I have so much to say about this race that it's hard to start. I haven't really sorted through all of what happened in my own mind, so it's hard to imagine laying it all out for people reading.
I should start with the pre-race dinner. I made Ryan go with me again this year so I didn't have to go alone. He had to leave football practice a little early to go. I asked if he told his coach why he was leaving and he said "Mom. I was not going to tell my coach I was leaving early so I could go have dinner with my mom!" Ok! I've been put in my place! We got there and got our spaghetti and found a picnic table with a few people. Much to Ryan's horror, I asked the people sitting there if we could sit with them. I really enjoyed visiting with the ladies sitting there. There was a young man also, but he was really quiet. We visited for awhile about the race and then it was time to head home. I went to pick up my packet and talked with Ken "TZ" Childress. He gave me some advice and assured me I was going to be fine. I've emailed Ken in a panic a few times and he's always kind enough to reply.
After the dinner I went home and finished getting everything ready for the next day. I had already dropped off a bag with Jennifer, aka crewperson extraordinaire, but still needed to get a few things ready. I got everything ready and went to bed. I thought I'd have trouble sleeping but I really didn't. In fact, in the morning I pushed snooze and went back to sleep several times. Rick got up and drove me out to the race because I didn't want to drive out there and then have to drive myself home. I got to the shelter house right in time for the pre-race briefing. I think this is where people stand around freaking out or just thinking "yeah right, it isn't that bad" while Eric gives all of the warnings. Let me assure you, it really is that bad!
After the briefing I found the two ladies I met the night before and walked to the start with them. I hate being alone at things like this. I need a running partner! Roll call was done and it was time to go! There is a nice little section of road before you head off into the trees. Once you are in the trees the trail goes up and up and up. Then it goes up just a little more! I stayed right with the two ladies for a while. Eventually I decided I really just needed to run my own race and not try to keep up with others. Since they finished an hour ahead of me that was probably a good decision. Trying to keep up would have just worn me out too soon.
About a mile into the race there is a crevice you have to go down through. It was a little muddy, so my feet were slick. When I stepped down my foot slipped and kind of twisted. I slammed my right side into the rock wall. Ouch! I think I loudly let loose with some expletives. My elbow was bleeding and my right hip hurt pretty bad. I knew it would be majorly bruised. I was right!
The first few miles of the course are the toughest. I somehow managed to run this section considerably faster than I thought I could. I wasn't overdoing it, but I wasn't just relaxing either. The thing I did wrong at the beginning was not drink enough. I typically fill my hydration pack halfway with water the night before and freeze it. In the morning I finish filling it and as it thaws I have nice cold water. I forgot to do that and was out of ice, so cold is not what my water was. Since it was warm I didn't drink enough. This really haunted me later.
When I got to Oak Ridge at mile 9.6 Jennifer was holding up a sign and cheering for me! She helped me replenish everything and gave me some gatorade.
Coming into Oak Ridge
Coming into the turnaround:
I left Oak Ridge with a pep in my step after seeing some of my favorite people. Not far from the aid station I kicked a rock with one foot right into the other ankle. Ouch! Ok, ouch isn't what I yelled. I won't say what I did yell because I like to keep my blog kid friendly. I still did pretty well from miles 20.8 to the next aid station at 23.2 miles. After that it went downhill very fast. My watch was way off so I didn't know how far I had really gone. It seemed like from 23.2 to 27 was about 10 miles. I don't think I ran any between these stations and it's some of the most runable trail on the course. Then I got upset because I was so tired I couldn't run and was starting to convince myself I would never make the cutoff. Then my watch completely died and I had no clue how far I'd gone. I was really down for a while.
When I heard music coming from the last aid station I was beyond thrilled. I stopped to get a drink and some food and asked how much further I had to go. I was told it was only 3.8 miles. I think I asked if I could make the cutoff and they kind of looked at me funny and said yes. My math skills were fuzzy at best at that point. I left the aid station completely exhausted but determined. I stopped thinking about how far I had to go and just focused on finishing. Relentless forward progress. No matter what, I couldn't stop moving. With probably a mile and a half to go I looked at my phone. Ummm, what?! I could finish in less than 9.5 hours. The goal was always 10 hours, which is the cutoff. I thought it would take me every bit of that. I started moving considerably faster at this point. With maybe a mile to go I realized I had a rock in my shoe right under the ball of my foot. I tried to wiggle my foot to move it but every time I moved my foot it cramped. I thought if I took my shoe off I might not get it back on. I also knew if I sat down to take it off I was not getting back up. I decided to suck it up and run it in with the rock in my shoe.
That blacktop road is a beautiful sight! I think I could have run the entire blacktop but I didn't. I actually felt pretty good, but I think I was scared that by the time I got to the dirt road and the finish line I would be tired and I did not want to finish walking. I would run a little then walk a little. Then I just ran. When I turned onto the little section of dirt road I started running faster. When I was on the grass running up to the finish I really started running. And I did it! 31 miles in 9 hours and 13 minutes! I beat my goal by more than 45 minutes.
I think last year I said that the 25K was the hardest thing I had ever done. Well, this eclipses that for the hardest. It was so challenging, but so worth it.
I really truly appreciate all of the organizers and volunteers at this race. They are an amazing group of people. I wouldn't have finished without the help of the volunteers. Also, thanks to all of my family and friends who have put up with a lot while I trained for this race. People got out of bed early on Saturday mornings to take me somewhere or drop me off (or pick me up when I had a bathroom emergency or it got too foggy). They listened to my endless obsessing about the race and they never once told me to shut up. I would like to promise all of them that I'm done with all of this craziness, but I'm already thinking about next year. Will I be back to do FlatRock again next year? Absolutely! I hear the Hall of Pain calling my name. Only 9 finishes to go!
In case anyone is wondering, no, I did not finish last! Two people finished after me. I think there were some that didn't finish the race because I definitely passed more than two people after the turnaround and no one passed me while I was coming back unless I was so delirious I didn't notice. This is possible. Anyway, I kept saying I didn't care if I was last, but I was really hoping I wouldn't be. You know what though? Finishing this race is a huge accomplishement no matter how long it takes you to do it.
As promised, I will be writing a post very soon on how NOT to train for an ultra. I definetely didn't do it right. I have learned some lessons though and next year I will be back!