My family drove me eastward Friday night to Riverside. They set up my tent on the ranch that would serve as the course for Nanny Goat 24 Hour the next day. We walked the course and timed it to see how long my longest loop might be the next day (22 minutes). Then we went off for dinner at Denny’s, a franchise diner that’s been around longer than I’ve been alive. I had a bacon and avocado egg omelet. It was a nice family outing with little bickering. I finally bid my husband and three boys farewell outside of my tent at 9 0’clock PM. I was gonna miss them! (And for good reason too!!)
The ranch quieted down early as I drifted off to sleep after reading the last chapter of my book. I did not wake again until 4:50 in the morning. Dozing off and on into sleep, I finally unzipped my tent a little before 6:00 AM. I roamed about the barn in my camouflage flannel pajamas while others arrived and picked up their race gear. After two cups of coffee, I grabbed my bib, etc., changed my clothes, and leisurely took in the pre-race excitement without pondering or anticipating what lay ahead for the next twenty-four hours.
7:30 AM, race director, Steve Harvey (aka: spouse of race director, Annie Harvey) gathered all the runners into a pen to announce race instructions. They actually locked us in! One of the runners sang a beautiful National Anthem. Still, I thought nothing about what hell lay ahead of me. I couldn’t think about that. We were all just too damn happy!
And then we were off! FOR THE NEXT 24 HOURS.
The first five to ten miles were easy physically but difficult mentally, because they were so few in the total to be tallied in the end. I took those miles at a decent pace. When I noticed that I veered into the ten minute pace, I purposely slowed to save myself for later. I figured that an 11 to 13 minute mile for the first 25 miles would do me good. It was okay to veer into the 14 or 15 minute mile, but not good to go below an 11 minute mile. I realize that sounds a bit slow for such a relatively “easy” course. But when I’m looking at 24 hours, I’m not in good enough shape to go out too fast.
All I really wanted was to average four miles an hour. That goal was easy-peasy for the first marathon of this race. The sun came out hard, but I am somewhat heat trained, so I was ready and able. Others not so heat trained suffered some. By mile twenty-five I was ready to stop by the homestead for a ten minute break. I certainly didn’t make my best marathon time. But I was happy. I was still within my four mile hour.
Heat continued to bear on. I took in calories as I passed through the barn where the sensors picked up our miles. Old Goat Trail Races provided quite the feast – hamburgers, tri-tip burgers, veggie burgers, muffins, colas, water, fruit, gels, endurolytes, nuts, potato chips, candies, and more. Out on the one mile course, there were two ice chests at the half-way point filled with ice and bottled waters. At about my mile thirty, we seemed to be all growing weary beneath the warm sun. That’s just when the race directors filled those ice chests at the .5 mile mark with popsicles. Yes popsicles! I have never been so delighted in all my life to be offered a popsicle. I chose a purple one, no I changed my mind and went for a blue one. That’s when I met running pal, Nathan who was also delighted to get a popsicle. He was probably thirty years my junior, having for the first time attempting more than a marathon distance. We ran that popsicle mile together (or rather ran-walked) and chatted a bit before parting ways. I warned him a bit about the demons we would meet come night time, and was tickled pink over meeting someone who was
stupid young enough to try something like this without realizing just what “fresh hell” we were going to encounter. I told him, “No matter what you go through, it will make you stronger.” He was eager.
I also met another runner during these daylight hours who was attempting such a crazy feat for the first time. It seemed that every time I was trotting at a slow pace, there was this young man WALKING who was keeping up with me. Finally, I said to him, “I hate it when I’m RUNNING and a person WALKING is keeping up with me.” We both laughed as he tried to apologize for keeping my “running” pace while he walked. His name was Phil and he said something about his legs being longer and having a longer stride as an excuse for keeping up with me. He was good company too, and through his own confession, not a runner at all – he was a motocross guy and some other sport that for the life of me eludes me at the moment (was it tennis? gosh, I can’t recall!) Anyway, I saw him throughout the daytime course, every time I slowed, there he was keeping my pace with seemingly little effort.
On the finish of each one mile lap, we ran through a barn where our mileage was projected upon a screen. Several runners and crews had stalls in this barn as their homesteads. (It’s not difficult to get a stall space, there’s 7 to a stall, first come first serve – I could have gotten one easily, but I opted for privacy over convenience). Relay team members also had their running members waiting and cheering as we ran through the barn. I noticed early on, one woman sitting in a chair off to my right. She clapped and cheered as each and every single runner came through. And if I turned her way, which most of the time I did, she made eye contact with me and said, “Great job!” I smiled at each eye contact. Before I officially met Nathan, I noticed him run up to the woman and ask her name. I said once to her that her hands were going to bleed before the race was over. She just smiled and clapped even more.
After mile 25, things got tougher for me. But I was still maintaining the four miles in an hour (barely). I stopped by the homestead, dropped off the cap and tied on a bandana. My feet hurt, especially my plantar fasciitis foot. My shoulders were beginning to ache. And my lower back was sore. I am fortunate for the little heat training I had already endured before this event, else it would have been a lot worse for me at this point. I saw Nathan here and there on the course, Phil as well, not to mention all the other runners that I already knew or knew of.
Miles 25 through 30 were not terrible, in fact they were still kind of fun. Occasionally, I walked. The bottom of my feet ached, especially my plantar fasciitis foot. I felt confident with ample stretching I could strangle that snake.
50k came and went. My body continued to deteriorate, but not my mind. The tops of my feet were taking a pounding from my shoes. The Achilles of both of my feet were taking a beating from constant contact from the rim of my shoes. Quickly my lower back ache crept up into my mid back as my shoulder pain crept down into my lower back. I tried all the loosening tricks I could remember to get rid of the tightness in my shoulders. Nothing worked.
And so the evening began to dwindle. Runners were trotting or walking as the sun set on the horizon. We ate, we drank our fluids, we smiled and kept up decent conversation, as this is the one-of-a-kind race were we see each other over and over and over again. I was still going strong and able minded enough to grab my camera for a sun-setting shot. All the while, I felt like my back was crumbling. Seriously, it was as if some alien had shot me with a poison arrow in the shoulders, and my body was slowly failing downward with each step. Before the sun set I knew there was one thing that I had to do – tape my arches. Before I headed off toward my homestead, I chatted with another runner about taping my feet. She pointed down at her feet where I could see that she had indeed taped her arches. “Did it help?” I asked. She responded, “It’s the only part of my body that doesn’t hurt right now.”
At mile 40 I wanted to quit. There was no way that I was quitting; still I wanted to. The sun had set and so I set off for my homestead. I had a lot on my mind to accomplish during this stop at the homestead – enough to take up oh, about fifteen minutes. It took me ONE HOUR. I painstakingly peeled off my shoes and socks and walked to a nearby hose to fill my “bin” with water. After walking back to the homestead I soaked and washed my feet. I dried them for a long time then taped my arches. With a clean pair of socks, I laced up my dusty shoes, brushed my hair (yes, brushed my hair!) and set about changing my clothes to get me through the night. I put on some running pants, falling over inside my tent several times. I put a long sleeved shirt on backwards and turned it around again for a better fit. Then I put on another shirt, because it was freezing (not literally) outside as far as I was concerned. Amazing as it may seem, I also put on a beanie and gloves (okay, it’s not so amazing, I’m still delirious). Finally, I zipped up a hoodie, put on my headlamp and headed out the zip-locked doors of my homestead for the darkest hours of my 24 hour run. All the while during my homestead visit I could hear the woman continue to clap for each runner coming through the barn.
One lap after changing for my night time running I found myself back at the homestead. I had dressed way too warm. The first things I chucked across the tent were the beanie and gloves. Who was I kidding!!! Then I took off the jacket, and everything underneath and went for one long-sleeved tech shirt. I stepped outside of my tent, no better refreshed, but still a bit cooler in this night air. Any change in comfort was comforting.
After mile 40 I felt miserable. MISERABLE. I was frantic inside my mind, though I was able to talk to other runners with ease. My frantic self-talk stemmed from this: “How I am I going to be able to cope through the dark-time hours??????” Though a short course, there were times that my headlamp was the only light. I’m not sure if it would had made a difference if there were hundreds of other contestants around me. All I knew was that my body was collapsing. A helicopter flew about downtown Riverside that really drove me nuts. “Just shut up!” I said to myself as the heli flew about. To pass time I posted a few facebook posts from my phone. I listened to music as well, trudging through those dark hours. And I laughed at the occasional drunkards who hollered out as I stumbled by (team members had the opportunity to drink alcohol and not damage their game too much – I myself could never accomplish such a thing). These guys, the “drunkards” as I’ll call them now (unfairly), as they might not drink that much except for that night,” said lots of silly words of encouragement as we passed in the night. One of them hollered to me, “Looking good lady in black pants!” The funniest thing I heard them say was this (one relay guy to another) “I’ll tell you what it takes to do what they’re doing one grown up fucking’ man, that’s what it takes.”
At about mile 42 it seemed that God had granted me a new body. I was able to run full mile laps again. I was smiling. I was comfortable on the course. The hours however, dragged by and I again began to dwindle both mentally and physically. One young guy, one who would eventually run 100 miles, sang loudly through the night to keep himself awake. I don’t think he knew just how loud he was singing as he wore earphones in his ear. I found his out-of-tune singing endearing.
At 2 AM, I finally took Lumberjack’s advice about taking small naps and nestled down in my tent for a thirty minute snooze. I woke refreshed but shivering from cold. For the next lap I wore gloves and a beanie. I was not “one grown up fuckin’ man”, but I did make it through those dark hours. They were TOUGH. I glanced down at my garmin frequently for the time as I waited for the sun. My feet ached, my shoulders felt like they were sliding off of my body. My abs, well, I felt like I had no abs, they were mush. My arms, they felt like they had been lifting weights since the start at 8:00 AM. I ran a lap with Nathan, then I think we walked one together as well. He was having difficult time and stopped for a bit before carrying onward toward his fifty mile goal. (He ultimately did 52 I believe).
From 3:00 AM onward I have never yearned for the sun so much. Time passed excruciatingly slow. When the sun finally rose I wanted to cry from sheer happiness. Oh to see faces again! That’s when I saw Tony, the guy who was set up next to my tent. Neither of us could run any more, and so he offered to walk with me. We walked, and we walked. We talked, he told me some interesting stories, and we were silent too as we walked, and walked some more, never stopping. During those last five miles I just wanted it all to END. I didn’t care about anything. I didn’t care about goals. I didn’t care if I came up short from the last time I ran this event (67 miles). It HAD TO END. My stomach was cramping from intestine issues. When we hit mile 65, I rushed off to the bathroom (Tony did as well), and then we both sat at our homesteads. Sixty-five sounded like a nice good number to me, and so at 7:10 in the morning, I walked up to the finish line and collected my finisher’s medal. With my medal in hand, I walked back to my tent, thanked my new friend for keeping me company, then into my tent I went. I fell down on my air-mattress bed, Sweaty and dirty and aching, I wrapped myself up in my sleeping bag and slept. I believe Tony went on to walk more miles with a friend, totaling his miles at 74.
I still do not care that I stopped at mile 65 and didn’t squeeze out two more miles. I am proud of my accomplishment – not so much the mileage, but the fact that I was able to push through the night. I did not run this event to hit a certain amount of miles. I ran this event to face the demon – the demon within myself. I fought the demon and I won.
Click here to read some amazing finishes at nanny Goat 2014. I am so happy I got to be a part of this, and so grateful that my family was so supportive.