It was great to have one of my favorite running buddies along for the final haul. While I stiffly shuffled along, Krista was a bundle of energy, full of animated stories about zombies, her confusion upon seeing pink john not wearing pink, and her mother’s shock when she discovered Krista was pacing me for 38 miles. It was exactly what I needed—entertaining stories and the company of a good friend.
Just a few miles into our journey we came upon an aid station, where I grabbed a PB&J triangle and a handful of pretzels. I suddenly experienced a wave of nausea like I was going to puke. I turned to the edge of the trail, but was able to hold it back and continue running again. Good thing, too, because I’m not sure the volunteers would have let me leave the aid station—at least not for a while. Then a few miles down the trail (mile 70ish), I felt it again. That wave of nausea. I said to Krista, I think I’m gonna puke. And this time I did. All over the trail. Too much Heed and gels in the system, I guess. Somehow I felt hungry again at the next aid station a few miles later. I suppose that would be the definition of “puke and rally.”
My biggest mistake of the race (a huge one) was putting my head lamp in the wrong drop bag. I completely miscalculated where I’d be when the sun went down. I had placed my head lamp in the Highway 12 aid station drop bag (mile 77.5). But we didn’t reach mile 77.5 until 10:30 p.m. Luckily Krista had a head lamp, and like a saint, offered me hers while she stumbled behind me in the dark. That was rough—two hours of darkness with just one headlamp between us. The trail was littered with rocks and roots. We tripped constantly. Luckily, for a short time we found ourselves sandwiched in the middle of a small pack of runners, with the collective head lamps helping to guide our way.
I was relieved to reach the aid station at mile 77.5, where I could finally pick up my head lamp. I also took down a small bottle of 5-hour Energy, which I hoped would give me energy to last through the night. Krista and I chatted with my parents for a few minutes before setting off for what would prove to be the most challenging leg of our journey—about 4 miles out to the next aid station, and four miles back, on some of the most grueling trails on the course.
Honestly, those eight miles were like one big nightmare. The light from my head lamp was disappointingly dim and proved nearly helpless in seeing the trail and its many obstacles. I tripped constantly. The hills were ruthless. And the miles passed by so slowly. Krista and I weren’t talking much at that point. We were just moving forward—very slowly, mostly walking. It took us almost an hour-and-a-half to cover 4.6 miles on the way out to the Rice Lake aid station, and nearly two hours to reach the Highway 12 aid station on the way back (4.4 miles). Never again, I told myself. Why had I thought this was a good idea? Krista later told me she thought I was on the verge of hallucination then.
Looking back, there were some nice moments, too. Like seeing the neon green glow sticks and tiny Christmas lights hanging in the trees signaling an aid station just ahead (the Rice Lake aid station was particularly impressive). And running into friends like Marty and John on the trail. And I was so thankful for the amazingly generous volunteers who stayed up all night, dishing out endless bowls of soup, refilling cups of Heed, and doing anything to keep runners fueled and as comfortable as possible.
When we arrived to the Highway 12 aid station (mile 86.3), I was in rough shape. My parents looked worried. My mom told me I didn’t look good. I sat on the top of a cooler and silently sipped a cup of chicken noodle soup. Krista told me encouragingly that we only had the distance of a Lake Monona loop left to run. But I don’t think I can’t run a lake loop right now, I whined. There were a lot of runners at the aid stations who were sitting or laying down. I didn’t want to linger at the aid stations too long—I knew that was a slippery slope. I had to keep moving forward. I needed to be done as soon as possible.
And so we kept moving. Walking mostly, and jogging when we could. Krista announced significant time markers—like bar time at 2 a.m., and the point at which I had officially been awake for 24 hours—3:40 a.m. It was weird to look down at my watch and see that so many hours had gone by and I was still running.
Things started to turn around when we finally reached the Nordic Trails. The trail became much more runable at that point—still hilly, but more grassy and less rocks and roots to avoid. I looked at my watch and realized it might still be possible to finish under 24 hours. That, along with the fact that I was almost done, gave me the energy and strength to finish strong. And it certainly helped when the the first signs of morning began to appear—the sky becoming noticeably lighter and the chirping sounds of birds.
The miles went by quicker. Three miles. Then two. And finally just one. I started out with two zeros by that number, I remarked to Krista.
When we rounded the final turn and saw the finish line, I knew we’d made it. Krista and I reached for eachother’s hand and ran across the finish line. The clock read 23 hours and 43 minutes. The small group of spectators, including my parents and our friend Marty, were there to welcome us with cheers and hugs. Co-race director Timo congratulated us and awarded me with a finisher’s kettle, bottle opener, and a plaque for third place in the women’s open division.
It was one hell of an adventure, that’s for sure. A huge thank you everyone who helped make it possible and kept me in their thoughts.
I told myself during the race I’d never do another 100 again. But for some reason, no one seems to be taking me very seriously.
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