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On the day of the run, I got up around 3:45 am to be sure I had enough caffeine in me to function. I wanted to meditate, which is a usual part of my mornings, but as soon as I got up, both dogs and my mother-in-law, who has been staying with us, got up as well. So much for relaxation. A pair of kind friends had offered to transport me and during the drive, I was alarmed at how anxious and stressed I was already at that hour. We arrived at the starting line at the Black Walnut trailhead around 5:30 am, giving me plenty of time to get loose and use the porta-potty. I chatted a bit with the race director and tried to talk to other participants just to get out of my head, but they were wrapped up in their own logistics and picture taking.
The start was uneventful, but I realized very quickly that starting with the first group, at 6 am, was not the best choice. Different teams of relay runners started at 6, then 6:30, then 7 am, all based on estimated finish time, so that the fastest teams were scheduled to start later, which meant that all teams would finish around the same time. Well, I run a lot faster than most of those early runners and with the exception of one fellow, who bolted away from us at the start, I ran alone for the bulk of the day. There were a lot of curious bikers and some runners, most of whom passed me going in the opposite direction throughout the day.
I felt horrible for the first 5 miles. My legs were completely dead and I had already soaked through all of my clothes. My training schedule had been so astronomically high in mileage (I was regularly running 90-100 miles per week) that cutting back didn’t feel right the week before the run. I ran too much for sure in the last two weeks before the run, as is my tendency. To fill more space with activity, if I wasn’t running, I was walking or doing copious amounts of yoga. Rest tends to not be in my vocabulary. But after continuing to take in water and taking in food before mile 10, I started to feel somewhat better. Usually I don’t take in much food or gels during my long runs, but I knew that in order to sustain my energy, I was going to have to do something different on that day.
It wasn’t until right after the second aid station. around mile 12 maybe, that my mood began to shift, I felt lighter and more able to continue. Those first miles until mile 10 were rough and I had fleeting thoughts of not finishing, but then other things started to take hold and I remembered the reason why I was running. This run was not about me and how I felt. I did it for others.
I started to divide the run into segments. First 10, then second 10 and then next 10 and then who knew what the final 10 would bring. Most of the trail I have run before in various runs over the years and it was a pleasure to see sights that I had been missing. In my training I purposefully avoided running on the Katy Trail because I didn’t want it to become boring to me. I felt like I was seeing an old friend.
As I ran, I saw a couple of snakes and a few turtles, debating on if I should help them cross the trail or not (I didn’t) and heard some rumbling in the bushes. I didn’t look too closely as I really didn’t want to know what that was. I desperately wished someone would surprise me by showing up on the trail and run or bike with me along the way. It didn’t happen.
However, as I neared Augusta, I knew that one of my team members told me her friends would be on bikes. That was all I had to look forward to as the day got hotter and I scooted along seeking as much shade and encouraging words as I could find. Finally between miles 32 and 35, I saw them. The pair escorted me in to Augusta at a quicker pace than what I had been doing alone, as the company was rejuvenating.
As I began to realize I was nearing Augusta, I was well aware that my Garmin GPS was only registering around 36 or 37 miles and my mission was an even 40.The race director had told us the day before that the distance from Black Walnut to August was a mere 39 miles and that I would run a mile beyond to get in my 40 miles. I agreed to that. Unfortunately as I neared one of the bicyclists informed me that in fact, it was an extra 3 miles I would run, 1.5 beyond Augusta and 1.5 back. I melted.
I got to Augusta and met up with my teammates, one of whom ran with me. Well, we started out at a walk as I was still trying to get my head around going out another 1.5 miles. We started to run and continued and talked and I kept looking for that magical turn-around point. I knew after I hit that, everything would be fine. Still on the way out, I saw what I THOUGHT was the turn, but upon nearing it, I realized that it was still beyond my sight. I had a mini-meltdown; crying and hyper-ventilating. We walked together to the turn and I started to walk back to Augusta as my teammate went in the opposite direction to continue the relay. As I used to do when I first started running in my teens, I made landmarks. After that bridge I’ll run, I agreed with myself. I ran the rest of the way in and even faster when our third team mate came running towards me and ran me back to the finish. As I was the only finisher at that time, it was rather uneventful. I milled around a bit on my noodle legs, tried to hydrate and cease sweating, talking to the race director and support crew. Eventually I was able to walk up the hill to grab a shower and a bit of rest. I stayed until the last of my team finished and we ran, surprisingly my legs were still able, across the finish line together.