Sorry to leave you all in suspense! When I left off, I was surprisingly fourth place female and had just finished off my third of four loops just before 2 a.m. and had 23 miles left to go! Things were going pretty darn well, but could I keep it up for almost one more marathon?
After I came into the start/finish aid station one last time, I was so excited to change top and sports bra, grab a snack and leave. My friends Tara and Katrina held up a sweatshirt while I changed my bra and tank top at the aid station and they asked how I was feeling and how everything was going. I didn’t know this at the time, but Brandon got asked if I was “running too fast” and what my 50K time was since I wasn’t “expected” at the aid station yet.
I was trying to eat some pretzels and put my pack back on when Brandon came over and said, “Come let’s go. We have to get out of here.”
I grabbed some more food and ginger ale and we headed off. I was so excited to start the last loop. It would be the last time I had to do each section. The last time I saw the aid station workers. The last few hours of running in the dark woods.
Since Brandon hadn’t been with me the first two times starting out the loop, I had to remember the path around the down trees. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember, it was dark and I had only done the first section in the light. I led Brandon right through what was probably poison ivy. We weren’t off the trail for long at all, but it was still an annoying mistake I made again at the next downed tree.
At the next two aid stations, I still wasn’t eating enough. I forced myself to eat some grilled cheese at the Gorge Overlook and ate more watermelon and gels at the Fire Tower. We still hadn’t reached the third place woman, but we were still passing men during each section.
We reached the Covered Bridge aid station sometime between 3:30 and 4:30 a.m. I sat down while the volunteers filled my pack and drank more ginger ale and ate a banana.
“I need to get out of this chair,” I said to Brandon. I only had a little less than 12 miles left to go.
Brandon pointed to another girl who was half asleep, sitting up in a chair with her feet up.
“That’s the third place woman,” he whispered. I had to get out of the chair.
It was the last time I would sit down. We took the opportunity to pass and we were off. Only about one more hour of darkness was left and one more aid station before the final stretch to the finish line.
Somewhere in the darkness on the hills, I started to think about how no one Brandon and I knew had expected to see me when they did. I thought about my friends that I had passed already who had talked a lot about running sub-24 hours. I had been very quiet about my time goals and only shared them with Patrick and Brandon. I was told I just needed to finish and was scolded when I told the woman at the hotel I expected to finish well before checkout time.
“You know what’s pissing me off?” I told Brandon, “Nobody expected me to do this well. I don’t think they thought I’d DNF, but probably just get under the cutoff.”
“You shocked a lot of people you didn’t know at Playin Possum,” he said about my 5:11 50K PR and fourth place finish in May, “And now you’re shocking everyone you know.”
He was right. We didn’t have much longer to go until I was going to shock everyone at the finish line.
The sun started to come up and I was so happy to finally take my headlamp off. The light had grown dim and the band was giving me a headache. But as the trail grew light again, the skies opened up and a heavy downpour started. Instead of feeling sorry for myself and walking, I took off. I felt like a new day had started and we had to get the distance done as soon as we could.
It rained on and off for almost the rest of the time I was out there. In the last 10 miles and past the last aid station at mile 94, I ran as much as I could, still passing a few men in the last stretch. Only one guy passed me the last two loops.
And in what didn’t feel like 27+ hours, we had gone up the last hill on the campground and were running side-by-side with the finish line in sight. I started to realize what was happening. I was finishing my first 100 mile race. Four years ago, I could barely run a mile without stopping to take a break. And here I was, finishing my first 100 and in third place.
I was still tearing up as I crossed the finish line, 27 hours, 38 minutes and 51 seconds after I began, so happy to have Patrick and all of my friends there cheering for me and to congratulate me.
Crossing the finish line, getting that belt buckle and standing on the podium was all worth the hard work and pain of the training and race itself. I had the time of my life and I can’t wait to do it all again.