April 27, 2013
Race – Promise Land 50K ++ (The ++ is because this is a Horton 50K in which extra miles are usually added and expected)
The night before the race I headed out to the Promise Land Youth Camp to hear the pre-race briefing and to get a feel for where I would need to be at 5:00 the next morning. As I pulled up I could already see that the crowd of runners were gathered around the pavilion as the giveaways were being drawn. This is when my nerves started to get the best of me and I felt way out of my league here. I, of course, casually walked over to the pavilion scanning for some familiar faces. As soon as I saw Chelsea, Cheyanne, & Alexis I headed in their direction. I was hoping that seeing Alexis so relaxed would help me to relax but she was not herself and that made me a tad bit more nervous than I already was. I thought I was keeping this all under wraps of course but Chelsea saw right through me and knew that I was feeling anxious.
I listened to the pre-race briefing and heard Horton tell us many times that if we get lost we are just plain stupid as there are so many markers along the way. I was sure that I would be the one to get lost if it was going to happen so I made a mental note that night to take extra care to pay attention to the yellow markers on the trail. I only stayed long enough to hear the pre- race information and then I headed home to finish getting my gear together.
Kelly arrived at the house by 9:30pm to spend the night so we could head to the race together the next morning. After the kids had a chance to see “Miss Kelly” and satisfy their curiosity as to who this person might be that was spending the night at our house, they settled in and were down for the night. Kelly & I were still too excited to sleep so Jeremiah stayed up with us and we all watched a funny episode of “Duck Dynasty” before calling it a night. We headed to bed around 11:30pm with plans to be up and out of the house by 4:15am. No sooner had I fallen asleep than I hear our youngest crying out for mom. Jeremiah did his best to quiet Brooks, but little buddy just needed his mommy. So at 12:30am I had a little boy snuggling for a few minutes until he settled in on the floor beside our bed. With only 3 hours until my alarm was set to go off, I drifted back to sleep thinking about what I needed to do in the morning.
When Kelly & I woke up, we grabbed some bananas, Clif bars, coffee (for Kelly), water (for me) and we were off. We pulled into Camp about 4:45am and it was already buzzing with runners moving about with headlamps to guide their way. Many were already gathered under the pavilion getting some breakfast & coffee. Others were checking in, pinning on bibs, warming up at the fire, & hitting up the bathrooms (a pre-race must).
We hit the bathrooms first and then headed over to check in. Dr. Horton welcomed Kelly right away and then asked me who I was. After telling him my name and getting a warm welcome with a look of ”good luck new girl” I was once again a bit nervous. Once we saw the bonfire we decided that was the best place to spend the remaining time prior to the start of the race. While we were warming up we made sure to get our bibs pinned on, which proved to be a challenge for me. It was at this point in the morning that I realized my nerves might be taking over since I pinned and re-pinned my bib 4 times trying to find the best place for it. I finally settled on folding it up small enough that only the number showed and pinned it to my shorts like some of the “seasoned” runners seemed to be doing. I guess I thought that would make me look a little less newbie, but I am pretty sure it didn’t.
Alexis joined us at the fire and she was getting in her pre-race PB&J’s. I was glad to see her looking a little more chipper than the night before but she still wasn’t quite herself. We chatted for a little while and then headed to make one more bathroom break before the start. This is when it got real for me. The bathroom line was way too long and the porta john line was just the same so Kelly & I headed to the trees. With a headlamp to guide our way we got started early with nature stops :)
We found a place to get started amidst the mass of runners and with our Garmins connected & Headlamps on we were ready. Luckily for me Sam saw us and told me I should lose the long sleeves or I would regret it pretty soon after the start of the race. I was also lucky that Elisa was close by and was willing to take my shirt so I wouldn’t have to carry it the whole time. Thanks Sam for the last minute tip, which was absolutely right & Elisa for being so helpful and encouraging right before the start of the race.
5:30am – And we are off!
The throng of 330+ runners making their way onto a gravel road with headlamps to guide the way is a pretty cool site to see. The photographer in me wished that I could have a photo from the front of the pack looking back down the road. That was a very brief thought as my legs quickly reminded me that this was an uphill climb and I was brought back to the reality of my present situation.
I was feeling really good at the start of the race as Kelly & I weaved in and out of runners until we found a good running pace. As we moved up the gravel road I found myself in stride with another runner, Megan. We talked for a bit and I quickly realized that she was a very experienced ultra runner. We would continue to run together for a good portion of the race as we talked about life and running. Kelly caught back up with us soon after Aid Station #2 I think. I heard someone call out “Colling” and I was so glad to hear Kelly’s voice as I knew we would have fun running together as we always do. Sometimes I get so caught up in meeting new runners and hearing about their lives that I run whatever pace they are running and before I know it I am in another group of runners and not at all with the people I started out with. Kelly has run with me long enough to know I have pacing problems so I knew she would just laugh with me and expect to see me on and off throughout the race. This would prove to be true sooner rather than later as one of our other good running friends was about to chase us both down.
Somewhere around mile 17 or 18 I heard Alexis’ voice coming up behind me and I just smiled knowing she had finally caught up. I knew she would. I have run with Alexis enough to know that she is a strong runner who starts out slow only to calculate how many runners she will need to catch and outrun in order to place where she would like to. This was such a highlight in the race for me since I knew that I would be able to run a while with her and just enjoy seeing her in race mode. We had a good stretch of road to run on together and I was feeling really strong. I even wondered if I would be able to keep up with Alexis all the way to the falls and hike with her. As we came up close to the next Aid Station I heard this runner yell “NO” and then Alexis was off sprinting toward the Aid Station hooting and hollering after him. It was hilarious! Andrew apparently didn’t want Alexis to pass him or beat him. She did of course beat him as did I, but the humor those two provided for the next mile or so was just what I needed.
Around mile 21 or so I started to hit a wall and a kind runner obviously noticed and offered a salt tablet. I initially said no thinking I didn’t need it but as he started to pull away I changed my mind thinking I didn’t really know what I needed. I got back to running and within 30-45 minutes I was on the verge of tossing anything I thought of eating. The salt tablet had upset my stomach pretty well and I was very queasy. I actually cracked myself up when I thought “Ain’t nobody got time for that“. Thanks to Josh & Mandie for showing us that YouTube clip so I could have a good little laugh out on the mountain. It took a good mile of running/walking to get it back under control. Thanks to Stanley (another new runner I met) for conversation and encouragement to get past the rough spot. Once we hit the next Aid Station with the popsicles I wasn’t quite sure what to eat. I had been fueling with chews, orange slices, potato wedges rolled in salt, & Gu Brew for the whole race and now I couldn’t believe that a popsicle was really going to help. It was one of those icee pops that I give my kids in the summer and it totally hit the spot. From this point on I was back to feeling strong and ready to finish well. Of course, this also happened to be just short of where I would test my endurance as I hiked as quickly as my body would allow up to the final peak.
There were a few times out on the course that I found myself running solo and it was such a great opportunity to give praise to God for His creation! It was truly breathtaking to be on the crest of the mountain at sunrise, to run through fields that look out over the Blue Ridge Mountains, and to hike alongside some spectacular falls. I was able to pray for my family and friends as I felt so close to my Creator up on that Mountain. I am really glad for the moments I had to run alone and for the runners I had the opportunity to meet along the way.
During the last portion of the race I met Anthony & Martha. We hiked the steep parts, ran the flats, and climbed the steps that seemed just far enough apart to make it hurt. This portion of the race had me wishing I had done a lot more hill workouts with Kathryn. During this part of the race I kept telling myself that I was just glad I wasn’t at the bottom anymore and to keep putting one foot in front of the other until I made it to the top. When I finally reached the top I was so very excited and it was so encouraging to hear Elisa yelling out my name as I approached the Aid Station. Thank you Elisa for cheering me on! I did have to do a little fist pump in the air and yell out “Praise the Lord” as I came up and realized the hardest part was over. I was on the home stretch now and I was ready.
As I started the final miles back down to the camp I realized my mind was ready but my knees were not. I had to take a good 1/2 mile to adjust my stride and mentally push past the pain in my knees. I was praying that God would just take the pain away or help me to just finish well. I remember as I was hitting the gravel road giving thanks to God for allowing me to finish and for allowing this to be such a fun experience with so many great people.
The last few miles I finished out with Dakota, which is funny since I met him at the Terrapin 1/2 and that is who Elisa came out to cheer for with his wife Ruth. Pretty cool how God worked that all out I think :) As we came around the corner and hit the final grassy section to the finish, I saw the little faces I had been hoping to see. My four little kiddos were waiting with smiles and I waved them out to me so they could finish the race with me. I never once got emotional on the course but when my 8 year old held my hand as we finished together I had to fight back some tears. That was the best possible scenario for how this race could have ended. The next person I wanted to see was Jeremiah and as I looked up from the kids he was right there to congratulate me. Honestly I think that for a moment I was oblivious to anyone else present except for my sweet little family and then of course the pain of the race smacked me back to reality when I attempted to move from where I was standing.
Jeremiah grabbed my pack and got me some ice water and then we all headed over to the creek so I could “ice” my legs. Thankfully my mother-in-law had an extra sweatshirt that I could wear after this since the coolness of the creek and the sweat soaked shirt started to make me shiver. I also thought it was funny when Jeremiah pointed out the salt deposits on my face from all the salt my body had gotten rid of from sweating for several hours. The creek dip felt good and provided enough temporary relief to wait in line to grab some food and congratulate some fellow runners. However, even though the food looked great, my body was still resisting anything but water. After picking at my food for about 10 minutes, I began to realize that my body was starting to feel the effects of running 34 miles through the mountains. Jeremiah rounded up the kids who were playing with Grandpa in the creek and we all headed home.
Upon arriving at home, Jeremiah and the kids immediately started an ice bath. I was not exactly looking forward to it, but I also knew it would help and that I would be glad I did it later. It sounded like a good old fashioned tent revival with all the “Hallelujah’s and Praise the Lord’s” coming from the bathroom. Fortunately for me, my two boys brought some entertainment to the tub by attempting to ice their feet… and for a good 5 seconds Wrigley dipped his legs in with me. Here is a picture of what this looked like! (And yes, 15 minutes of this was well worth it the next few days)
It was great fun and in the end this day was quite wonderful. I am already looking forward to the next race :-)
***** Special Thanks to all the Aid Station Volunteers!!! You guys were wonderful! Thanks for filling up my water pack and for all the great snacks along the way. I really appreciate all you did.
***** Also Thanks to Mom & Dad Colling & Amber for taking time to come out and be there at the finish. It really meant so very much to me!