39 Years, 39 Miles

This will be brief, but yesterday I accomplished something I have always wanted to do, but didn’t feel I had it in me…until now. I know if I have any aspiration to be an ultra-runner I need to experience it for myself in an unofficial setting, that way I can test myself to the limit. There is no course support, no friends or family, nothing but your own support system and a lot of mental digging…only YOU can make yourself move forward. And only you can decide to quit. There’s no one else but you to make that call. But the nice thing is: there’s no clocks, no cut-off points, no pressure to succeed, no fear of failure…

I was inspired to complete my age in miles on my birthday, and decided no matter what I was going to give it my best attempt.  Yesterday was warm, and I knew from the beginning I wouldn’t be able to run all 39 miles outside, as the high was to be 89 degrees and sunny; my goal was to complete 39 miles total for the day, even if it was broken up, but I really wanted to make sure I did at least an ultra distance outside (which is anything beyond a marathon).

I hit the trails with just my Nathan handheld bottle and some fuel and electrolyte tablets. I took it slow and easy the entire time, making sure to drink water often and incorporate walk breaks throughout, and not just in the final miles. I brought an applesauce squeeze pouch, dates and raisins for my fuel, and I have to say I’m learning more and more to love raisins! I also made sure to stay on trails with as much shade as possible, but by noon it was very tough. Any time I hit full sun it was like Krytonite, and I felt like I was draining pretty fast. There was a nice breeze in the early hours but that soon just felt like a blast from a furnace by midday.

I managed to run 28 miles pretty strong, but by this point the heat was starting to get to me, and I start incorporating walking much more than I had planned. But happily I had no joint, tendon or muscle pain. I actually felt pretty strong! I totally attribute that to my new orthotics and my awesome Hoka One One Kailua shows. Since I have adopted Hoka into my life, I never, ever have nagging injury issues. No wonder ultra runners swear by them! My main thing was I had a toe blister on my left foot that hadn’t quite healed from my marathon at Sugarloaf (that entry is coming soon), so even though it was bandaged up, it still was quite bothersome.

I finished 32 miles in around 6:20, but that also included all of my stops to fill water, fuel up, and stand there and contemplate if I could move another step. All I could think of was cold fluids in ice: orange juice, iced coffee (the urge was SO strong to find a Wawa and get a huge iced coffee WHILE on the run), cold soda. By the time I got back to my car, it was 89 degrees. I was doused in sweat, trail grit, salt and my ankles were absolutely filthy with dirt lines. I was completely done with running outdoors, and decided I could finish up my mileage inside.

I got home and grabbed a ginger ale, and then jumped on the treadmill to finish up the 7 miles. I was damned and determined to do this, it was all I had planned for my birthday, and I wanted more than anything to prove to myself I could do this (even if my mind kept insisting this was a silly goal in the final hours). I did a slow five miles and then walked the final two miles…the blister was really getting the best of me, and honestly, I thought about ultra running and that there is NO shame in walking or going slow. Why else do they give 12-14 hours to finish the JFK 50? 24+ hours to finish 100 miles? Because you need breaks, you walk, you do a brief self-assessment. Then you get your bearings and continue forward.

In the end, I finished and felt great, took a long shower and scrubbed the trail grit from myself. The only weird thing I noticed that my appetite was lacking for the day, plus I was dehydrated no matter how much fluid I took in, in fact I barely peed for the rest of the day, even though I drank LOTS of water. But I was proud of myself at the end of the day…I completed the distance and didn’t give up. I proved to myself I do have it in me to complete an ultra. I even woke up feeling pretty refreshed and well-rested. I’m a little sore but not hobbling about at all, so that is a good sign for future events down the road.

Now I just need to figure out a way to keep those blisters at bay!


9 thoughts on “39 Years, 39 Miles

  1. Congratulations on your incredible accomplishment! What an amazing way to spend your birthday. I really enjoyed hearing about how you got yourself through the tough miles with your fueling. Interesting that you picked ginger ale – I’ve done a few half-Ironman distance tris and when you get to the long distances, soda is actually a very common fuel (usually flat Coke) in the late miles of the race. I’m very much looking forward to hearing about what you thought about Sugarloaf – it was my favorite marathon! Congrats and Happy Birthday to you!!

    • Thanks! I will say after Sugarloaf I will NEVER use a gel/Gu again, I had a terrible time trying to get them down (and it was a very warm day), so I’m all about the real food from now on. I’ve definitely had soda at the finish line of races, most times I don’t want food at all, just fluids, and the sugar seemed right at the time! It was a really great way to spend a birthday, though very lonely! It was just me and my hornet’s nest of a brain.

      Sugarloaf was tough, too much full sun and warm temps, plus that cattle chute at the finish line trying to muscle my way past cars was a little frustrating. But I digress, still working on my recap, as I finished two marathons in one week, Sugarloaf being the latter (and definitely NOT a PR day!)

      Thanks again, and I love reading your blog entries, they are incredibly inspiring! You’re amazing!

      • Thank you so much! Ummmm, you just ran 39 miles…and TWO marathons in one WEEK…YOU are incredible and inspiring yourself, sister!!! I want to make the switch to natural foods while running. I do it in all other aspects of my life. I think this summer, it will be my project. I do remember that as the day went on at Sugarloaf, it really warmed up and the sun came out. We had an overcast day last year and the sun didn’t peak out until after I was done. I also remember seeing runners from the shuttle coming in and dodging cars. I think they really need to find a better way to deal with that finish line area. I just loved Carrabassett Valley and the fact that it was a small event. I really enjoy smaller races. Congratulations on all accounts!

      • Perhaps I am hard on myself because I am more or less a middle of the pack runner and don’t work too hard at trying to get faster or BQ. It’s just not what I am about, but I can’t help but feel insecure sometimes about not being a little faster! Yes, the sun was an issue early on; don’t get me wrong, I LOVE small races in settings like that! It was beautiful, the conditions were just tough that day!

      • What’s that quote? You are a runner, not because of how far or how fast – because you run! None of us are winning Olympic medals (at least, I’m not haha!) no reason to feel insecure! You rock! Keep it up!!

  2. Congratulations and happy belated birthday! I love this idea. I’m not a runner, but I think a bike ride where miles=birthday years is an awesome idea. Thank you for continuing to be a great gluten-free athlete/advocate!

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