I was still hurting when I got up on Sunday for the third day of the race, but gosh darnit I wasn't going to be held back by a paltry 20k. Not even if parts of my body that were very important to running, such as both achilles tendons and my right IT band, hurt a bunch. My ultra ego said, "20k? Pshhh. That's nothing. I could sneeze and be done with that." I had already whimped out on the 50 miler. Surely I could convince my worthless body to do a mere 20k. I would be done before lunch.
I wasn't sure how long the race actually was. Technically 20k is 12.4 miles, but this was a trail run, so all bets are really off if you're concerned with a precise distance. I think I'd been told that it was closer to 14. This didn't bother me yet.
My first thought was that once I got going I would start feeling better. I was surprised by how much it hurt to run, but I told myself to just go as fast as I could so I could get this thing over with as soon as possible. I soon abandoned the "this will start feeling better" idea and adopted the "grit your teeth and bear it" idea. I could see Deb Johnson up ahead, so I focused on trying to catch up with her so I would have company.
I probably started crying 20 minutes into the run because I was in a lot of pain and kicking myself for even starting the race. But I still focused on Deb. Grit your teeth and bear it, Laurie. Just keep going like this and you'll be done before you know it. I finally caught up to Deb and was happy to have some company. I stayed with her for all of about 3 or 4 minutes before she started pulling away. Or I started slowing down. Probably the latter.
The tears were flowing steadily when Sarah caught up to me as I walked across a road. She patted me on the back and said something encouraging I'm sure, but I probably didn't say anything, because I was frustrated. I tried to rally myself again. "Try to stay behind Sarah, Laurie." I needed feet to follow. I followed, followed, followed. I think I even stopped crying. I stayed with Sarah for maybe a mile until we got to the unmanned aid station. I'll admit I didn't read up on the info for the race or pay attention to the pre-race briefing so I didn't know there would only be an unmanned aid station. I had no idea how many miles we were into the race. The time was about 1:15. I thought it was pretty unlikely that I had even gone 6 miles at the pace I was keeping.
Just after the unmanned station, I felt a sudden sharp pain in one of my achilles. Left maybe. That was surprising. I felt relatively sharp pain with every step I took, but this was REALLY sharp. I was surprised, so I walked a few steps, then started running again. I ran a few more yards. Another stab. The tears were welling. I walked a bit, then started running AGAIN. Another stab. Crap! What did I do? I was afraid I might have or would tear my achilles if I kept running. I stepped off the trail, spiked my water bottle on the ground and started sobbing. Runners passed, asking if I was ok. I told them I would be alright.
I was in a bad spot. I was potentially 6 miles into a loop race. I couldn't just turn back now. The only sane thing I could do would be to stick it out. I resigned to walk the rest of the race, which made me cry more, because I didn't want to walk for who knows how many miles? I wasn't sure how far I'd gone. I wasn't sure how long the race was. I just wanted to be back at the car. I wanted to eat lunch at a normal time. I wanted to get back home at a normal time. I did NOT want to be out on this darn trail all day. It's not often you'll hear or read me say that I'm tired of being on a gosh darn trail.
I was still not sure about that unmanned aid station. I thought for SURE there'd be a manned aid station somewhere. Some way that I could get out of this hell I was in. Surely there would be some volunteer or race official I would come across who would save me from this never-ending death march through the woods. Sob sob sob. I was now positive that I was absolutely THE last "runner".
I walked and sobbed for what seemed like forever. I was trapped in this endless loop of thought, trying to figure out how far I'd gone, how far I had left, when I would be done. It was absolutely useless. I had the ultra loonies, even though I wasn't running an ultra. I refused to eat anything, even though nobody was making me, in protest of my awful situation. There, I'll show you! As if my parents were trying to force feed me and I refused. I didn't want any effing gels. I wanted an effing sandwich and some effing fries! After a long time of running and sobbing I decided I had to try to run a little bit or I'd never get anywhere.
I did an ok job of hobbling the flat sections for a while, until I got to a particularly rocky area. Eventually I got past that and was able to hobble again. I reached a section of switchbacks and realized that somehow I was NOT dead last. How could this be? I didn't know how, but I did know that there was no way I was letting anyone pass my second-to-dead-last butt. I quickened my hobble and even hobbled up some slight inclines. I basically dragged myself along by my left leg because my right IT band was so ridiculously tight that my right leg was useless for propelling me forward. No more tears. It was time to "race". It was time to finish.
I was unbelievably hopeful when I saw ribbons marking a turn in the course. I was heading downhill now. I thought this could only mean that I was finally heading down into the campgrounds and on to the finish line. I didn't get my hopes up though. I ran down, down, down. Things felt like they were loosening up but that was probably just that rush of adrenaline I get when I'm close to the finish line. I finally came across the photographer on the trail and she told me there was about a mile to the finish line. Wooo!!! It seems like I always have some kick that propels me to finish strong, even when my body is broken.
I finally reached the road and ran through the campgrounds. People cheered me on. It did not make me feel good. I was angry with the whole day, but I think I waved and tried to say thank you to a few people. The race director, some volunteers and friends cheered for me as I crossed the finish line, but I was basically a jerk and ignored everyone. I was mad at myself for running, mad at my body, mad that I was never able to drop. I didn't talk to anyone for a while. I changed my clothes. Didn't feel like showering. I just wanted to get lunch and get on the road.
I managed to break out of my grump-fest after several minutes of stewing and remember that my friends were with me and they all loved me whether I completed a 3 day race or not. Whether I finished first or last.
So now, just over 2 weeks down the road from the race, and less than 1 week from Rockin K, what is going on? Well, things are going better. My left achilles feels almost 100%, my right achilles is maybe 80%, and my right IT band is still a bit of a pain. The IT band doesn't hurt when I'm walking but it tightens up after about a mile of running. I'm doing a lot better but still in no condition to run a 50 miler or to even drop to a marathon this coming weekend. I'll volunteer while Nick runs the race and it'll be a blast. I've started doing short runs, 3-4 miles. I'm also doing a lot of stretching and foam rolling. I'm confident that if I'm smart, I will be in shape to do Jemez Mountain 50k in May.