|Pretty sure these things eat goats - just sayin'...|
So we set up camp at the start finish line and waited for the race to start. Half marathoners would do one loop, full marathoners would complete two loops, and the 50 mile crazies would do three loops.
|Fiona, Royce, and Faith ready to tackle their first 50 miler!|
|Marathoners and Half Marathoners|
|These guys are too much to handle...|
So then DK (who would be Fiona's pacer on her 3rd loop) and I decided to chill out and rest up as we waited for our turn to get out there with them. We had about 7 hours to prepare...surely we could be ready in 7 hours, right?
|Turtle and Goat|
|Trying to rest|
The weather was warm and humid at the beginning of the race. I can't imagine running in it but soon it rained a bit - just enough to bring the humidity down and muddy the course up pretty good.
Runners started coming in on their first laps...They would stop at the tent, sit down for a bit and rest their feet, and grab something to eat. Not too long because they needed to keep moving and not stiffen up, but just long enough to raise their feet up and rest a bit. Then they were off on loop two. Fiona and Faith had both opted for pacers so they had to finish the second loop and then Dk and I could go out with them on the last loop.
|Hooking Faith up with some gummy worms after loop 1.|
|Royce comes in off loop one looking strong!|
|Fiona - beautiful as always after 16 miles.|
Everyone headed back out and I started getting ready...I still had a few hours but I was so excited I couldn't stand it. So I changed clothes, got in to my compression shorts, and started packing and checking the weather. It had been raining off and on all day and there was a huge storm headed our way. I packed everything Faith had asked for...I had pringles, Skor, pickle juice, gummy bears and worms, Swedish Fish, Hot Tamales, water, S-caps, BASE salts, two rain jackets, hats, 2 head lamps and a flashlight, gloves...you name it...I had it...
Finally she came in and I was ready to go with all that stuff in my pack. I felt like I was carrying a grocery store! She changed her socks and ate a bit and we were off - hoping to skirt the storm. Here is where I should mention that I won the shoe taking off and putting on contest with her husband Jay. It could have been he was tired with exhaustion from just smoking his first marathon, but I choose to believe I have mad sock changing skills...Winner winner chicken dinner...
|Me winning on the right, Jay losing on the left...|
|Ready to go...|
|And we are off...|
So off we go. Faith tells me she wants to run some intervals so I set up my watch and we run/walk about 3/4 of a mile until we hit just massive amounts of mud. No one was running at this point. It was a straight up mud fest.
Notice how Faith was walking on the outside of the trail, that's because that was the safest part if you wanted your shoes to not be sucked off your feet.
So we continue on, the intervals have been turned off at this point because there was no point in trying to run.
It was on this loop that Faith saw a snake, thank goodness I didn't. I might have turned back and headed back to base camp.
We continue on talking and giggling - me because I was funny, her because she was exhausted. We hit the first aid station and I took her pack from her so she could relax a bit. ( I remembered that was one of the best things Greg had done for me when I did my 50 miler. He would take my pack off and run ahead and fill it up with water or whatever I needed. It felt so good to take it off.) So we continued on...
Eventually we got out of the mud and were promptly swallowed by swamps...all around us...I asked Faith if she had seen any gators at which point she grabs my arm and stops me and points...and there was a gator...NIIIICE...just what I wanted to see...I knew we had about an hour of daylight left and I didn't really want to see any gators...because who knows what would happen in the dark!
|Faith had told me not to shine our flashlights in the water after dark or we would see lots of eyes...GREAT...|
|Too much swamp for this goat|
Greg and Julie found us on their mountain bikes while we were out on the trail at about mile 7. It was good to see a friendly face...
|Greg, Julie, and Faith...and my hat :-)|
We head back out on to the back loop which was about 10 miles. (Also notice, it's December and we are all in shorts and tanks...It was 75 degrees that day!)
So we head out on the back loop and I am a little nervous because I don't know what this loop looks like trail wise. Faith has already done it twice so she has an idea...I didn't know if we were in forest, swamp, or what. We had already traveled through both types in the first 6 miles. And then it gets dark...really dark...and the fun begins...
|This is what Faith and I saw for a good 3 hours|
It got so dark...and by that time the only people running were 50 milers and 100 milers - so on a 16.5 mile loop you didn't see many runners at all. We would see another person about every 30-45 minutes unless we hit an aid station. Faith's feet REALLY started to hurt at this point. I loosened up her laces a little bit and we just kept moving. I knew if she stopped or sat down it would be very difficult to get her moving again. My alarms were beeping every 15 minutes to make her eat and drink. She ate nothing but hot tamales and pickle juice for 16 miles! GAG! We just kept going...forward progress. The mud got worse on the back loop and sucked my shoes off a couple of times. I would follow Faith and then she would follow me and we would just take turns. It was the longest 3 hours. I enjoyed it because I was with Faith, but when you are walking a quarter of a mile goes by much slower than when you are running. The important thing was Faith was moving and even though she was in pain, she was looking good and strong. We discussed all kinds of things, made all kinds of plans, half of which she probably doesn't remember...and even if she didn't I could say we made race plans and that she was delirious...maybe she would still do them. I'll have to try that on her! Anyway, I digress..
We knew if we could just get to this one section of the trail where it wasn't muddy, we would be close to the finish...close being 2 miles left...which still meant about 40 minutes...so we would walk and talk and wonder how people were running in this mud...and how Greg was stupid for making her do this...and how proud she was of Jay for finishing his marathon...and how great a pacer I was ( okay, maybe I made that part up but still..) We giggled..we almost cried...(Faith wouldn't budge...she was so strong - I cried like a baby on my 50 miler so I told her unless she sat down and threw a fit she wouldn't have to worry about embarrassing herself....) Every muscle in my body hurt, but you can't exactly voice that when you are with a beast girl that is at mile 40 and you are at mile 6. Around mile 47 she informed me her leg could only apparently go 47 miles, that it had decided to quit on her. So she dragged it for 3 more miles. We heard all kinds of noises off to the sides of the trail. I had no idea what they were, so we decided they were fairies dancing among the pixie dust and flowers that we couldn't see. (It wasn't until the next morning at breakfast that Faith decided to enlighten me on the fact that last year at this race a 100 mile racer was treed by a wild hog...OMG...what would we have done...can you play possum when one comes around because there is no way I could have climbed a tree on broken goat legs at that point...) Eventually, we finally hit the part of the trail that we knew would take us back to the finish line.
|This sums up exactly what Faith is...a beast...|
After a while Greg came riding his bike out of the darkness and rode with us a bit and said that Jay was up there waiting for her just a ways ahead. Then he took off to go let everyone know we were coming in. We just kept trucking. Faith was exhausted at this point and I knew if we could just get to Jay it would give her the pick me up that she needed to finish. Greg had said he was about a quarter mile from the finish line. Eventually we get to where Jay was supposed to be and I saw a headlamp and called out for him...I was afraid he may have gone up to the finish line and I knew Faith would kill me because I kept telling her "We are almost to Jay. Just get to Jay." I have never been so relieved when he called back that is was him! WHEW! So we got to Jay and minutes later Faith was crossing the finish line for her FIRST 50 miler! (yes first - because there will be another - no doubt in my mind)
|Faith finishing like the beast she is!|
That day was so awesome. To watch Faith, Fiona, Royce, and Jolene all finish something that they had worked so hard on was so fun and inspiring. To see Jay and Cathy complete their first marathon was amazing. I was so proud of everyone and had such a blast. A day I will never forget! Thanks Faith for letting be your pacer. I was honored and had a blast! I can't wait to see what your next adventure is - whatever you choose I know you will kick it's butt in true UltraGator style!