You can read about the road leading up to the big day HERE
Like it or not, it was 4:45 AM and I was awake. The race is less than 10 minutes away, so there was plenty of time, but I got up anyway and started getting ready.
I arrive at the location of the race. I pulled in at the same time as Wyly. We were the first two there and looking for a good spot to set our stuff up. She was my first true introduction to the ultra marathoner people group. They are all quite friendly, generally more laid back than regular runners and have a tight connection since there are so few of them. She was training for the Keys 100 miler later on and went out of her way to support me when she found out that this would be my first ultra attempt. I loved the community already.
The team shows up and we begin building what amounts to Casa de Radio. It’s a small hobo village for four people. Luke and I finally get to unite our big heads together that we’ve had since December. We were supposed to run with them together in January, but our race was cancelled. I’m sure they will make a future appearance. It’s also 40 degrees out.
We make our final preparations, say a quick prayer and head to the start. It’s the most relaxed start I’ve ever seen. No gun, no anthem, just a countdown from 10. Somehow it fits perfect for the vibe of the event.
Nicki, Luke and I tear through the first hour and knock out a quick 5.25 miles. Chris is tearing through at steady pace as well. Everyone’s talking on the course. The photographer shows up and starts giving us instructions on our loops.
“Next lap, give me three across in a unison stride.”
“Next lap, don’t look at the camera, but have fun.”
“Net lap, go single file with 10 ft in between you.”
Luke and I switch down to a slower pace, while Nicki continues on. We do a modified interval schedule for the next three hours meeting all kinds of people on the course.
Our first coordinated break. We eat “lunch” consisting of the most random cravings that are already starting to sink in. No one eats too much, just enough to settle our stomachs. Luke and I also take the chance to change clothes. It was getting quite warm now. I went from one extreme to another. At race start it was pants with multiple top layers. Now I was in my ranger panties and a tshirt. (BTW if you want to blow an hour laughing at customer reviews or get yourself a pair, you can find them AT AMAZON ) I also had a blister on the side of my big toe, but caught it early enough to slow it down with a specialty band-aid.
We had planned on cutting our 30 min lunch down to 15 so we could get more of a buffer on mileage. Missing this allotted time would serve as a foreshadow to the rest of the day.
Luke and I had been going for basically 5 1/2 hrs at this point and my hip injury was flaring in full force. It was only 1/4 of the way through the race and I was facing my first set of demons. Luke was doing everything right. He was slowing himself down to give me a break. Both sides of the hips were on fire at this point with a fist sized spot also building in my upper back. He still hung with me.
“I haven’t run a full marathon in a year and a half and I’ve only run 16 miles total to prepare for this race because of these dumb hips.’
I’d just let the enemy in.
I knew that I had the mental fortitude to push on, but the demons were whispering to me about my partner. I was letting him down. I was letting my team down. I started mathing out a new stretch goal to hit. Could I make a double marathon in a day? I was walking more and I knew Luke was still feeling great. Luckily Nicki came by and he asked if it were OK for him to run with her for awhile.
The demons could no longer speak about letting my friend down since he was now back to knocking out major miles. It was an oddly freeing feeling. I dropped in some music and got a boost and really started knocking out a good pace myself and officially cross the ultra-marathon mark. I stop, get teary eyed with Sharon for a minute and keep going. Chris was still plugging away so consistently.
We all break again. Checking in on each other other. I change clothes again and the race people have now had Zaxbys delivered, pizzas, sodas, jelly beans, sandwiches and other goodies for us. We eat mostly from their supplies this round.
Nicki and Luke are still machining through miles. Chris is getting worn down some. I’m now past the 50K mark and I’ve just hit wall number two. I’m in heavy pain management at this point, and the buzz of the second wind has long worn off.
Chris is taking a break on the side of the trail with Danielle, Sharon and the kids still cheering everyone else on. I remember being angry, laying down and asking for a pillow. Later Chris would tell me that this was the point that he thought I may have been done. The demons were back, this time focusing on the amount of pain and lack of miles compared to my ultimate stretch goal.
“You have so much further to go. You’re probably not going to make it this time.” They were speaking straight into me at this point.
Chris got up after a bit and got me up and going. Danielle could tell I wasn’t doing well, and offered to go a couple of laps with us. I felt like a hospital patient going down the hall with an IV tower with them making sure I didn’t fall over. It took a couple of laps but I got stretched out and had defeated my second round of internal demons. I was choosing to move forward….with the help of Chris.
The schedule was officially shot at this point, but we were all on break together. Luke and Nicki were still doing their thing, and Chris and I were now battle buddies that were going to see this thing through. Even though it was painful, I really had a great time with Chris. We hadn’t actually ran with each other at a race, so this was a great bonding experience together.
We are in full night mode now, and the pack of racers has thinned significantly. The course was now reversed and it was throwing us all off after running it for 12 hrs. On a side note, new 12hr runners were introduced to the course so there was some speed reintroduced.
Chris and I are slowly knocking out miles, but it’s taking its toll. It’s gotten cold again; back in the 40s. It takes a huge amount of effort each round. We would rest after a 3-4 lap set, but it would be very difficult to get going again. It would take a lap to get back loose, we would get two good ones, and the last one you would feel awful on. Repeat that for a few hours. I ask for a check on 50 miles. 11 laps. Seems like I should be much closer but I keep plugging away.
After a short break with everyone I check in again at the count table. This time 11 laps to my double marathon. I’m determined now to push through with no breaks because I really wanted to get some sleep. Luke joined Chris and I for some laps as Nicki slept. We were walking, but we were doing it as a team. A lap later they call out Luke and Chris’ numbers and then someone else’s instead of mine. I went to check the board and didn’t get credit for a lap. I was still at 11.
Frustrated, I kept going with the guys. We began making our final plans on mileage and the last push.
We knew that all of the other 24hr racers except for one had quit at this point. Luke had an archrival who ran 100 laps and then left. Obviously we needed to get Luke to 101. I had my own archrival; an 81-year-old man. It seemed appropriate. The uptick to this gentleman is that he was basically a ultra-marathon legend and this was his 254th ultra marathon race. He left for several hours, but had shown back up in the middle of the night. I knew I was ahead, but he was out there somewhere coming for me.
Chris and Luke take a break and I finally make it in to the 50 miler club! Only four more laps until I double marathon.
I pick Luke and Chris up at our camp stop and I have a boost of energy that will get me half way through my last set. Chris hits a wall two laps in and peels off. Luke is encouraging both of us and I can hear the demons coming back for one final hoorah. I’m walking 25 minute miles at this point and it’s laborious to just put one foot in front of the other.
I finally make the last lap. We had decided to leave the last 100 yards until 8 am so we could all finish together. I excitedly crawl into the tent and get the best 3 1/2 hrs sleep of my life. Chris and Luke still plug away at their laps and eventually come to get some rest too. Nicki has been up for awhile and is doing some run/walk. She’s stayed the closest to the ultimate stretch schedule and has a shot at hitting it. Meanwhile the old man’s set up is still there, but he’s nowhere to be found. Is he still out there on the course?
I come out of my slumber to Chris asking me if I want some coffee. I put my order in for hot chocolate, Luke and I mumble something to each other about never leaving this tent for the rest of our lives and we dose back off.
The alarm goes off and we can hear the girls outside in the distance. Chris is actually back on the course this morning. Luke and I get a room service delivery of our drinks and life is good. We start getting ourselves together and find Nicki curled up in a chair with a bunch of blankets. She kept going, but she had hit her goal.
Sharon and Danielle start tearing our stuff down and packing up for us. We could not have done this event without them. I mean we looked like jacked up hobos at this point! The race director comes by to make sure we are still alive. It’s just us and two other people that did the overnight 12 hr at this point.
We walk across the finish together as a team.
The race director tallies the results.
Nicki: 1st place female 24 hr, 1st place overall mileage 76.05 miles
Luke: 1st place male 24 hr, 1st place male overall mileage 65.65 miles (He beat his rival by a lap)
Zack: 3rd place male 24 hr, 52.65 miles. (I beat my rival by 2.5 miles)
Chris: 5th place male 24hr, 37.05 miles (He beat his goal of 34 miles)
Chris wrote a beautiful piece as he thought back on the event. I couldn’t say it any better so I’ll let you hear it from him:
First of all, congratulations are in order for all our runners. We had 3 runners complete their first ultra-marathon. Based on statistics from 2015 (the most recent I could find), less than 1/2 of 1% of all runners will complete an ultra-marathon. Congratulations and welcome to the 0.5% club!
Secondly, I want to thank our awesome support team of Sharon, Danielle, Ben, Beth, and Austin. You guys cheered us on, brought us snacks, ran with us through the tough miles, and took care of us when we were in no shape to take care of ourselves. You guys deserve a medal just as much as the runners do, if not more.
Third, I want to share how truly blessed I feel to be part of this team. The WDW Radio Running Team showed up in force and dominated this race. We took home 1st place for the women, as well as 1st and 3rd place for the men. Together, we logged over 230 miles, which breaks down to over EIGHT MARATHONS in 24 hours. To get to that insane number of miles, we had to push ourselves and each other well past what we thought we were capable of. We dragged one another back onto the trail instead of stopping. We put in the miles together when none of us could have done it on our own. Thanks to all of you for being part of this crazy family we all share. I love you guys and can’t wait to take on our next challenge together.