Saturday morning I got up and cleaned house. Started packing stuff we won't need in the next few months (have I mentioned moving? yuck) and fixed lunch for the boys. I decided to head out to the Oak Ridge station where Dana was working and see how everyone was doing. It was fun seeing the runners come through. They seemed to be doing pretty well at that point, but they still had a long day ahead of them. I checked on Candi's times in and out of that station and she was so fast! I was so excited for her. After awhile I decided I should quit neglecting my children and go home. Not long after that I found out Candi was about 5 miles from the turnaround for the second time (again, so fast!) and that Amber was at the highway waiting for her. Since that spot is about two miles from my house I thought I would go hang out with Amber and wait and get to see how Candi was doing at the turnaround. She was starting to get tired, but looked amazing.
Back home again and got the boys ready to spend the night with their grandparents. I went and dropped them off, came home and ate dinner. I then went out to Oak Ridge to hang out, help out and see how Ken was doing at that point. He had been pretty tired earlier in the day, so I told Dana I'd pace him all the way from the turnaround to the finish. For those that don't know, this would be a 25K. Ouch! I was excited though. I saw Ken at Oak Ridge and we told him I'd pace him from the highway. We talked about how long it would take him to get there so I would know when to be there waiting. I hung around a while longer and talked to Dana and Jason Dinkel and his daughter. Jason has promised to run the FlatRock 50K with me in the fall, which would be awesome. I'm slow and sometimes out there by myself for hours. Having someone with me would make a huge difference I think.
I got to the turnaround, got everything ready, and waited for Ken. Tony Clark (to get an idea of his awesomeness, check out this video) was working this station and I visited with him and the other guy (whose name I don't know) while waiting. I saw a couple of runners come in and they were definitely tired. Eric called Tony to check on things and told him he was sending a guy named Luke to sweep the course with the last person. I'm thinking: Crap. Who is this random guy that Eric is sending out here? I am going to have to spend several hours in the company of someone I've never met and who might very well be creepy and weird. And have I mentioned it will be the middle of the night in the woods? I'm thinking Ken isn't in good enough shape at that point to save me from someone, and I've sent my pepper spray with Amber during the day. Lovely. BTW, Luke, if you're reading this, sorry I had such mean thoughts about you! Luke arrived and seemed nice enough. Ken finally rolled in and we got him ready to hit the trail one last time. I think it was about 10:30 pm when we started.
It has rained and rained here and from being on the trail earlier in the week, I had a decent idea of what we were in for. Lots of mud and water crossings. Within half a mile I knew I needed to stop and tie my shoes tighter or I was going to lose one to the shoe sucking mud. We were mostly walking with a little of some zombie shuffling thrown in. We came to the first water drop and Luke said that he had agreed to break it down and carry it to Oak Ridge. Ok, maybe this guy is nuts! I couldn't let him carry it all alone, so I started out with one water jug and one milk crate, while he carried two jugs and one crate. I would like to pretend it weighed a lot and I'm really strong and awesome for carrying it, but that isn't really true. It was light. It still got really heavy after carrying it awhile. I switched hands off and on, then didn't think I could carry it anymore. I mean, I could, but we still had a long way to go and I'm not in good shape and I'm a wimp or something. I handed it over to Luke who is now carrying three jugs, two crates, the bungee cords and a bunch of flags. Ok, guilt washed over me at this point. He carried it all for a while until I couldn't handle the guilt anymore and took one jug back. Yeah, I'm nice. I still let him carry everything else.
I'm not sure what time we cruised into Oak Ridge, but I know I was glad to get rid of the extra weight. I had to go to the bathroom, which was lovely. I got as far away as I could and hid behind some trees. The world is your bathroom on a trail run. Too bad there are no actual bathrooms. I had some peanut m&m's and talked with someone about the food that would be at the finish. I was already hungry by then. We took off out of there with 10ish miles to go. Woohoo! We kept walking and talking and walking and talking. Earlier in the night Ken had told a story that was super creepy and I'm not gonna lie, I was freaked out a good portion of the first several miles. It was dark and scary in the woods. At some point I stopped being scared. Also, Luke turned out to be a very nice guy and was easy and fun to talk to. I suspect they both wished I would shut up, but if I didn't talk I was going to fall asleep. I started this thing a good hour or more past my bedtime. My back started hurting pretty bad but it's not like quitting somewhere along the way was an option. When we got to the next water drop Luke and I opened up all of the jugs of water to let them empty so that the person that was breaking down the station didn't have to. Ken went on, so we ran to catch up. It was so fun to run through the dark! It felt like we were going really fast, but we probably weren't.
Back to walking and talking and going through mud and streams. And more mud and more streams. Did I tell you guys it was muddy? Shoe sucking, slippery, sloppy mud. Everywhere. This trail is hard all the time. Add in night time, exhaustion, water and mud and you're in for a good time. Despite it being hard it was fun. My back was really killing me and with maybe a mile to the last aid station I asked the guys if they thought the last aid station would have ibuprofen. Ken thought so and Luke said he had some pain stuff if I wanted it. Because sure, taking medicine from someone you've never met seems like a great plan in the middle of the night when you're tired and in pain. I took it and it really helped. We FINALLY got to the last station. I tell you, between those two aid stations seems like the longest on the course every single time. I think we had 3.5 miles to go at this point. We weren't moving fast and it was getting colder outside so I was really chilled by then. And this is the understatement of the year, but my feet were wet. I started dreaming of warm, dry socks.
More walking, talking, shuffling with a little running thrown in. A couple more bathroom stops. We're almost there! I could feel the excitement building in Ken. I was excited for him. I was happy to have helped and was a little intimidated by him and Luke and their accomplishements.
Finally, the blacktop!! We turned our headlamps off as Ken thought it would be fun to sneak up on them. We started running. Wow, this road seems long! Still running. I swear I smiled the entire blacktop. We got to the finish and Ken had his moment of glory. I was sooo happy for him! I had my biscuits and gravy that I had been thinking about and we sat around and visited for a little bit. Dana took me back to my car, I took a bath and went to bed. I slept a little over two hours before the boys got home. Then we had to go to Iola for a couple of baseball games. Oh my goodness I was tired.
I really had a fabulous time. Ken and Luke, thanks for letting me hang with you and for telling me your stories and inspiring me to become a better runner. You guys are great!
Sorry for the really long post.
Edit to add some pics
Here I am at Oak Ridge with Dana, Jason and his daughter Carina.
Me and Ken at the bench 2 miles from the trailhead.
Happy running everyone!!