“How can I do 30 MORE miles on these feet?” Every step I took felt like stepping on glass in bare feet and it wasn’t just one foot. It was both. Hot, stabbing pain in the balls of both feet. I knew I couldn’t change my gait too much, especially since I had 30 miles to go. What muscle would I strain by doing that? Could I heel strike the whole way? Could I walk on the outside edges of my feet? No, I’m going to break something doing that. The only way to the end was going through hours and hours of pain. Andrew and Marty wouldn’t let me quit and I didn’t have the energy to fight them, so I kept going, and crying.
The day started off on a positive note. It was quite a bit warmer than I had planned and hoped for an early October Saturday but I had friends with me so that didn’t seem to matter or even worry me. I hadn’t planned to run with Joy and Shilo for as long as I did, in fact I hadn’t planned much as far as strategy goes. I’m not sure why, maybe I was being passive or insecure, either way I stuck with friends.
Joy, Shilo and I started near the back of the pack and we didn’t even hear the count-down before the horn. We ran, we sang, we laughed and shared our journey on facebook live. It was like another day and another training run, it didn’t feel like a race to me. Joy struggled a bit with blood sugars and shilo ran into some nausea, each experienced lows at different times and it was comforting to see that they could lean on each other during the hard times. I wanted to stay with them the whole day, I wanted to see them power through their first 50 milers so when they told me to go, it was really really really hard to leave them. I waited at aid stations thinking they’d roll through, I’d look behind me every so often hoping I’d see familiar smiles.
Finally, at mile 47, I took a bit more time at the aid station, changed my shoes and shirt, and ate some solid food. As I took my time, Shilo and Joy arrived to the aid station and moved through quickly since their day was almost done. We tried to run a bit but ended up power walking to the turn around. Joy played some music and we sang along. At the turn around I took a photo of Joy and Shilo, we said goodbye and went separate ways. I was sad, it was hard to leave my friends but I knew the sweetness of the finish line was there for them. Their work was done and mine was beginning.
At this point, my running was run/walk. The heat of the day and the humidity had pushed my heart rate up all day. Hopefully though, at night I would be able to get some good running in with the cooler temperatures. At mile 54 I changed my socks again, I started to feel what I thought were blisters on the bottom of my feet. Marty joined me for some miles at 54 to assess how I was doing mentally. We got a little bit of running in and chatted a bit. I was starting to accept that I wasn’t going to hit my 21 hour goal and possibly not even hit a 24 hour finish. I had lollygagged way too much today. Marty joined me for around 8 miles and left me to cover 12 miles solo while he rested a bit. I was a little worried at first but found a friend to chat with.
By mile 74 both feet felt like I was walking on glass. I took off my shoes to pop blisters with the help of an aid station volunteer. He used a pin from my bib to pop blisters, but nothing came out. He figured the blisters were either too deep or it was too late. He wrapped the balls of my feet with duct tape to protect the skin. I put my shoes back on and headed back out. Only a quarter mile down the road I knew the duct tape wasn’t going to help. I sat down on the side of the trail and loosened the tape, put my shoes back on and headed down the trail. I cried over and over again while Marty listened. We walked, I cried, and we walked some more. Running wasn’t an option anymore.
With every mile, every hour, I calculated how much more time I’d have to endure the pain in my feet. I realized I’d be over 24 hours, maybe 26 hours or 27. I’d NEVER EVER wanted to be out on a trail that long. 24 hours sounded exhausting! How could I survive 26 or 27 hours? Will I even make the cut off? I cried more, walked more and Marty listened more. It was miserable but we kept moving. I wanted to quit, I wasn’t having fun, this pain was unbearable but I knew that I brought 2 of the most stubborn people and they wouldn’t let me quit. I didn’t have the energy to fight them so I walked on.
My watch died at mile 76ish and Marty hadn’t been using GPS so we didn’t really know the distances we were covering and the paces we were going. It was all a guess at this point. Finally we got to the aid station at 94.7 and as I walked into the aid station I fell into a chair in tears on the edge of a panic attack. Tears streamed down my face as I told the volunteers about my blisters. A volunteer took off my shoes, socks, and the duct tape and looked for a blister to pop. Again, there wasn’t anything. I was surrounded by 3 or 4 volunteers as one rubbed squirrel’s nut butter on my feet and socks and told me I couldn’t quit. I had 5 miles to go. They gave me more food and water and sent me on my way.
Shortly after we left the aid station I called Kayla on facebook. I could barely speak through my tears. She tried her best to offer comforting words and told me to keep going. It was good to see her face. I looked through facebook a bit and started playing some random 90’s/2000’s music. Since we were closer to towns my phone was finally getting service. I sang along to Marty and tried to dance as I hobbled along. The distraction of the music was super helpful. My feet were still searing with pain, but focusing on the music and words to songs helped to dull the pain.
Finally, I noticed the Colona water tower to my right and we were so close. Just a bit farther and we were finally there. I couldn’t run, so I walked. I saw Andrew looking so proud and I hobbled through the finish line with tears in my eyes. I collapsed into a chair and cried into my hands. I spent 27 hours 32 minutes and 45 seconds on that trail. I never thought I’d be running that long and it was the hardest day of my life.
I could not have done this without people in my circle. Andrew gave me 27+ hours of following me around, feeding me, watering me, wiping tears, giving me dry clothes and shoes and putting sunscreen on me. He spent the entire day – and then some – being completely self-less. Marty saw the best and worst parts of my day and moods, and he did it all without judgement. He was my witness and validated my struggles and pain and helped carry me through those hard times. I could not have done it without them, and for sure, I would have quit. My grit is really their grit.
This day wasn’t what I wanted or expected of myself, but I learned a lot. I’m humbled. I thought I had these figured out, but my body changed, my feet changed. What I thought was a blister was actually an impact bruise and what I was feeling was nerve pain and it was a problem I couldn’t fix. I could only move through it. In the past I could run 100’s on minimal shoes but this time my feet weren’t having it. It was the ONE base I didn’t have covered. I didn’t have another pair of cushioned shoes and by the time I realized I needed them, it was too late. Who knows, maybe this couldn’t have even been avoided. While a part of me is proud, I’m mostly disappointed that the day went the way it did, but at the end of it, I knew I had no control. Acknowledge, accept and grow…