Going into my race on Friday I had a hard time expressing my thoughts and feelings about what I was about to accomplishment. Mainly because I was just so eager to experience what was ahead of me. But, now I’m here. The 50 miler is behind me and I’ve been processing the experience the past few days.
I’m not sure if the word ‘experience’ is the right word — experiences — is more appropriate. There were so many ups and downs from mile to mile that it felt like a lifetime of lessons I learned out there on the trail. It’s hard to put all of that in words, especially when it felt like my circumstances and mentality could change every quarter of a mile.
But, I did it! I did it! I did it! I did it!
Going into the race I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I wanted to set a few ground rules for me to follow throughout the race to make I gave myself the best chance of success. I wanted to make them as concrete as possible, but I also knew they needed to be fluid enough to change as needed — because this was something I’ve never done before.
My rules were simple —
1) Keep moving forward.
2) Don’t sit down at aid stations.
3) Don’t spend more than 2-5 minutes at aid stations.
4) Eat and hydrate every 2-3 miles.
5) Don’t be shy asking for help.
6) Don’t poop my pants.
7) Don’t give up.
Simple rules really — and as #6 might seem like a joke … it’s really not. I was one of my biggest worries, because unlike your typical marathon the only port-a-potties on the course were at the starting and finish line. Everything in between was pretty much up to you. And, that scared me.
But, really the focus was just moving forward and getting where I wanted/needed to go … the finish line. I really didn’t want to sit down at the aid stations, but that ended up changing in the later miles. But, luckily my crew car was my aid station and that helped ease a lot of angst for me. I wouldn’t have to lug a pack with me and I could just focus on running. It really helped a lot and one of the reasons why I chose this race as my first 50.
Anyways — I had a great crew and support team. Tim from the Addict II Athlete team was my support vehicle. He volunteered his car as my ‘meals on wheels’ for the entire race. And, then somewhere around noon-1pm Jill was going to show up and help pace me to the finish. And, then Coach Blu said other AIIA team members were planning on coming later to pace team members into the finish.
We got into a good rhythm early into the race. After crashing at Coach’s place the night before we headed out from Orem to the West Desert for a 5am start time. Coach and I ran together about the first three miles together. Coach Blu is such a great guy and such an easy conversationalist — the miles really flew by.
We parted so he could catch up with some other team members and I had to use the restroom. Which was an adventure and a half for me. I had tried to use the restroom at the starting line KNOWING there wouldn’t be anywhere along the course to go. Nothing. Which is typical of me.
And, as typical as it is for other runners — I had to go — after running 3-4 miles on a bumpy dirt road. Sooooo — in a desert with nary a tree or shrub I walked out as far away from the roadside as I could to dig a hole. I felt so awkward — I felt like such a cityslicker — but, luckily it was still dark enough that I don’t think anyone could see me since I turned my headlamp off. Anyways, I did my thing, covered it like a cat and moved along hoping that if anyone did see me they be faster than me.
But, I kept a good slow steady pace in the first 12-15 miles — which was all by design. I didn’t want to burn out too quickly, because I knew I’d need gas in the tank for the last 10-15 miles. So after Coach moved ahead I played leap frog with a few other 50 milers and an increasing number of 100 milers — I even ran into Wan who was running the 100 miler. And, of course hugs were included at that reunion.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to be in the mood for music, but I brought some just in case. I wanted to make a custom playlist on Spotify, but I just ran out of time. So I downloaded a mood playlist I found called simply, “Have a Good Day!” — seemed like a good idea since that was kind of my goal, right?
And, starting at mile nine, I plugged in the earphone and jammed out. It wasn’t a bad playlist. Lots of Beach Boys, Beatles, 80s music and really good UPBEAT songs — most of them were oldies, but there were a couple of John Mayer and Maroon 5 songs on there that just didn’t jive well with me and were quickly fast forwarded.
I kept the music going and just cranked out the miles. I mall walked the hills, ran the downhill and jogged the flat with intermediate mall walking in between. Then every three miles I’d hit Tim and my aid station. It was a good rhythm I had going. I had this going for about the first 27-30 miles.
But, around Mile 28 I found myself in a pain cave that was hard for me to get out of. I was still a couple miles from Tim’s car and Jill wasn’t there yet, so I knew I just had to find a way to get through those two miles. I tried speeding up and I tried slowing down, but none of that had really helped. So I just moved forward as best I could.
Then I had remembered that I had grabbed a rock somewhere around mile 2-3 and slipped it in my pocket (mainly as a souvenir). I grabbed the rock and tightly held it in my hand and then just focused all my energy into the rock. I visually gave that rock my pain. And, you know what? It worked!
After wandering in the desert herself, Jill found me — literally with my pants down. I stepped aside from the trail to “water the plants” and of course she came up right behind that. It’s my impeccable timing. But, this wasn’t the first time that’s happened either. Anyways — like I learned early on in ultrarunning — there’s no modesty in ultrarunning. None.
But, Jill came at the perfect time to get me over Lookout Pass. That stretch was tough — not just the climbing part up to the pass, but all those flat unglamorous terrain before all of that. Having her to chat with saved my sanity. Plus, I was grateful it was Jill, because it was yet another trademark epic adventure of ours.
Once we got to the pass and back to her car, she decided to drive to the finish line and then carpool back with Mark. I hated being alone again for about 3-4 more miles, but I knew I could do it. Plus, the other AIIA support vehicle was right ahead of me so I wasn’t THAT alone.
So I just trudged along.
Luckily, after the climb came a lot of good downhill, so I just kind of let gravity take me as fast as it wanted. I got myself into a nice rhythm and I felt really good, especially considering that I was around mile 40 and less than 10 miles from finishing. Looking back to that moment I laugh, because within five miles that all changed — quite dramatically.
Around mile 43 the sun started setting and darkness came quite quickly. The moon wouldn’t raise until well past midnight and I didn’t grab my headlamp at the last break so I had to rely on my Rhino-sharp eyesight. My body was starting to just breakdown — physically, emotionally, spiritually and everything inbetween. And, I could tell I was not going in a good place.
I just wanted to be done. Since my goal was to finish I didn’t wear a Garmin or watch on me. I just relied on mile updates from Tim, Jill or strangers. I never asked other runners, but I’d ask their support vehicles. I’m not sure how good of an idea this was for me to do? Mentally it felt like I’d ask for updates every two hours, but then when I’d get a reply I would have just moved a mere half mile.
It was brutal.
I just wanted to be done. I was hurting everywhere. My feet were plotting to kill me. The thought of peanut butter made me nauseous. Heck, the thought of anything on my stomach made nauseous. I was just going downhill fast.
I tried walking with a couple ladies who I had yo-yo’d a bit, but that didn’t have the same effect that Jill’s presence had for me earlier. I wanted to be alone. But, I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted to die. I just wasn’t in a good place at all.
At Mile 45.0 when I got to the car, I sat on the trunk and I tried to drink some water, eat some applesauce while I avoided a whiff of peanut butter or potatoes. I just sat there in silence. Jill was in the car, but she sat in silence as she was battling a migraine (that’s another story) herself. So I just on the bumper in pain, nauseous and discouragement, because I just wanted to be done.
I. Just. Wanted. To. Be. Done.
The pain in my feet felt like needles and I thought if I changed my shoes that’d help not just the feet, but somehow my mental state of mind. It didn’t really. I knew my five minutes were up at the car, so I slowly got up on my feet and just tried to stagger forward. Each step hurt. And, as I told Jill to go forward another mile and a half — tears just kind of flowed down my cheeks.
As she pulled away the tears came streaming and my pouting turned into an ugly cry. I was once alone out there on the trail with no one in sight ahead or behind me. The tears came with every throbbing step. I couldn’t do this anymore. I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted this pain gone. I wanted to be at the finish line.
With tears in my eyes I gave the simplest and frankest prayers in my life. I said, “Heavenly Father, I can’t do this anymore. Please send someone to be with me. I can’t do this alone. I can’t do this alone.”
After uttering my feeble prayer I kept weeping as a rush of comfort rushed through me. And, the thought immediately came to me — “you’re not out here alone, someone is on their way!” I took comfort and faith in that feeling and just focused on each step forward.
Those tears of pain started turning into tears of appreciation as I reminded myself that I CHOSE THIS! I chose to go through this moment. I didn’t HAVE to do this, but I CHOSE it. I thought all of my Dad and his battle with gout and knee replacements who battles pains much worse than this temporary pain of mine.
I thought of my dear mother and friends Meridith and Amy who have battled cancer over the past few years. They didn’t chose to go through that. And, battled through much more than this moment of mine. Surely, if they didn’t give up, I sure as hell couldn’t now.
Those tears of appreciation taught me a lesson of my Savior’s love. His infinite sacrifice was by choice. He had the power to stop … but, he didn’t. He pushed through much more pain than I was experiencing at that moment. How could I give up now, especially knowing that I had an empathetic partner who’s felt all that I have felt and more?
I know what I just shared is very personal to me, but I can’t tell the whole story of this race without including it. Even writing my recountment of this moment brings me to tears. The Savior’s atonement is real. I’ve felt it. I know it. And, in a world where there are bigger problems out there — He was aware of me and comforted me when I needed Him the most.
But, wait … that wasn’t even the total fulfillment of my prayer. No longer than a half mile later my friend Jed rolls up and asks, “you need a pacer!” And, of course this just brought more tears to my eyes and I exclaimed, “Dude, you’re the answer to my prayer — you’re my angel!”
I wasn’t expecting Jed to be there, mainly because Coach said he was planning on going elk hunting instead. But, apparently, he bagged an elk the day before and managed to get out the West Desert around 9pm — just when he was needed the most. I’ve been around too long to not believe in coincidences. And, as much as Jed probably wouldn’t want to hear, he was definitely my angel.
With a renewed focus the last 4-5 miles went so much more smoother than the prospected view a mere half hour and half mile prior. Jed kept me amply distracted and focused and because of that I was in a much, much better place.
There was a 3/4 mile out and back stretch once you passed the finish area before you were REALLY finished. And, once I passed the finishing area my determination to just be done was stronger. Tim joined Jed and I for the out and back — and once I got my sticker and headed back to the finish line, I sprinted to that finish line.
Okay, I lied, I mall walked like my Grandma at Hobby Lobby on Black Friday — but, it sure felt like a sprint. I was just determined to get where I wanted to be the most at that moment — the finish line. As I approached closer and closer my mind ran through dozens of emotions again — mainly where this journey has taken me and all those who have been a part of that.
I may have cried a bit. But, thankfully, for the benefit of Facebook pictures it wasn’t my Mile 45 ugly cry. I am pretty sure I used up my year’s quota of tears. But, my mind couldn’t help but think of all those triumphs, defeats, friendships and accomplishments that lead me to that moment. And, to be IN that moment at the time made it even more powerful for me.
I crossed that finish line in 17 hours and 48 minutes. It definitely wasn’t a landspeed record, but I didn’t care. That was never the point of this goal. The goal was to cross that finish line. Which I did.
As I crossed Jill was immediately taking care of me. She got me food galore and made sure I hydrated properly. She did such a great job the volunteers remarked how wonderful it was to see a wife take such good care of her husband. We didn’t bother to correct her.
But, I downed some of the best portobello mushrooms I’ve ever had. And, I’m pretty sure the chicken sandwich I ate could have given Chick-Fil-A a run for its’ money. I was just grateful my appetite was back. Well, I say that conditionally, because I don’t think I’ll be eating peanut butter for a solid 2-3 years. Seriously, that’s no joke.
The ride home took us a solid four hours — and somehow I managed to stay awake the whole time?!?!! I remember having conversations with Jill, but I am pretty sure I didn’t make any sense. She gave me the same reaction she gives when her daughter says something that doesn’t make sense, but she doesn’t want to point out that it really sounded idiotic. I probably should have just passed out?
I stayed at Jill’s place and after a painful post race shower at 4am, I managed to get about three hours of sleep before leaving for Salt Lake to help at The Haunted Half. I was so worried about falling asleep and not waking up until 4pm later that day, but that never happened. And, quite honestly this past weekend I never truly “crashed” … I’ve just taken a lot of cat naps.
I think my ultra turned me into a cat?
Volunteering at The Haunted Half and keeping my legs moving really helped keep them fresh and from seizing on Saturday. They’re still a little sore, but stairs haven’t been as “BAD” as I imagined they’d be. I know that will all change when I take my first post-race run/jog/walk/jaunt. I am sweeping the Provo Haunted Half on Saturday so I should get at least a two miler in sometime this week to just get things going.
Anyways — enough of that. Now is the time to just enjoy the moment, relish in the accomplishment and take pause to ponder on the journey. I accomplished everything I set out to accomplish. Everything from finishing to not pooping my pants during the race.
But, more than that I experienced this race. I experienced some very highs and some very lows and everything in between. That’s what I was looking forward to more than anything in this journey. I wanted to just EXPERIENCE it.
And, I did.
Now, I’ve been asked if I’d do it again. And, up to the race — I said that I’d never say never. Post-race — I want to say “HELL NO!,” but again I can never say never. But, if you really want to know if I’ll ever do this distance again — ask me about 2-3 months. It’s such a big accomplishment with lots, lots and lots of work to be done before even daring to toe up on the starting line.
But, it can be done.
Anyone can do this. I firmly believe that. Why?
Because I did it.
I did it.
I did it.
I did it!
As mentioned above, I am sweeping the Haunted Half course. All by design of course. There was NO way I was going to pace a 2:45 a week after running 50 miles. I have swept four Haunted Half races to date and I love it because it’s ALWAYS a party in the back. Plus, I’ve met some amazing people running this race so it has a special place in my heart.
It’ll be a party once again. My friend JessicaSue (who I paced last year at the Salt Lake Haunted Half) and her husband will be there, along with Jill and possibly my sister. I am trying to talk her into it. But, we’ll see if she comes. She’s always wanted to run down Provo Canyon. Either way — it will be a party and a half.
The Haunted Half is one of my favorite races. They always do a good job with their races — plus I love this year’s medals! I am thinking of signing up for the virtual race so I can also get the sugar skull medal. I love that thing!
Anyways — just a few races left for the year. I am still debating on running the Bakers Dozen Half Marathon in December, but we’ll see — should be 3-4 more races on the docket before the turn of the calendar.
I love this week’s Addict II Athlete Podcast — not just because it is one of my favorite podcasts, but because of who Coach Blu interviewed. I’ve gotten to know Tim over the past several months and really well this past Friday when he crewed my 50. He is one of the kindness and most sincere people you will ever meet.
I mean — this guy gave up HALF of his Arby’s sandwich to me on Friday! He didn’t have to and tried explaining that to him, but he was having none of that. He insisted on it, and he knew I needed it — which I did. But, I know he would do the same thing to anyone. That’s just the type of guy he is.
That’s why I love his story so much. This is one of my favorite episodes of AIIA to date and I know it will be yours’ too. Give it a listen …
TOTAL MILES TO DATE