Sunday, July 24, 2016

Candlelight 12 Overnight Ultra Race Report

I used to say that I never wanted to run 50 miles. But somehow and for some reason I ended up doing just that at the inaugural Candlelight 12 hour ultra this weekend. I'm not sure how it even happened and I'm finding it hard to form coherent thoughts about the race. So first, a non-exhaustive list of thanks, without which such insanity would not be possible:

Infinity of thanks to Danielle, Alison, Bob, Mark, Todd, Dave and Laura for joining me at all the stupid o'clock hours for nighttime training runs. To Alison and Bob for driving me to the race, to Alison for letting me borrow her headlamp as a backup and to Bob for staying to cheer until 3am! To Todd and Laura for volunteering at the aid station during the wee hours of the morning and to Laura for driving me home. To Eric and Sheila for being out there cheering all night long and being the heart and soul of the awesome community that is TrailsRoc. To the Valones for letting me stow my stuff under their pop-up tent and making me smile every time I saw them out there crushing the course. To Amber and Greg for being at the start and finish and for teaching me the difference between black metal and death metal. To Dave and Anita for being such upbeat, friendly people. To 3 generations of Stories for being so encouraging and inspiring - and congratulations to Kristy on her epic win! To Prem, Jeff, Erica, Steven, Stacey, Brian VB and Jeff McB for coming to spectate (and to Steven for bringing GatorBull, the drink of champions). And of course to Race Director Gil and all the volunteers (especially the one responsible for delicious homemade cookies appearing at the aid station at 4am) for making it possible for us to run from sunset to sunrise and everything in between.

The race was a 12 hour event, starting at 7pm on Saturday night and ending at 7am on Sunday morning. The course was a 1.07 mile loop on grass and paved paths at the Equicenter in Honeoye Falls and the goal was to run as many full laps as you could in that time. 

I went into the race never having run farther than 32 miles and never having run for anywhere close to 12 consecutive hours. So my only goal was to keep moving for the entire time and see what happened. I honestly didn't think I'd get more than 40 miles and I expected to walk a lot. Mostly I just didn't want to get injured or fall in any horse shit. 

It was hot, sunny and humid when we started, with temperatures in the 80s. I wanted to bank as many miles as I could before it got dark so I only stopped to walk on the lone hill on the course. I started to get worried because I felt tired pretty early on and I didn't know how I was going to last for 12 hours. But then I sat down to pee (in a real bathroom in the barn, which was awesome!). When I got up, my legs felt better. I also started drinking Mountain Dew and eating more at the aid station and that helped as well. Then I realized I was already at mile 20 and the soreness I felt was just normal 20 mile soreness. I could handle that. I told myself I could sit down every 4 hours and elevate my feet for a few minutes. That seemed to alleviate the heaviness in my legs and give me an extra boost.

The 12 hours went by surprisingly fast. I never felt sleepy, but my brain was too tired to think about much of anything. Which was perfect. Rejuvenated by my first sit down, I just got into the zone and went. I stopped to walk the hill on every loop but I ran most everything else. It was still humid but the temperature had dropped into the 60s. The miles passed and I don't really remember much from miles 26-40. The sun set and it was beautiful. The moon came out and it was beautiful. I just kept going and tried to say "nice job" or "looking good" to everyone I saw out there.

I sat down again when I got to 40 miles. Now I had less than 4 hours to go and I was still feeling good. Suddenly this thing seemed almost doable. It turns out that running 50 miles doesn't hurt any more than running a marathon or 50K. Between miles 45 and 50 I almost cried so many times. I teared up at mile 47 when Pete called me from Afghanistan. And when a woman on the course said to me "You're wonderful! Always so positive." And when I hit 50 miles and my brain was all You're doing this! How are you doing this? Why are you doing this? No really, why are you still running? How are you still running? Oh shit, is this a dream? I cannot even if this is just a dream.

Thanks to Eric for the photo!

Thanks to Todd for the photo!

I legitimately don't know how I ran 50 miles or how I kept going for 5 more miles after that. Some part of me wanted to stop. I had nothing to prove. I didn't even want to run 50 miles. But mostly I was just all I came here to run for 12 hours and damnit I am not stopping until I do that. I do remember that the last hour seemed longer than the previous 11 combined. I crossed the timing mat with 15 minutes left on the clock and debated stopping there or trying to get one more loop. I had no idea what pace I'd been running at this point. I thought it was probably slower than 15 minute miles but I figured I had to at least try for one final loop. Why? I have no idea. I think my brain was just like fuck it, let's wreck everything. I mustered whatever speed I had left, which was very little. I even ran 80% of the hill. When I got to the paved path, I couldn't see the finish clock to see how much time I had left so I just started sprinting. Luckily I made it with 4-5 minutes to spare.

Then everything started to hurt. My legs, my abs, my stomach, my brain. But whatever. I ran 55 miles (over 20 miles farther than I've ever gone before) and stayed awake all night. I got to run through the sunset, moonrise and sunrise. I might be dead now. But it was totally worth it.

I have no words that can adequately explain my feelings about this race. The magic of running at dusk, at midnight, at dawn. The joy of doing something I love, of attempting things so outside my comfort zone and finding strength and awesomeness in actually doing them. The overwhelming gratitude I feel for having met all these amazing people and of having married my most favorite of all of them. 

No more 50 milers for me though. Ever.

Lyric of the moment: "The indescribable moments of your life, tonight. The impossible is possible tonight, tonight. Believe in me as I believe in you, tonight..." ~Smashing Pumpkins "Tonight Tonight"

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