I didn't literally fall off the planet. I did travel around the planet for some time which was amazing. It just so worked out that after I completed the Titletown Ultramarathon (where I logged my very first 100K!) my family and I picked up and left for the most bonkers travel adventure through Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It would have been a fantastic getaway just on its own but taking that time to take a break from running (and a lot of other things in the world) was the absolute best way to let my body and mind recover from the monster training cycle I began this past January. It feels a little strange to go back two months and try to recapture how I felt at the race but I do like to rehash the bigger races I complete so I'll give it a stab.
I'm not really sure why I had such a laid back attitude about approaching 100 kilometers. It's not that I think I'm super good at running ultras, I just didn't let any negativity leak into my brain throughout the training process. It probably helped that the first block of my training was focused on trying to lock down some better Boston Qualifying times at the Circular Logic and Bloop Marathons back in April. I didn't turn my full attention to Titletown until after the Bloop was behind me and by then I already had a HUGE base I could launch from. I also think my decision to use this race to fundraise for Girls Rock Milwaukee gave me the feeling that no matter what happened on race day, I was going to find a way complete the race. How could I not after everyone donated all that money? I remember saying to myself the week of the event, "There is really no reason why you won't be able to finish." Obviously, the rational side of my brain knows that a catastrophic injury would surely end the race for me- but barring anything crazy I should be able to stay on my feet and get the thing done. Being a 15.5 hour timed event, my goal of 62 miles meant I could go at a very conservative pace and I could afford to do a lot of walking. (Oh and believe me I did!)
The race was a loop course of a little under 5 miles and there were three events: a 6 hour, an 8 hour and a 15.5 hour. We literally ran loops from sunrise to sunset on a trail that wound its way around the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay campus. The trail was a mix of everything- dirt, wood chips, crushed limestone and little bit of asphalt near the start/finish. It's not a road race, but it it's also not a super technical, tough trail race either. Still, 62 miles is 62 miles right? RIGHT. Let's not act like this stuff is easy.
|Sample viewing of the course|
I admit that running ultras is not always the smartest thing. Or at least not the most understandable thing? There were some times during the later miles where I was literally saying out loud (to no one), "THIS IS STUPID. I'M NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN." And while can't say for sure they're not stupid... I do know I'll find myself doing it again. There's something really alluring about knowing you will be out on the trail all day with nothing to do except put one foot in front of the other. It doesn't matter how fast you go, you just GO. I didn't have anywhere else to be, anyone to worry about ,or anything to do. I could just be there in whatever moment I was in, move forward, and breathe.
|Moving forward and breathing.|
Most of the day seemed to fly by. It's funny how when you let go of everything you become less conscious the passing of time. Looking back at my Garmin now I can see that for much of the race I was averaging around one loop per hour but I didn't have any pacing plan or strategy going in other than "Walk the hills. Eat what you want when you want." This seemed to work for the most part other than instead of eating food all I really wanted to do all day was drink soda. I don't tend to drink it in my "normal" everyday life but during ultras and long trail runs I always crave it so I slammed a cup of Coke or ginger ale at every aid station and it gave me a boost every time. I suppose I'm lucky it didn't backfire? I'm a firm believer though that your body knows what it needs in situations like these- or at least my body does- so things were good. I did also partake of a slice of pizza and a beer when offered it on my final lap, which may or may not have saved my life. At that point I was full on walking so I knew I could at least stumble it into a finish.
|No actual runners were harmed at this event.|
I finished 62.65 miles in 14 hours! That last loop especially was a saaaad little walk shuffle. Plus, when I got to the "finish" I was only at 61.75 miles so they informed me if I wanted to get credit for 100K I had to hoof it almost ANOTHER mile down the road to the first aid station and someone would give me a ride back form there. Yes, I technically could have tried to fit in another full loop since the course was still open for another hour and a half but um... no. I took that car ride back. I was super proud of myself for completing my 100K goal and honestly at this point my brain had shut off, seeing no reason to take even one more extra step.
I don't have a finishers photo because I forgot to ask someone to take my picture when I rang the gong after I was done. (Yes there was a gong. It was awesome.) I did get a sweet mug though and a hat and a finishers shirt and oh, the satisfaction of reaching a goal that I worked really hard for so I'll take that over another sweaty photo of me to post on the internet.
I know there's tons of stuff I'm forgetting, especially because the experience softens over time and the feeling of accomplishment washes away the parts where my legs felt like they were on fire and I was questioning the meaning of life. Overall I'm glad I did it. I'm glad I raised over $1000 for Girls Rock Milwaukee. And I'm glad I got the chance to step away from running for a bit afterward and let my body recover.
But now I'm back and that's another chapter but I've already written enough for tonight so I'll save it for next time. :)