I had a tough time falling asleep the night before my race, but I wasn’t super worried. I have been told that two nights before the race is when it is important to get a good night’s rest and I comforted myself with that. I am not sure if it was nerves or just nervous energy keeping me up, but I read, meditated and still I laid there awake. When sleep did finally come I slept well, except getting up to go to the bathroom once. When my alarm went off at 5:45 am it still felt really early. I pulled myself out of bed, dressed and went upstairs to eat. Thursday, I spent all day packing and cooking for race day so I had breakfast all ready to be reheated. Nerves finally set in that morning and I had to force myself to eat my gluten free pancake and scrambled eggs. Everything was going well until I filled my hydration pack with water and it just ran back out of the place where the hose connects. I just looked at it…I didn’t pack a spare, what the hell was I going to do!? I texted my coach, Coleen, and she said no worries she would try to track down a handheld water bottle for me from someone she knew at the race but worst case I could just carry a regular water bottle. I knew it would be fine but it didn’t help my nerves! I finished breakfast and left a little early, hoping to find an open Walmart so that I could buy a new water reservoir. As luck would have it there was a Walmart on my way to the race! They didn’t have a regular bladder, just a huge one with cooling gel. When you are wearing it all day you do not want the extra weight and it was twice the price. Finally I just bought a whole backpack setup. It was cheaper and I took the bladder out of it. I grabbed what I needed and headed for the start line! The new bladder didn’t really fit in my pack well, but I didn’t care, anything had to be better than carrying a handheld for 30 miles! I get pissed off at my handheld after 6 miles, there was no way I would have a good day with it.
I filled the new bladder, dropped my bag at the turnaround aid station and ate another gluten free pancake with peanut butter on it. I felt as ready as I was going to get so I lined up at the start with a few other ladies waiting in line for the bathroom and made small talk. The start line had a digital countdown going and we could tell from the length of the line and the timer we weren’t going to make it to the bathroom before the gun went off. I wasn’t too concerned since I am pretty sure I only felt like I had to go from nerves. Anyone else like that? Nervous bladder? Anyone?
I was nervous for this race and the time goals Coleen and I set made me a little light headed, but I felt really trained and ready. Not being from the area I had never been on the trails before, so I was excited to see what it had in store for us. Friday night it had stormed its ass off so people were warning me that it might be really sloppy out there. I thought to myself, sloppy would suck but I survived two loops at Winter Wyco this year, I can handle it.
The starting horn blew, and we were off. It started on pavement and I took off running with everyone else. Immediately we began to climb and I had to remind myself, “don’t go out like an asshole!” and slow to a hike. The first part of the race is a decent climb uphill so I did a lot of hiking. Our plan for me was to power hike all the uphills in the first half and run the downhills and the flats. The course is kind of like a bowl, you go up then drop down to a flatter section before climbing back out and once we topped that big hill I had hella fun running back down it. I love a technical downhill! I bombed down the rocky hill, crossed a little creek into an open field and found aid station number 1. I had snacked on a kind bar during the first few miles but Coleen wants me to eat at every aid station no matter how recently I snacked so I got potatoes and oranges and took off again. The next section reminded me so much of Shrek’s swamp, I kept shouting, “What are you doing in my swamp?” in my best Shrek voice. No one found me funny except me, but hey I am the one that matters right? We were running sandy river trails along the Meramec river. It was green, wet, muddy in some places and flat. I think I definitely ran too fast, but I just felt really good.
I chuckled to myself as I watched people try to go around the puddles on the trail in this section. It was wet everywhere and there was no way to keep your feet dry. I just ran right down the middle in the mud and water. This proved to be the best line later when we got to our first water crossing. Some runners were stopping trying to figure out how to jump a 7-foot-wide creek. It isn’t happening people, you will be wet, just go through it! Thank God for wool socks! They were wet from mile 4 on but my feet were never cold. They just work so damn well. I hit the fire road feeling good!
It was at this point that I began to have some issues with my menstrual cup. If you don’t want to read about period issues, then I will give you a minute to skip ahead to the next paragraph…. Ok, for those of you that stayed with me, the damn thing started sliding out! I swear it felt like the damn thing was at my knees. I knew there was a port a john at the turn around aid station, so I just kept running. Coming into the aid station at mile 7ish there was a lot of two-way traffic on a single track, so it slowed me down. I got into the aid station, ate then hit the bathroom. I was hoping the issue was that it was full, which can make it slide out. The bathroom was so nasty there was no way I was going to sit down in there, so I had to take out the cup, which wasn’t full, empty it and put it back in standing back up. That isn’t the best method and I knew immediately upon leaving that it wasn’t right still. I’m going to get real honest here and tell you I think the reason it wasn’t fitting correctly is because I was incredibly constipated. My asthma had been super flared up over the last few months and I was on week 4 of prednisone. A happy tummy that does not make. Anyway, it wasn’t staying in place and I wasn’t happy about it. I stopped two more times in the woods and tried to put the damn thing back in, but it wasn’t going well. When I got to the mile 11 aid station I went into the bathroom, took it out and bagged it. Fuck it, I couldn’t deal with a chaffed vagina, I would rather chance it without it. Thankfully I wore my Thinx, that day, so I wasn’t totally free bleeding.
This course is a double out and back so remember that big hill I ran down, now I get to climb back up it. It is huge! My calves were burning, and my hip flexors were getting sore. It seemed to take a lot longer to get back to the pavement coming back. This section is very rocky, so it is a little slippery which slowed me down a bit, but since I had been running a little fast it wasn’t a bad thing. You hit the pavement and run downhill, you can see the finish line and they send you back into the woods up another giant hill. The first lap it was cruel, the second lap it was torture! I spent a little time at the start finish aid station and changed into new wool socks. I knew they would be wet again in 4 miles, but it was worth it to have dry feet for a little while. By this time, it is raining pretty consistently but I enjoyed my midway treat, a grapefruit LaCroix and some potato chips, then feeling a little stiff I took off on loop two. I was getting sore and afraid that this loop was going to be a lot slower than the first. Hiking back up the same first hill shook things out a little bit and I was looking forward to the big downhill run again. I hit the aid station again and headed back into the swamp. The mud really got to me the second loop and I walked more than I wanted to, but I am super proud of myself because I refused to let myself get caught in the walking too much trap. I would walk a few steps and then say aloud, “Suck it up buttercup” or “it is supposed to be hard” and run again. I for sure got hit by the struggle bus in loop two but I kept on moving forward. When I got to the aid station to turn around and head back for the last time I lingered a little bit eating. I had ham, oranges, a lot of coke and chatted a bit. It was really raining now but the temps were warm enough that I was still in my tank top and didn’t want my rain shell. Back over the water crossings for the last time and through the swamp to the last aid station where I enjoyed the best avocado of my life! Then the push to the finish line!
After hiking uphill on loop one I was supposed to run as much of loop two as I could. I knew even on my best day I couldn’t run up the big hill to get out of the bowl, so I knew there was a lot of hiking in my future. I was so sore that I was afraid I would be miserable and lose ton of time on the big hills, but I didn’t. I just kept muscling through and climbing up. I did have to stop and catch my breath a few times. It was about this time that my left knee really started to hurt, and my stomach decided it was time to poop. I told them both to fuck off, we had less than five miles left in this race and I would deal with them when I finished. As you hit the pavement at the end there is a port a john, it’s about mile 27. I really didn’t want to stop and lose any time, but my stomach wouldn’t wait any longer, so I made a quick pit stop and then ran down the hill to go back up the last climb. The climb although really challenging wasn’t as bad as I was afraid it would be on exhausted legs but coming down into the finish was a little slower than loop one, it was wet, slick and I was tired.
I finished this race in 7 hours and 22 minutes which is a little over a two-hour improvement in my personal record for a 50K. I have never been prouder of a race, I ran smart, I ate a ton and I kept pushing even when it was hard. Running for me is never a solo sport, I couldn’t do it without a lot of help. I have friends and family watching my kids, so I can practice, my coach guiding me, friends encouraging me and running with me, I can’t thank them enough!