Nashville Ultra Marathon
As I was running through the trails in Tennessee on Saturday, I looked over at Bailey and told her how “I cannot not freakin’ wait to write about this ”. It has been about 18 hours since I crossed the finish line and I have been trying to find the right words in my head that entire time. I don’t know how to explain the culmination of joy and happiness this makes me feel in my heart. So, I apologize in advance if this blog bounces around. Just imagine me laying in my bed, barely being able to move and having the biggest smile on my face. I have never been this happy to limp around.
This has been a pretty long journey for Bailey and I, and I think we both found a certain light in ourselves that can never be dulled. It can’t be taken away because we worked tirelessly, and pushed through injury, illness, sadness, and busy schedules to make it to this race. Not only that, but through this training we found a community that is so beyond wonderful. Let me just start from the beginning, and hopefully you will feel my immense happiness through these words.
First off, Ultra Marathons are very different than the big marathons and half marathons that some of you may be familiar with. When we were leaving for the trip on Friday, Dad gave us some money and told us to enjoy the expo. I literally laughed out loud. There are no big expos or fancy booths when you go to an ultra. Half of the time there isn’t even civilization. We picked up our race bibs at the parking lot where our race started and there was a nice man who gave us our t-shirts and our info. It was chill and we found out there were only around 160 people there for the entire thing and there were 4 different distances being run. If that sounds like a lot of people to you, let me remind you that there is about 40,000 people in the Flying Pig. Ultra running isn’t commercialized and it definitely isn’t something that you can just do on a whim. It is running in its most pure and raw form.
After we got our packets, we headed to the outlets for a quick stop at Nike, because you just cant pass that up (I got the sickest running jacket and leggings!!). Then we went to Texas Road House with the whole gang. The whole family came to support (except dad, but he was there via phone calls pre-during-and post race). I skipped out on the steak dinner, because I brought all of my own food with me for the weekend. Lara (my Yeti), is something I usually bring with me on long trips, especially trips like this. I don’t want to have to deal with tummy trouble before a big race. I pre-packaged all of my meals and made some awesome g-free browning and zucchini muffins for treats! Anyway, we got back to the hotel, and I spent a few hours hanging out with my favorite people, re-checking my drop bags for the race, sitting out my outfit (#basic), and being pretty calm considering the fact that I am usually extremely nervous at this point. We hit the sack about 10:30, and set our alarms for 5:00 AM.
Bailey and I woke up to our alarm(s) and the song, Turn Down for What… anyway, we both quickly drank a bottle of water and then started getting ready. I was moving kind of slowly and didn’t have much of an appetite, but I did feel super cute in my new pants and jacket and I was praying to be relaxed. It told myself that this was not a race, it was a challenge. Which was a great mindset for me, come to find out. I didn’t have much anxiety and my stomach stayed pretty happy. My body handles stress by me not being able to leave the porta-potty line, so I was happy that I found a way to stay calm and excited. Bailey and I headed to the race a few minutes before everyone else, and got in the zone with a little Matt and Kim on the way there. We were giving each other pep talks and fist pumping and laughing nervously about the unknown. I think we both laugh in the face of pain (I even laughed when I typed that). When we got there, we both just looked at each other and smiled nervously. We are newbies in this, and you kind of felt like you were walking into a group with a bunch of pros. We walked to the Aid Station tent and we met our first vet. He was in his late 60’s and he was quick to invite us to run with him and introduced us to his running partner, Rob. Rob is the kind of person you would imagine running an ultra marathon. He was about 6’5” and a lean bean, he had long crazy curly hair and spent his weekends running and traveling the world by foot. When we started talking to those two, I felt immediately at home. It was like I was with people who knew my soul, who knew the love I have for a sport. They were quirkiest and happiest people I had met in a long time, and made me kind of forget that I was even running an ultra marathon. We started at the back of the pack (I did a lot of research about newbies going out to fast and bonking at around mile 20, and I didn’t want to make that mistake). I think Rob just laughed for the first 10 miles of the race, having the time of his life.
Bailey and I left them after a mile or so, and decided we wanted to move up a little bit and we found another couple of veterans. We hung out with two guys who had run 100 milers and were friends with our previous buddies. It was like this community was one big family. We got some life advice and much encouragement. I think they were all just excited about the fact that we had so much passion about ultras. I love the advice they had though, they just wanted us to enjoy the ride, not rush our race and be patient with our progress. The positivity that everyone had towards us was unbelievable. It was like we were running with family, and it was people we had never met before.
After our first aid station we got separated from that group and Bailey and I ended up next to a Marine and his wife, who was pacing him. We had a blast hanging out with those two. We did marine chants and sang and fist pumped (the race photographer thought we were hilarious). We talked about Jesus and their church and our church. We also found out that he was on day 667 of his run streak! Which is so awesome! I swear these crazy awesome people were just coming out of the wood works, but the best was saved for last.
After a while, Bailey and I ended up on our own between miles 14-18 and that is when Bailey started feeling really bad. Before we went into this race, we went on and assumed that things would go wrong. That is just the nature of the beast. Bailey was dealing with some major electrolyte imbalance and dehydration and she was not feeling too hot. Racing is hard, because it takes a lot of practice to figure out your body and what makes all of the puzzle pieces fit together. Bailey ended up overhydrating the night before and not drinking enough electrolyes at the beginning of the race, causes her pretty severe discomfort. That is why we do this together. We are eachothers back bone. She has gotten me through many of hard training days, and she is defintley the reason I got through my first marathon, so obviously it was my turn. Quitting is not an option, once she shed a few tears and we got on a little bit of flat course, we were back at it. We were going to make it together or not at all. That is just our rules. She is one tough chick and I wouldn’t want anyone else beside me during a dark time, so I will always be her light. Things got a lot better after mile 18. We ended up running pretty fast between mile 18-23. We got another running buddy and we just talked and pushed though. The trails that we were one were beautiful and easier on the legs than the asphalt, so we were keeping a quick easy pace and it seemed like Bailey was feeling better, so it was looking up. At mile 23 I was still feeling pretty dang good. With my body, I never know what to expect. I just kind of have to be ready for anything, and it seemed like luck/planning was on my side for once.
When we got to the turn around, we decided to finish that last 10 or so miles with a man we had met earlier in the race (mile 10-12). I wanted to wait until now to talk about him, because he was by far one of the coolest people I have ever met in my life. An ultra marathon is made up of all different kinds of people, and you have to remember that someone’s age doesn’t mean crap. The average ultra runner is a male in his upper 40’s. So, Bailey and I were already the youngest ones there. Anyway, we met a man named Jim Ingalls. First of all, Jim is 70 years old (see picture above). One of the first questions I would ask most people I met was what kinds of races they had done in their life or how many ultras. I asked Jim this and he said, “All of them” as nonchalantly as one can say that about running ultra marathons. When he said that I kind of laughed, because I thought he was joking or just messing with me. Well boy as I wrong. This man has run 100’s of 100 mile races. He has done Badwater two times. Badwater is known as the hardest footrace in the world, it is 135 miles through death valley in California where the temps get all the way to 130 degrees. Only 90 of the best runners in the world get invited to it every year, and he got to go twice, and he was 60 years old when he did it. This man has also done the something called the Grand Slam, which only about 400 people in the world have ever done. He ran six 100 miile races in one summer. All of these being some of the most difficult races in the world with almost impossible time caps. This man was a living legend and we got to run with him for around 3 hours. We talked about life, running, his training, his travels, and pretty much every other question I could think of while I was geeking out. He was the kindest and most encouraging man. He kept telling us how proud he was of us, and that he cant wait to see where we go. He was such a wealth of knowledge and wisdom. I think I have deemed him our Ultra Papaw. All three of us finished the race together, and it was one of the coolest and most fulfilling experiences of my life.
Having my sister next to me is something that can never be replaced. Having almost my entire family there to support us made me want to cry tears of joy. All of the encouraging text messages we got just proved how amazing our support system is. But, most importantly, we became a part of a community that I am really proud to be a part of. They were some of the most friendly, encouraging, Jesus loving, humans God put on this earth. Not to mention, no one litters, and everyone just cheers for each other the whole time. I am really proud of us. It took a lot of courage to enter into this world, but Bailey and I never doubted ourselves our each other. We always knew that we were just crazy enough to do stuff like this, and we were right.
Before this race I never saw myself ever wanting to do a 100 miler, but good gosh…now I want to one day. I don’t even know what we have gotten ourselves in to.
Post Race: Bailey and I both have quite a few blisters, and a few missing toenails, but nothing major. We are both hurting in all of the same spots. Our IT bands are pretty mad at us, and it is making our hips and knees hurt pretty bad. I was pretty sick for a bit after the race, but that is pretty normal for me. My body deals with dehydration that way, and I was a little dehydrated, but nothing major. I was lucky enough to stay with one of my best friends in the world and her husband after the race! So we went to have a post-race meal of grilled chicken and fries (my fav), and took a hot shower. I found out in the shower that I had all kinds of hurt-y places on my body. My HR monitor rubbed a huge spot on my back, my pants rubbed spots on my hips and so on and so forth. The hot shower was both a blessing and a course. Bailey and I were asleep by 9:30 with happy hearts and very very sore legs.
With love and many miles,
P.S. Sorry this was so long, but I wanted to write down some of the small stuff, so when we do our 50th ultra, we will always remember our 1st.