Mac 50K (Yup… That’s not a typo.)

Ana Lu and I in the finisher's chute.  Photo credit to Josh Gum.
Ana Lu and I closing in on the finish line. Photo credit,  Josh Gum.

2015 Mac 50K is in the books. (31 miles, also called an Ultra). Mac is run on scenic, stunning trails in a gorgeous forest.

This was my second 50K. Even factoring in the first 10K I walked with Hannah when I weighed 280 pounds, this race was by far the hardest physical thing I have ever done.

Climbing over hills, jumping over logs/creeks and roots, steep ascents/descents, amazing scenery, great camaraderie with other runners and amazing volunteers.

Here are a few moments from Saturday that made me smile, lifted my heart…

  • Friends I was NOT expecting to see, standing in the middle of the forest cheering all of us on.
  • Taryn and Laura with the mid-run assist of a much needed banana and hugs.
  • Patrick riding beside me as I walked up a lonely stretch of sun-exposed road.  Gently reminding me to get fuel in my belly for the miles ahead.
  • Carlos helping me load salt tabs in my pack at the aid station because my hands weren’t functioning very well.
  • Ana Lu telling me (as I was whimpering with each step up a gentle slope) that she was ‘getting me to the finish line’.
  • The high school volunteer who kindly put ice cubes in my nasty/sweaty/filthy hydration pack while it was still on my back.

Snapshots.

Happy and meaningful snapshots for my heart from a damn fine day.

I love this sport, race day or any day, because it tests the individual. And yet in a strange way it’s almost like a team sport.  We all genuinely want everyone else to win their personal race.  NO matter how they define it.  If they’re fighting their heart and guts out – we’re rooting for them. Period.

When someone was stopped on the side of the trail around mile 17 or so, all you could hear were echoes through the forest of other runners asking ‘you OK?’ as they paused on their way past.  Or you come across someone struggling and you just buddy up with them (or they with you!), distract each other and encourage each other as best you can while you happen to be on the same stretch of trail. We generously share supplies when we have what someone else needs (salt tabs anyone?).

For Mac, I put into motion the training that Spencer and I have been working on for the past 6 months. Actually we’ve really been working on foundation building for Mac for a solid year.  It all came together on Saturday.

I did encounter some serious cramping in my shins, calves and feet. It was possibly from fatigue, heat/electrolyte imbalance, my lack of experience navigating super-steep terrain or even all of the above…  It just made things a bit tougher than planned.

I finished my race in 8:04.

And even with the stupid shin cramping agony; that is a WIN for me!


Racing these long events, my biggest issue is my head.  I start to question what I’m doing and it gets more insistent as my body starts to hurt and push to the edges of my training. My head starts to battle for control.  And the control it wants is clear and absolute; it wants to shut down my body and make everything comfortable and easy and safe.  Immediately.

From about mile 20 to the finish, I was really battling my brain. Even with friends running with me and trying to distract me; my head was going for the mental ‘sore spots’.

Everyone has them.  I am NOT alone.

Spencer and I have had tons of conversations about how part of the training we do for endurance events is specifically FOR the mental battles we face.

So for every negative thought, I would conjure up a positive.

  • Focus on my breathing. I WAS very alive and totally breathing.
  • I was running and moving. There are people, some I know and love, who do not/no longer have that option.
  • Marveling that my body could work so DANGED hard for so long and WILL be able to do even more with training and time.
  • Every single step was taking me closer to the finish line, to other goals, to becoming a stronger woman.
  • Pizza. 🙂 (Not gonna lie. I think about pizza a lot when I run.)

I finished the race and was greeted by friends.

Lots of friends. Old and new. Hugs and congrats and encouragement for everyone.

We were all verbally stepping all over each other trying to inquire about others that we had lost track of during the race. Was everyone back and OK? How was everyone feeling? Loud and happy chatter!

In the interest of full disclosure; I had one mercifully brief breakdown just after crossing the finish line. I realized I had DONE it, I was physically and mentally exhausted and it was the eve of Mother’s day.  My mom has been gone for 5 years and she would be so, totally, insanely proud of me.  She was wheel-chair bound and I just happened to glimpse a wheelchair with someone’s loved one waiting at the finish line.  It was JUST enough of a trigger… I suddenly felt heartbroken and totally lost without my mom for a few moments. MAN would she have loved what my life has become and the people in it… A legitimate feeling of sadness and loss that was perched at the surface bubbled over.  I was emotionally raw and depleted anyway.  Why not just give in to it?  I grabbed a hug from my friend Jeff and maybe, just maybe, cried on him a little bit…

Dried my tear(s).  (I’m not normally a crier. And I was dehydrated anyway. 🙂 )

Grabbed some more water and some orange slices.

Went to search for more friends.

Took pictures. Hugged anyone and everyone who wanted a hug. And some who didn’t. 🙂 Even though we ALL smelled like yeti’s.

Spent some time just reveling in a sport that is as much about a new-found, welcoming family and a team environment as it is about the amazing individuals  and characters who embrace it.

I love this sport more every time I lace up my shoes.

IMG_7999
Close to mile 6. Photo credit goes to Jeff Sherman who sprinted ahead, laid down on the ground and let us ran at/hurdle over him as he snapped the shot. Hannah, Josh, me, Ana Lu and Kristie.

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