The title of this entry was not what I expected to be writing , nor would have imagined DURING the race. As a first blog post, I cannot be happier. That being said, I know I will not always be writing up successes or meeting goals. Sometimes it is just about the journey.
Looking back at the JFK 50, I was unexpectedly nervous – I think I had some goals and expectations that were a bit of a stretch based on the last couple of weeks worth of working hours and sleep (more on the work, less on the sleep), but doable based on training. I was hoping for a sub-7:50 and really thought I could do a 7:30 and be in the top 10. I was pretty close to top 10 last year with my 7:58 and trained better (and quicker) this year.
I ran MY race in the mountain stage of the Appalachian Trail (AT) and came off it feeling good and strong. I quickly linked up with a like-minded runner, Dink, on the C&O (Dink is a WHOLE other story for a different day…EPIC guy…can’t wait to run with him again). Kent, a fellow triathlete running his first 50, joined us right as we got on the trail and we all kept a good pace and conversation. A couple miles into the trail, we met up with one of Dink’s friends, Fred, who had a bad fall on the AT and likely broke a rib (he finished by the way…talk about a tough runner). A mile or so later Kent took a tumble (don’t worry, he got up and finished with an amazing time!), but that’s his story to tell Dink and I had a great, sustainable pace (8:20-8:26) past the marathon mark and towards the aid station at 27 miles. This is when things got a lot rougher than normal for me. Slowly but surely my legs started to feel the pain earlier than ever before in this race. Dink went ahead and I used the aid station to get some quality nutrition (LOVE chicken noodle soup on these). Austin was, once again, my best supporter…making sure I had what I needed and running with me (I have the video proof), and I left the aid station hurting but determined to reach my goals. Not two miles later, I was really feeling it. My knees, lower back and hamstrings. I got worried about my Umstead knee, but I adjusted my awesome CW-X “party pants” (As Austin calls the confetti on them), which helped and kept trucking. By mile 31 I was all in my head with the crazy lower back/hamstring pain and ready to admit defeat. Honestly, it was that bad and all I could think about was not meeting my goals and the disappointment I’d feel. I will admit, your brain always plays tricks on you during these “ultra” runs, but this was a rough one, and my mind was breaking me down.
As my back and hamstrings started seizing up, I slowed to a walk. As I walked my legs and back stopped seizing and loosened up. I noticed I was a little hazy/dizzy, which served as a good reminder to get a lot of nutrition and liquids in while walking. I was a head of schedule at this point, so I told myself to walk the mile and then start running again.
FLIPPING THE SWITCH: Walking a mile takes about double the time it takes to run, which gives a runner a lot more time to ponder (ultra runners are great ponderers, by the way). As I realized my body might not let me have the race I wanted, I had to let go of my expectations of the day. Easier said than done, as we all know. With the sun streaming through the trees onto the trail and reflecting off the river, I remembered WHY I got into these races…for the MOMENTS and the CHALLENGE. I recalled the picture perfect moments during the AT portion overlooking the mountains and feeling the crisp air on my face as I worked to keep my breathing and heart rate even. I remembered the joy of finishing 3 years ago, and the unexplainable joy you feel after accomplishing a goal and pushing yourself to the limits. During that 12.5 minute/mile walk, my brain switched back to the love of the run and just finishing. Forget the expectations and just BELIEVE you can finish a task that seems insurmountable. I also could hear the words to a motivational speech on my training iPod (see below).
By mile 32 I was running again, in pain by motivated and determined. At the “38 special” aid station, Austin met me with more soup, gatorade & gels. I took it all plus coke and walked through the station. I told him about my back and he stretched me out a bit and got me back on my feet. I walked the rest of the mile..knowing I was losing more time, but ok because my game plan was different. Plus I knew I needed that stretch. The last 4 miles on the C&O were beautiful and filled the soul (renewed purpose can do that), which I needed once I hit the last 8 miles of rolling pavement to the finish.
I needed the change of scenery despite the additional pain of pavement running. While the miles did not FLY by, they ticked along steadily, and before I knew it, my angel in black (Austin…he always wears black running clothes) was running towards me @ the 44+ mile mark. NOTE: He has done this at every JFK and it is ALWAYS when I need it the most. He ran with me until the 46+ mile aid station, listening to my woes and renewed determination — while offering his own motivational words of encouragement. With 4 miles to go, he got into the car to meet me at the finish and I chugged along (9 and just sub 9 min miles feel like you are going 12 at this point). At the 43 mile mark I had watch my sub-8mile mark come and go, but just wanted to see how close I could get to 8.
With each painful step, I focused on the finish and my foot turnover…1-2-3-4 became the cadence in my head. Then….the FINAL turn and finish up a head. I was so excited and happy to see that big red arch, I had tears in my eyes. As I got closer, I hear Austin yell “Top 10 Babe! You are Top 10 Female!” After relinquishing all my expectations and goals back at mile 31-32, to realize at least one of them (top10) was so unexpected I started to cry for real. I looked behind me to make sure no one was going to fly by me at the last second, picked up my pace and crossed the finish at 8:03:34! With tears falling (and a little sobbing), accepted the finishers medal and the handshake of the race director, Mike Spinnler, who saw my tears for what they are…Tears of joy, tears of a goal unexpectedly realized and tears of relief of the effort (mentally and physically) that takes you on a journey…even if it’s in your head.
Stats: Top 10 female, 8:03:34, 9:38 pace, 76th out of 794 overall, 6 out of 81 AG…and DANG happy to finish.
Pictures can definitely tell a story:)
2015 JFK 50 Miler
2015 JFK 50 Miler
2015 JFK 50 Miler
2015 JFK 50 Miler
Pictures bought from PA SPORTS LENS
Annex: Motivational Speech from my training ipod that I remembered from mile 31-32.
Why is it we don’t believe in ourselves?
Why is it that as soon as things get tough in our lives we start doubting ourselves?
We start thinking that we may not make it through…stressing…worrying.
Imagining things that may go wrong in the future.
I’ll tell you the human mind is powerful, but it can also be destructive.
It can be your greatest friend, or your worst enemy.
The person you see reflecting in the mirror will always provide you your greatest challenge in life.
Take CONTROL of your life. CONTROL your mind.
Conquer yourself and you can conquer ANYTHING in this world.
Yea it’s easy to be positive when everything is going your way.
But are you one of the VERY FEW who STAND UP when things get tough?
When everything is going against you?
That’s when you must show YOURSELF!
That’s when your character will shine through.
That is when your story will be born.
Your story of SUCCESS.
You aren’t building a story if you give up!
The world is full of people who gave up.
The world needs hope!
The world needs you to STAND UP.
To fight through your challenging moment.
To shine through the darkness.
BELIEVE in yourself.
There is NOTHING more important.
STAY hungry. Hungry for success. Hungry for more.
Most people are bloated with ordinary.
They are full of average.
Have an appetite for EXTRAORDINARY!
There will always be doubters.
But if you stay true to yourself and believe,
Then one day will be your moment.
Remember, anything is possible if you believe.
Keep your dreams alive.
Understand that in order for you to have anything of great value,
you must suffer and endure.
You are destined for SUCCESS!