One brisk Georgia fall day, I chose to run 202 laps around a highschool track. It was ugly and it was gritty, but I got it done.
Back in March, before our race seasons had begun and before they were cancelled, I got an idea to run 50 miles as 5k laps around Lake Peachtree. To sweeten the pot, I also raised nearly $1000 for the National MS Society. There was no support team - just a trunk full of snacks and extra water. It turned out to be a hotter day than I was ready for and the loop was far hillier than I knew. At 37.5 miles, with my toes totally blistered and my quads burned out, I capped it and went home.
Fast forward through 8 months of quarantine, social distancing and the pandemic -- I thought I'd give it another go this year but set myself up for a greater chance of success. I found a local race - a 6, 12 and 24 hour endurance race held at - omg - a highschool track. If I thought 16 laps around the lake was dizzying, what would 202 track laps be?!
Race day started off in a frenzy -- I forgot my nutella sandwiches at home and wasted 20 minutes driving to go back and get them. Hindsight: not worth it since I only ate half of a single sandwich during the race! I arrived with my boyfriend - my primary support crew <3 - about a half hour before the race would start. We checked in, strapped one of those neoprene timing bracelets to my ankle, and set up a teeny spot on a towel on the infield.
The runners started off around the track slowly, in a big, likely not covid-friendly hoard. Only 2 laps in, my friend Scott showed up on the sidelines to cheer! He joined our teeny spot in a camper chair with my boyfriend and I said hi to them about every 3 minutes as I lapped and lapped.
Somewhere around 15 miles, my nemesis and bane of my running stamina arrived: blisters. The three littlest piggies of my right foot were screaming. I attempted to muffle it with layers of KT tape, a roomier pair of running shoes (that I purchased the night before) and a dry pair of socks.
I would like to tell you that the blisters settled down or that they were manageable or something other than what really happened -- they just kept getting worse. I would round out a few miles before that “oh no” sensation would hit and I knew something had gone wrong: another, deeper blister forming and breaking. UGH my toes!
During one of the pit stops, the crew beside mine came over to tell me, “Paul says hello!” I racked my brain: Paul, who? And then, the light bulb turned on. I’d been wearing my Infinite Multisport t-shirt for several hours before changing, and Paul is the president of the tri club. I had friends from “back home” in Detroit cheering for me, too, and I was so heart warmed by this small world connection out here in the suburbs of Atlanta.
Taking frequent breaks and holding onto a steady pace, the first 26 miles seemed to go off without a hitch, minus my toes, and my best girlfriend arrived with a cowbell to cheer on the back half! Knowing my PR distance was 37.5 miles, I felt comfortable getting back to that distance. Famous last words.
After mile 38, my quads started to feel gassed out. I was gulping down various drinks from skratch to gatorade to body armor water. I felt thirsty, I felt exhausted. This was the first of the sobbing breakdowns en route to 50.
It was slow. It seemed like I was not progressing. I learned my watch was ahead of my actual distance around the track. I was feeling so defeated by the exhaustion. At some point, I knew there were only 20 laps remaining. 5 miles until I could raise my arms in victory. I was running (hm, maybe, just jogging) 4 minutes on, walking for 1 minute and I felt like I was going nowhere. The laps weren’t adding up. It seemed every time I did a lap, there were still 20 remaining. I was crying. My groin was tightening up. The skin of my abdomen cried out every time I began to jog from the constant up-down motions.
My little support crew rang their bell every time I came around - each lap stretching out longer and longer. And then we were finally there. Only 4 more laps. 4...3...2...1… and I was done. Those final laps I ran just to finish. I dug deep. I found that grit within. I sat down on the infield next to the finish line and sobbed. I could barely walk for so many reasons, but I was done.
I finished 50 miles (and small change) in 11:00:14, with a moving time around 9 hours.