My tripping and stumbling over the rocky trail along the river really began to hurt my left ankle in particular. I continued to go on despite the rising discomfort. I knew I was getting closer to last manned aide station until the finish, but I had no idea how close. My Garmin had died hours ago and I had no idea had far I had run or how much I had left. All I knew was that it was less than 14 miles. Around every bend and at the crest of every hill, I could have sworn that last aide station was there…..and it wasn’t. I was beginning to feel really alone, really exhausted and hurt. I knew that I needed a nudge, a boost to keep me going. I sent a text to our crew group. Most of them were out running, but I knew Jade was still at Camp Remi. It went like this:
- Me – So close to Camp Toofy but hurting so bad
- Jade – I know it hurts. You CAN do this. Keep moving forward. every step gets you closer to the finish and trust me, that will feel amazing. The task ahead is never greater than the strength within.
- Shelby (Fred’s wife 🙂 ) – Come on Em, you can do it.
- Me – I just wanna cry
- Jade – You can cry all you want to me when you’re done. Get back to me at the finish. I believe in you!
- Shelby – It’s supposed to be painful but we all know you can do it. One step at a time…gotta dissect it in pieces, even if they’re tiny.
It was short and sweet but it gave me the courage and strength to keep pushing and not long after that I made it to Camp Toofy, the last manned aide station. I walked into the pavilion and sat on the first bench I found and immediately hung my head. I was so tired and exhausted. My muscles were aching, my ankles hurt and I just wanted to go to sleep. A very sweet and persistent lady came over to me to make sure I was okay. As she got me talking, she began to force me to eat and drink, which is what I really needed at that point, even though the thought of eating did not appeal to me at all! The cold began creeping up on me after sitting there for sometime and the volunteers got a space heater out for me to sit next to while I ate and drank. Another volunteer went and got her roller out and rolled the muscles of my legs for me (a roller has never felt so good!).
Eventually, I knew it was time to go, if I didn’t start to move soon it would only make it more difficult. The sweet ladies sent me on my way with a baggie filled with salty snacks to keep going. I left Camp Toofy around 10:20pm, I only had something between 6 and 7 miles left and I could call myself an ultra marathoner!! That helped to motivate me as well as the help and kindness of the volunteers at the aide station. I tried to run, but it hurt too much and my muscles were tight and cramping. I did something between a fast walk and jog. 🙂 I’m not quite sure how far I had gone doing my fast walk/jog, but at some point, I rolled my left ankle again. The one that had already been bothering me. It sent a wave of pain through my foot and stopped me dead in my tracks. I took a moment and headed on, I knew I had to just keep moving no matter what, even if it were a walk. I needed to move. I walked some and then attempted to run again and it hurt too much. I began alternating the walking and jogging, but eventually the pain became too much and my muscles just seemed to be fighting me every step I took.
I began to notice I was having trouble seeing as well. I first rubbed my eyes and that didn’t help. I closed them for a few seconds and then slowly opened them again. Initially, I could see clearly but then it went back to blurry, double vision. I started to wonder and worry if perhaps I didn’t eat enough or wasn’t drinking enough. As I walked, I ate and drank some more. Somewhere, alone in the darkness a small group of people came up behind me and passed me, but one woman stayed running along in front of me. She asked how I was doing and we began to talk. Her name was Ellen and she had been planning on doing the 100 mile, but unfortunately after falling on the ice in the first loop and tweaking her back, she wasn’t going to make the cut off and she was going to have to drop out with two loops to go. She began to notice how much I was struggling and at this point, I was stumbling quite a bit, between the pain in my ankle, my blurry, double vision and trouble keeping balance. She told me she would stay with me until the finish to make sure I was okay. We continued on mostly walking/hiking but never stopping. There were a few technical, rocky spots that I needed her help getting over, but we did it. There were moments when I would complain about the pain, but she was patient with me and kept me going with words of inspiration, as well as distracting me by talking about random things. I’m pretty sure I told her several times that she was my ‘guardian angel.’ lol 🙂 I knew that being alone out there in that much pain and discomfort was messing with my head and I felt I was on the loosing side of that battle when she came upon me. I was so tempted to just sit down somewhere along the trail and have a good cry, but with Ellen beside me, pushing me along, it kept me going. Thinking of the encouraging words from Jade and Shelby, gave me the desire to push through the pain and finish.
There is a lot I don’t remember from those last few miles, partly due to exhaustion and perhaps simply not wanting to re-live it again! 😉 But, one of the most amazing sights and memories of that whole race, was that damn bridge! The bridge that took us all forever to cross on the first loop because it was covered in ice, the bridge that was the signal of the end of a loop and the beginning of the next. There it was, Ellen headed across the bridge first and I followed close behind. She knew how I had been dreaming of this section and the end of my race, so she let me go ahead once we reached the other side. I suddenly began to feel like I had energy again. The adrenaline began pumping knowing that I had perhaps a half mile/quarter-mile left. Ellen and I kept going and the closer and closer we got, we could hear the cheers getting louder as the other runners in front of us finished. The trail then opens up into a clearing behind the camp buildings and the course wraps around the outside of the buildings and you finish in between the pavilion and bunk house. As we approached the clearing, I yelled out to Ellen, ‘I’m going to try to run this last part until I get to the finish!’. I then took off! Now, side note……I’m sure I didn’t go nearly as fast as I felt I was going! I went as fast as my legs could take me in those last few hundred yards. All the while, repeating to myself, ‘just keep going’. I turned around the other side of the building to see the finish and just as I did, I could hear Jade yelling my name. I ran with everything I had left to cross that finish line and boy did that feel fantastic!! 🙂 I was done! I did it! 19:32:49, I completed my very first ultra marathon and first 100k! Holy Smokes!!
No doubt that was a painful, grueling journey but given the chance to turn back time, I would do it again. It was an incredible eye opening experience for me and I learned so much about myself and about running in general. It was the perfect way for me to end my year of firsts and personal bests!! 🙂
SEND EM(ILY)!! 😉