What an experience it was! We got lucky with the perfect race day weather a bit hot later in the day. It was my first time running a marathon (26.2 Miles) to 50K (31 Miles).
After mile 20, I entered "unknown" territory, and that is when I hit the proverbial "wall." I busted my knee at mile 8, trying to stay my good friend Justin. He came in 8th overall and 1st in his age group. I asked him not to wait for me and dropped back.
At mile 14, I saw @Chris, Tony, and the rest of the family cheering. It helped me a lot! @MarniWolf and @SBean were just behind but I only saw them at the finish line. At mile 18, while running and fiddling with water bottles (getting them ready for aid station), I caught an exposed root and slammed that same knee again. I was more upset that it was the same knew rather than the pain it caused. It was already bleeding from before, and I just cleaned it with fresh water. I had to clean it up again.
Approaching mile 20, an older (my guess is 70+ year old) ultra runner lady passed me with a pacer. I was in awe of her speed and my ego just totally gave out. "Good on her," I thought. I was hoping just to finish this race.
At mile 21, I stepped on a root and twisted my left ankle. It wasn't terrible, but the shock and pain completely stopped me for a minute. Right there and then I was ready to give up. If there were a magic door with an "Exit" sign, I would've walked right out, ending my misery.
Unfortunately, I was 4 miles back and uphill from the previous aid station and 5 miles away from the next aid station. There was no choice but to keep going. So I did.
From mile 21 to mile 27, I was just trying to survive. I dug deep and went to dark places. Questioning my sanity of signing up for this "adventure," and in the world, I couldn't enjoy such beautiful trails all around me.
But after seeing other runners suffering just as much if not more and hitting their own "walls," I realized that it is just a part of the experience. By that time, it was mile 29, with only 2 to go.
At the last aid station, I refilled the water bottles and pushed on for the last 2 miles. I ran with another ultra runner, and we chatted and encouraged each other to keep going. The end was minutes away.
Crossing the finish line marked the end of the suffering and the beginning of an appreciation of newfound limits.
Running an ultra marathon is a journey of self-discovery rather than a destination.
Would I sign up for another ultra race? Ask me in a few days 😉