Peace Corps 2018

I Ran 100 Miles.

I ran 100 miles Saturday October 24th.

It took  me 26 hours and 13 minutes.

It very well may have been the stupidest, most challenging thing I have done yet in my life.

The race started at 6 am in Ottawa (Kansas). It was unlike most any other race…covid. The start line consisted of us (David and I) arriving to the start line, crossing the start line, and running. There was no big group of starters or motivational speeches or that ever so present adrenaline buzzing through the cold air.

It simply was, you arrive, you start – no big crowds.

I started with worried thoughts.

I didn’t sleep the night before. Literally, zero sleep. I tossed and turned all night, even took melatonin, but my brain decided to challenge me instead like; “We are going to keep you up all night suga.” 

I was worried because as much training as I had done, was I still going to be able to run a whole 100 miles? Am I freaking crazy? Am I being a fool?

David and I crossed the starting line and set up a nice groove. Run one mile, walk for two minutes. This would be our pace for the entire race. A pace that would allow us to save our legs and endure the long run.

Starting in the dark at 6 am felt like a normal Saturday training run. Most of my runs consisted of me starting during the dark early hours of the morning and getting the majority of my run done before the world had even awoke.

Training had been a whole other story. Never in my life has running consumed so much of my day to day. I thank the friends who worked around my schedule, the ones who didn’t get mad when I said I couldn’t hang out on a Friday night because I had to wake up the next morning to run 30 miles. I started training pretty soon after arriving home from Ethiopia in March and ended in October with mileage increasing every week.

The swirl of anxiety and worry swirled my brain for the majority of the start of the race.

However, the miles started to go by with David’s and I little conversations about the race and training and life. We kept it light and entertained ourselves with stunt ideas for when we saw the photography crew.

Suddenly, we were coming upon our first aid station at mile 9 where our crew: Molly, Ash, and Smith, awaited us with huge smiles, cheers, and a glorious food spread. 

It was both of ours first time having a legitimate crew. People who would prepare our meals, exchange our hydration packs, help us change clothes, help massage out muscles, pop our blisters, talk logistics with us, motivate us…people who gave up their entire weekend for no other reason than to help us accomplish our goal. (You don’t find better people than these guys.)

It was apparent even after the first stop at how important they were going to be for my survival of this run. 

At this first stop David and I also met up with David’s friend and co-worker Mike who we had run multiple training days with. Especially our night training. Where we would meet up at 10 pm on a Friday night to run 30 miles over the night just to get used to the exhaustion that this race would require.

Mike was running the 100k the same day, so we had the pleasure to run with him for “20-ish” miles. He brought conversation and laughs. Something that was needed to keep our mind off the continuous lull of running on a straight trail that provided the same view at almost every turn. 

Learning to have our own fun was important. Mindset, like always, is everything. 

We hit mile 40 and I started to feel a twinge in my right knee. It was 100 percent a tight IT band. But it made me furious. After all the training I had done, WHY would it now start to act up at mile 40. I still had 60 miles to go.  

I had Molly stretch it out and massage it and David and I had our longest legs to complete. 10 more miles to the halfway point in Iola and another ten miles back. 

The course starts in Ottawa and goes through multiple towns. As the trail weaved through each town, there were “manned” aid stations where we would meet our crew. Most of the distances between these stations were averaged 6 to 9 miles apart. The hardest one being a ten mile stretch immediately followed by another ten mile stretch like I was about to take on. 

We headed out and I put on a podcast to help motivate me. Of course I went with the oldie but goodie of Rich Roll interviewing David Goggins. Someone who has mastered his mind and feeling uncomfortable. I listened and David listened to his music and we ran with passion, charging down the trail to meet our crew at the halfway point. It was like we hit a second wind. Sure, I was in pain, but it wasn’t yet enough to overtake us.

Once there, at mile 52, we decided that we didn’t want to dilly dally. We wanted to pack up our food, not sit, and head back out before it became too dark.  Sitting was proving to be an enemy. Our crew, quick to agree with our decision, worked on getting us ready to head back out with energy. It was an exciting point in the race. Both David and I had run a 50 miler before. We had now officially PRed and anything from now on was going to be a Personal record, it was also a nerve wracking time as we were officially in unknown territory of what we were capable of.

Midway through our ten miles stretch back to the crew station at mile 62, the darkness arrived and we were now only able to see the path straight in front of us that was lit by our head lamps. 

Our world became very small, very quickly. 

My knee was still in pain but once again at the next aid station, I didn’t want to linger. I knew that the longer I lingered, the worse my mental state would become. The further I went into the race, the more tired I became and the harder it was to keep a positive mind.

We set out for the next section and our pace started to decrease. It felt like the darkness was holding us back, sucking our feet in, like we were on a treadmill not making any progress, making all the pain more recognizable. 

We arrived at the next aid station and I was happy to find out that we were actually going to have a pacer around mile 80ish. Chris and Brandy joined our crew at the second aid station in the morning, supporting us just like the other 3. (Once again, phenomenal people that gave up their weekend.) Brandy however, offered to help pace us for 15 miles and we happily said yes. 

I had zero experience with a pacer, but while on the course, we saw multiple people with pacers… Maybe there was something to it, maybe it really was that helpful.

The last 30 miles was where I felt like I was starting to crumble. 

This was by far the hardest, stupidest thing I have ever done and I will not sit here and claim that it was easy. 

When I arrived at the aid station around mile 30, sleep deprivation was creeping further into my brain. My feet were starting to feel like they were falling apart. They felt like sharp knives were being stabbed into them repeatedly with every step that hit the ground. Every time we stopped for the 2 minute walk, I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to run again, like my legs would just collapse.

I creeped my way, slowly to the mile 77 aid station. This was when the thoughts going through my head started saying “I don’t know if I can do this”. All I wanted to do was curl up on the trail and fall asleep and let my feet and legs rest. “I’m too tired”, “My eye lids won’t stay open” all these negative thoughts seeping into my brain because when you are tired, your guard starts to waiver.

Each time I arrived with my crew, they fed me, massaged my legs, and made sure that I was ready to head back out even though they knew I was holding on to the last wire, even though they knew I wanted to burst out in tears. They knew that I could finish and truth be told…

I knew I could too.

When Brandy joined us, I fell in line behind her and focused on her feet. “Just move along with her”- it was as if there was an invisible rope holding me to her. As if having her in front of me was just enough to keep me moving forward. It felt like if I didn’t have to think about where I was going, I could just let her drag me forward.

During this point of the race, the pain of my legs wanted to take over my entire brain. It was beyond difficult to focus on anything else, so much so, I had put a hand warmer in my sports bra to help keep me warm and hadn’t realized it had burned me…to the point of a blister developing that I later noticed once home. That burning pain wasn’t enough to over come the excruciating pain from my feet and legs.

However, I, on repeat, told myself,

“I got this.”

“We can do this.”

Again and again and again in my head. Just repeating every step.

“I got this.” “I got this.” “I got this.”

Every time I wanted to think about how much pain I was in, I told myself that phrase. I knew I could do it. The miles were drifting away slowly, all I had to do was take one mile at a time, one step at a time. Inch by inch I told myself “I could’”

Once Brandy left us after 15 miles, we only had 6.5 miles left till we reached the finish line. It was true, pacers make a world of difference and I felt lucky she had volunteered to join.

David and I agreed to walk a half mile and run a half mile for the last 6.5 miles.

This was when I had to contain the tears of excitement, because by this point I knew my dream was going to come true. That through all the pain, all the tiredness, all the training, that I was actually going to complete it.

I was going to do it. 

The last 6 miles felt like they took forever to finish as we watched the sun rise for the second time during this race. I felt myself becoming delirious, imagining people on the trail, trying to make sense of the things I was seeing, the branches moving, the shadows on the sides. I felt like if I closed my eyes, I was going to fall asleep immediately and not finish the race. There was a swirling in my brain as I was trying to keep my eyes open, a flawed mental state I had not yet ever experienced.

As the finish line became closer in our vision, the more the excitement boiled. Even though our legs and bodies were beyond exhausted, we still found the power to run to the finish. 

As much as I wanted to cry with happiness like I usually do, this time I couldn’t, all I could do was smile with pure satisfaction. 

I did it. 

I can’t believe I really did it. 

The crew awaited us along with a few others and they watched and cheered us on as we crossed the finish line. We were embraced with hugs and champagne.

We did it. 

We quickly afterwards got in our cars and drove away. Molly was my driver and I instantly turned to her and let her know that I was not going to be able to stay awake and within minutes, passed out in the front seat. I woke up once we were home and had already been through a dream in the short drive, feeling confused as to where we were. Once home, I took a shower and slept for a full, deep 5 hours and spent the rest of the time stretching and relaxing and trying to process what had actually happened.

I still, to this day, can’t believe that I ran 100 miles. Even though my achilles and knees still hurt to walk, it still feels unreal. 

Like all my races, I know, 100 percent that I could have not completed this run without the people who came and supported me. Even if they only came for one stop, seeing people there cheering me on, supporting me accomplishing my dream will always keep me moving. 

And to my crew, You all are the reason I was able to keep moving.

I don’t think I could say Thank You enough.

4 thoughts on “I Ran 100 Miles.”

  1. Beautifully told Izzy! I glad I could be there for you guys! I guess I’ll have to train harder for my next pacer event;)

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  2. OMG! ISABELLA and DAVID!! You two never cease to amaze me! Thanks for sharing your wonderful writing skills, your passions, your doubts, and your SUCCESSES! You two have a bond like no other. So glad for your team and their hearts, too. You both are an inspritation.

    Like

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