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Sweat, Blood, Tears + A Birthday For Clean Water

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Sweat, Blood, Tears + A Birthday For Clean Water

Sarah Stanley

August 23, 2014

12:45 a.m.

I cursed into the pitch black of the night. The wind was gusting at 30 miles per hour. My hip flexors were on fire. I was relegated to a fast walk. Oh! What was that noise? A mountain lion? No, just the wind in the trees freaking me out. Was that a snake I just about stepped on? I assured my mind that it wasn’t. It’s funny how the scrapes on the trail looked like snakes. I kept moving forward. Tiredness was beginning to takeover. All I could think about was sleeping. For days. Maybe at the next aid station I could lie down for a few minutes and close my eyes. I was closing in on mile 70.5 and my head was messing with me. Why was I running 100 miles again?

—–

It all began about 21 years ago. I had always been active as a kid (growing up and toiling on one of the country’s first organic vegetable farms was a natural fitness playground) and running was a part of that. A particularly horrific personal life event catapulted me into running full time. Despite taking care of my younger siblings, working on the farm 15+ hours a day, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. most days and ran. In $13.00 Velcro shoes no less. Sometimes I ran barefoot. No one supported me in my running. In fact, several family members made fun of me for running. I brushed the negativity aside and ran anyway. Other things may have been taken away from me but running wasn’t going to be one of them.

As the calendar turned and the years marched on, I continued to run. I experienced more loss and mourning. Sadness and grief. Throughout these really tough circumstances, I continued to run. It was the place and time where I could talk with God, process what I was going through, and rejoice in the freedom I had recently found. Running helped to heal my soul.

—–

After I ran my first marathon I said I would never run another one again. My running coach told me that whatever I said in the first 24 hours did not apply. And he was right. Because a few weeks later I decided that I wanted to qualify for the coveted Boston Marathon. After a few setbacks and injuries, I started running on trails full time and fell in love with them. This is where I belonged. Naturally, when one starts running on trails 100 percent they sign up for a 50K, right? Well, that’s what I did. I finished that race strong. Two weeks later ran a road marathon and qualified for Boston Marathon. Two weeks later, I ran my first 50 mile ultramarathon. That following week I was running on the trails and thought about my milestone birthday coming up in a few months. As I ran, I thought of all I had endured, survived, escaped from. I wanted to celebrate my 30th birthday in an epic way. What better way to celebrate it but by running a 100 mile ultramarathon?

And that’s precisely what I did. August 22, 2009, I ran my first 100 miler and finished in 24:58 (that’s 24 hours, 58 minutes). Following that epic celebration of sweet, blood, and tears (sadly, no birthday cake or ice cream!), I bit the ultra endurance bug from that point on. Hard. I took four weeks “off” and then preceded to run in a 24-hour relay, three marathons, and one half marathon. All in a four week timeframe. Marathons became “easy” and I thought back to what I said after I ran my first marathon. That running coach was right. 

It would take almost 2.5 years, however, to run my second 100 miler. The scars and trauma from the first 100 miler ran deep. That race turned out to be my first DNF. At mile 80. After running for 24 hours, 1 minute, no less. That one (ONE!) minute put me past the cut off. I mentally recovered from that DNF and a little more than a year later, I once again stood apprehensively at the start line of my third 100 miler. This particular course was very challenging. It was in the remote backcountry of Bryce Canyon, Utah. Deep sand, having to use hands to climb up some sections – the course was brutal. Injury finally took me out at mile 45. Another DNF. It didn’t sting as much as the first one, but I strongly dislike not finishing what I start!

——

It was late Spring 2014 and I knew my 35th birthday was rapidly approaching. I knew that without a shadow of a doubt, I would regret if I wasn’t at the start line of the 100 miler that started it all. Could I run 35 miles (the previous year I ran 34 miles to celebrate my birthday)? Sure, but I knew that I would not be happy with that choice. And so I set plans in motion (no pun intended) to go back to the place that started it on.

I like my endurance events to be an extension of my life and part of that is to support worthy causes that truly make a positive difference in others. And that cause is Blood: Water. What better way to celebrate my 35th birthday than by running 100 miles to provide access to clean water for Africa?!

Friday, August 22, 2014

 

The birthday, 100 miler ride! Thanks, Silvercar!

My birthday! Silvercar sponsored the ride to South Dakota from Denver International Airport. My friend, Erich, also flew in to crew me during the race. During the trek up to Custer, South Dakota I thought about the last five years and everything that happened in them. The hopes, the dreams, the disappointment, the ups, the downs, the DNFs, the time spent training, and the precious communities in Africa that I was running for. Somewhere along the drive north, the clouds gave way to sun and I fell asleep (I knew I would be thankful for this nap come the next day!) and since Erich was driving, I caught some shut eye.

 

Sweat_Blood_Tears-2.jpg

LH100 pre-race meeting.

Upon arriving in Custer, I picked up my race packet, chatted with the race director, Royce, and then sat in on the pre-race meeting. As the minutes kept ticking away the nerves began to grow. I thought about where I would be tomorrow at this time. Back at the hotel I ate the food I brought with me. I knew that this little town would not have organic, plant-based, real food options so I brought all my food that I would need with me. My birthday and pre-race meal consisted of quinoa, assorted raw veggies, some legumes, Hemp Hearts, and a kombucha. Delicious. It was a wonderful meal. I turned the lights out and prayed for good sleep. It’s always hard to sleep hours before a big event like this!

Saturday, August 23, 2014 

 

WY Welcome Center en route to Custer, South Dakota

4:00 a.m.

The alarm rang. D day was here! I checked the weather app right away. I had heard heavy rain during the night and I really did not want to run another 100 miler in the rain (the 100 miler in 2012 was in the rain) and I was delighted to see that the forecast called for clear skies. It was going to be a good first day being 35 years young!

I had some organic chia oatmeal, a few sips of kombucha, water, and we drove to the Custer high school track where the race would start. I posted a few quick updates on social networks, chatted with some other runners, tried to calm my nerves down, and at 6 a.m. the gun sounded and we were off!

One of the things about running 100 miles is that you pretty much know you won’t see the finish line till 24 hours later. If you think about it too much it hurts your head. So I pushed that thoughtout of my mind and enjoyed the first few miles.

The course was brand new this year compared to the one five years previous. We were warned about the “false flat” but in those first few miles you forget about that because well, you feel pretty good. I talked with the other runners around me and we watched the light break the darkness. I arrived at the first aid station feeling way too good and told Erich I was running too fast. He reminded me to slow down. I had some sips of organic tart cherry juice, a few bites of the organic sprouted grain bread with organic sunflower butter + raw honey + organic cinnamon + organic ginger + organic maca sandwich. Hmm, was it good! It was still pretty shady so I didn’t need my hydration pack refilled. The aid stations were fairly close together for this 100 miler and for that I was grateful.

 

My favorite drink besides water!

The course took us by Crazy Horse and I searched for it in the midst of the heavy fog. I never did see it. The next aid station brought back painful memories. It was where I had my first breakdown five years ago with horrible blisters. Erich gave me more of my organic food and refilled my hydration pack. 10 miles in and only 90 more miles to go! As the runners spread out (there was also a 50K, 50 miler, and a 100 mile relay happening at the same time) we were all running pretty much by ourselves as is very typical for a ultramarathon. The sun was beginning to make its appearance and I prayed it wasn’t going to be as hot as it was last time. That was Mile 15.1 and Hill City Aid Station came quickly and I was still on good pace for a sub-24 hour finish. After some organic carrot juice, organic tart cherry juice, Yukon Gold Potatoes with Celtic Sea Salt, organic turmeric (I choose these foods for their anti-inflammatory properties, energy, adrenal support), I was trudging down the road again. My goal was to make aid stations quick and effective. During the latter stages of the race it can be hard to leave them as they are not only sources of nutritional nourishment, but also moral support and encouragement.

The next few aid stations went by without much incident. It was starting to get hot so I took my shirt off to help keep my body cool. I also made sure to take salt caps whenever I saw Erich. As I was running, I kept a mental note that I would be running back during the dark on these sections. This wasn’t a technical course (thank God), but there were historic tunnels that dark in the daylight and I could only imagine how spooky they would be in the real darkness of the middle of the night! I pushed those thoughts away and kept running.

 

It all looks so easy on paper!

By this point, I had talked to several runners and got some advice for running a “false flat” course. Because most ultras are run in mountains with massive hills that force you to walk, running a course with no visible hills already was playing mind games with me. Remember how I was feeling good those first five miles? It would come back to haunt me. I very rarely run with headphones, but at the 50 miler last month, Joel (an aid station captain as well as 100 miler veteran) told me to listen to something. So at mile 24.8 I requested my iPod and started listening to worship music. Mobile phone coverage ended around this point as well so it was good timing. I tried to take some photos along the way, but keeping the mind happy, the body moving, it’s hard to stop and take pictures when you know that the sooner you finish the sooner you can sit down (and not be forced to get back up!)

I could feel hot spots on my feet and told Erich at mile 33.8 that at the next aid station we’d need to address them. The weather was overcast again and even a slight dampness in the air. I was just thankful it wasn’t blazing hot!

It was about 2:21 p.m. when I got to mile 37.5 and the Rochford Aid Station. Collapsing into the chair I started to peel off my compression socks and shoes. Erich taped them up, put on new socks, same shoes. Oh how I hate, hate, blisters!! I had some more organic, anti-inflammatory foods as we were tending to my feet and gave my iPod to Erich as it was starting to rain. After I left the comfort of the aid station I regretted giving my iPod because I had a long “false flat” section to conquer.

 

During the first hour of race

As the sun began to set I knew the real race was about to start. At this particular point in the race I passed some gorgeous homes – no, more like estates. It sure was beautiful on this August Saturday, but I shuddered to think what it must be like on a Monday morning in February!

 

Do you know how hard it is to squat and take a photo after running 50 miles?!

Because it was an out and back race course other runners began to trickle past me ( “heading home” as I like to call it). I only had a few more miles to go to the turnaround and they felt like forever. There was an aid station at mile 49.3 with the turnaround 0.7 miles further. This was my least favorite part of the race. I opted to not stop at this aid station on the way out but throw my hydration pack to Erich to refill so I could keep on running, get to the turnaround (I did manage to take a quick selfie with the turnaround sign), and run back to the aid station and refuel. It was 6:25 p.m.

Do you know how hard it is to squat and take a photo after running 50 miles?! After briefly sitting and forcing myself to eat, I got up and muttered “100 milers are freaking insane” and trudged back up the incline. I won’t call it a hill but after running 50.7 miles even a mole hill felt giant!

Erich jumped in to pace me and it was so very good to talk with another human! It helped take my mind off the intense pain I was in. We shuffled and talked and caught up on what transpired in the last 12 hours. At this point I was making good time and even a sub-24 hour finish time was still within reach. We kept leap frogging a few other runners. It was dark and we didn’t realize it at the time, but we running (like, really running) on a gradual downhill that would end up coming back to bite me.

 

In the early stages of the race. It was (thankfully) overcast.

It was a little after 10 p.m., and the soft light and chatter of the Rochford Aid Station beckoned us. We began to map out a strategy. Erich would go get my warm clothes, I would begin stripping all my current clothes off (literally), redress, eat while doing this all, try not to cramp, refill hydration pack and last but not least, get in and out of the aid station as quick as possible. I knew the longer I wasn’t moving it would really hurt to get going again.

Erich and a female aid station volunteer helped me undress (do you how difficult it is to take off a sports bra after running 62.7 miles? Pretty much impossible!) and then redress. It was good to have on warm clothes on. With gloves, hat, a fresh sports bra, compression shorts, long sleeve shirt I felt like a new woman. I was already losing my appetite, but forced myself to have a few bites of organic Yukon Gold Potatoes with turmeric/coconut oil/Celtic Sea Salt mixture. The organic tart cherry juice still hit the spot though! (I was later told the cross country team- volunteering at this aid station- were making s’mores. Even though I am an organic and plant-based gal, I would’ve had one!)

Ten minutes later, I was on my way down the lonely, dark trail with my headlamp lighting the way. Erich ended up running about a half marathon with me and he went back to crewing/sherpa-ing responsibilities.

 

The Mickelson Trail

This is where things started to go south. I was mistakenly told that the next aid station was mile 80 and if I kept the pace I would for sure make the sub-24 hour cutoff. But as I was shuffling down the trail I was doing the math and knew that the miles were miscalculated. That was discouraging news. This also where the “fast” miles began to hurt me. Literally. I trudged into the next aid station and didn’t want to eat a thing. I had some lukewarm organic matcha tea, some fruit, the steadfast organic tart cherry juice. The pain was gradually increasing. All I wanted to do was sit. Getting out of that chair was the last thing I wanted to do. My hip flexors would not let me run. I tried to break into a trot and it simply was not happening. I left mile 66.3 and knew in my gut it was going to be a long night. Just how long a night I did not know.

The course was on the Mickelson Trail and for the middle sections of the race course there were gates (I guess to keep cattle in??) along the trail. You had to pause running and open them up. During the daylight this wasn’t a problem, but at night I kept fearing I would run smack dab into one. The line “things go bump in the middle of the night” took on a whole meaning. Thankfully, I never ran into one.

It was cold. The wind was fierce. I was exhausted. All I wanted to do was sleep. Forever. I kept telling myself I could take a little nap when I got to the next aid station. Warmth and closing my eyes sounded so heavenly!

 

One of the tunnels along the trail (daylight here).

I kept walking at fast pace, hip flexors still not cooperating, shuffling down the dark trail. Why was I doing this again? Oh that’s right! To provide communities in Africa access to clean water. I kept this mental picture in my mind every time I wanted to stop.

I soon saw the faint lights of the Mystic Aid Station (mile 70.5). I came in worn out and ready to drop. I was fighting exhaustion big time. They say that you can die sooner from sleep deprivation than from starvation and I believe that. The wind was howling. And the wind chill made it about 29 degrees. I told Erich I wanted to close my eyes “just for a little bit” and preceded to get in the passenger seat, recline the seat back, and go away to dreamland. Well, that didn’t go according to plan. My body somehow knew that we were not finished with what we set out to do about 18 hours previously. So I sat back, practically fell out of the car, and stared into the deep, dark, dreadful night. Running alone on this section (remember the spooky tunnels?) plus the cold, the dark, the exhaustion, the pain … oh how I wanted to call it even! I shed a few tears. Grabbed some more layers (did I mention it was freezing?) and verbally said “I’m done”. Another runner, Norb, and pacer, Brian, came into the aid station. Erich was doing his best to get me going and I wasn’t so sure of this plan. Brian came over, took me by the arm and said “run with us”. “We’re going to do 20 minute miles.” Knowing I would be with two other people lifted my spirits and soon the three of us were on our way. It was 1:25 a.m. on Sunday morning, August 24, 2014.

 

Approaching tunnel during the daylight hours.

Within the first couple hundred feet I dry heaved and I remember Norb saying “oh no”. I told myself to pull it together and march on. And that I did. Norb and Brian talked and I was still in a brain funk and kind of out it. I remember Brian asking me questions, but that’s about it. I was still dreaming of a warm bed!

I’d be remiss to mention one important detail. Peeing. For the last several hours the Mickelson Trail had my DNA all over it. I must have peed what seemed like a couple hundred times. It can be a variety of things (cold, electrolyte imbalance, other) and I didn’t really care, to be honest. I was happy I was peeing because being dehydrated can be worse! I laughed to myself internally as I realized my squats were getting less and less low. But I still managed to pee on the ground and not myself. (Can I put that skill on a resume?!)

Mile 75.3 came and my appetite was long gone by this point. Nothing sounded good. I was tired of eating, swallowing, chewing, thinking, moving. I was over this 100 miler. I knew I needed to eat something and as much as I hate to write this (you won’t believe it) the only thing that sounded remotely good was soup. And the only option was ramen noodles. NOT my first choice in a 1000 years. Being a real, organic food advocate and eater I cringed at this. But it was 2:30 a.m. and told myself to eat something. It was 100 miles for Pete’s sake. And so I had a few lukewarm swallows of ramen. Yuck. I can’t remember the last time I put processed “food” into my body. (**If** I run another 100 miler – and that’s a big IF – I’ve already thought of a way to have hot “Sarah Approved” soup for me to eat.)

 

Still running…late afternoon on the 23rd of August.

It was also freezing at this aid station. The volunteers were wrapped in blankets and told us to get in and out as quickly as possible. It was the highest point in the race plus exposed and the wind was making conditions miserable. There were even some slight snowflakes falling from the I left that aid station and kept telling myself “one foot in front of the other” and “mind over matter”. Both of these quotes took on a whole new meaning for me during the course of this race. I was still only able to power walk with a few attempts at “running” with no success. It was faster to walk at this point. I told myself I would keep moving till I crossed that finish line. Repeat quotes. I did have my iPod on and listened to the worship music. Having good, positive music is one of my keys to staying positive when everything around me is falling apart. One of the songs that played was by Jars of Clay Run In The Night. I chuckled to myself. If only they knew how literal that song was!

I had pulled away from Norb and Brian at this point and arrived at mile 80.1. Less than 20 miles to go! It was now 4:35 a.m. I drank some of the organic tart cherry juice and hobbled on. The pain was intense. I thought back to my first marathon and a nurse telling me that childbirth is so much easier. If that was the case, that showed just how difficult running 100 milers is. I told myself I could do anything. I knew by this point I would not be finishing in sub-24 hours. In fact I would be lucky to finish at all! I was ahead of the cutoffs, but they were always in the back of my mind. Oh how I dislike cutoffs. Strongly dislike.

 

Beautiful sky heading into sunset.

I knew I would arrive at the next aid station just as the sun was coming up. My second sunrise to behold without sleeping. Why was I doing this again? Yes, that’s right! The communities in Africa who long for the luxury so many of us take for granted: clean water. I power walked (marched) on.

Sure enough, at 6:15 a.m. I arrived back at Hill City, mile 84.9 and it was light out. I had been running-moving-shuffling-hobbling; whatever you want to call it (just not dancing) for over 24 hours now. I thought back to five hours ago of when I wanted to end it all, curl up in a little ball and just sleep. But yet here I was, still moving forward despite the excruciating pain I was in. It wasn’t pretty, but are 100 milers supposed to be pretty?

 

One of the last photos before heading into darkness.

This aid station was at a park and I got to use a real restroom for the first time in over a day! Using a toilet seemed strange. Once again I thought of this luxury that so many of us (me included) take for granted. Yes, I was glad I kept going when I wanted to stop at 1 a.m.

Even with the sun coming up it was still cold but the wind had died down so that was a welcome relief. I wasn’t eating much but I the organic tart cherry juice and organic carrot juice were still appealing so I drank that. I was paying as close attention as my weary mind could to how I felt nutritionally. And this intuition was good. I forced myself to have a few more bites of the solid organic food Erich had ready for me and swallowed what I could. I knew I only had a few hours left to go and I’d make it. I wasn’t too worried about calories at this point because A) I wasn’t running hard and B) it wasn’t hot out. If I kept my head in the right place (clean water for Africa, clean water for Africa, clean water for Africa), I’d make it across the finish line in one (but badly hurting) piece.

The whole sleep deprivation thing kept creeping up on me and I kept pushing that out of my mind. Mind over matter, Sarah, mind over matter. One foot in front of the other, one foot in the front of the other. Those were the phrases that were running (no pun intended) through my head for hours.

 

I made it! (You can’t see the tears streaming down my face.)

I trudged on, somewhat demoralized I wasn’t finished by now, but also happy I wasn’t pushing the cutoffs! Mile 89.9 came and I couldn’t eat anything. I still had 10 miles to go and I just wanted to cross that darn finish line and sit in a chair and not move. Erich refilled my hydration pack and I continued to march dutifully on. The next 5.7 miles were all uphill, although not technical, it was still uphill. My legs and feet were still on fire. They had been like this for hours.

I grimaced at the pain and kept the communities of Africa in my mental vision. If they could walk 35 miles for water – not even knowing if it would be clean or not! – I could most certainly suck up the fire raging in my body and finish this race. It seemed like the last aid station would never come into sight! The sun was creeping higher in the sky and I could feel my face getting sunburned. It was still chilly though and I had all the clothes I had put on 12 hours previously. I passed another runner, Dale, who Erich and I had leapfrogged way back between miles 56 and 62. He was in rough shape. His body was in a half moon shape on the right side. Not in a straight line. I hated to see the pain he was in.

 

MY SHOES ARE OFF! Notice my “missing” little toes.

After what seemed like hours, I finally approached the very last aid station. I believe I grunted a few tears. I told Erich I somehow had a pricker in between my big toe and the second toe. I had been running on it for about 10 miles now and the pain was unbearable at times. He asked me how I got it and I replied “I have no idea”. I didn’t want to stop, sit, take off socks, shoes, survey the situation, fix it however we could, and then put socks and shoes back on. Time was a precious commodity! I was **this** close to finishing. And **this** close to collapsing into a chair and not having to get up for a long time. Before Erich sent me on my way down the trail he asked me what I wanted at the finish line. All I could think of was to get my feet out of my shoes!

With 4.4 miles to go, I tried to run but it was apparent that my hip flexors had enough and I agreed them. The sun was burning my face up. I longed for a visor. Some shade. A chair. A bed. AND FOR THESE SHOES TO COME OFF! It was like running on hot coals with splinters. It was a new level of pain for me and not one I’ll soon forget. My feet hurt so bad at times, I even contemplated tearing my shoes off and hurling them in the woods. Running barefoot seemed like a good idea. But since I knew I probably wasn’t rationally thinking I left them on.

 

Erich getting ready to tend to my poor feet.

I passed another female runner and this lifted my spirits. I told her and her pacer good job and we both kept moving forward. Clean water for Africa, clean water for Africa, clean water for Africa. Suddenly, I thought back to what Erich asked me and I remembered the ice foot bath I had when I finished this race five years ago. That. Was. What. I. Wanted!

Those next few miles dragged on. I thought for sure they moved the finish line to the North Pole and didn’t tell me. A 50 miler runner and her family came up the trail to witness the last few hours of the 100 miler. They proceeded to power walk with me and talk. I couldn’t exactly think straight and who knows what I was saying, but they stuck with me those last few miles and their presence was much The finish line seemed like a mirage. I kept thinking I was hearing the cheers and celebration of the finish line area but it wasn’t. The minutes ticked by. I could not believe what I had just put my body through. The excruciating pain I fought through. The long, long night. Two sunrises. And zero sleep. Words flooded my brain and yet I felt numb to what was happening.

Then out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of the high school where I began many, many, many hours ago. Was it still 2014? What was my name? Birthdate? I saw Erich and tears filled my eyes. “When I turn 40 please remind me to go to the spa” I told him. The last 400 feet finished on the track where it all began. The small crowd at the finish cheered and clapped. I attempted to break into a hobble, but it was not happening. I succumbed to the shuffle I had been doing for the past 13 hours. With what energy I could, I lifted my arms into the air, tears filling my eyes and crossed the finish in 29 hours, 11 minutes, 45 seconds. I did it.

 

Much gratitude to my feet! They went through a lot to get me across the finish line.

And just like that it was all over.

As soon as I crossed the finish line I fell into Erich’s arm and wept. From the roots of the hair on my head to my poor, aching feet, my body was trashed. Other crew members and runners came over to congratulate me (this is what I love about 100 milers and small races!) and helped to pull my shoes off. What I thought was a splinter were really blisters. In fact, my feet were COVERED in them. I was missing both of my little toes – they had been taken over by blisters. People came over to ooh and aww and offer their condolences to them. Soon, someone brought a dishpan with ice water. Even though I was shivering it felt good to get my feet out of those shoes and into fresh air and cold water (to help with the swelling).

The various crew members, pacers, and other support people all helped the runners trickling in. It was an overwhelming sight. Every time a runner crossed the finish line we all cried together. Each one of us saw what we had been through and to see them finish was an incredible experience.

Dale, the runner I mentioned earlier, was the last runner to officially finish. We all cheered for him as he made his final lap down the track. He had started this race two (or was it three?) times before and this time was his first finish. I got goosebumps watching him cross the finish line.

It’s so interesting how you tell the body to do something and it listens. And then you cross the finish line and you can.not.move. We had to make our way to the awards ceremony and that was an eternity away. Erich and another kind guy helped me stand and walk, but within the first step we knew that it would be years before we ever reached the area so they hoisted me up into their arms and carried me a short distance to the room. I was in an exhausted, emotionally spent state of mind, but oh so very happy to be a finisher. Ironically, I managed to win my age group!

My feet needed attention, so Erich and I left the race and headed to find a drugstore. The medics had given us some supplies to aid in the blister care. Erich kindly tended to my feet (and mentioned that it was the grossest thing he has ever done) and bandaged my poor feet up.

Every time I looked at them I cried. They had been through so much. Even as I write this (three weeks post finishing) I have tears in my eyes.

Before leaving, we wanted to use our $10.00 coupons that was given as part of the race. We could use them almost anywhere in the little town of Custer. I had my eye on The Purple Pie Place before the race began and I used that as motivation several times during the race. We were in line when a rowdy kid STEPPED on my foot. I screamed, clutched the side of the counter a little harder and sobbed. After all my feet had been through, now this? It was more than I could take.

We had to drive back to Denver and that ride was brutal. Going straight from running 100 miles to sitting in a car wasn’t ideal, but we made the most it. We were both thankful it was a Silvercar. 

We stopped at two rest areas on the way back. I knew that movement was key and as much as I didn’t want to move, I had to. It took everything I had to lug myself out of the car, hold onto the side of car, step up on the curb. There was a plot of grass and I fell onto it. I tried to make it look like I was doing a cow/cat pose, but I’m sure I looked ridiculous. In fact, I know I did.

We made it back to Denver and Erich got a hotel room for us. I had to use a wheelchair to get to the room. Walking was oh, so very difficult. At this point I had been up for over 40 hours with 29 of those hours, running. When I saw the bed I almost cried. The other thing I wanted to do was to brush my teeth! Boy, did that feel good. Taking off my sweaty clothes was also another treat.

I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to sleep (the body might have stopped moving, but the muscles still keep going sometimes). I was also still going in and out of extreme hot flashes. I could not get warm. It’s almost like being really, really sick – fever sick like. But I didn’t have to fear not sleeping. I slept hard for about 12 hours.

August 25, 2014

The next morning was Monday and Erich was gone. I had to somehow get out of bed, get a shower, and get down to the car. I gave myself plenty of time to get these simple tasks done! I felt (and probably looked) like death. And concluded that all 100 milers should have a personal assistant for at least three days.

This was also the first time that I looked in the mirror. The wind and sun (and stress) even took a toll on my lips. It was like a Botox injection gone wrong. It took about a seven days for them to heal. Yup, my whole body was a wreck.

It’s weird to have accomplished something pretty significant and the rest of the world keeps on ticking like nothing even happened. Every time I thought of those 29 hours, 11 minutes I wept. Running 100 miles is a very emotional event.

I still didn’t have an appetite, but knew I needed to eat something (I did have a plant-based recovery shake right after finishing and some bites of pie but that was it). I saw a sign for Chipotle and thought that sounded good so I hobbled in. I was still feverish and could only eat a few bites. So much for that idea.

I finally arrived at my friends, “walked” in the door and fell on the floor. Every step I took wore me out. I slept fitfully the rest of the afternoon. The car needed to be cleaned out and it was clear that I was in no shape for that task so my friends graciously hauled in everything and cleaned it out.

The kicker was that I had to fly out to Canada the very next morning for a work trip to Manitoba Harvest. I had no idea how it was going to happen, but I was determined to make it happen.

Tuesday morning came and I unpacked just to repack, washed my hair (even blow dried it!) and was promptly worn out. I still had to return the car and fly. I was in no condition to walk so wheelchair it was. My feet were still in bandages so it was clear that “something” happened. I got a few inquires about them and the people were in awe of the feat. I flew to Canada, arrived in a wheelchair and the next 2 days were rough, but at least bearable. However, that Tuesday evening I got my appetite slowly back and enjoyed a meal for the first time in four days. On Thursday, I was able to put on shoes (TOMS) again for the first time in four days. By Friday. I was able to walk (slowly) and got to go to yoga. And then I slept almost the remainder of the day. I couldn’t get enough sleep. Saturday I was feeling really good and walked for about five hours with a TRX workout I discovered at a nearby gym Yoga Public with a good afternoon nap in between walking around Winnipeg. That evening I was really sore and in some pain and I knew I overdid it. The following day was Sunday and I didn’t move a whole lot.

But Monday morning I wanted to get in a workout and even though I was traveling, I got up and walked to Yoga Public at 5:45 a.m for yoga and TRX. Yup, I was feeling back to my old self again and that felt good.

I was drinking plenty of muscle recovery tea, eating really good, organic, whole, anti-inflammatory foods and this really helped with my recovery. I discovered the only organic cold-pressed juice shop in Winnipeg and that was a Godsend. I kept walking and I was surprised how good I felt physically just a week out from the race.

The emotional side of recovery was (is?) a different story. There will be times I will just tear up for no reason. Not being an emotional person this is unusual for me. It’s teaching me to be extra kind to myself and give myself love, grace and self care.

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As I was running the race I told myself I wouldn’t run another 100 miler. Since finishing I’ve had several people ask me when my next one is. Having been at the start line of now four 100 milers and finished two of them I guess I’m not exactly going to stop this sport anytime soon. I’m also a “young” 100 miler. The average age of a female 100 miler is about 45 years. So while I can not answer that question right now – the emotional and physical scars are still healing – it’s probably safe to say I’ll be embarking on more 100 milers in the future. Hell, five days before the race I was looking at one of the ninth toughest ultramarathons (Fat Dog 120). Is that an indicator? It might be.

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