On Saturday I ran my 2nd FlatRock 50K. Eight more to go until I'm the Hall of Pain! This was such an awesome race that I don't really know where to start. I guess I'll start with the pre-race pasta dinner. I've raved about this before, so probably no need to again. I took both boys this year as Rick was busy and it seemed easiest. The cool thing about this year is that I knew people there! I got to chat with people and enjoy the nice weather instead of going there, eating, and going home. I left the dinner and went to Independence to drop off some stuff with my friend Jennifer. She had volunteered to crew for me again. I really felt bad because I knew it was going to be a long, wet day due to rain, but she seemed to want to do it. After dropping off my stuff we went to WalMart for some last minute snacks, then to my dad's house to spend the night. We visited for a bit and went to bed.
Saturday morning came way too fast and I was up getting ready. I went outside to get something and saw lightning and heard thunder. Wonderful! There was an 80% chance of rain, but something inside of me kept hoping they were wrong, or that it would only rain for a little while. Ha!! I laugh at myself now. After I got ready I talked to Rick a bit as he was running the 25K so didn't have to leave quite as early. He informed me he remembered almost nothing and asked if I had a few of the things he needed. The answer to that was a big fat no. Oops.
I got to the race and was gathering my stuff. I dropped my safety pins into some black hole so needed to go get some more. As I was walking up to the shelter I heard someone say my name. It was Zach Adams and he and Candi were getting their stuff ready. I was all mad because I lost my safety pins and I was worried about Rick not having water because he didn't bring a bottle or hydration pack. They both offered me several solutions but in my grumpy state I'm sure I was just rude to them. Finally Candi just handed me a bottle and told me to give it to Rick. I had planned to find Libby and give it to her to give to him. I couldn't find her though. I did find Carina, my friend Jason's daughter, and she was doing the 25K. I gave her the bottle to give to him and stopped worrying. Then my friend Joell had some extra safety pins, so all was well. Joell and I finished getting everything ready and went to the pre-race briefing. We realized we hadn't officially checked in, so we asked her husband Justin to do it for us. We went back to her car to put on bug spray and stuff. At that point it started pouring ran. Yay! Back to the shelter and we huddled under and umbrella with people and stood around talking. I visited with Ken and Dana Childress for a bit. I met Zach's friend Ryan who was nervous about his first 50K and in these conditions. I assured him he would be fine. It turns out Ryan and I got to know each other well as the day went on. More on that later!
We walked up the road to the start line and it was just pouring. After a bit we were off! I tried to keep up with Joell and her friend Reina as I was hoping to run with them quite a bit. They were really fast though so I slowed down and let them go. I knew the first hill was going to kill me and it did. It always takes me a while to get into a groove on this trail and Saturday was no different. I was doing my best to just take it easy as I had a long day ahead of me. My goal was to run as much as I could to the turnaround. I knew if I made it there in time I could walk back as I did that last year. I ran by myself for a while and then heard someone coming up behind me. To my delight it was Ken! I let him pass and then fell in behind him. We ran together through the first aid station. The miles with him just flew by. I felt great and was running a lot and enjoying my day. My primary goal for the race was to have fun. I was really having fun! He got ahead of me a mile or so before the second aid station. When I left there I was in front of a group, but they quickly passed me. At that point I realized I absolutely needed to make it to Oak Ridge by 10:00 or I wasn't making the turnaround cutoff. I sped up and made it there, but barely. Jennifer wasn't there so I asked Dana to tell her I was already gone when she showed up. As I was leaving I saw her get out of her car. Yay!! I was sooo happy to see her! I gave her a hug, got some gel and took off.
Here is a picture of me somewhere before Oak Ridge
I left Oak Ridge right behind a man and his grandson and in front of a couple of people that had passed me after the last station. I ran with the two guys for a bit and chatted with them but they pulled ahead. I powered on. I got to the tough section of this part of the course and was just crawling. I kept checking the time and knew I was in trouble. Still, I powered on. I passed someone moving really slow and he said he was in a lot of pain. I told him we were in danger of not meeting the cutoff and he told me he knew and seemed pretty upset. I still thought I could make it at that point. I kept going as fast as I could, but the mud was insane. It was just so thick and sloppy. I can normally power walk, but I couldn't even do that. With a little over a mile to go I knew I wasn't going to make it on time. I had also fallen a couple of times and was just upset at that point. I saw Justin not long after that and I started to cry and said I wasn't going to make it. He then informed me that they had extended the cutoff and I was fine. WHAT?! Ok, that's not what I said. I can't repeat what I did say though. If you know Justin, ask him. He thinks it's funny, so he'll tell you! I had resigned myself to being pulled from the race and now I knew I had many more hours and miles of this crap. I kept going and trying to hurry because at that point I knew I was going to finish. Not long after that I saw Ken coming back. He swears he didn't, but he had this look on his face of "oh, I'm so sorry you failed." Ok, I know he didn't, but that's what I thought at the time. I knew I couldn't talk to him or I would cry so I gave him a thumbs up and kept going. I saw Joell and she reassured me I was doing great and just keep moving.
I finally got to the turnaround and Jennifer was there to help. Tony Clark was in charge of the station and Fernando Martinez was there to help him. They did everything they could to help me (except pull me from the race, which I kind of wanted!) and were encouraging. Jennifer helped me change my shoes and socks. Seriously, how is it that I have such amazing friends? I'm not worthy of them. There were a few of us there and finally Tony and Fernando started scooting us out of there telling us we needed to hurry. I left at the same time as Ryan. He told me "I'd be happy if I didn't run another step of this race." It was then that I realized I had found my running soul mate! Ben and Heather joined us not long after. We were all chatting and feeling miserable together. I'm pretty sure I cussed a lot. That section by the river was unbelievable. I hope someone took a pic that I can steal. At some point I told them that I thought we should all stick it out together until the end. The agreed. We knew it was going to be rough and we'd be lucky to finish.
I was thrilled to see Oak Ridge and Jennifer again. I had to go to the bathroom REALLY bad at that point. I went off on my own and peed, then into the station to get some food. I told Dana that my pee was a freakish color and she looked worried. I assured her I was ok, but she told me just keep drinking. We both decided this was a great improvement upon last year when I didn't pee at all. I love how helpful Dana is and that she's not offended when I talk to her about stuff like this! She's truly one of the best aid station workers I've ever seen. I look forward to her aid station both times through.
We left Oak Ridge and I suggested we run a bit. I'm pretty sure my companions were then cursing me! We ran a bit until we got to a downhill. I was in the lead and was pushing as fast as I could to keep everyone moving. After a couple of miles it was obvious Heather was doing better than me, so I suggested she take the lead. She did and led us the rest of the way! A couple of times I pointed out the right was as I know the course really well. We hit the next station doing alright. Got some food and left. At this point I wasn't doing well. Everything hurt like hell and I wasn't sure I could finish. Ben got ahead of me and Ryan was a good bit behind. We spend some of the next few miles spread out but hanging in there. Ryan started not doing well during this section. I was really worried about him finishing. Ben, Heather and I stopped a few times to make sure he was behind us, but were doing our best to just power on. All of us knew that if we stopped for long we weren't going to make it.
Finally we were at the last aid station. We were there a minute when a lady came in followed by Fernando and his dog Miles. They were sweeping the course. The lady took off, leaving Fernando with us. Ryan told the three of us to go on, he'd be fine. After a bit of hesitation we took off. We knew we were cutting it close on time. We just kept moving. Relentless forward progress. For hours. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. And when you put that foot down, it slid and you had to pull yourself back up and take another step. The course was awful. After the rain stopped (it rained a good 5 hours) the mud thickened up. So now our shoes were caked with what felt like 10 pounds of mud. Within a mile or so Ryan and Fernando caught us. Fernando was a breath of fresh air and kept us moving. I'm so very thankful that he was there. I might have finished without him, but I might not have. He really cheered me up and was so positive and encouraging. He kept telling us we were inspiring him. All I could think was "oh sure! This fabulous runner is inspired by me, the slowest person out here!" It still encouraged me though and I kept going.
With a mile left of trail we knew we needed to really hustle. After we left the trail we still had a half mile or so of road to get to the finish line. I started running and ran for a while. Ben was behind me and said he was starting to cramp. I told him that we needed to run to a place that has a pretty steep downhill and then we could walk. He said ok and we did. Then we walked as fast as we possibly could until we came out of the woods. Here I am with Ben behind me coming down the last hill. This is my favorite race photo of all time I think.
Finally we hit the grass outside of the trail and I almost cried. What a tremendous relief. Still, we had maybe 9 minutes and at least half a mile to go. We ran until we got to the uphill, then marched up it. Then we took off. We all ran to the finish. When I was almost there Rick came out and started running with me. He said "I can't run because I've got nothing left, but GO!" Then I heard people screaming that I had a minute left. I took off as fast as I could. No freaking way was I failing now! I crossed the finish line with 52 seconds left. That's right. A finish time of 10:59:08. I couldn't be more proud. It's hard to explain why a really slow finish time like that makes me happy, so I won't try. Everything about this race was perfect. I gained a tremendous amount of confidence and learned what a difference a good attitude can make. Crossing that finish line with such a huge crowd cheering was amazing.
Some finish line pics
So many of my friends were there to tell me congrats and give me a hug or a high five.
I talked to a bunch of people, cleaned my feet, and talked some more. Justin came up and asked if I was doing a victory shot with everyone under the hand. Heck yeah I am!
I'm thankful to so many people. Eric and his Epic Ultras Brigade. This race is so amazing. Thanks to all of you! Thanks to all the volunteers. Fernando coming in and running the last part of the race with us made all the difference in the world. I'm so glad I finally got to meet him and his lovely wife Karlee after following them all summer on daily mile. Dana is always awesome. Tony for kicking me out of the turnaround when I didn't want to go. Rick for putting up with me and loving me no matter what. And btw, he finished the 25K and was awesome! Jason, who listened to me obsess about running all summer and did some of my long runs with me. Libby and Jennifer for always being there for me and for both crewing for me this summer and going above and beyond. Jennifer, I've put in an order for your cookies! Candi, Zach, Justin and Joell: I don't know what to say to you guys. After Hawk when I was so down you all went to work lifting me back up. Every one of you sent me awesomely encouraging messages and listened to me whine and kept telling me I could do it. You made me believe I can do anything I want to do. Thank you all so very much! Heather, Ryan and Ben: Wow. You three rock! I can't thank you enough for sticking with me to the end. It was great to meet you and run (or walk!) with you. Can't wait to see you next year. No matter what you say, I know we'll all be back!
Despite how hard it was and how slow I was, this was the best race I've ever done. I'm so incredibly proud of myself and everyone else.