25 Days Till The Avalon 50 Miler

I have not been keeping up with this blog recently for multiple reasons. Work has been busy and my spirit has been a little dead in regards to the ultrarunner in me. I think we all hit road blocks in this sport. My number was up.

Lining up at the start line for Mt. Disappointment was terrifying to me. The weather predicted at over 100 degrees and a neck injury that I had acquired just a week before was still acting up. But you can’t go into an ultra of any kind with the attitude that ‘it’s ok if I decide to give up.’ Because then you simply won’t finish. So I checked that idea at the door. Just after 6:30am the race began and I was off. My neck and back were in pain but I really felt like I could push through it. I didn’t feel very well through most of the first part of the race due to the injury, the heat and I also noticed that my feet were starting to rub in my shoes in places that they hadn’t hurt before. At mile 17, the pain became excruciating. I suddenly felt all the muscles in my neck and back tighen up and I could feel my throat closing up. I knew what was coming. I was on the side of a cliff when my vision went out and knowing that I was about to pass out, I forced myself to fall towards the embankment and grab ahold of a bush. I’m not sure how long I was there before a nice runner came by and offered her assistance. She offered me some salt tablets and asked if I needed her to send someone for me. ‘Thank you so much,’ I said. ‘But I will be ok.’ And my first angel of the day was off. Afraid to stand up just yet and walk, I heeded Dean’s words and began to crawl. A few minutes later, I felt strong enough to stand and walk to the next aid station at mile 20. By that time, another issue was arising. My feet were on fire. I was afraid to take off my shoes and see what they looked like but I knew they needed some kind of help. I removed them to reveal sold blisters on my heels, balls of my feet and toes. I asked around at the aid station to see if I could find some duct tape but to no avail. ‘Oh sweetie…’ the woman at the aid station said. ‘Let me get you a ride back. You are in no condition to finish.’ A woman behind her turned around. ‘No, you don’t understand… these people are crazy. She will pop them, patch them up and finish, you will see.’ She hadn’t even started her sentence before I had taken one of my safety pins off of my bib number and began to go to town on them. I bandaged them up with some of their bandaids and medical tape and headed off. At mile 25, I was only 20 minutes off of the cut off time. That is where I met angel #2. He was a man with a thick accent that had worked on people’s feet at Badwater. After I took off my shoes, he winced and told me that they were worse than the feet that he had seen there. I had actually made them worse by not bandaging them correctly. He was nice enough to tape up one of them for me and he was halfway through the other when I was given the 5 minute warning to be out of the station or I would be forced out. ‘You should switch to the 50k and let me finish,’ he said. ‘I can’t do that,’ I said. ‘Thank you so much, but I will just deal with the pain in the other foot. I barely made it out in time. I didn’t realize it, but because 1 foot was now in worse pain than the other, I began to favor the one that hurt the least. When I tried to run the downhills, I noticed that I was developing a mild knee injury. Running was impossible. At mile 31, I barely made the cut off again. I was the last runner through that station for the 50 mile run. The man who was running the station pulled me aside and said ‘You can make it, but you HAVE to start running.’ ‘I don’t know if that is possible,’ I told him. ‘Then you should drop here,’ he said. ‘The next aid station is nine miles away. 3 miles down, 6 miles up. You will never make it by walking.’ ‘Thank you so much,’ I said, ‘But I just wouldn’t be me if I didn’t try.’ And I hobbled on. About a half a mile down the road, I saw a girl passed out. She was barely conscious. So I hobbled quickly back up to the station and got help and then continued on my way. I learned later that she was airlifted out. At that point, I began my 9 mile walk of shame, knowing it was over for me. A nice volunteer, angel #3, came to walk me in and at mile 38.5 the ‘jeep of broken dreams’ came by to pick up the three of us up. A nice young woman hopped out ‘I’m sorry,’ she said, ‘you didn’t make the cut off.’ I couldn’t stop the tears from coming as I loaded in with 2 other runners who had also not made it. We road in silence until finally one of the other girls that had dropped turned to us. ‘Good for you guys.’ she said. ‘A lot of people switched to the 50k that all of us could have easily finished. But we didn’t give up. We didn’t take the easy way out. There is something to be said for that.’ The past few hours have felt like I was going through a terrible break up. I have sworn off running, I have calculated what I could have done differently. Running absolutely broke my heart yesterday. But one thing that I can say about that race is that I gave it everything I had. I didn’t give up. I am fairly certain that since Mt. Disappointment ‘did me’ this year, I will have to go back and ‘do it’ next year. I plan to kick its ass.

After about two weeks down, I was able to pace my friend Mike in Angeles Crest. That was another amazing experience, similar to my experience at Western States. I was back in the game. My next official ultra was scheduled for November – Nine Trails. Brian and I headed out to an 18 mile training run in Santa Barbara early one Saturday morning in September. My legs were still a little tired from pacing so I told Brian I planned to take it slow and to just meet me at the end. I was in the back of the pack, taking it easy on the hills. Nine Trails is notoriously a very difficult and technical trail. About 5 miles in, my foot caught a rock and I went face first into more rocks. I was cut up pretty badly on my arms and my knees but I kept running, slowly. 9 miles in was where my worst injury of ultrarunning so far occured. I stepped the wrong way on another rock and I heard a rip in my ankle. I would later find out that I had severely sprained it. I layed there on the ground in pain, waiting for help. Then I realized ‘What are they going to do? Airlift me out? If they even find me! I am alone in the middle of the woods. It is up to me to save me.’ So long story short on this one, I hobbled my way down the trail, became severely lost and about 15 miles later I found the road, flagged down a car that brought me to the fire station where a worried Brian finally found me.

I have been down since then. When I try to run, my ankle swells. But after meeting with a specialist I found out that even though I can get into more pain, I cannot injure my ankle any worse by running on it. I began training again for Avalon about a week ago. I know that even past preparing myself physically, I need to get back in the game mentally. The next few weeks will consist of my journey to that place again where ultrarunning was exciting and challenging but altogether possible. I need to be there again.

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