“She Believed She Could- So She Did”
Before the Race and Training:
I completely changed how I trained for this 24 Hour compared to previous races. I focused more on speed work and speedier long runs. Every Wednesday- My goal was to run as far on the treadmill as I could before it timed out on me (4.5 hours). When I started- I WAS SO MAD because I was aiming for a 50K but only reached 30 miles before it unexpectedly turned off. However- as my training improved I was able to get 35 miles in 4:30 by the end of my training cycle.
I also did a lot of mental training, meditation, and visualization in order to prepare my mind and body for how much discomfort and pain that I would be in. The book: “The Brave Athlete- Calm the F*ck Down”, is one of the BEST Sports Psychology books that I have ever read and recommend it to everyone. I’m a bit of a nerd and it has the scientific background that appeals to my desire to learn- but also brings it down to a more understandable and relate-able level. For this race, I also decided that every hour I would focus on a word. I kept my word list and pace chart in the side pocket of my TSTARRUNNING skirt.
While I told people this race would be “testing my fitness level” I really wanted to perform well. After tearing my hamstring and having a heart breaking day at my last 24 hour race- I mentally needed a good race. I worried that I was a one hit wonder and that my run in New Jersey would be the best my body was capable of.
There’s a special place in Hell for people who go to work sick. My immune system sucks and I have habitually low white blood cell count which means when I get sick- my body can’t fight it off on its own. I came down with Bronchitis the week I was planning to peak (so I pushed it). Not only did I feel like I was dying- I had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics. Hives, puking, and being so dizzy I couldn’t walk- let alone run was frustrating!
I peaked at 170 miles. 150 of them were on a treadmill. The only reason 20 was outside was because it was Christmas and the gym was closed. I love the treadmill- most of my training was done on a treadmill.
Bronchitis came back with a vengeance and I was on another round of antibiotics ending a few days before the race (they drained all my energy), and WORRIED that it would affect my ability to race. In addition to that my doctor told me the cough could take up to 6 weeks to clear. UGH! Being able to breathe is important!
Race Location: Palatka High School Track, Florida- the biggest difference between a track race and almost any other venue is you can see everyone and everyone can see you THE WHOLE TIME. I have a rule when I come into aid stations (on the trail) – no matter how bad I feel- always smile or fake being focused to never let anyone know the struggle. On a track there is no hiding.
The race started and like every other 24 hour I started too fast. I had two GPS watches and neither were computing my mile splits as it was reflected on the timing system (about 10 seconds faster per mile than what I was seeing). I tried to slow down- but my legs locked into the pace and my heart rate was exactly where I needed it to be- so I went with it.
The race advertised track side bathrooms- I thought that meant a porta-potty in lane 3- it was a 30 step walk to a building off to the side of the track. AINT NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT. So after I saw guy disappear into the trees- I too made my first of many trips to properly water the flora near the Palatka Track.
I’m pretty sure that I left a trail of snot in every inch of lane 1- My nose was running faster than my legs were and when I coughed my whole body reverberated. Max relayed constant messages from my friend Bob- “Wipe your boogers”- he’s always looking out for me. There was so much snot. I ran with paper towels and buffs for the sole purpose of wiping my nose.
Around Mile 20- I took a 6 second walk break every mile. I’m not sure why I chose 6 seconds- but it felt right. It was mentally refreshing that I could stop and walk every mile and something I looked forward to.
Mile 30 the Ice bandanna came out. While it wasn’t sweltering- it was warmer than what I wanted. My heat training of wearing LAYERS upon LAYERS running for hours on the treadmill definitely helped.
At mile 40- I started my soda routine. Every 10 miles I would get an ice cold diet soda. It was so refreshing. But it also meant that Max had to be attentive to me for 7-8 laps in a row while we traded bottles back and forth.
My goal was to run 20 miles in 3 hours over and over again (this was something that I can do day after day in training-but I have never actually done in a race). I got to 80 miles (before 12 hours) and I realized-Im actually doing it! This was either going to be an epic run or I was going down in a blaze of glory- either way I ran with joy and was having so much fun! I also imagined that people were taking bets on how bad I would bonk.
When I realized that I could break 15 hours in the 100 miler- I may have gotten a little excited and started to run faster. This was a really bad mistake on my part. In order to have more endurance later in the race I need to SLOW DOWN!!! My previous best 100 mile time was my split at NJ24 of 15:41. I had a 51 minute PR! When I crossed the line in 14:50:28- I had a Shalane Flanagan “F*cK Yea!” moment- followed by an immediate thought of “oh dear- I still need to run for 9 hours.” But it does make me wonder- How fast COULD I run 100 miles???
I ran decently for another 2 hours and then around hour 17 the pain and the constant need to pee set in. I went through my mantras and tried to be nice to myself. I grabbed my ipod and turned the music so loud to try and drown out the negativity that was running rampant in my head.
Then, I turned into the worst person on the planet. Tensions were high, we were both tired, I was in a lot of pain, and I was becoming progressively needy as time dragged on. I was getting increasingly frustrated with Max because he couldn’t find the positive comments that were being left for me for my white board- that finally I lost it and yelled at him and said some not so nice things. He yelled back and I’m fortunate that he didn’t leave me on the track alone to fend for myself. It’s hard because we are most vulnerable around the people we love the most. I would NEVER snap at a friend the way I snapped at Max. We talked about it a few days after the race- where I apologized (again) for my words and actions, but we decided for the health and longevity of our relationship that I need an additional person or two to help out with 100 mile/ 24 hour races. It’s just too much to ask one person to be “On” and “attentive” to my needs for 24 hours.
A few laps later I had an EPIC meltdown. I was really hoping that I wouldn’t cry- but I lost it and balled my eyes out while Tracey Outlaw gave me a much needed hug. For 3-4 hours I walked more than I ran. I had a mid-life crisis on the track- things got so dark. Its amazing what the human body will do when you are in so much physical pain. My brain attacked every insecurity I had and it wreaked havoc on my emotional ability to stay focused- all to avoid feeling my throbbing feet, burning legs and sore hips. As I was spiraling deep into my own personal hell- it started to rain. I swear- I get rained on almost every race. I asked someone- what is this nonsense and how long will it last?
As I was walking (with zero internal motivation to run) Tracey kept motioning for me to run- If looks could kill- that man would be dead MANY times over.
Im pretty sure the people that were left on the track at 5AM appreciated me repeating, “Get your SHIT together Megan” over and over again. Time for being nice to myself was over. With about 2 hours to go, “Keep on Dreaming, Even if It Breaks Your Heart” by Eli Young band came on my ipod and I kept pressing repeat. That song has gotten me through a lot this past year and it was just the kick in the pants I needed to run more.
I realized Maggie’s 2015 WC distance of 146.2 was in reach- but it would be close. That became my goal because I knew it would get me on the All Time List.
I grabbed my flag with mere seconds to go. I ran as hard as my little legs could. I took my
music out to make sure I could hear the whistle. When the whistle blew- my legs just collapsed out from under me. I could FINALLY stop. There are no words for how much pain I was experiencing (My poor feet have never looked so bad after a race). Tears of all emotions flooded my eyes: happiness was mixed with disappointment, throbbing muscles, and frustration that it would not be enough to make the team.
Unfortunately, I’m in the same position as last year- where I could be easily bumped into the first alternate position again. But at least I know that I gave everything that I had this race. It’s a confidence booster because I know that I have 150 miles in me. I just need to better control my emotions and pace myself. Baby steps.
Pete came over and offered me banana to which I promptly spit out. I was almost carried over to my crew area I tried to drink some Gatorade- I immediately threw that up. While I didn’t puke during the race(Can I get a huge Hallelujah, Praise JESUS!- that is a freaking miracle)- My stomach was DONE. After the awards- I limped to the warm bathroom to change out of my wet and stinky clothes. I know what it feels like to be on the verge of passing out and after seeing that I was peeing blood I knew that I should not be behind a locked door in case I did. So I crawled out and sat on the floor while Max cleaned up our crew area. I’m thankful for Wendy in finding me a trash can so I didn’t puke all over their floor. I took a zophran to no avail.
The stomach problems did not end there. “PULL OVER” was a repeated phrase on the drive to the aiport. I lost my stomach on the side of the road, in a Mexican restaurant bathroom (water and rice seemed like a good idea), and in a parking lot where we took a nap. I showed up to the airport a hot mess. The TSA agent asked me to raise my arms above my head (ha- I put them on my shoulders). It’s amazing how SORE my arms were.
Thanks to my support team and Sponsors:
My husband: He supports and crews for my crazy running dreams
Tracey Outlaw: He became my second crew and cheerleader
Chris Thompson Photographer: His Photography skills are top notch- anytime a race photographer can get a running picture where i don’t look like a hot mess is SKILL!
AltraRunning: I wore my Pardigms and they did not disappoint
Tstarrunning: Looking FABulous as Always in my skirt- no Chaffing, comfortable, and POCKETS
Drymax– Socks you can run for 24 hours in and not get a blister.
XOskin– top notch compression gear
43 scoops of Tailwind
9 Diet Pepsi Zero Sugar (MAX)
1 small cup of mashed potatoes
2 hours worth of Ginger-ale