We arrived in Montana without incident, checked into the hotel, then made our way to packet pick up. I handed over my two drop bags so that they would be waiting for me at miles 20 and 34. My brother was registered for the 12K, so we both got sweet swag bags. The Trail Rail Run people know how to put together a nice goody bag. There was huckleberry fudge, beef jerky, aluminum water bottles, discount coupons to local restaurants and gift shops, and the all important FREE huckleberry shake voucher.
On my way back into the hotel after dinner, I noticed an Idiots Running Club shirt hanging in a window of one of the rooms. I knew there would be 4 other Idiots running the race, so I was happy to have found one of them. I knocked on the door and met Coral, her husband, and their sweet dog. I would see quite a bit of the dog and husband through the race.
I made it though my morning without any trouble or panic attacks and headed across the street to get on the bus. All of the other runners were friendly and chatty while we waited to take off. Once the bus got going though, it was pretty loud and difficult to talk over. So most of us settled in for the ride and watched the pine trees whip by the windows.
The bus made a few wrong turns once we got off the freeway and I was starting to wonder if the race was meant to be. But we found the start line and gathered around the fire that was happily crackling along. I met another Idiot, Kathy, then we tried to joke about what we were about to do. (It was the first 50 miler for Kathy, Coral, and I. So there was quite a bit of trepidation there.) Before I knew it, the pre-race briefing was over and we were lining up.
|THAT'S A LOT OF MILES.|
I just felt really tired. I couldn't seem to find my rhythm, my breathing was off. The incline felt steeper than I thought it would. I watched as all my competitors passed on by me, leaving me in the dust.
|Look at those tiny specks. Those are people. Running much faster than I am.|
|I feel terrible. I should stop and take a picture. That'll help.|
After the aid station, the course turned into a great stretch of downhill. Where I had been logging 15 minute miles on the way up, I was logging 12 minute and under miles for the next 4 miles. I was feeling like a whole new person and I started to think that I could actually make it through this crazy ordeal.
|Tunnel! I had to use the flashlight on my phone to get through it. It was neat!|
|My "Ooh! A tunnel!"face.|
I was pleased to see that I was moving along well ahead of the cut off time for the 20 mile check in. I just had to be there by noon and I had about 30 minutes of cushion. I just kept motoring along and was still feeling so much better than I had earlier that day. The first two hand cyclists passed me between 16 and 17 miles in. That's tough stuff, right there. I was wholly impressed with the 5 of them that were there.
|The Dominion Trestle! My favorite part of the course.|
|It's a heck of a climb to get up to this point though. That's what power hiking is for, right?|
It was at this point that I caught up to Coral. She was having some stomach issues that were slowing her down. I tried to lift her spirits as I passed, and it wouldn't be the last that we saw of each other that day. The miles to the next aid station passed by easily enough and as I checked in at mile 26, Coral's husband and dog were there. It was nice to see some friendly faces and chat for a bit. The man at the aid station was also very nice and helpful. He asked if my feet were doing alright, and at that point, they were. I told him I was on track for around a 13 hour finish and I was feeling great! It didn't take long for that all to change.
Around mile 30, I could feel a blister rising up on my right heel. No big deal, right? I have a drop bag with fresh socks and shoes at mile 34. The day was starting to take its toll on me though. We had gotten out of the shade since the sun was now straight up in the sky. And it got hot. So very hot. I slowed down so much in those 4 miles, the blister was really starting to scream at me, and I struggled through mile 33 so much more than I thought I would.
When I finally made it to the aid station, I found a chair and started to work on getting my feet to be happier. The blister was only about the size of a dime, but it was tight and angry. I took a pin from my bib to pop it (I hardly ever blister, so I didn't have a proper blister kit with me) but it wouldn't go down. So I coated it in Trail Toes, put on clean socks and a change of shoes, and hoped for the best. I spent far too long at this aid station. I was just trying to psych myself up to keep going for another 16 miles. I was still ahead of the cutoff, so that was good. I drank the rest of the pickle juice that I had packed with me, it works wonders on cramps, FYI, got more Coke in my bottle, ate some potatoes, and headed back out after my 15 minute intermission. This is where Coral caught me again. We stayed together for about a mile after the aid station. I had started feeling better again after getting my shoes changed so I ended up going at a slightly faster pace that Coral. So we said our goodbyes and good lucks.
At this point, I was implementing a run/walk ratio of .15 miles of walking with .10 miles of running. It really worked out well. I was able to keep that going reliably though about mile 47. When I rolled into the second to last aid station (7.5 miles to go), I knew that I was going to be cutting it close to the 14 hour time limit. I was on track to come in under, but just barely. And with 7.5 miles to go, anything could happen. So I asked the aid station volunteers if I would still get my finisher spike and jacket if I crossed the line just a few minutes late. They radioed the finish line and found out that would be fine. I didn't want to come in after the time limit if I could help it, but I was getting so freaked out about it that I needed some reassurance that a finish line would be there when I got there.
By now, I was tired, but at the same time, I was starting to feel exhilarated because I knew I was going to make it. My feet hurt, sure, but my legs were okay. The muscles were trained well enough to take me through to the end. When I reached the last aid station, I heard them radioing in that I had just checked in. I yelled to the radio operator "You tell them that I'm going to make it!". I ate more watermelon and headed out. I was within cell service range so I pulled out my phone to let my mom know that I was only 4 miles out. When I turned my phone on, it was flooded with text messages from my friends, cheering me on. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the supportive people I have in my life. I wouldn't let myself open all of them and read the messages while I still had 4 more miles to go. That would be my finish line treat.
I pushed through those last 4 miles, feeling so amazed that I was really doing it. I thought back through the day, about how I had wanted to drop out in the first 2 hours. The ups and downs of the day, floating around in my head. I was going to make it. Through it all, I had set out to do this and I hadn't given up. When I hit the junction where the trail turns to road, there was a man standing outside of his truck. I thought he was a volunteer, so I yelled to him "I'M GOING TO MAKE IT!!!" He looked a little confused, and that's when I realized he was just a random citizen, out enjoying the evening. But he was nice and our conversation was as follows: "That's great! How far?" "50 miles!!!" "Seriously?!" "Yes! And I'm going to make it!".
I saw Coral's husband again, running up the road to go meet her. And I yelled the same to him."I'M GOING TO MAKE IT!!!" This quickly became my mantra, as you can see. He cheered me on and I pushed through to the finish stretch. I started to get goosebumps when I hit the dirt path that would wind through the trees to the finish arch on the park's grass. They could see me coming and I heard them announce that I was going to beat the time limit! I gave it all I could, which felt fast, but in retrospect really wasn't.
|I made it!!!|
|And then I cried like a baby.|
|2 seconds to spare, ladies and gentlemen. 2 seconds.|
|We are one badass group of ladies.|
|I learned that first hand that day.|
|The shirt is so cozy. You need cozy after 50 miles.|
|The coveted finisher's jacket and railroad spike.|