vacation, I simply hate packing. Probably because I’m such a huge over-packer and even though I over-pack, I still usually forget something. But in the case of the Fall 50, I couldn’t forget anything. And while I had to pack multiple clothing options, options for when something chaffed or rubbed the wrong way, I also had to have alternative clothing options for the f’d up weather that was predicted – the pressure to make sure I had everything was intense. Basically the weather for race day was “everything and the kitchen sink” . The meteorologists sure didn’t have to go out on a limb to predict any one specific weather pattern, instead they just predicted them all. How the hell do you pack for that? AND, let’s not forget my run was going to take me all day, which means it would be cool in the morning, then get warmer and then cool down again (plus I’d need items for after the run too). So I literally started packing on Monday and didn’t finish until Friday.
It will surprise no one when I tell you I obsessed about everything that last week. And this obsession made it damn near impossible to concentrate on anything else, especially my job. Thankfully I left work early on Thursday and had vacation on Friday because I was no longer capable of thinking about work. Friday morning rolled around and I wasn’t as nervous as I had anticipated. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to puke and I had more than one freak out moment, but yet I was somewhat calm. My family and friends that saw me on Friday may have a different take, but in my opinion I was doing better than I had expected.
So it was Friday morning, I was packed and ready to head to Door County.
Heading to Door County with me was Brian, Jolene, Ty and Jill. Having other people along made a big difference in helping to keep my internal anxiety from becoming external. We went to packet pick up and saw some more friends. Packet pick up for the Fall 50 is a small, somewhat mellow ordeal compared to large marathons. But because I had friends who were working at the packet pick up, it helped to make it a bit more exciting.
When I was at packet pick up, I made a conscious effort to look around the room and take it in. I also made a point to look at the other runners. I could not believe I was looking around the room and I was a solo runner. I was standing in a room full of people, some relay runners and some solo runners and I was one of those solo runners. I was “that” person. I was “that” runner. I don’t think I can adequately tell you how it felt to be “that” runner. I was going big. I had stepped up, set a goal, trained for it and I was less than 24 hours away from the start of this epic race. But how did I get here? I still don’t consider myself a runner. And I sure as hell knew the other runners in the room didn’t look at me and think… “oh yeah, she’s a “solo”. It was surreal to think I was a solo, even if I didn’t look the part or really feel any different. The internal turmoil between thinking, “I’m solo… I’m kind of a big deal” and “I’m such a poser, I don’t belong here” was just making my head spin. While I secretly wanted a big beam of light to come down from the sky and follow me around to proclaim that I was a solo runner, I also didn’t want people to know I was solo because I didn’t want them to laugh and say… “good luck with that”! I couldn’t decide if I was a big deal or not. The bi-polar aspect of the day was driving me insane.
After picking up my packet we then headed up north to our hotel. I asked Brian to drive the Fall 50 course so I could see it one last time before I had to run it. It was a beautiful fall day in Wisconsin and the course was so beautiful with its fall colors. I tried so hard to appreciate the beauty and take in all the little things. I knew running the Fall 50 wasn’t going to be easy so I was going to have to do all I could to make it tolerable, and that included enjoying the beauty of Door County in fall – and taking it in the day before the run was going to help me remember the beauty and recall it on race day. But driving the course, you get a new appreciation for just how far 50 miles is and how long it will take you to run it when it seemed to take forever to drive it.
Once I got to the motel, I started to lay out all of my clothes and accessories and prepare for race morning. By this time my stomach was doing flips and I simply wanted to die. Laying out my stuff is an organized process, which my mind needed, but it didn’t help calm my nerves. It only raised my anxiety. It meant the race was getting closer. And this I just could not fathom.
Now is probably a good time to let you in on a nasty little secret… the reason my anxiety was off the charts was because I didn’t know if I was going to finish the race. And while I always joke about being too stubborn to quit, and while I knew I wasn’t going to quit – I still didn’t know if I’d finish the race. This sounds strange, but let me elaborate. A trick coaches talk about to get you ready for a race and to help calm nerves is to make you envision the race. See yourself start, see yourself tick off the miles and see yourself finish. I have used that trick many times in the past. But this time it was different. This time I couldn’t see myself finishing. I had thought about the Fall 50 for months and months and have envisioned myself running the race hundreds of times, but I could not see myself finishing. I didn’t know how this race was going to end. But if I couldn’t see myself finishing, that could only mean one thing – something happened that made me stop and not finish.
The pit at the bottom of my stomach was huge and I was on the verge of getting sick. But time marches on and it was soon time for dinner.
We went to a nearby restaurant for my pre-race meal which was nice. I had chicken, rice, a baked potato and a beer. Not necessarily the most traditional carb-loading meal, but it’s the meal I had before my 38-mile run and that went pretty well, so I didn’t want to change anything and decided to order the same meal.
After dinner it was back to the motel. I spent a short time hanging with my friends but then I said goodnight and headed back to my room to get some sleep. Well, I was hoping to get some sleep, but instead I just laid there worried, scared, sick and nervous. And while one part of me wanted to fall asleep, the other half of me didn’t want to because that just meant when I woke up in the morning, it would be race day. And I wasn’t ready for race day. I couldn’t run 50 miles so I didn’t want that day to come. I could hear my friends laughing through the thin motel room walls, and I so desperately wished I was in their room having fun, instead of being alone in my room trying hard not to cry.
Oh who am I kidding, by this point, I had cried and I had cried often. And the tears were real. And they were all coming from a place of fear – fear that I wouldn’t finish.
So as I was trying to fall asleep, I was also trying to picture myself finishing the Fall 50. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t see how the race would end. How my day would end. How it would all end….
Until next time…
Stay tuned for my next post which starts bright and early on race morning.