On Friday, July 6, I replaced a run with a 13-mile bike ride that included four miles of pavement, seven miles of dirt road and two miles of single track. Descending the technical, wet, muddy mountain biking section, I hopped a slippery log that sent me flying sideways and landing hard on my left wrist.
The result? A broken forearm bone, bone bruising, edema and contusions of the wrist. I was placed in a cast for two weeks followed by a brace.
It would have been a good excuse not to run the 50K. And for the first few days, the pain was so intense that it seemed impossible to proceed with the training. I had to miss two key long runs (five-hour and two-hour back-to-back runs), totaling six days of zero running.
Instead, I saw it as a sign from the universe telling me to stop whining, get over the burn-out and to find the strength and faith within the training - to trust all the hard work and dedication I had logged.
It did not matter how I felt. The fact of the matter was that I was ready, on a physical and mental level.
Not racing the 50K would be down right regrettable.
Keeping in line with my most common race goal, "to run without regret," I decided that no matter what happened, I would show up to the start line, broken or not.
Yes, sticks and stones and mountain bike crashes can break your bones. But words? They can break your spirit.
So, when an MRI revealed that the fractured radius (broken forearm) was still not healed, and the non-runner of a doctor advised not to run the race that had been stirring in my soul for six years, there was only one thing left to do (after crying in his office and making him feel quite awkward, I think, lol!)...
Come back to my WHY. Why run? Why race? Why 50k? Why ultra?
Do you see the man in the photo above? He’s my dad. And he’s my why.
In 2012, he lay dying in a hospital bed as I gushed about the 27 miles I had run in a trail race the day before. I told him I wanted to run marathons and ultras. He told me to run the Mount Summit Challenge.
He did not live to see me run again. But his spirit lived on and has met me in miraculous ways at 13 races now.
I did not tell the doctor about my why, but he felt it. And on Thursday, August 2, he believed, with me, that a woman with a passion could live her dream and overcome obstacles.
"Wear the brace. Don’t fall. Good luck," were his final words.
What would be the longest race I have ever run was predictably going to be the hottest. I knew the heat would be a force as my husband, Eric, and our two sons, Avie, five, and Grey, 16 months, slept in our tent the night before the race. I nursed Grey all night and, despite sweating while just lying there, we did sleep. But we sweated, too. At 7 a.m., the stickiness in the air was palpable.
Blazing hot, brutal conditions at 88 degrees and 100 percent humidity provided for some Race Lows:
🔸Racers, even those in the 25k, were collapsing, quitting and cramping (I had the latter off and on for eight miles, oh those inner thighs made me SCREAM out loud!!!). One man quit with just four miles left (don’t blame him). A group of 10 quit at mile 17. Yes, the heat exasperated the already physically demanding challenge of running 31 miles. And though my knees ached at times, muscle cramps slowed me down, food made me gag, and I couldn’t urinate...
Mentally, I was golden.
🔸My broken arm stayed intact!
🔸Meeting the experienced ultra runners there to train for 50 and 100 milers and seeing their excitement as I told them it was my first 50k. I’m sure there were others, but I did not meet another first timer.
🔸Feeling the love of my why, race angel dad and the company and encouragement of the men (because I saw zero women after mile two) with whom I climbed, descended, crossed creeks, ran through bull fields , crossed suspension bridges and foot bridges, belly crawled under electric fences, ladder climbed over barbed wire fences, opened and locked three gates behind us, ran through a cave, a tunnel and West Virginia hollers over single track, dirt, gravel, pavement, rock beds, creek beds and enjoyed ICE cold water at aid stations. The miles became easier with these ultra-loving men at my side: Emit from Ireland, the local West Virginian Shawn and Indiana-natives Kelly and Randy, who hung with me in the final miles and gave me positive words over and over.
🔸Seeing hubby Eric, Avie and Grey, my biggest fans, at mile 22, and hearing them cheer and shout and run into my arms. My favorite cheer: ‘I love you, Mom!’
🔸Finishing in 6:29. Like all races, I had no idea what my time was or of time in general (one reason I love running!) until I crossed the finish line, at which point my heart leapt with glee and surprise at my time, so happy that I had remained strong and steady, simply moving forward despite pain, heat and the broken forearm supported by a sopping wet brace. "Second Overall Female!!!" announced the finish line volunteers as they handed me a hand-thrown vase.
Ahhhh, sweet satisfaction. :) :) :)
I ran without regret. I captured a dream. I have so many to thank - dad, mom, sister, Eric, Avie, Grey, the Trail Run Tribe, fellow racers...
Here's to feeling the love, spreading the love and living a life you love <3