Mistakes are Gonna be Made~ Ft. Clinch 100 Mile Run 2013

Posted: April 11, 2013 in Racing
Tags: , , , , , ,

“You can sort of fake you way through a 50k.  A fifty-miler will be mildly unforgiving of your inattentiveness. At the 100k you might taste the tortures of the mind, but still stagger on in. The hundred-miler is unforgiving if the mental training is not in line with the physical. If a person does not understand the length (distance and time) and treat them with respect–honest respect–the continuation of survival shuffles and death marches on the last hour of the clock will be the result.”

I have a pretty good rule on races. If I am iffy on it, there’s a good chance that I probably don’t need to run it. Being unsettled with a race is a good indicator that I’m not going to enjoy it. This race was certainly no different. Originally I thought I was going to crew, then, about 6-7 weeks prior to the race, I had decided after some “urging” from Eric to actually race it. I didn’t register for it until 2 weeks prior to race day and I didn’t even have my flight until the Monday before the race. But come hell-or -high water, I was going to be there.

Unfortunately, my training and mindset were not where it needed to be for this race. Any big race I do, I will question whether I trained enough, but going into this race, I kept thinking I had no business racing a 100-mile race. I knew with all the issues I had in getting to the starting line it was going to be rough. You can’t go into a 100 miler unprepared. You just can’t.

On top of the feeling unprepared, Eric and I had started bantering about the race. It just happens pretty naturally for us with any race we do. We’ve run with each other enough to know the buttons to push and we’re both very competitive. That’s fine for a 1/2 marathon, but there is no place for it during a 100 mile run.  I really did think he could easily finish before me, but my common statement to any of the prodding was “We’ll see who’s talking smack at mile 80” (or something of the sort.) I knew better than to banter but again, it came waaay too naturally for us and I let my ego take over.

So my biggest mistake of this race was that I broke  RULE #1:


And I paid dearly for that mistake.

The course at Ft. Clinch was a 10.1 mile loop of trails, hills, pavement, sand, and the hard surface of the pier. It covered all sorts of terrain. Eric and I had talked “strategy “going into this race and I admitted to him later that I had less of a plan than I had thought. We really wanted to run 2 hr loop. We should have been shooting for 2:15 or so. Those fifteen minutes may not seem like a lot to the average person, but we needed to run smart in the beginning to make it through the end. When the race starts, Eric and I run together. We quickly fall into pace. It was good being back out there on trail, swapping stories with the runners out there. First impression of the loop, “hilly, interesting terrain, the Fort and beach were awesome, the pier was going to seem ridiculously long at some point during the race.” When Eric and I hit the pavement and start running to the pier our pace quickens.  Bad move. Bad move. Bad move. We run into the check point at the first loop, I look down at my watch and it’s 1:53. I remember thinking “that’s too fast. but we can ‘bank’ the time.”

um. no. you don’t.

It’s a 100 miler not a half marathon… it doesn’t work that way.


Eric and I keeping pace

Lap 2 we still holding our pace. Eric is being smart and walking the hills. I think I tried running more of them than I should have. I think I had totally gotten caught up in the moment. I wanted to win. I was over confident. and it was waaaaay too early to be thinking those thoughts. It was hard for me to slow down. Again when we hit the pier, our pace quickens. When we run in, Eric’s brother tells us we were only 4 seconds (or was it 4 min) from our last lap. Again. I think “good.” we’re right on target. Just to keep this.” what I should have thought was “shit. we HAVE to slow down.” unfortunately, I didn’t.

We took a bit longer of a break on that lap. Eric was tending to his feet to shave down his callouses to help minimize the blisters (he might have done it lap one). I was chomping at the bit to get back out there. patience grasshopper.patience.

By lap 3, it was starting to warm up. we were slowing a bit due to the fact that our bodies were getting used to running past the marathon. At some point, on loop 3 or 4 I started having issues with the covering on my orthotics. I knew that my foot was going to take a beating if I didn’t find a way to smooth it out. I ran on them a lap longer than I should have, but when I stopped, I covered the heel with duct tape. that helped.

my life saving pink duct tape

my life saving pink duct tape

I was getting hot spots on the heel and my big toe. I foolishly thought they would be ok. When I came through on that next lap, I re-taped the heel and finally had Carey work her magic and lance the blisters.

The wind on the beach and the pier fooled us into thinking it was cooler than it was. We weren’t paying as close attention to the fact that it was warming very quickly. We were taking in our endurolytes and we able to get some cool clothes/bandanas as we continued on. Eric changed hats and I draped the wet bandana from my hat across my neck. When we finished lap 4 Eric was starting to have issues related to the heat. I had a headache that wasn’t going away. not good signs for a 100 miler.

By the time we finished lap 5 Eric was really starting to struggle. It seems like this is when he really started having issues with his legs. When we got through that lap. We stopped. too many things to tend to and took our time tending to them. Eric’s legs were starting to seize up ~and bad. Carey helped massage his legs and worked on him quite a bit. He was really struggling. this wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen. I lingered for a bit to see if he might pull thru it. At one point, he told me to go ahead and start the next loop without him. I told him earlier in the day that if he ever felt like he needed to pull ahead to do it, so I knew he wanted me to go. Our expression to each other had always been along the lines, if someone had it in them to run, they had to. I hated seeing him in the condition he was in. He was too strong of a runner for this. we had pushed too hard too soon.

I remember looking at my watch when we came in. I was about 11 and a half hours in. IF I could maintain that pace, I could still be sub 24 as long as the night went well. But that’s the half, you can’t ever judge. When your mind and body get exhausted from the run, there’s no telling what will happen. When I took off on that loop, I had asked if I had enough daylight before the sun went down. My mind heard the crew say I did, the reality was I didn’t. As I run, I’m starting to realize that IF I ran a 2 hour loop, I’d have trouble finishing it in daylight. Since I’d been running 3+ hr loops with the breaks, I knew I couldn’t. I just kept thinking let me hit the fort or the pier before the sun went down. This loop was tougher, I was going past the 50m mark, I kept thinking about the mistakes we made running so hard. Just keep going. By this time I was really having lazy feet and kept hitting the roots on the trail. I was irritated because I couldn’t really get a stretch to run. there were too many damn roots and I was hitting all of them. There is no way I’m clearing this loop in daylight.  When I hit the aid station in the middle of the loop, I went to use the port-a-pottie. When I was in there I shut my eyes and saw big black spots. shit. that’s not good. I took in more endurolytes and a little food. had to keep moving. The fort was after this section of the loop. please let me hit that before the sun goes down. please let me hit that before the sun goes down. I wander thru the trail, continuing to hit my toes on the roots. Finally, I’m at the parking lot to the fort. Sweet Jesus. I’m going to hit the beach as the sun goes down. THANK YOU GOD! I start to run harder, the sky is AMAZING. I see the water ahead of me and I start sobbing. It’s so freaking beautiful. I tell myself to pull it together. I do a quick assessment and say “it’s not nutrition, it’s just that I am reminded of Florida and what I gave up. I’m just missing Florida. That’s all. It’s the setting, not anything else! You are not going down the slippery slope of emotions! It’s too early for that!”

Before I knew it, I was off the beach and headed back on the trail~ the portion of the trail that I really hated. The roots were worse, it was too hard to run this section and it’s getting darker. shit.shit.shit I’m going to have to navigate this section in the dark. shit. I can’t effing see. I wish I would have grabbed my headlamp. dammit.dammit.dammit. It took me forever to clear that section of the trail. There were lots of dear in that section of the woods. I’d hear the rustle and could see the eyes just staring at me. it was kind of cool once I got used to it. I finally cleared the woods and started running the pavement to the pier. The pier was as amazing as the beach. It was so cool to see the crash of the water against the sea wall and “ripple” all the way down to the end. The waves were so soothing. I finally get back to the check in point and take care of my needs. I ask Eric’s dad how much time had passed between when I left and Eric went back out. He told me it had been at least 30 min. I had no idea how he was doing and wanted to wait, but sitting around getting cold and waiting were not going to do me much good either. I had to keep moving.

Lap 7 was no better. I had my headlamp, but I couldn’t run. I didn’t want to run. What the hell did I get myself into?  a 100 miler when you weren’t prepared! What the hell was I thinking?? nice thinking, Wonning. There’s not much to say bout this lap other than I was miserable and no longer wanted to be out there.  it seems that  Eric I finally caught back up with each other at the end of this loop and he was hurting bad, moving was rough. I believe we had discussed that we were now a lap apart.  After we did our check-in, we sat for awhile, getting what we needed. I eventually went back out.  just 3 laps to go.

This race was all about learning (or re-learning) things I thought I knew. One thing that I’m pretty sure of is miles 80-85 are going to be the absolute worst for me. In Ancient Oaks 2012, I managed to escape the worst of it~ thanks to the help of John Pyle. I didn’t feel as fatigued in that one bc of the energy I was getting from him, Traci and Eric. They kept me on track.  They kept me moving and I was focused. Now, I was all alone, with me and my demons. I was more tired than I’ve been in other races. I just wanted to sleep. I kept looking at trees wondering if I should try to climb up in them so I could sleep or to see if there was a a good spot where I could rest. I knew that climbing a tree wouldn’t be good-in case I fell out~ this wasn’t the Hunger Games and I didn’t have a way to secure myself in ~and I wasn’t too thrilled about falling asleep in the woods. I wasn’t scared of critters. I was scared that I would sleep too long, no one would see me and I would miss the cut-off. Yet, I continually found myself leaning against trees so I could shut my eyes and try to sleep. At one point when the trail hit the road for just a brief section, I sat on the ground and laid my head on my knees. ok, that could work, but wait. no, I can’t sleep. gotta get up. I stood up and was just disoriented enough to wonder if I had to run that section of the trail (again) or if my spot was up ahead. After a moment or two I figured it out and continue slowly down the path.

Every ultra I’ve done, I never questioned if I would finish. Even in my first hundy, when everything in me hurt, even my hair, I knew I would finish. At Ft. Clinch however, I began to question if I would. I didn’t want to be out there, I was tired of stubbing my toes on roots and I was starting to worry that I wouldn’t hit the cutoff.   I just didn’t know if I would get through. I was so scared of missing the cut-off. Then, thankfully, I had a flood of thoughts of why I was doing this. I was trying to raise $$ for CancerCare. I was out there to honor those who had cancer. I couldn’t let my best friend down. I had a lot of people banking on me to finish. I can’t let them down. And what about my Badgers? (the group I used to coach in Tampa) We say Badgers never give up. What would I be to them if I didn’t hit the cutoff? I might have to say the big, bad “D” word if I didn’t make it. gawd. I couldn’t do that. How can I encourage them if I can’t pull myself thru this?? ok. I’ve got to find a way to get through this. just keep moving.

I finally came up on Brian and Taryn. They were walking and fairly quiet, but at least there were people out there with me. We trudged along the path until we hit the FUR (Florida Ultra Runners) aid station. I asked them if I could tag along at least thru Alligator Alley as Eric told me he had spotted some gators earlier in the day, the last thing I wanted to do was to be alone in the dark with the alligators.

the sign says it all

the sign says it all

Taryn was going to pick up one of her other friends and Brian said he’d run with me thru Alligator Alley and the rest of the lap if I wanted. We made our way thru the rest of the lap. We came up on Eric at he end of it.  His cramping issues never got better. IF he could run, he’d have to pull off running loops like we did early in the day. He was in no shape to pull that off. This was probably it for him~ news I hated to hear. I sat for awhile under a blanket, trying to muster the energy to go back out.  Eric’s dad was so kind and made me eggs upon my request. just 20 miles to go. I can do this. I remember thinking about Ancient Oaks and how I managed to pull off negative splits for my last 20+ miles. yeah. that ain’t happenin’ today.

I finally head back out for another slow, solo lap. The trail was rough. More toe jams into the roots. I was so effing tired of it. The FUR aid station was about 5 miles in. And somewhere between 3 and 5 I stubbed my toe “for the last effing time.” I began cussing at the trees, cussing at the roots, the rocks, the 100 mile run. I threw quite the tantrum out in the woods. I scrapped my entire schedule because if I couldn’t handle this, I couldn’t handle anything else. that run to Ellis Island-yeah forget it. the 150 mile run. another no go.another ultra? ~you name it, i scrapped it. as I was getting closer to the aid station, I kept thinking of Alligator Alley and how I couldn’t bear to run that alone. The trail in that section was more “runnable” but it was also right along the water and there was a big ole  “Alligator Crossing” sign on the trail. I didn’t need to be fighting the fear of that section while I was losing my mind. I was going to see if someone at the aid station could run with me. When I get to the aid station, I start talking to Susan and telling her about the fit I had out in the woods. She began to tell me that daylight wasn’t that far away and how much better everything would be as soon as the sun came up. she told me how there was an Easter sunrise service going on at the Fort and to be careful because of all the traffic. She reassured me several times that as soon as it was daylight it would be better. Thank you soooo much Susan for all of your encouragement. I’m not sure what I said about Alligator Alley, but Ali heard me and said he’d run with me. THANK YOU Ali. You were a Godsend! We made our way thru there and then back out on the trail toward the fort. I remember thinking, I’m going to get to see sunrise at the fort. OMG. that’s going to be amazing. and sure enough, it was. I didn’t have quite the emotional moment I thought I would but it was pretty awesome being out on the beach and running by the fort, knowing there was a sunrise service going on. We were quickly back on the trail, but the sun had come up so we could maneuver-it was much slower than i wanted but it was all we could do. Finally back on pavement and we’re headed toward the pier. I’m sure my pace was picking up, but I still wasn’t fast. Ali told me that if I wanted him to run with me during the last lap he would. He was probably only going to be able to fit in 90 miles as he was going to run out of time for more.

So finally I hit my last lap. It’s daylight and I can move quicker. I’m still walking up the hills and being careful about the roots. When Ali and I were in the bad section of the trail after the fort, we’d see an opening on the road and ask if that was a “happy spot” no, it wasn’t, but keep going, we’re almost there. I wanted to run so bad but the trail was making it really rough to run. Finally we hit the opening on the road, at which time I think we both said, “Is that what I think it is? Our happy spot? Why YES it is!  We picked up our pace quite a bit, this was it, I get to say goodbye to the pier one last time and then I am done. As we come around the bend in the road, Eric’s mom see’s me and comes running out. She tells me to get rid of anything I don’t want. I quickly remove my hydration belt and the jacket I had wrapped around my waist. She took it all so I could run in. And I run.  I was finishing this damn thing. A quick jaunt out to the pier and back. If you saw me running, you probably had no idea I had just run the hardest 99 miles of my life. My pace was fast (or it seemed that way) there was no stopping me now. Run baby run.

And I finally cross the finish line.

The clock read 28:38:14. I missed my goal by more than 4 hours and I had one hour and 22 min left on the clock before the cut-off. But none of that matters. I finished another 100 mile run~ and I’ve got my buckle to prove it.

Ft Clinch Buckle

There’s no doubt in my mind, I needed this race to remind me that I couldn’t approach a 100 miler lightly. It was my race of lessons and reminders of what I needed to do to be successful. I need this race to knock my ego back into place. Once again, I found pieces of me out there on the trail. I found that place deep within me to keep me going. I found my strong when I only felt week.

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