If you read my Bryce Canyon 50k blog you know that I DNF’d. It was so disappointing after all the training so I decided to try again to conquer the 50k. After searching I found one that fit in my timeline and wasn’t terribly far away. Best of all the accommodations were included in the race entry fee!!! I read the course description, followed them on Facebook and signed up. The Shawnee Hills 100 mile Endurance Race looked amazing. It had waterfalls, a national forest and treehouses!!
The last weekend in August I packed up my nathan hydration vest and headed to southern Illinois. The race started and ended at Camp Ondessonk, the cutest little place. It has all these cabin clusters that are mostly three walled, open air tree houses. We ended up with four walls but had a fun deck and fire pit. We got settled in, attended the pre race meeting and made dinner before heading to bed.
Race Day dawned with perfect running weather. I was a lot more nervous this time. I don’t know if it was the fear of failing or just knowing the challenge I was heading into, on purpose. My coach, Coleen gave me a bracelet with her picture and a reminder not to go out like an asshole. This was my mantra for the first 3 miles.
I tried to take it nice and slow for the first few miles, which wasn’t terribly hard since there were a few hills to get out of the campground. The forest was gorgeous, even though all the water fall’s were dry.
My asthma was really giving me trouble and I struggled to breathe. I wasn’t sure if the nerves were causing the asthma or the asthma was making the nerves worse but I felt both of them, terribly the first 10 miles or so. Feeling very frustrated I wondered if I was cut out to run long distances. The mind is such an important part of distance running so I tried coming up with a mantra to help me stay positive but I could not think of anything I believed. Finally I settled on the song from the Lego movie. “Everything is awesome!” I sang this over and over to myself, the entire day.
Around mile 5 we came out of the woods onto a fire road, heading into aid station number 1. I was pretty sure there were only 2 people behind me so I was surprised when people started passing me. At first I thought maybe I was mistaken about how many people were behind me, but as more and more runners came from behind and passed me I started to panic that I had taken a wrong turn and cut the course somehow. When a girl I had spoken to in the first mile passed me I asked her what was up. Turns out a large group of runners had taken a wrong turn and added a little distance to their race. This would be an ongoing theme for this race. I felt pretty good at the first aid station, so with Coleen’s words echoing in my ears I got in and got out very quickly.
The next big challenge was a very rocky section. I found it difficult to run this stretch and did a lot of power hiking. There were people everywhere setting up for a day of rock climbing. Coming out of this section I spotted a local photographer hired to document the race. He was set up for an amazing shot but I was nervous I would fall and make a fool of myself. I decided to run across the rocks anyway, injuries be damned, I wanted a cool race photo. Mile 90 photography did not disappoint!!!!
Right after this image was taken I heard my name being shouted. My husband Dave and my friend Leia were at the top of the falls and cheering for me! I looked up and then around and said aloud, “How the hell do I get up there?” I soon found out! This was one of the coolest sections of the race. I got to run through a “cave” and up a steep rock climb! Then the trails led along the top of the falls. This section was hard but so amazing we went back and hiked it Sunday. Coming into the second aid station I knew I needed to lose the tall socks and ankle brace. I was hot and it was rubbing my foot wrong. Lucky for me Dave and Leia were waiting for me. They changed my shoes and fed me and had me back out of there like a professional pit crew.
The next aid station was about 5 miles away and by the time I was heading into it my hip flexors were really hurting. I wasn’t sure I could keep going. I hiked with another runner for about a quarter of a mile and she encouraged me to keep moving. At the aid station I fueled up on soda and pickles. It was really starting to heat up so I had them give me ice to take out on the trail too. A guy I knew had passed me early on was hanging out at the aid station. I asked if he was ok and tried to encourage him to head back out on the trail. He turned me down but then decided to catch up to me a little way down the trail. His name was Jason and he became my race buddy. We stuck together for the rest of the race. When I threw up at mile 25 he waited for me to pull it together and we headed out together. If one of us could run we both tried, when one of us needed a walk we both hiked. We stuck together the next 16 miles and it was just what I needed. I did finish this race, in 9 hours and 30 minutes. I couldn’t have done it alone, Dave, Leia and Jason all got me through.
This race suffered from vandalism several times. People using the trails were taking down course markings. It caused a lot of runners to get lost, multiple times during the race. Most runners missed the third aid station which left them with 13 miles or more between places to refuel. I cannot stress how dangerous this was. Missing a water refill with that far to go in the heat of August is not something to mess around with. I was so lucky I never got lost but I may literally be the only one that didn’t. I wanted to feel stronger for the race. I didn’t want to struggle as early as I did but that was what happened. I promised myself the entire race and the rest of the week that I wouldn’t do another one. I checked it off my list now I can stick with half marathons or 25k’s. This week I am researching my next 50k. That is what trail runners do. We have a love hate relationship with the distance and the pain. My plan is to spend the winter getting stronger and focusing on my weaknesses.
I am proud of my accomplishment, I ran even after vomiting, through pain and mental fatigue. The aid stations were amazing and kind, my crew ROCKS and the forest was absolutely stunning. I call it a success!!!