After packing my supplies for the second day of the race, the 50 miler, I retired to bed EARLY. Probably before 8. I knew we were going to have to wake up insanely early to get ready and out the door for the 6am start. I thought I would sleep great after a long warm day of running, but that was not the case. I tossed and turned all night trying to find a comfortable position. My IT band was hurting bad at my right knee. It was so tight I couldn't straighten my leg. I had to sit up in bed and push my knee down with my hands to get it straightened out.
Somehow I was not yet worried about the next day's race. I finally gave up on sleep and got out of bed at 3:30 even though my alarm was set for 4. I made breakfast: coffee and a mini-bagel with peanut butter and Nutella. Mmmm. All the while I hobbled around. After breakfast, I got dressed and put on my shoes. Once I put on my shoes I realized not only did I have this insanely tight IT band but my achilles tendons hurt like heck everytime I took a step.
Once I had all my stuff ready to go and sat down, I started thinking. And the more I thought, the more I started dreading the race. My initial thoughts were just, I hurt and I don't want to be on the course for 14 hours (the cutoff for the 50 miler). I went back and forth several times and Nick and the others tried to encourage me. "Just go out and see how it feels," or "You can do this!" I even rode out to the race start dressed and with all my gear. But when I searched my brain for situations in which I've had severe IT band pain, I could think of no way running this 50 miler would end well for me. I've never known an IT band to LOOSEN up after running a while, especially not after 50 miles on a hilly course. I did, however, remember running a 50k on a sore IT band and it took me months to recover from it.
So I put some pants on over my shorts, threw on a jacket and decided to play crew for the day.
Well after the race got off to a start, I spent a good half hour looking at the course map, trying to figure out where to turn to get to the first aid station. I turned into a lot of dead ends. Of course I couldn't ask for directions. That would be too easy. Eventually I figured I would just have to take the long way around to the aid station, about a 15-20mi drive. The map had these very nicely labeled roads, like CR-52. I don't think any state or national park actually labels their roads this way. CR-52 only exists on maps. When you actually get out there, the only sign you see is "Mountain Bike Trail This Way". This is pretty much how I found my way around. Let's see...I have to make a left turn. Oh HERE'S a left turn AND a sign for a trail. I'll try it.
Once I found the first aid station, I decided to take a walk on the trail. Try to loosen up. It helped a little bit. It was a gorgeous morning and being out there really lifted my spirits and made me feel better about the day.
I chatted with volunteers at the aid station, waiting for people to come in. There were 3 dogs keeping us company. They kept us pretty entertained. One woman, I actually remembered from the White Rock 50k last year. I probably wouldn't have except when she called her dog, River. Yep, I remembered her by her dog.
Eventually people started coming through the aid station. The first guy was way ahead of everyone else, so it took a while. When I saw Coleen, Deb and Sarah come through and I hadn't seen Nick yet, I was more than a little worried. The girls went on through to complete a 4 mile loop and return to the aid station. After a few minutes of worrying, I finally saw Nick and a few other guys coming running up the road from the wrong direction. They got off course and the RD sent them to backtrack a little to where they misstepped.
At this point, I was just starving. The girls were out on the 4-mi loop, Nick had to backtrack about 3 miles, so I decided to head into town to grab a bite to eat. It ended up taking a little longer than I thought it would, but the breakfast sammy I picked up was delicious! "Town" basically consists of this place called Anglers, which is a gas station, restaurant and fishing supply store.
I got turned around a bit heading into the next aid station at 24 miles but I found it in the end. It was getting really warm by this point and the people coming through the aid station seemed pretty hot and tired. I tried to help people out even though I wasn't a volunteer by giving them sunblock, salt caps and filling water bottles. Sorry Sarah, I owe you some sunblock. Everybody loved it though! It was at this aid station, in the heat of the day, that the 3:30am wakeup started taking its toll on me.
After I got all my friends through, upset tummies and all, I headed to the next aid station. The 31/45-mi station. I sat outside Nick's truck for a while, reading for a few minutes, until I decided I just wanted to sit in the truck and doze off. So I did. I heard Nick, Coleen and Deb come through, gabbing away, and I thought, "They'll be fiiiiiine. I can just keep zzzzzz-ing." Nick said knocked on the window and I think I stuck my hand up to wave but continued to snooze.
I got up, not long after, to find Sarah coming through. She still wasn't feeling very well and asked if I would stay at the aid station because she thought she would miss cutoff. I told her she'd be fine and that I'd see her at the next aid station, at 41. The trail between 31 and 45 was a loop, but there was an intermediate station at 41.
When I got to 41, I decided I'd get out my hydration pack and run out on the trail to meet Sarah and give her some encouragement. This didn't last long. I hobbled along for a few minutes, then walked for a while, then realized even if I did meet up with Sarah I wouldn't be able to keep up with her. So I went back and waited at the aid station.
When Nick came through he said he was hurting but he still seemed in good spirits. When Deb came through, she was in good shape. Coleen came through behind Deb complaing of nausea and threatening to drop. I told here there was no way she was dropping. She said that she felt sick whenever she ran. I told her she had 4 hours to travel 9 miles and she could walk for all I cared but she was going to finish. I knew she'd appreciate some tough love! When Sarah came through she was still worrying about cutoff, but she was a half hour under, so I told her to just keep going at a steady pace.
I thought about pacing Sarah to the end, once she reached 45, but I was suddenly faced with a whole mess of logistical nightmares. 1) I needed to put gas in the truck, 2) I needed to get the truck back to the finish line for Nick and the others because their clothes were in it, 3) I needed a ride back to the aid station. Well somehow I managed to get these things accomplished and got back to the aid station, with a ride from Brad Bishop, just in time to catch Sarah about to leave for the last section of the course.
I was so happy I could be there to encourage her over the last few miles. And I was also more than happy to be walking as my achilles tendons were pretty cranky. After a mile or so it got dark and I'm glad I was there, because we had to traverse some steep declines covered in slippery rock steps. It was hard enough for me to traverse alertly with my gimpy legs. I would be worried for anyone doing that at the end of a long day of running in the heat...on gimpy legs.
Before we knew it, we started seeing lights in the distance. It was the campgrounds. As we got closer, my phone chimed at me. I checked it to discover KU had one the Big 12 Championship game!!! Woot woot! We couldn't get any cell service in town or at our cabin, but on the trail, sure. We (maybe just me) yelled "Rock Chalk Jayhawk!" This was a seriously exciting finish. A great accomplishment for Sarah AND a win for the hawks. It was meant to be.
Well I have to say despite the emotional rollercoaster I was on because I didn't compete, being there for my friends made it all worth while! To be continued again...