This is the fifth and last installment in my Fall 50 Journey. If you are new to this blog, I’d suggest you go back and read the other Fall 50 entries to understand where I’m at, both physically and mentally!
And with that said, let’s get back into it…
Holy crap, this is it… I’ve got 20 miles yet to run, I’ve started running with friends to preoccupy my mind and in 8 more miles, I will be running a distance that is the longest I’ve ever run…. am I ready for this?
I was taking a quick refueling break and Sarah was the first member of my crew that was going to run with me. I knew I had to get going and start running before I had too much time to really think about it. While it may not seem like a big deal, that I was having friends now run with me, it really was. This was my Plan A for keeping myself from getting mentally bored and from letting anxiety set in. If it didn’t work, it could be the longest 20 miles of my life!
Running the first leg with Sarah went smoothly. I was focused and trying very hard not to get into my own head. I was very close to slipping into my head so while I didn’t want to talk too much while running with my friends, I embraced the chit-chat between Sarah and I.
Sarah’s mile went pretty quickly and next up was Jill. As I was running with Jill we ran through a relay exchange point in Fish Creek. This is where I saw the Bushners and Wafles. I knew they were planning on showing up in DC but I just didn’t know at what point they’d surface. So it was a nice surprise to see them. I heard after the fact from the Bushners that they kind of chuckled over seeing Jill and I running together and the vast difference in our running apparel we were wearing. In their words, it looked like I was heading to the beach and Jill was ready for winter. And yep, that is so very right and shows the difference between Jill and my heat thresholds when it comes to running!When Jill and I approached the end of our mile, I saw my crew in the distance. And oh my, what did my wondering eyes spy as I approached my next stop? In one word… Stosh. Oh lord Stosh, what are you wearing? Oh my eyes! My eyes!!
I’m not even going to try to describe for you what was waiting for me at my next stop, I’ll let the pictures speak for me.Photo op with Stosh, a bit of fuel and I was once again back on the road. My running companion this time was Ted and I was excited about running with Ted because I knew he had a bit of redemption coming his way from his last companion run during the Fall 50 when Stosh ran solo. Let’s just say it did not go well, he only had 2 miles to run with Stosh and he didn’t make it the full 2 miles! So running with Ted was going to be a nice distraction for me as it was going to give me a the mental distraction I craved. I couldn’t help but think… will he make it the full mile, will he struggle, will our friends give him shit if the mile doesn’t go well? One mile came and went running with Ted and he was still with me and the crew was nowhere to be found. Okay, that’s interesting! And while the RV and the big group was nowhere in sight, Jackie was on the side of the road and was ready to start running with me. So now I was even more confused. I had another runner ready to take on a mile with me, but yet Ted was still running with me. I was confused. And at about 33 miles into a 50 mile run, confusion can set in really easily.
When Jackie joined me she asked me if I wanted to chit-chat. I said that I would much more love to listen to her and Ted chit-chat and just be a silent observer. And that is what happened. And it was great. I got a nice distraction, yet I didn’t have to do any of the talking.
As we were running and I was listening to Ted and Jackie talk about Ted’s twins, I glanced down at my watch and realized Ted had run with me for almost 2 miles. I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t expect anyone to run more than one mile with me… hhhhmmm. Maybe the crew wanted him to make up for his less than stellar 2-mile stint with Stosh. That’s kind of funny if that’s the case. But even if they wanted to make up his 2-mile stint, how far are they going to make him run? We were at his 2nd mile and they still were nowhere to be seen.Ah, but never fear, up ahead is Jamie – Ted’s wife – at the side of the road in her car and I’m assuming she’s waiting for him so he can stop running and jump in the car with her so they can both meet up with the crew. But much to my amazement, Ted didn’t get in the car. He chose to keep running!?!? What? “Are you sure?”, I asked him. Yep, he said…. “I know enough not to mess with anyone in your family and their spreadsheets, and I was told I had to run to Murphy Park so I’m going to run to Murphy Park!”
Okay, that made me laugh.
During my training runs, I’ve always hated – okay hated is a strong word – so let’s say, I’ve always really disliked the few miles leading up to Murphy Park. And I also was not a fan of running in Murphy Park or just after it either, but I had to check off the parts of the run that I didn’t like and checking off the first few miles leading up to Murphy Park made me happy. And when I saw the entrance to Murphy Park and could run down the slope into the park, I mentally took a deep breath and realized I had made progress and could check off one “uncomfortable” section of the race.
On my way into Murphy Park, I spotted Carol, who if you remember had gotten separated from the group at the Half-Way Buffet and she was standing with Todd, Julie and Parker. Yay! This was the first showing from Todd and his family. It was nice to have them out on the course.As I mentioned the race actually takes you into Murphy Park where there’s another relay exchange. This is where I was expecting to see the crew, but they were not there. I was just blown away at this point and couldn’t fathom how far they were going to make Ted run, but as it turns out, they were parked on the road at the exit of the park. Whew, Ted was off the hook and I was done worrying about him. But as I said, between listening to him and Jackie talk and me worrying about Ted and how far he could run, it distracted me nicely leading up to Murphy Park. Coming out of Murphy Park was another stretch that I did not enjoy, but I was now running with Nicole and I knew she’d keep me entertained for her mile. After Nicole came Heather. Again, I asked for my running buddy to do the talking so during my mile run with Heather I was able to catch up on how her kids were and the vacation her and Jason have planned. Who knew I’d be able to catch up with friends while running 50 miles! But it really was nice to catch up with some folks that I don’t get to see too often.
Paul, a co-worker, came to experience the Fall 50 and to run 1 mile with me was next up. Unfortunately Paul didn’t get to run a mile with me as much as he did walk a mile with me. Hairpin Turn was part of his mile and this hill is crazy steep. And it’s crazy curvy, much like a hairpin – hence its name. Funny how that worked out! Hairpin Turn is extremely difficult to ascend, even for vehicles. Most vehicles have to shift down a gear and the driver has to give it a bit more gas just to make it up the crazy, curvy hill. And it’s not as short of a hill as one would hope either. So while I explained to Paul that we’d be walking up the hill, I think he was a bit disappointed, that is until he actually experienced the hill for himself. As we were walking up it, and leaning forward because of how steep it was, he looked at me and said, “yeah, now I know why you walk this hill!”As Paul and I were walking up Hairpin Turn, I heard another runner calling out for me. It was my friend Liz, who was part of a relay. It was nice to see her and it was fun to listen to how excited she was to have spotted me during the race too. She stuck with me and Paul for a bit and she told me she had looked for me for some time. Even though she was running as part of a relay, she was following my journey via Facebook. However, due to crappy cell/data coverage in Door County she hadn’t seen an update on me for sometime and didn’t know where I was or how I was doing. We chatted for a bit longer and then Liz left us to continue her own faster run.
Besides Paul getting to experience Hairpin Turn, he was also with me as I took my first steps beyond 38 miles – which up to that point was the farthest I had ever run in a training run. I was very aware of reaching this milestone. I didn’t have a lot of time to reflect on this milestone, but I did internalize it and my roulette wheel of a brain had a million thoughts whipping through it: “wow, every step I now take will be the farthest I’ve ever run”, “if I’m going to hit the wall, it’s going to happen soon”, “I’ve got just over 11 miles until the finish – holy shit”, “I have to be smart, I can’t fall off of my plan, I need to stay the course and stay strong”, “wow”, “holy crap, Hairpin Turn sucks”, “I wonder who’s going to run with me next?”, “wow, I’m now in my 39th mile… thirty-nine fucking miles”, “I’m kind of rock star”, “no, I’m not a rock star – think like that and I’m sure to not finish the race”.
As I said, I had a crap load of thoughts swirling in my head as I started out my 39th mile.After Paul, I ran with Chuck, Brian’s dad. I found out later that he got the all-clear from his doctor to run with me and had trained for his mile for many months. It was really nice of him to go through all that effort just to run with me.
I’m not exactly sure at what miles the rest of my “marathon-themed pit stops” showed up as inspiration on the course. But New York was the first one with music. As I ran up to the RV I heard “Back in the New York Groove” jamming from a rather large speaker that the gang had hooked up and had sitting on the side of the road. I love that song. I was really excited to hear that song and it totally made me smile. Next up was Med City and Motley Crue’s Doctor Feelgood. Man, that song also gave me a boost. I am an 80’s Rock Girl and a bit of music from one of my favorite hairbands was a nice touch by Stosh and Sarah, who were in charge of the theme for Med City and that included them changing into medical scrubs. Too fricken funny.And now’s a good time to come clean. I truly didn’t understand most of the theme’s, posters or activities that the crew was surprising me with. I hate to say that, as they had spent so much time on the themes, and they were all really well done, I just didn’t have the mental capacity to figure it out at the time. While I certainly had enough time on my hands to think about the themes and what was going on, but mentally I wasn’t working on all cylinders at this point. I had to stay focused on my running plan, my fueling strategy and I also had to stay in tune to my body and how I was feeling and tend to anything that would cause me to make adjustments. But even though I had all of this to concentrate on, the bigger factor was that running long miles made me stupid. Seriously. I kid you not. During the peak of Fall 50 training I was so fricken stupid, it was scary. Brian noticed it and we were both aware of my decline in mental acuteness. I compare it to “pregnancy brain”, when pregnant women become a bit more scattered and do some “not so smart” things during their 3rd trimester. This same thing happened to me during my “third trimester” of training and continued during the race itself. If I was at my intellectual norm, I would have totally gotten all the themes, posters and activities. I would have been in awe at how well they were done and the thought that went into the planning and execution. But because I had pregnancy brain, I just saw random activity… heard some good music… read a few posters, noticed signs that referenced my past marathons and that’s about it. I missed so much because I was in a mental fog. But thankfully there are enough pictures that I have since looked at many times, that captures all the hard work from my friends and family. While I didn’t truly appreciate the activities while I was running, I sure can appreciate it now. And even though I didn’t understand it to its fullest during the race, it did its job, it distracted me and gave me something to look forward to during each pit stop.
After running with Chuck, I ran with Mark, Jason, Gregg, Stosh and Ty. For each of these guys, I requested we either run in silence or they tell me a story. Jason however, said all of his stories were already told to me by Heather but he still found a way to fill time. Gregg too also did a good job filling time by giving me the details on a merger that was happening at his job and Mark chit-chatted about everything and anything.At some point during the 2nd half of the race, I can not tell you exactly when it happened, but I developed a sharp pain in my hip. It was my IT Band and it was where it connected to my hip. It was a very sharp pain and it was very painful. I felt it coming on as early as the relay exchange at Shopko in Sister Bay. It was uncomfortable at that time and I thought it was controllable but as the miles rolled on, the more and more painful it became. I tried BioFreeze, I tried stretching and I also tried a handheld small roller. Nothing seemed to work. But I thought I had to keep trying. I was worried that if this injury got any worse, it could derail my entire run and possibly prohibit me from finishing. So needless to say, I wanted relief. And when the BioFreeze, stretching and roller didn’t work, that’s when I took Jackie up on her offer to help me. You may not be aware that my friend Jackie, the one who ran with me earlier in the day, also happens to be a masseuse… MY masseuse! I have to say, if you’re going to train for an endurance event and if you’re going to have friends and family as part of your crew, having a masseuse as one of those crew members is ingenious! I just wish I could take credit for thinking that far ahead, but I can’t. It’s just really good luck that a close friend is a masseuse and was willing to step up and take action when I most needed her. So I got to the point that at every pit stop, not only did I refuel but I also had Jackie work on my hip. She drilled her thumb into my hip to try to loosen whatever may have been “tight”. She was extremely worried to put too much pressure on my hip because she didn’t want to cause any more damage, but I kept requesting more and more pressure. Every time she wanted to stop, I asked for it harder. There was no amount of pressure she could do as I was leaning up against a car on the side of the road that was strong enough. So while it didn’t help my hip, it didn’t hurt it or do any more damage. And even though it didn’t help, I kept at it thinking that at any point, it would finally help and finally feel better. I kept thinking that every “next time” will be the time it makes everything better.
The hip pain/injury really threw me for a loop. I had never had this pain during training – so the fact that it showed up on race day and felt as badly as it did, was really surprising. Thankfully, no matter how painful it became, it didn’t stop me from running and it didn’t alter my gait. Unlike shin splints that I was most worried about prior to the start of the race, which will actually cause me to stop running, the hip pain didn’t cause me to stop. I had to grin and bear it, but I could keep going and this to me was all I could ask for and I wasn’t going to complain about this pain. Something that I could still run through and didn’t cause me to stop… hell, I’ll never complain about that, that’s just called running!
The pain in my hip didn’t stop me from running and this made me very grateful. Because even though I was now running 40+ miles I still couldn’t see myself finishing the race. I still didn’t know how the race or more importantly how the day was going to end. And while I still couldn’t envision myself finishing, and I didn’t have bathroom issues, I didn’t have shin splints and my hip pain wasn’t bad enough to make me stop…. a small, very small – nearly minuscule part of me started to let the thought that I may actually finish creep into my conscience. I didn’t want to think too much about it because I felt if I started to believe it, I’d jinx it. And while I was running in the 40s, I still had almost 10 miles to go. That’s still a lot of miles to run on tired legs.
I tried hard not to think about completing the Fall 50 and getting ahead of myself so I tried to stick to my running strategy of running 10 minutes and walking 1 minute. I often walked one minute just after leaving my crew and refueling. It was a nice way to transition back into running after having been stopped. Even though I tried sticking to my strategy, I realized I wasn’t following it to the letter. There were times when I felt really good and I kept going beyond my timed break. I did more running than walking and I was pretty excited about it. Who would have thought at this stage of the game, that I’d not only not be crying, but that I’d be feeling well enough to skip some of my walk breaks. I never foresaw that in how the day would play out – never.
The miles in the forties were scary to me. They were the farthest I’ve ever run, I was so close, I felt I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, yet I still had a long way to run. I wanted to stay focused but yet I wanted my mind to wander and be anymore but there over-analyzing every step. I mentioned earlier that my crew really went above and beyond in miles 30-50 and that they also had music rocking as well as visits from marathon-pasts. I also told you that I wasn’t mentally functioning at my peak and that not all the themes were making sense or that I understood exactly what was going on. I did instantly know the poster that showed up for the Illinois Marathon. That marathon was in 2011, and my dad had passed away the year before. I ran that marathon in memory of my mom and dad and Jolene had a poster that said, “For Jack & Alice” waiting for me at mile 26.0 that made me cry. A duplicate “For Jack & Alice” poster showed up during the Illinois Marathon stop. I saw it. I read it. I wanted to cry. Instead I did the next thing that came naturally to me… I flipped Jill – who was holding the poster – the finger. Actually the double finger. Even though I flipped Jill off and added a verbal “fuck you”, I did it all with love. Love you Jill! 🙂
After Illinois came the San Diego Marathon themed stop. Hhhmm… How do I even begin to explain this stop? First let me remind you that I didn’t fully understand that each stop was a walk down memory lane with all my past marathons. Yes, I know Jill just held up a poster from my IL Marathon and that other marathons were referenced earlier, but when you’ve run for almost 10 hours, I feel I have the right not to be firing mentally on all cylinders. So as I ran up to the San Diego Marathon stop, I saw Jill holding a sign that had a drawing of California, I saw Jamie holding a 5 foot whale and Ted was wearing a wig and holding a sign that said “stay classy”. And while this confused me greatly, nothing confused me more than Sarah holding a poster with a hand drawn vagina – and it was labeled anatomically correct too. WHAT!?!?!? As I ran up with the most quizzical look on my face, I’m not sure if anyone truly understood how confused I was. So Jamie, trying to help explain things said, “Whale’s Vagina!” WHAT!?!? Seriously?!?!? WHAT!?!?OMG, I have no idea what this means. Why did a vagina make an appearance at my Fall 50??!! Why is Sarah holding the vagina poster between her legs? Yes I was dazed and confused but I still understand where vaginas are located – even without Sarah showing proper placement! And why, oh why, is Jamie excited to proclaim, “Whale’s Vagina”? What does all of this mean?
And why does that wig look so good on Ted?!
While I had no idea what all of that meant, I can honestly say it distracted me like nothing else! For the next half mile, I wasn’t thinking about anything other than “Whale’s Vagina”. But I knew I wasn’t going to be able to figure out the riddle on my own while I was running so I decided to table it and ask about what the hell it meant when I was done running.
Okay, so now that I’m done thinking about whale’s vaginas, I’m now back to thinking about running.
During the “forties”, I knew that I was doing better than I had anticipated. Much, much better actually. I only had to stop twice to take care of my GI issues – which are you kidding me – that was the best present I could have asked for. Going only twice is as unlikely as my sister voting for Trump (you know which sister!) – no one would ever expect it! The planets had to align, all other conditions had to be just right and a little fairy dust had to be mixed in for good measure and with all of that – I still never expected the number to be two (ha… number two!… see what I did there?). My lack of bathroom stops is a true blessing only someone with GI issues can truly appreciate.
Beyond my lack of bathroom stops, my shin splints never surfaced either, my fueling was going well – I was eating a variety of food and drinking plenty of liquids too – my pace was okay, I wasn’t walking as much as I had anticipated and in general – the day was going better than I had envisioned. When I had projected my finish time, I factored in all the things that I had to deal with on my training runs, everything I just mentioned; shin splints, bathroom stops, fatigue – both mental and physical – plus foot pain and back pain. But none of these things happened so I had a better time and pace than I had expected. I was very aware that because I was doing so well and feeling so well, that there may actually be a small chance I could finish under the 11 hour cutoff. Holy crap. Seriously, I could finish under the 11-hour cut off. Wow. What do I do? Do I push it and go for it? Do I stay the course, enjoy the experience and not worry about my pace and my finish time or do I do a combination of both? I really wanted to have a good time. Even the slowest of runners wants to not be embarrassed by their finish time, so I while I’m not a competitive person, I started to get a bit competitive now that I knew I had a chance to finish under 11 hours. After thinking about it for many miles, I realized I was going to focus on having fun and enjoying the day and not on my finish time.
And while I was purposely not looking at my watch to see my pace, I still had a vague sense of the time and what mile I was at. And while I can try to pretend that I was all “chill” and laid back about it after deciding not to go for it… another part of this story is the fact that going for it and pushing to finish under 11 hours would need me to do math. I couldn’t do the math to figure out what pace I would have had to run my last miles to finish under 11 hours. If you’ve never tried to calculate pace, distance and projected finish time, then you can’t judge me. It’s hard. And it’s really hard after having run all day. If I wasn’t able to figure out the themes from my past marathons, I sure as hell wasn’t mentally capable of calculating my finish time and my pace. Nope, not going to happen. And complicated math, oh who am I kidding, even simple math wasn’t going to happen. However, I could still tell time. At one point, curiosity and the overwhelming need to have my time count and be official got the best of me and I asked me crew what the real-time was and they said, 4:30. I don’t have to be a rocket scientist and do a lot of math to figure out I had about 8 miles to go and I had to do it in an hour and a half, and I was averaging about 4.5-5.0 miles an hour with all of my stretching and refueling. So I knew right then that I wasn’t going to make it. I felt defeated. So defeated. I felt like I was so close and yet so far. I shock my head and said to no one in particular, “I’m not going to make it”. I would finish just after 6 pm. Fuck.
A brief part of me said, “fuck it, I can do… I can do 8 miles in 1 hour and 30 minutes”. Then reality set in and I remembered I have already run 40+ miles and I have extremely tired legs and I can’t just pull the needed fast pace out of my ass. Not to mention that would also mean no more stopping to refuel, no more having Jackie work on my IT, no more having fun.
So as defeated as I was, so be it. Onward.
Somewhere between mile 40 and 45, when I knew I was feeling pretty good and knew I wasn’t going to finish under 11 hours, I realized I had to make the fact that I wasn’t finishing before 6pm worth it. So in true Marla fashion, I wanted a beer. I decided to appoint mile 45 as my beer break. That was close enough to the end where I knew I could muster through the last 5 miles if the beer didn’t settle in my stomach well and it was also the last time I was going to see my crew before the finish. I thought it would be the proper send off!
But before my beer break, I had a few more miles to log. During the Jason, Gregg, Stosh and Ty miles, I also had a “third” running companion – Mark! Mark kept showing up. He was not actually running with me as much as he was running around me. He was running on his own and would check in to see if I needed anything and then he was off on his way again. It was funny and a bit bizarre. It was the “Where’s Waldo” of the Fall 50. And as I keep mentioning, my brain wasn’t functioning at 100% at this point and I wasn’t quite sure what was going on. But every mile or so, there Mark would be again. Bizarre!
I quickly approached mile 45 and my much-anticipated beer break. Having a beer at mile 45 was very much a mental reward for me. It meant I was having a good day, it meant I was able to “be myself” and do something I’ve done during a lot of marathons – have a beer – and it meant I was almost done. This Busch Light (classy – I know!) was the best damn beer I ever had. I’ve never had a beer tied to something so emotional before, but it definitely was an emotional beer.
Anyone who was at mile 45 with me, saw me chug a beer and then head back on the course, but they definitely didn’t realize the mental and emotional side of that beer. And they didn’t know the mental and emotional side of the remaining 5 miles.As I finished my beer and got my iPod of rally songs from Sarah, got a good-bye send off from the rest of the crew because they were headed to the finish line; I headed off running with Brian. Brian was going to be my last running buddy for the Fall 50. I always knew I wanted Brian to be the last person to run with me and I knew I was so very much looking forward to it. He was by my side on all those long training runs in Door County, he was by my side when I had my mental breakdowns – even those that caused me to sit and cry on the side of the road – he was by my side when I tried in vain to find fuel that didn’t cause me GI distress, he was even by my side that very morning when I was crying and saying, “I can’t do this”. He had to be the last person to run with me. He had to be the one to send me off to the finish line because without him, there wouldn’t have been a start line to get to, much less a finish line. This late in the race, I thought I would have had the course to myself. I fully expected to have been passed by all relay runners and that all other solo runners would be long gone, but that wasn’t the case. Up until the end, I had other people on the road with me. It was comforting to know event staff wasn’t literally weren’t picking up the cones behind me – a fear of mine – yet I almost wanted to be alone. This was my journey, and mine alone and this late in the game, I wasn’t willing to share my experience.
While I wasn’t the last runner, I was definitely at the back-of-the-pack and the Operations Team was doing clean up on the course around me. Normally this would irritate the fuck out of me and make me feel badly for being so slow. But it isn’t the case when you actually know the Operations Team and the Ops Team members out on the course become another cheering squad for me. At the very last relay exchange the entire Ops Team that was out on the course was at this exchange and they all cheered me on. I got personal shout outs, high-fives and one guy who almost missed me did a mad dash to get to the side of the road in time to offer support as I ran past. So while I didn’t want to share the experience with the other runners on the course, I knew that I wasn’t really sharing it with them because I was experiencing something none of them were, and that gave me chills.
Beyond the support from the Ops Team, the support from my crew grew too. At one point there was quite the caravan of vehicles going down the road as part of Team Marla. The RV led the way and was followed by 8 other vehicles. And let’s not forget that those vehicles contained crazy, cheering, poster-carrying, music-jamming, fuel-distributing, support-providing friends and family. While a lot of the other runners that ran a similar pace as me and that were still out on the road got to enjoy my crew too and their cheers and music… I knew NO ONE and I mean NO ONE got to experience what I was experiencing at that time. It was fucking awesome!
And here I am, running only with Brian, my crew is long gone and on their way to the finish line to await my arrival, I am not sure what to do with myself. This may seem a bit odd and might not make sense, but I really didn’t know what to do. I’m within 5 miles of finishing the Fall 50 solo!!! How can this be? I still couldn’t envision myself finishing, but yet at this point I was pretty confident it was going to happen. Yet I was still terrified something was going to go wrong. I asked Brian to take a walk break with me instead of continuing to run. I just wasn’t capable of running at this point. I was truly terrified for those last 5 miles so I thought doing a bit more walking would help me “reset” both physically and mentally.
I was chit-chatting with Brian when all of a sudden, I heard a “hello” from behind us. It was Mark again! WTH!?! Where did he come from? OMG. It turns out that he got left by Nicole and the rest of the crew when they went to the finish line because they didn’t see him because he was off running. OMG. That’s even funnier. As Mark was talking about this, the realization that I might finish the Fall 50 with Mark started to set in. Oh lord, I love Mark to death, but finishing the Fall 50 with him was never in my vision for the finish! The reason I thought I may be finishing with Mark is that since Brian was running with me and everyone else was already at the finish line waiting for me, the plan was to have Brian leave me at mile 48 and run ahead so he could get back to the finish line with enough time to see me finish. And while Mark is definitely faster than I am, he’s not as fast as Brian. Which means Mark would be running to the finish, just ahead of me. Humph!
Mark didn’t stick with us long before he took off and ran ahead. And shortly after Mark left us, we saw Gregg and Jackie on the side of the road. The last of the crew. They decided to make one more stop to cheer me on. This actually worked out well, because Brian jumped in with them, Nicole came back to pick up Mark and then the last of my crew members were able to get back to the finish with time to spare.
Before Brian jumped in the car with Gregg and Jackie, I said my goodbyes, gave him a quick kiss and they were off.
And just like that I was alone.
I only had 2 miles to go.
I only had 2 miles to go and I’d be a FALL 50 SOLO FINISHER.
You’re probably wondering what goes through a person’s head during miles 49 and 50 of a 50 mile race. The last 2 miles of a 10-month training regimen. The last 2 miles of a dream that I’ve had for years. The last 2 miles of a bucket list goal that I thought was unobtainable. The last 2 miles of a journey that pushed my limits, pushed my boundaries and pushed what I thought was possible. The last 2 miles of a race that challenged and changed me.
Truthfully – nothing. And Everything.
After Brian left, I went into robot mode and did what I needed to do – I ran. It was instinct. I didn’t think about it. I put one foot in front of the other and ran just as I had a million times before. It wasn’t anything special and it wasn’t spectacular. It was just me running. Simple. Nothing.
However, there did come a point during those last 2-miles when the realization of what was happening did finally click and I finally realized what was about to happen. If I was a betting girl, I would have put money on me crying during those last 2 miles. But I didn’t cry. I just didn’t have it in me at that stage. Maybe when I would cross the finish line, but not now. I still wasn’t done and I still had a couple more miles to go, so I was going to stay focused and get to that finish line.
As I ran those last two-miles I did take some time to reflect on what it took to get me to this point. It was a lot of work. A lot of hard fucking work. There were no shortcuts taken, no easy way out. I saw my end-goal and I did what I needed to do to get to that goal. I made sacrifices, I lost sleep, more than once I thought I was crazy and I yet I kept going. I did take a few seconds to contemplate why I can be that focused and determined with fitness but not my career. I have dreams and goals beyond what I’m doing and yet I can’t seem to get past the “dream” stage. Why? Why is it easier to do in fitness? Or is it? Or is it just the risk of failure is greater when dealing with my career and that is too scary for me to handle? Or is it the financial ties that go along with taking on a new goal in business or in my career? What would happen if I took the discipline and determination I used to train and run the Fall 50 and put it to something like my career? Hmmm… heavy questions to be contemplating at mile 48.75.
I also thought about all the people who gave me support along the way. The support that was waiting for me at the finish line. However, I knew two people who weren’t going to be at the finish line… my mom and dad. Sigh.
Okay, I contemplated my career, my future, I thought about my friends, family and my parents. I’m way too damn tired and foggy to be doing any more heavy thinking. Time to go back to not thinking. Just clear my mind, and run. Run.
Holy shit, I’m one fucking mile away from finishing.
I’m going to do it.
How? How did this happen? How did a girl with no athletic ability, who used to smoke a pack-a-day, who ran her first half marathon in 2005 and swore I would never run again – get to this point? How?
Okay seriously, enough philosophical thinking. Stop.
I looked through the trees and glanced at the bay and the setting sun. And just like that, the sun was down. It was dusk and I didn’t make the cut off. Damn.
Oh who cares!? Just keep running.
Just ahead, I could spot the outline of Sunset Park (where the finish line was) through the darkness. I was eerily calm. I always believed that if there was a disaster of some sort, I wouldn’t be the voice of reason. In fact I’d be the emotional one in a corner crying and causing a scene that the real “leaders” would have to slap into submission. And while I am in NO WAY trying to say that surviving a disaster is close to running the Fall 50, I realized as I ran up to Sunset Park and the fact that I still had it together and was still calm, gave me a bit of hope for if I ever am in an emergency that I may actually be able to keep calm and be helpful compared to being the one that causes more problems. – Seriously the shit that I was thinking about this late in the game can only be described with one word – RANDOM!
As I approached the edge of the park I spotted Jamie waiting for me. She was positioned there as “look out” for the rest of the group. When she spotted me, she contacted the rest of the crew and let them know I was coming.
Once I hit Sunset Park, there’s about a 1/4 of a mile to run before the finish line. I was running down a dirt road in the park and there were people walking the opposite direction who were heading to their car because they were leaving. They never thought twice to walk on part of the route because they probably assumed that everyone had finished. Nope, not me. Still running.
I ran past them with absolutely no fan fare on their part. Fuck them! Just keep running.
After I got off of the dirt road I had a bit of a makeshift parking lot to run through and this was lined with rather large boulders. It took me a bit to realize where to go from here. I felt like I was at a dead-end because the route wasn’t intuitive. Thankfully I had worked and/or run the event enough in the past that I quickly remembered where to go and I continued on. At this point I was less than a hundred yards from the finish line but yet my crew couldn’t see me because of some of the last-minute twists and turns to the finish line.
As I got closer and rounded the last curve, I saw the finish line and my crew saw me. And the cheers and applause erupted. Okay, maybe erupted is a strong word, but that’s what it felt like to me.
As I got closer to the finish line, I felt a bit lighter. A weight was lifted with each step. A sense of relief was washing over me. I was relieved and joyous. Yes, I was feeling joy. Pure joy. I put my arm in the air and in true, rock-girl fashion, threw up the horns. Brian was standing in the finisher’s shoot (it’s who you know – not what you know) waiting for me. Joy, relief, and fatigue – let’s not forget about fatigue – was just too much for me to handle. I put my head in my hands and I ran under the finisher’s arch and into Brian’s arms.
OH! MY! GOD!
After the hug from my biggest supporter Brian – it was time to get my fucking medal. Because whether it’s a Half Marathon, Marathon or Ultra… it’s always about the fucking medal.
Brian put the medal around my neck and that helped make it real. I was done. I finished and I had the medal to prove it.
To which my response was to jump around a bit! Jump, Jump, Jump around!
I’m a Fucking Fall 50 Solo Finisher Bitches!
I got a few hugs from people in the finisher’s shoot, put on a sweatshirt to try to stay warm and added the “Door County” sign to the post.
After a quick photo or two with the pole, I went outside of the Finisher’s shoot to be with my friends and family. I was hugging and thanking everyone for being there. I don’t remember who exactly gave me another “post-race” beer, but I was more than happy to oblige and drink it. As we were rallying the troops for one last group photo, I couldn’t help but realize how good I fucking felt. How?? Why?? How is it that I feel fine? Great actually. Why did I not hit the wall or have any issues? Why did I finish like a mother-fucking champ? I felt so good, if I was a rock star I would have done the “mic-drop” before heading off stage. This was my “mic-drop!”
I’m not going to recap the rest of the night for you or the days after the Fall 50. But this should tell you how good I felt, I went out that night and was up until midnight! Midnight! I just ran 50 fucking miles and yet I went out. AND I was up early the next morning and having coffee outside watching the sunrise. I never did get any post-race pains and I didn’t have to “recover” from the race. I was back at work on Tuesday as if nothing had happened.
But as I wrap up this post and my Fall 50 Journey I leave you with some last-minute thoughts and links to some videos below.
Until Next Time,
In one word, here are a few summations of the day:
How I felt physically…. GOOD (the all caps helped me do a bit more explaining on how I felt yet still stuck to only one word – I’m sneaky like that!)
How I felt mentally… foggy
How I felt emotionally… scared
The support from friends and family… humbling
Biggest supporter… Brian
Second biggest cheerleader… Jolene
What was the hardest part… training
What was biggest surprise… non-distress (I’m counting that as one word!)
Most fun… music
The first half of the race…. wet
The second half of the race… beyond
Would I do it again… no
In one word, how would I summarize my fall 50 experience… EPIC
Videos from the Fall 50… Two finisher’s video, a short clip from the Dr. Feelgood/Med City Stop and my Fall 50 – Epic Journey video. Enjoy!
Med-City Marathon Stop: https://youtu.be/splvF6aQ1Rw
Finisher’s Video: https://youtu.be/DqAf6b-hksk
Finisher’s Video 2: https://youtu.be/WuTarKKR0Ck
The full Fall 50 Journey: https://youtu.be/7ai_Y97xmYA