Ultramarathon Man, Pine Needle Pillows, and Neverending Hills

Everyone gets a crazy hair up their butt and months before my September 29 0800 go-time, I signed myself up for a half-marathon and my husband, Paul, up for the 10k somewhere along the trails of Pine Mountain, GA for the North Face Endurance Challenge.  Paul runs 2-3 times a week with the Army, but I somehow neglected to get my arse out the door to run.  I did CrossFit though.  Because that’s TOTALLY gonna carry me through 13.1mi on a trail with 3,800ft of elevation changes and tricky footing.

As I grew more and more involved in the fitness community on Facebook, I eventually looked into the race some more.  Discovered that Dean Karnazes was going to be there the day of the longer races!!!!!  That sure put some pep in my step.  Finally, one month before race day I consulted my brother regarding what to do and I followed through without excuses.  I got the mileage on my feet with dog walks, jogs, and a few long runs.

Friday night, I worked 2000-0800 with very little sleep and came home to coffee that myIMG_0375 hubby had brewed for me. 🙂 Then we headed out to make our way up to Pine Mountain with the sole intention of meeting Dean.  I was impressed by the organization of the whole shuttle and little start/finish area immediately.  I snagged my opportunity to get a photo with Dean after hours of waiting for the perfect moment (which came right after he handed out awards to top 3 in each category) and then headed back to the house to rest before my race.

Went to bed and slept a solid 8.5 hours hoping that would negate the lack of sleep the night prior.  0500 comes awfully early, but I dragged my butt out of bed and got dressed.  The enthusiasm was soaring once we got on the bus after our hour drive.  I’m not going to lie. I was nervous as hell. I honestly did not know what to expect.

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It was the perfect kind of chilly for a runner that morning.  Paul was in sweats and I didn’t IMG_0376wear quite so much because I knew I wouldn’t be cold long.  I just brought a blanket.  I have weird tendencies prior to a race.  I hang out way far away and glare at the clock and pick out people that I think are going to beat me.  I almost have to be coaxed to the start line and Paul snagged a photo of that.

I’m in the 2nd wave anyway……… that only starts 1 minute behind the 1st wave.  I was skeptical about that.  With 7 minutes to go, I make my way up and do the whole talk to people around me because I feel like it’s awkward not to say hello.  Dean Karnazes gives a pep talk pre-race that I don’t hear because I was on cloud9 and we don’t get good reception up there.

IMG_6948Finally they holler GO and off we go… across the road and immediately to a creek that no one wants to run through because clearly we will melt if our feetsies get wet! So there was a killer clog in the pipe.  1st and 2nd wave met with the exception of the crazy em-effers that are speedy Gonzales’ even up the half-mile hill climb that you face immediately.  I was WAY too far back.  With single tracks, I had no choice but to have frustration boiling like lava within and just keep walking quickly behind these people that were practically crawling even down the hills.  The path was full of loose rocks.  It didn’t take long for me to start stumbling and tripping mostly while walking.

I finally got frustrated enough to practically knock someone out of the way because they would not allow me to pass.  I know, I know… not very nice, but she was being a meanie poo-poo head and I was patient for approximately 20min or so.  It took until mile 3 for me to get out ahead of the people that I naturally pace faster than.  There was a whole lot of people not wanting to share the path.  I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but I took my first spill (yes, I said first) somewhere around mi 3.5.  I lucked out and it was a muddy spot, no rocks.  I got up and carried on.

IMG_6950Whew. 4. I didn’t even know what to think at this point. I am just hoping I don’t break anything and somehow manage to survive. haha.  I keep going.  I eventually catch up to some folks and pace behind them because that’s safer for me with all my tripping, stumbling, and ankle rolling.  There is some conversation to help pass the time.  I think right about this point is where some man tells me that CrossFit is bad.  HOLY HELLFIRE it took everything I had to maintain composure and not go into “are you f*@&!#G crazy” lecture mode.  I did manage to exclaim that without CrossFit, I wouldn’t have the strength in my legs (particularly my solei muscles and achilles tendon) and I would not be out here.  He still grumbled some BS and very soon I left him somewhere behind me.  I was feeling good here despite the constant ascents.

There was an aid station at mile 5.3 and I just blew through it. I had a vanilla bean, a chocolate Clif gel, and water so I didn’t stop.  Not stopping gave me a happy feeling of passing some people that did stop and that carried me through about half a mile before it started to hit me that I was not even halfway done.  I took the GU and I came up on a couple of guys and I stayed with them for a very long time because somehow you are less miserable when you know you are suffering with others.  I don’t know when I fell again, but it happened.  It was not quite as sweet as the first one.  There were a couple rocks around.  But I still got up all quick like and kept going.  I only almost gave the guy in front of me a heart attack.  No biggie.

IMG_6954Mile 8-9 took me to some pretty scenery, not that the other paths weren’t pretty because they were.  But even with my sweaty, scratched lens on my phone you can see why I stopped.  Something my brother said to me one day on an 8mi trail run stuck with me. “Sometimes you just need to stop and take in the scenery.”  Of course, I was careful to do so and not lose ground with the people I’ve passed.  Snap and go!

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I tried to tell myself that this is like going out for a 5ish mile run kinda tired to keep up the morale inside my head after this.

It only worked for a little while. Mile 9.4 FINALLY brought the next aid station (they turn into checkpoints because I started feeling like I was just lost on the trail with other crazy people) and I again went through it.  I took my Clif gel and it was delicious with no icky aftertaste!  I don’t really recall much of the 1.6mi between this aid station and the next one, but I went through that one too.  At some point I fall a third time, but this one took the cake… this one deserves the GOLD STAR of moments out on that trail.

IMG_6959 IMG_6958I superman-ed it: fell downhill, face forward, arms out in front… I don’t know how I survived to be honest. I sustained some hand damage on that one (didn’t look at legs for bruises).  Got up and kept truckin’.

When I saw the 10mi marker, I felt awesome.  I don’t know where the pine needle covered path came in, but it was like pillows for my feet.  A little bit of heaven.  Like walking on clouds.  I was reminded that God does actually love me. Haha.

Mi marker 12 came and then I swear to you, I thought the finish line was NEVER going to come. thought that finish line and the clock and my husband were never going to come into sight.  My longest run in preparation was 10mi and it was nothing compared to this. I mean I wasn’t even done going up hill after hill and my tushy was hurting from all of the power-walking (again, advice I received from my brother, and it made me better than others with more training).  The encouraging thing was after mi 10 I started passing more and more people.  I even started jogging up the hills (that really never seemed to end or go away). They were the hills that never end, yes they go on and on my friend…. Not gonna lie. I sang that song.  Out loud.

rebornMy momentum was building… I was ready for my medal.  When I broke through that clearing, I sprinted like my life depended on it folks.

IMG_0386I ran

for

my

freakin’

life.

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When I crossed that finish line, I was wheezing for air.  I gave it my all that last chunk of trail… I left my doubts, I left my fears, I ran from my frustrations,  I ran from myself… I don’t know how to explain it, but the was a milestone race for me mentally.

IMG_03902 HOURS 49 MINUTES AND 55 SECONDS AFTER I STARTED, I had finished the biggest physical challenge of my life.  I was so upset by my time.  Paul had to remind me that I had only been running for a month and that I’m not out there to race others, but to run for myself.  It’s hard for me to think like that.  I want to finally be GOOD at something, no… not just good, GREAT…  James (brother) WON the 100mi Georgia Jewel and Paul was only 2 outside of the top 10 in his 10k!!! I want that!  Paul probably would have beat me out on that half-marathon… that’s SO frustrating!IMG_0392

108/238 overall for me……………….wait……………

You mean to tell me I BEAT 130 people??? Despite 3 complete falls, 3 3-point “almost-fall” stances (one of them was so badass I wish it have been caught on camera), and probably between 30-40 stumbles, trips, and rolls?!?!?!??! YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS. 🙂  I may not be the fastest, but (by golly) I’m not graceful and I had “no business” being out there knowing my natural tendency to trip over my own feet.  I look like I got assaulted….. and I did, but by un-chiseled gargoyles.  BUT I KEPT GOING.  I’d say that’s a Jayme victory 🙂

more than I thoughtAll in all, it was a good experience.  Scares me to think I went that crazy out there on a 13.1mi run… I might need to be committed post 100mi when I finally accomplish that.

Post race meal: chicken alfredo add broccoli at Olive Garden with a bowl of whatever potato mushroom soup it is they have right now. HIT. THE. SPOT.

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