Is defined according to Google as ‘Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.’
I would say that this is an accurate description of the race day I had at Long Cane Ultra 55 mile in Abbeville South Carolina, but I’ll get to why later. I started out the day thinking I’ve run 5 miles so often I don’t even think it is that far any more. I can certainly manage 5 more miles after 50 right?!?
The day started off like my normal race days. Up at 4AM to clean up. Yes…I do shower up as I have plenty of time to be gross all day when I’m sweaty, dirty and sticky from the sugary foods I tend to consume while racing.
Next up, food and coffee. Caffeine for me is a nice thing to have just like I do on non-race days! Time to pack up the stuff prepared the night before (pack, food, drop bags, etc), get in the car and get to the race start. Three of us arrive at the start on time to pick up our packets, get the drop bags taken care of, say hi to a few people, use the facilities and get to the start area in time for the pre-race briefing.
In no time we are all off and running down the trail in a line like ants looking for the food. We kinda are actually if you think of an aid station in that way. The trail is mostly lob lolly pine trees and pine straw. We get to a green patch with some nice foliage and what do I see? Sigh…yep poison ivy! The itchy legs I still have will pass. This is all a part of the adventure of being in the woods I say to myself and continue moving on to the next aid station.
So far the day has been gently rolling hills, talking to other runners, listening to music, aid station stops (where I’m sure to thank the volunteers – cause they are the BEST just for being there!) eating and drinking. Sure I’ve fallen a few times (3 to be exact but who is counting other than me and my pride?) and had some digestion problems but nothing to keep me from finishing.
I’m pacing myself pretty well and staying hydrated. I reach the 50k mark in time to see Chris come by on his way to finishing his first 50k race. Go Chris go!
I change my shoes and socks, which feels like a small slice of heaven. Fill up my pack with food and drink, eat some food and drink a cold mountain dew. Yummy treat with a little caffeine kick for a little pick me up.
I head back the way I came uneventfully and get to the next aid station. I’m still running close enough to other folks that when I come to the first turn I don’t know I simply follow them without thinking hey is this the right way?
At this point I’m 40 miles into the race and my brain is a bit fuzzy and slow. I get to the next aid station and it is unmanned, which I have forgotten (did I mention fuzzy brain?), and I cannot seem to figure out which way I’m supposed to go. I don’t see orange flags like I had been seeing all day so I wait hoping for another runner to come along and help me figure out which way is the yellow brick road. I haven’t seen anyone so I figure I must be at an aid station that was waiting to be picked up by the crew. So, I backtrack a ways which adds 2 miles to the race distance by the end of it all. I’ve called (wow I’ve got signal in the middle of the woods!) the race director and Chris to see if they can help me since I’m not sure what to do. Fortunately, I find 2 other runners who seem to know the way, so I follow them. We figure out the turn I missed and continue on. I’m so thankful for the company and being back on track to finish.
The time I spent waiting and taking it easy must have done me some good. I was able to pick up the pace a bit and ended up going ahead of the two runners I’d met. I got through the last two aid stations grabbing the usual heed and food and my light from my drop bag. I had hoped to finish not needing it but knew that wouldn’t happen due to the delay from being a little lost. No big deal as it was all a part of the adventure.
I thanked the volunteer at the last aid station and headed out for the last leg of 6 miles. I had to turn my light on a mile in and it was dark with 3 miles left to complete. I knew I had to slow down or risk falling again and into who knew what. I know I didn’t want it to be more poison ivy, so I walked most of the rest of the run. My brain must have been working better after the rest time and slower pace because I figured out all of the rest of the somewhat poorly marked turns to the end.
As I crossed the finish line for the new longest distance I’d run (57 miles), I felt a strong sense of perseverance and accomplishment. Despite falling, heat, digestive issues and getting lost I had finished the race. I think this race was a great training run in anticipation of the 100 miler I’m planning to finish in July. I learned to remain calm, come up with a plan and handle the situation as best as I can and finish!
Thanks should go out to the race director Terri Hayes for putting on a good race! There are always things that go wrong race day for a director and she like the runners did the best she could of the situation.