With all the excitement of the morning, I barely had a chance to think about the actual race until it started. By that time I chose to settle into an easy 11:45 pace that put me in the middle of the pack with Alex, and had brought us through for lap 1 at 2:28:32, slightly slower than planned, but respectable. At that point Alex said, "see you tomorrow" (which luckily was not the case as we crossed paths a few more times on the course and after he finished), and I was on my own for the rest of the race.
I was able to stay with the pack most of the race this year.
I continued on in silence for a few miles until I realized that I was already focusing on my aches and pains...and it was way too early for that. I turned on an audiobook I had already listened to (so I wouldn't have to pay too much attention) to drown out the completely unproductive thoughts running through my head, which sounded something like this: "why am I doing this again?", "isn't 25 miles still considered a good, long run for the day?", "how many more laps do I have?", and so on and so on. The audiobook distracted me enough to get through lap 2 in 2:27:26, which was great for 25 miles, except I felt like I'd already run 50.
Now, to back track for a moment, I spent most of Friday evening packing up individual bags with everything I would need for each lap. Food, change of socks/shoes/clothes/liners/or whatever other item I thought I would need by that lap, ibuprofen, and pepto tablets. These bags were laid out neatly next to my chair to require as little thinking as possible as I came through the start/finish area for each lap since I'm notorious for wanting something for the next lap (I'll ruminate on it for miles before I get to the aid station) and then completely forget about it until I'm a quarter mile past the aid station. So I planned ahead. Poorly apparently. Because everything I needed was in the wrong bag and I didn't want any of the food I'd planned to eat.
Since nutrition had been such an issue during this race last year, I wanted to be particularly smart about it this year. I was going to take in ~100 calories in some form (shot blocks, slim jims, pb&j) every 3 miles and then ~200 calories at aid station (AS) #1 and AS#2, a good plan in theory, but not one that my GI system would go along with. Initially I settled on potato pieces covered in salt followed by a small cup of sweet tea and cookies at AS#1 and AS#2. By 11am the volunteers had started up the grills and were offering hot dogs, burgers, and chicken sandwiches. I have to admit, I was surprised by how well the hot dogs, potatoes, cookies, and sweet tea sat on lap 3 and 4.
Ginger ale and salt concoction prepared by Shannon. Not sure if I'll do that drink again!
I crossed the 50 mile mark in 10:14:45, which was a good time for me, but my aches and pains were getting more noticeable and I'd already pulled out all my tricks to feel better (I'd already changed my shoes, my sock, and my liner). The next lap ended up being more of a mental feat than a physical one as I urged my body to keep going and try to enjoy the experience in the process. I started walking more, even slight hills that I could have easily run, because my head just wasn't in it and my nutrition started to go down the toilet. I needed a personal cheerleader, which was exactly what I got as I came in from lap 6 and asked for a pacer. My pacer, Rich, was a gregarious and efficient runner who might as well have been carrying pom poms as we quickly (or at least more quickly than last lap) ticked off the miles.
Some of the downhills were actually tougher than the uphills because of the breaking forces on the quads and hip flexors.I had also changed at this point into compression tights and a new sports bra, which put a new spring in my step. I felt better for some reason. Maybe it was the company. Or maybe it was the fact that I was 3/4 of the was done. Whatever it was, I found a second wind, which carried me through lap 7 and into lap 8 where I picked up a new pacer, Collin, who was even more aggressive than Rich. He had pulled his last pacee through to a top 10 finish for males and when I told him my desire to finish under 24 hours (I had 3 hrs 45 min to meet this goal), he asked what I thought about trying to finish in under 23 hours. I thought he was crazy.
The bottom of my left foot felt like it caught fire every time I took a step and my left hip flexor muscles would occasionally stop functioning. On top of that I could no longer take in more than a few sips of water and GU without feeling like I would get violently ill, and I had the hiccups (likely from all of the unprocessed hot dogs pressing against my diaphragm). Surprisingly, the only thing that still felt okay was my residual limb, which was tenuous at best and I knew could give out on me at any moment. Despite that, when he said run, I ran. And sometimes, even when he didn't say run, I ran anyways. It honestly felt good to run so I ran as much of the lap as I could, even if it was just a slow shuffle at some points. I didn't look at my watch. I didn't want to know how fast I needed to run. I just maintained the fastest pace that I could until I saw the lights of the start/finish line ahead. And then I smiled when I saw the clock, which read 22:55:24. It felt good to be done before the sun came up. It felt good to beat my goal. And Collin should be proud that he also pulled me in for 10th place overall for females!