Note: I wrote this blog while I was still recovering mentally and physically . Now six weeks later I can look back on this experience with even more amazement as my brain has cleared. I am just now finally recovered enough to run at close to my normal pace after weeks of extremely slow runs. This race , plus the two week hospital stay with my daughter took a major toll on my body. But today the sun is shining and I’m feeling hopeful about the new year !
Day 1 at Snowdrop ultra 55 hour race started off and stayed cold with bouts of rain all day and night . Round and round we ran and walked at every pace, through the increasingly slippery mud along the 0.69 mile loop around the lake and across a small bridge. Half the trail is dirt and half is concrete. I was stopping to eat a little snack regularly and drinking frequently as I passed the aid station every loop, but I still managed to get behind on my sodium intake and had bouts of nausea. I reached 45 miles by the time the evening meal was served so I stopped to eat . Then I got back at it for another 19 or so miles until I started getting very sleepy . I took a few hours off to sleep in my tent that I shared with two other runners. Around 4:30 I debated with myself over whether I should just quit and forego the buckle because my legs hurt so much. I couldn’t quit knowing that others suffered through much more , so clumsily with great slowness I changed my clothes. Then I groggily stumbled out into the misting darkness with the other determined souls , hoping to find coffee waiting. After a couple hours I stopped and ate bacon , eggs and hash browns for breakfast. Volunteers kept us fed and provided encouragement and medical attention for blisters and tight muscles round the clock. The food is a highlight of the event! Restaurant sponsors provide catered meals and there’s also a tent with hot and cold snacks always available, as well as the aid station along the course with typical offerings like pretzels and pickle juice, candy, chips, and every runner fuel you could want .
Day 2 it was also cold and rained off and on. I developed very painful tendinitis in the side of my leg known is IT band syndrome and I could no longer perform a running motion, so from about mile 64 I was reduced to walking. It got so painful that I could barely walk up and down the very slight inclines. So I had to stop to stretch every loop after awhile . As I was stretching one time, Doc Lovy came along walking his loop and offered his assistance. Doc is a Vietnam vet who serves the race every year as chief of the medical staff. He also puts in at least a 50k . He did some things to my leg and told me to go straight to the medical tent to get more help, which I did. When I left the tent I was amazed that I could move much better! For a few minutes I actually ran again but it started to tighten up so I decided to just walk fast. I finally got 100 miles , 145 loops or laps, at 37.5 hours . This was over 6 hours slower than last year due to the knee pain but I was just happy to get there. I stopped to celebrate a bit with friends and drank a small Michelob ultra and a coffee and ate some food . Then I went back out for a few laps until I got sleepy.
That night was New Year’s Eve. I was freezing cold and had to make a decision to quit the race or continue . I decided to stay but I went to sleep in my tent . First I changed into warm dry clothes , as I had done several times already, because of the rain. Then I got in my sleeping bag wearing my clothes , beanie, and gloves with two Hot Hands hand warmer gel packs and tried to warm up . Laying there shivering suddenly I heard what sounded like a war starting up and it got louder and louder. Fireworks were going off all around the town for the next couple of hours . I’ve never heard anything like it! Between that and the generator next to my tent, it was very noisy . But eventually I stopped shivering and tuned out the noise and slept off and on until almost sunrise . I really wish I’d gotten up sooner but it’s not a huge deal . I would’ve maybe been able to add another 10 miles if I had started at 4:30am.
Day 3 , New Year’s Day brought us beautiful weather and was the most fun day. The beautiful but chilly sunrise brought a fresh energy and relief that it was no longer raining. Lots of “Happy New Year!”s were exchanged. My husband informed me of my standing in the race which he was following live online from home and said that I was moving up because many people had stopped at 100 miles which motivated me to push a little faster to get as many miles as possible by 2pm. Lots of people were ringing the 100 mile lap bell and there was an air of excitement all day with lots of cheering and high fives and dancing spectators! The eating and drinking continued with Papa John’s pizza served for lunch. I skipped the gluten as usual and had eggs and bacon again for breakfast and lunch.
That day many of the runners had stopped and either gone home or were spectating so there was a lot less traffic on the course. Grimacing, slow moving runners and walkers were being lapped by the faster relay teams. Today was the day for lots of chatting with fellow pilgrims . Also I continued my prayers, listening to music , and interacting with the crowd. The time passed quickly! My strategy wasn’t very carefully planned but I was doing a few laps then taking a water break, with the goal of a minimum of two miles per hour but in reality I was closer to 2.5 mph. I had no firm goal past 100 at first but then I tentatively chose 115 miles. I calculated , with much effort , that my pace was good enough so I decided to try to hit 120,then I figured I should continue until the clock ran out so I did and ended up with 121.5 miles, 8th female of 73 females, 21st overall of 146. If I hadn’t decided to do one more lap , I would have been 9th female.
There were 7 minutes left on the clock , not enough for a lap so I stayed to watch the exciting finishes of the last runners. Unlike many trail ultras, this race had a lot of cheering, an excellent announcer, and many people watching their friends and family victoriously cross the finish line. After the awards ceremony, I helped break down our camp then loaded my van and drove home. I sat in the parking lot for a few minutes just processing the whole experience, feeling very grateful and happy. Leaving an event like this is always kinda sad , after being so focused and so supported and encouraged, now it’s time to face the real world again where my husband and kids need me to do things.
Well I got home and barely had one day of rest during which I did laundry and cooked and took care of my daughter who was now sick . I didn’t get much sleep Wednesday night , got up early and realized she was so sick that I had to get her to the hospital . I was still too sleep deprived to drive her alone so I called for an ambulance . Then I drove myself to the hospital . As of this writing we are still in the hospital and will probably be here a week or more as she has RSV and pneumonia and we are in the pediatric intensive care unit . She’s getting great care and I’m finally getting to rest . My legs are still swollen from the race. I just watched the movie Bird Box , which I’d heard mentioned but knew nothing about the plot or even the topic. I liked it. But why does Sandra Bullock never smile in her movies?!
If you are interested in trying a fixed time race, I highly encourage it. They are growing in popularity. This race sold out in less than an hour this year ,so be ready! I believe registration is in March.
If you can , please donate to the cause. Race donations are still being accepted. https://thedriven.net/nfundraising.donate_individual_new/indviId/9763/eid/9833023589
Sooooo proud of you! You’re the epitome of the term “the strength of a woman”.
Thanks, lady . I’m going to add some more photos . The race is pretty amazing to watch . There’s a guy who does ultras in a hand powered wheelchair with off road tires . He is tough ! There’s old and young people . A lot of them are not really runners , but they want to run for the memory of a child who died . It’s a huge fundraiser.
I hope your daughter gets better soon. I had pneumonia before and it takes everything out of you, very miserable and totally draining.
Outstanding job on the race. My knees are aching just reading about your experience. It sounds absolutely agonizing. You got some will PK. I admire your tenacity.
My son had it when he was 18 and he could barely walk. I guess breathing is pretty important.
I’m going to add some race photos to the post .
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