Finished 100 Miles - 27hr :55 min. 25 people set out to do the hundred miles. Only 9 finished.
Only 3 woman. 2 finished (including myself).
Pacers: Nate DaSilva, Chris Paulson
Crew: Jen Paulson, Margot Sherwin, Richard Sherwin
This is a long, drawn out post that will probably only interest those who geek out on running blogs, but if there are two things to take away from my first hundred experience they are this:
|Our amazing crew right after the finish - I owe this race to them.|
1. It is really all in your head. "The first 50 is run with your body, the second 50 is run with your heart/mind." So true.
2. If it was not for my crew and pacers, I would not have finished this race before the cutoff. They pushed me and are why I have the buckle.
If you have been following this blog, you know that the "taper crazies" hit me hard in the form of total paranoid of catching the flu (which was actually founded in reality because Nate and the kids both had it and lot of our extended family did as well). What was not founded was what an annoying mess I was for a good week and a half. Suffice to say, I did not catch the flu, but did catch a stomach bug a few days before the race (nothing that would keep me from running). So on Friday, Nate, the kids and I picked up an RV and headed for New Jersey (and into a snow storm) where we would meet Chris and Jen and my parents to complete the crew.
|Can't believe it's done.|
I picked up my bib number and had a brief chat with the NJ Trail Series amazing race director, Rick McNulty, who gave me some last minute advise, pointing to his head he said, "It's all in here." All 8 of us (Nate, Me, Chris, Jen and our four kids piled) into the RV we had rented to get to bed by 10 PM. Nate and I slept above the cab and I had what is one of the worst nights I can remember in recent history. I remember reading a first hundred miler blog poster who spoke about the mental demons he fought the night BEFORE the race and that is exactly what happened to me.
I laid in bed from 10 - 2 am while everyone else slept with my mind reeling: "There is no way you will be able to do this", "You have wasted everyone's time", "You cannot endure the misery", "You will let everyone down" - all these thoughts went over and over in my head. I was able to get about 2 hrs of sleep but at 5:45 I just decided to get up and get ready because I couldn't stand listening to myself anymore. I was trying to hold back tears as I got ready and everyone slept. I looked outside, the ground was covered in snow, which meant, of course the trail was covered in snow. 100 miles of snow...you could hear the groans of the other runners trudging around outside.
I went out to the hanger where the start/finish was with a cup of coffee to watch the 100K racers head out, my mom walked in and I almost burst into tears, "I just had the worst night, I'm terrified, I don't know if I can do this." Meanwhile, Nate, unbeknownst to me was having his own doubts - the weather was awful, it was such a bleak, dark day, the course would be torturous and the cutoff was only 29 hours. Then the 100M racers were called, we heard a brief speech from Rick McNulty and off we went.
Right away I hooked up with three other runners who were also attempting their first 100 so we stuck together and chatted for awhile and talked about race strategy - which for all of us was the same: go out as slow as possible and pray to finish before the cutoff.
|Icy, sketchy plank bridges.|
|At night time, I was seeing three planks|
for every one.
|Still waiting for this toenail to finish falling off.|
|The shoe change that took 15 minutes too long.|
As I came into the aid station I told the crew that I needed to change my clothes for the night, I was wet and cold. Nate felt my shirt and said, "You are totally dry - it's still warm - we can talk about changing at the next loop." As I was going to the bathroom both Jen and my mom were urging me to hurry and "Go, go, go". I began to get resentful and pity myself... they didn't know how hard this was! The other weird thing that happened to me was I started to revert to this weird state of being a manipulative child. As I was leaving the hanger I turned on some tears and said to Nate, "I don't want to go in the dark alone". His reply, "You'll be fine. Go." So I shrugged and I went. It was like I was hoping for him to save me - but he wouldn't so I headed out for my first lap in the dark.
|Kiki, Wyeth, Ani and Coco cheering me on.|
|Somehow I am smiling here. I was NOT |
smiling on the inside.
Miles 60-70 I thought were okay. I was tired, back was killing me and mentally I was having to focus as hard as I could to drive out all negative thoughts and any thoughts about the distance of the race. For the only point in the entire race I for one brief moment on this loop thought: "I'm tired, I would like to go to bed," and that was it. Going into the race I had heard horror stories about people having to fight going to sleep on the side of the trail - that never happened to me - sleep deprivation is one thing I am pretty good at overcoming. Sure, I was tired, but in control of it. I did start seeing things here - I saw a pink UFO looking thing in the sky and every once in awhile I would stop and have a conversation with a stick or something about how I knew it wasn't really moving around and following me. I also would see metal bars over the trail and have to talk myself into running through them - that they were not really there. I would get into a good running grove and then the little things would mess with me mentally - the sound of the snow would irritate me and I would think: "I can't do this anymore" and one negative thought would take a lot of time to recover from. I began to obsess over the cutoff time. It was at that moment that I decided in my head (without really knowing any details) that: a) I probably would not make the cutoff and that my family was hiding it from me and b) No matter what I would not be quitting this race - even if my finish was unofficial, I was running 100 miles over the next however-many hours, even if I would not get my buckle.
|My amazing husband (the best crew|
leader ever) and our beautiful kids.
Any person who I had spoken with who had run a 100 would say the same thing: "The first 50 are run with your body, the second 50 are run with you mind/ heart". I could actually feel that happening, my mind was taking over my body. I didn't feel pain, I just felt smooth and easy and light. Nate was behind me every step of the way: "That's it babe", "You got this", "I've never been so proud of you". With each encouraging word I felt stronger. We passed runners coming and going and they all looked terrible - but I felt great. After every surge I would take a quick minute to fast hike and regroup and then surge again. This was the third fastest loop I had run so far - only beaten by miles 1-20. We were buying time. Chris was set to pace me for the next loop but Nate and I were on a mission - he was going to make me give this race everything I had. Nate texted back to our crew that he was going to pace me the next loop as well. Now mind you, Nate had never run more than 12 miles before. So here he was having had crewed me for almost 20+ hours straight at this point and now he was going to run 20 miles on terrible snowy, icy trails. I came out of that loop exhausted, but with a glimmer of hope that maybe I could make that 9 am cutoff to head out on my last loop if I continued to run hard.
We blazed through the aid station and headed back out for mile 80. I had only ever run 50 miles in one stretch before and now at mile 80, I really didn't feel all that bad. I panicked a bit when we arrived at the aid station and I saw both my parents there. They were supposed to be at their hotel sleeping until morning. Why were they here? What time was it? It was still dark, but was the sun about to rise? The manipulation kicked in again briefly at the aid station as Nate tried to tell me we needed to run hard again. “I don’t think I can… I don’t have anything left”. Once again, we hiked down the road into the trails while I downed a banana, some canned peaches and a bit of Red Bull. Again, we started with the “Ultra shuffle” but I was able to use my mind again to control my body and run. Again, Nate was my own personal cheerleader – for every time that I told him “If I don’t make the cutoff I will just do an unofficial finish”, he would tell me, “You came here for the buckle – let’s do what you came here to do”. I felt so incredibly grateful to have him by my side. I don’t think anyone else in the world could have motivated me the way he did.
About midway through that lap, it seemed as though every blister on both feet popped at once. It stopped me dead in my tracks and I felt my shoes fill with fluid. I told Nate I had to stop and do something about it - I could not run like this. He said, "I didn't want to tell you this before, but over 60% of runners have dropped out of the race, if you keep pushing, you have a chance to make it and do what you set out to do". I started shuffling, my feet were on fire... then running, I could feel my big toe nail on my right foot ripping off. Then my feet went numb. Again, mind over body.
Miles 80-90 were fast as well. Not quite as fast as 70-80, but enough to bring us to 90 miles at exactly 8 am, one hour before the cutoff for my last loop. I panicked a little at the thought of Nate leaving me – how would I run without him behind me? Could I go on for 10 more miles?
Now other than my hiding food and getting sick to my stomach and all that, this aid station was the only time I left unprepared. The elation at making the cutoff had me saying I didn’t need anything but water, I was good – no food, no HEED, just water. Chris was ready to roll so we headed out. Nate was gone now and I realized I could now get a nice break, Chris wasn’t going to push me as hard – we could just take it easy. My math abilities were completely gone and I could not even figure out how far we had to go or mile splits – I was just tired. On the hike down Chris said, much to my inner resentment, “Nate said you can hike down the road but once we are on the trails, you need to run, girl.” Again, the manipulation, “Oh, I think I’m okay. I’m really tired.” Once we were back down on the trail Chris started running right up behind me, I had no choice but to go. Granted it was a pathetic ultra-shuffle for quite awhile, but at least it was something. Chris made sure I was moving. Around mile 95 I started getting dizzy, I reached for some HEED and realized I had none, reached in my pack and realized I had no food. Shit. Then the dizziness really started to set in. As for fueling and hydration my crew had forced me to take care of myself and therefore saved me, but now I was really starting to feel not having any fuel. I found a half-eaten granola bar on the side of the trailed and ate it. We got to an aid station that had been manned last time Nate and I came across it, but all that was left was some food on the trail and some Mountain Dew – I downed as many calories as I could and almost instantly felt better. Only about 4 more miles to go. Keep pushing. Chris was urging me to keep moving, “Come on girl, I’m not going to be the one who let you come in late”… I started to feel that surge again, mind over body. Getting closer. A few more miles. Up ahead I could see our crew cheering – they had come to meet us at the trail entrance. We ran faster. Then the hill back up to the fairgrounds – I started hiking it – but Chris was running – let’s do a “strong finish” he said. I pathetically shuffled up the hill as best as I could. Only about a mile more, up the hill and then down and around the fairgrounds to the finish.
|Kiki running me into the finish.|
I can’t describe the feeling. I had wanted to run 100 for so long but really didn’t know what it meant to do it or what I would experience. There is a point where the mind takes over and it no longer matters what the body is doing. Of course, the best part of all of this is that due to this race and the point of this race is the building of The Cindy Lynn Sherwin Memorial Playground in New Haven, CT. Cindy had no idea she would have playgrounds named after her or that people would run in her name and I know for damn sure she never thought I would run 100 miles… but life is crazy.
Someone made a joke during the race about, “bet you are done now” and I said “never again” – but I’m already wondering what’s next…
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to my crew: Mom, Dad, Nate, Jen, Chris, Kiki, Wyeth, Annika and Coco. XO
|The buckle I wanted for so long.|
|My incredibly supportive parents who were with|
me every step of the way.
|Post-race foot assessment.|