I flew down to Florida with John Friday morning and my dad, who lives in the Tampa area, picked us up from the airport. We went to pick up my packet and I got to see my friends Lauren and Wesley, two other Philly runners down for the 100. Lauren used to live in the area, so when I asked if she knew of a friend to pace me, she got her friend Jesse to agree to pace me from around 60-80. I briefly met him at packet pick-up, but my dad was antsy to head out, so it was short. We came back to my dad's place, I organized my bag for the race, then we met my mom for dinner, who had just flown in from DC. Even at dinner, it wasn't hitting me that I had the race that next morning!
|Flat Rebecca the night before|
|Sunrise at the start|
|Course Map from longhaul100.com|
Arielle and I got into a great groove that first lap, especially when we realized we were both gunning for a sub-24 pace. The course was pretty much all flat, but it was so beautiful; I felt like I was running through some really cool jungles at certain points. We eventually got into a run/walk cycle (thanks to Arielle) after we realized we 1) were going too fast and 2) it was going to be getting quite hot mid-day. I had seen 2 pm was the peak heat, so we just kept counting down the hours until we knew it would start getting cooler. We made sure to not push too hard in the heat because it would bite us in the ass later and I think we succeeded in that.
|Arielle and me in the Hall of Pines|
We chatted about everything! About running, about life, about music, about it all. I love the ultra community because 9.5/10 times, the other runners there are amazing people. It's so much fun to run with them because the hours just tick along when you are getting to know them.
|Arielle on the bridge over the water crossing|
People started to see us as the running buddies together and even our families were cheering us on together (Arielle's mom kept hugging me and wishing me luck each time we passed her and how do you not smile after that?!). This lap was okay, but I started to hit a negative spot and dealt with some stomach nausea around mile 34ish or so. I also felt really tired (which hello, 36 miles into a 100 mile race is kind of scary). I got to the 36 mile aid station, changed my socks, had half of a Street King energy shot (thank you, 50 Cent, for your chemical energy wonder), then we went off to finish the second lap. Oh and I danced before we left because how can you be that upset after dancing?
I always tell people that running an ultra can be like a roller coaster, where you have low spots, but they can quickly be followed up with highs. I never experienced such a quick turnaround as I did after I left that aid station. I needed that energy, the sock change, and the food I ate clearly because my attitude and body turned around so quickly. We hit the 40 mile mark, again within our goal time, and felt great! We traded in our red band for orange. Woohoo! We knew we were half a lap from being 50 miles in and that felt awesome.
We got to mile 50 at 10:57, 3 minutes faster than our 11 hour goal. Success! I had told Arielle that as a treat for the halfway point, I was going to listen to music. She suggested I just play it out loud, so we got to sing and dance along the miles until we picked up her pacer at mile 54. We picked up her pacer and I was so happy that it meant we were in the second half of the race. I was surprised with how well I felt, even though I was trying to be smart and not push too early.
|Arielle and me when we hit 50 miles. We thankfully saw no hogs!|
|Around mile 54|
Jesse was exactly the pacer I needed. He was firm and strict ("No casual chatting at the aid station. Your family will want to tell you that you look good, but you know you do, so keep going."), but he was able to keep me motivated because he wasn't harsh or mean. He also didn't mind me still playing my music out loud and even filmed my burpee and squat when "Roxanne" came on (shout out to my NP folks).
I liked knowing the course like the back of my hand by the time I got Jesse, so I was able to pretty much give him a tour of the course (he lives right by it, so I now am realizing he likely knew it already, but still). We did get lost, though, just past mile 70. There was this one section that was a bit harder to navigate in the dark. It was during a loop section and the loop ended only about .25 miles after that section. We kept running and I just felt like we must have messed it up. Lo and behold, we got to the Banjo sign (a sign that said, "Keep Moving! I think I hear banjos!"), which we had already passed. Crap! We turned around and hauled ass to get back to the aid station, having added likely around .5-.75 of a mile. All in all, that's not bad, but it through me slightly through a loop mentally.
|The Banjo sign!|
I will admit that I got into a mental funk when I picked John up as a pacer. I had gotten into such a good groove with Jesse, so having to explain things to John was frustrating. I could sense myself speaking with a harsher tone than I meant to and I kept apologizing. John was insanely wonderful and before the rain hit, he played music for me so we could try to distract my angry brain.
When the rain hit, boy, did it hit. Torrential rains, heat lightening, some rumbling thunders, and whipping winds. John told me that there were some pending tornados that were showing in the forecast, so I should push hard and finish with a badass story. We hit the 80 mile mark and I got my last colored band, the pink one I'd wanted from the start. I actually teared up for a second with one of the race organizers because I knew the last 20 were going to be a struggle and it felt so hard. She told me to keep it up and I was going to be fine. So we trudged along.
|About to head out in the torrential rain with John|
I used the last lap as a goodbye lap, saying goodbye to things and thanking them for being with me the whole time. I would say goodbye to the checkpoints, like the Banjo sign and the Hall of Pines. I remember the rain and puddles being bad, but it helped knowing it was my last lap of it. I saw a bunch of runners on their second to last lap and I felt so bad knowing they had so much more left. John also pointed out that most everyone else was reduced to a walk, but I was jogging along at a decent pace for that time. I even told John about how we got lost the last lap and I still nearly got us lost again (thanks to John, we didn't!).
|Hall of Pines during the day|
We got to the 95 mile mark aid station and Jesse told John he could hop in and take me for the last southern loop before John could bring me to the finish. John was like, "Hell no, I'm running with her through this entire last loop and we're going right now." It was pretty cute to see him so passionate about helping me finish the entire thing. I was fired up to have 5 miles left, but that 3.3ish southern loop was rough for me. I started it wanting to push, but my pace stunk and I couldn't get faster. The rain had stopped, so John put on some music (Tenacious D, per my request) and I just kept moving forward. I kept asking if the sub-24 was possible because I felt like it was slipping away. I just kept singing the Tenacious D lyrics and forcing myself to grit my teeth to push further.
|The lap bracelets in the order I picked them up.|
We hit the bridge over the one water crossing the last time and I knew I just had to get to the road, then it was less than a mile to the finish line. John played one of my favorite running songs, "Go The Distance" from Disney's Hercules and I kept singing the lines out loud to push myself. We hit the road and John hinted that he may have good news, but he couldn't tell me yet. Jesse was waiting along the road and then said, "Do you know what's cool? Finishing a 100 miler. Even cooler? Doing it sub-24? And even cooler? Being the first placed female." I HAD NO IDEA. Seriously, you could have told me I had grown a third eye and I may have believed that more.
|At the finish line with my two pacers, Jesse and John|
|My First Place Female Belt Buckle!|
Now to heal up and think about what to add next to my race calendar.