"The question is never "Can you do it?", but instead the question is "How much is this going to hurt and how can we minimize that?"" That being said...here begins another leg of the journey.
The fun all started at 4:30pm on Friday, October 28th. I drove to my friend Anja's house to pick her up to start our road trip to Chicago. Anja had agreed to be my co-pilot and race management crew for my first ultra marathon - the Chicago Lakefront 50/50. This road trip is one that I've been looking forward to from the beginning since we rarely get time to spend together! Five minutes into the trip, we already changed course and chose a shorter route, via Anja's iPhone, than what mapquest gave us. Anja's iPhone saved us on multiple occasions. We headed out toward LaCrosse and planned to stop there at the Olive Garden for some carbs for dinner. We called ahead to get it "to go" and sat and ate it in the van once we got there. We proceeded to drive through Wisconsin, which was the longest drive EVER, but we finally did make it to Illinois around 10:15pm. We still had a long way to go, many tolls to pass through, and lots of single lane construction. We arrived at the Ramada on the Lake Shore around midnight.
|Race Manager Anja|
Once we were parked and inside, we settled in quickly to get a few hours of sleep. The room was "old", but clean. It was rickety as well and the fan sounded like a motorcycle idling in the corner, but it provided enough white noise to get me to sleep. However, the phone rang 3 times between midnight and 12:30am. When we answered, no one was there. Anja got up and unplugged the cord from the wall...and that settled that!
At 6am, I was up and ready to go! I didn't know what was ahead of me, since I had a several injuries that I was dealing with. They were bad enough to consider not showing up to this race at all, but I made the decision to come anyway and walk the whole thing if necessary. I had kinesio tape on my left leg and back. I also athletic taped my left ankle. I have run in athletic tape before and I usually ended up cutting it off around 3 miles due to friction. This time, I planned to run in it for 31 miles and this required one heck of a tape job! I also decided to tape over the KT tape job, so that if I decided to cut the athletic tape off, then I had the KT as backup. This required me to keep a pair of scissors in my fuel belt pocket and therefore made me violate the rule "never run with scissors!"
We left the hotel at 7:30am and headed south to Jackson Park where the race began. It was pretty cold - around 33 degrees - and I had multiple layers on. I wasn't sure what I was going to run in, so I put everything on to keep warm while I checked in and warmed up. It was a small event - somewhere around 200 people in the 50K. There was also a 50 mile race which started 2 hours earlier.
The start was at 8:30am. It was very informal and basically everyone just walked over and the guy on the loud speaker said "go!" There was no chip timing, so everyone had the same start time. I started in the back, since I didn't know what the first few steps would feel like on my bad leg. The mass of runners started incredibly slow. I got a little ansy and tore out around everyone to settle in closer to the middle.
|Off and running!|
The course was beautiful. It was all asphalt and concrete, but most of the runners chose the soft path just to the right of the asphalt path. It ran along the shores of Lake Michigan. It started south of the downtown area so as we ran, we were heading toward downtown and had a great view of the skyline. Very cool. I took my jacket off around mile 3 as the sun peeked out. I also had on 2 short sleeve tech tees - including my lucky race shirt, arm sleeves, and gloves. It switched between warm and cold throughout most of the race as the sun went in and out behind clouds. I was happy I chose the arm sleeves that day!
The first water stop was around 3.5 miles out. I didn't carry my water or cytomax for this race, so I had to stop a few times at water fountains to rehydrate prior to the water stop. The water stops were very informal. I'm used to people handing me water and these stops were more like a "help yourself" setup. There were a few people handing it out though! The second stop and 50K turn-around was little ways past the 5 mile marker. I actually missed the turn-around since there was a large group of people and the sign and paint on the sidewalk were both covered. I figured it out an 1/8th mile too far though when I looked back and everyone I had passed were now heading back in the other direction...oh well! Nothing like making a 50K even longer.
|50K turn-around and water stop|
The first time I saw Anja was at mile 7.5. I was happy to see her and hand off my first layer of clothing. She took a few pictures and then texted my "people" for the day to give them an update on my race. I told her to keep walking out to the turn-around, which would mean I would see her again around mile 15.5. I had been maintaining a sub-nine minute pace and it felt easy and comfortable. I was happy and took off again! A few miles later I felt an extreme tightness in my right leg. This surprised me since my left leg was what I was worried about. My right IT band was locking up nice and tight. I didn't have any trouble with this prior to this race, so I was not prepared for this situation. I stopped to walk a few times to see if I could loosen it up. I stretched all the affected muscle groups as well. Nothing seemed to help. Shortly after mile nine, I went into a walk/run mode. I was able to run for a half mile at a time, but the run time decreased as the miles went on.
Since my left leg was feeling great during the race and I had become so used to accommodating it during my training runs, my right leg pretty much freaked out on me and resulted in this situation. I made it to the 10 mile turn-around which was back at the start and I headed back out. I couldn't wait to get back to Anja and tape up my IT band and "stick it!" The pain started to get more intense and it was getting harder to run at all. I finally made it to the 50K turn-around for my second time and she was waiting with my race bag - complete with all kinds of tape, tennis balls, my stick - pretty much everything a trainer keeps on hand. I took off my right shoe and took out my orthodic. Anja put in my regular insert while I alcohol swabbed my right thigh to prep it for the kinesio tape. My hands were completely numb from the cold, so Anja had to help open the kinesio tape packages for me. I laid down on the ground and hiked my capris up as high as they would go and started taping. I had to reach down my capris in the other direction to complete the tape job while a group of male onlookers drew in :-) I also taped up my knee just in case that would help. Then I took the stick to my IT and quads. It hurt like a son of a gun. I also dug the tennis ball into my TFL, but that had little effect. The sticking did help me out for a few miles though.
After a good ten minute stop to try to fix my situation, I headed out again. I took my cell phone with me this time so that I could call Anja to meet me if needed. I got a mile down the path and all heck broke loose with my right IT. I really did not want to walk to the end, so in desperation I called my chiropractor. Yes, this was a first for me. I have never carried my phone with me in a race, let alone call someone. He gave me his suggestions and a group of guys ran by me and yelled at me to "Get off the phone. You are racing!" I totally agreed with them, but at this point I was no longer racing and instead was staring at a flippin' long walk. I stopped to try a few more stretches and then made a few more attempts at running. I came to a full walk by mile 18. I started to get cold and wished that I had more layers on. I walked back to the turn-around at the start and really wanted to bail out, but I made the turn. I grabbed a cup full of food to eat and some gatorade and went out for the final loop.
As I went under the highway, I thought "this is really going to suck." The only thing that motivated me at this point were the other walkers. There were a lot of us :-) I was not the only injured runner and actually met a few others that were injured and walking in the 50 miler. I felt more sorry for them than myself! I was keeping a pretty fast walking pace, but it did decline as I fatigued. I was getting cold and saw Anja one last time at mile 22.5. She was on her way back to the start. She walked 10.5 miles that day! I stopped to stick one more time and learned that my stick had become very popular with the other runners and had been used by a few. A woman standing next to us started asking me what I was doing and why. Normally during a race I wouldn't stop to chat, but here I was...chatting away. I broke so many of my own rules during this event!
I went through a lot on the last loop. I started to get really tired, more tired than if I were running. I had to dig pretty deep for the mental toughness to keep going. For the most part, I was walking alone. The path didn't have many spectators. I could count them on one hand. The other racers were my company for the most part. My right IT hurt pretty good and the right ankle started to feel the effects of it as well. I stopped to loosen my shoe 10 times - no joke - to make it feel better. I also started to feel the infamous left leg issues. I had a great deal of tenderness. I was cold, tired, and lonely...but I was doing what I love :-) That kept me going!
I made it to the 50K turn-around one last time and when I made the turn, I was shocked to see there were people behind me still. I almost cried for joy! I could hardly believe I was not in last place. I actually beat more than 30 people! And most of them were walking too, so I had no fear that they would all pass me in the end. How sad is that? I carried on and listened to my music. My theme song for this race, "Till I Collapse" by Eminem, was playing and I was happy that I hadn't collapsed yet! I got to mile 28.5 and attempted to do some math, which any marathoner will tell you is not possible at this point. I wanted to know how far I had to go, so I tried to subtract 28.5 from 31 miles. I could not arrive at the answer for the life of me. I looked at street signs to figure it out. I saw 57th St. and I knew the finish was at 63rd street. Would you believe that every time I saw the next street sign it said "57th St?" I'm pretty sure only one of them was the real 57th St! I was very dehydrated and starting to hallucinate apparently. When you are running, the water stops are 20 - 30 minutes apart, but when you are walking, they become an hour apart. That beat me up pretty good. I did come up with an invention called the "Tape Monkey" though. This is a small monkey well trained in KT and athletic taping techniques that can ride on your back and tape you up at any given time during your long runs.
I FINALLY saw the 63rd St. sign and went down the path to go under the highway one last time. I took my headphones off and walked to the finish line. I made no attempt to run at this point as I had nothing left in me. I gave the woman the tag from my bib, retrieved my medal, and found Anja. She took some pictures of me with my medal which I am extremely proud of. I trained like a champ for that baby. The training is the hard part in my opinion and the race is just the icing on the cake. I went into this race expecting to walk and I did. I found this race to be much harder to get through with my injuries though than I thought and I still had to be strategic to get through. And I MADE IT!
I immediately cut the 500 yards of tape off of my foot, ankle, knee, IT bands, and back. It took a few minutes...I then updated my people and called home. I was relieved and happy. I was also extremely hungry for being on the course for so long. I was trained to run this race in 4:40 and I ended up with a 6:35. A little longer than I had planned to be out there for and I did find myself a little unprepared for that time frame.
Tom K. from dailymile stopped over to talk with us. He ran the 50 mile and had a great race. I was very happy for him and enjoyed meeting him face to face. After talking with him, we immediately hit the road since our parking ticket was about to expire. We headed to downtown for Lou Malnati's chicago style pizza. I changed my clothes in the restroom and sat down for a beer with my best friend! I had her take a picture of what I wrote on my hands for the race "It will hurt. It will suck. And I will not give up." I read my hands several times during the last loop.
We hit the road back to Minnesota around 5:30 pm and Anja agreed to drive the first leg. She succeeded in getting us flipped off several times as we made our way out of the city. I told her I don't care what she does, just don't get us shot. So, I put on my compression socks, wrapped ice packs to my legs, and took a nap.
I thoroughly enjoyed this time with Anja and would have done it again in a heartbeat even if I had to walk the whole thing. I got to train for an ultra and experience an ultra for my first time. It was amazing. I am now a 50K addict. I can't wait for my next one...which I will be running by the way!
Event: Chicago Lakefront 50/50 Ultramarathon
Place: Chicago, IL
Theme Song: "Till I Collapse" - Eminem
Theme Song: "Till I Collapse" - Eminem
Date: Saturday, October 29, 2011
Overall Place: 151 of 184+
Final Time: 6:35:49 (12:46 avg. pace)