100 miler

the story: It takes a tribe to run an ultra… the voices in your head. the other runners on the course. friends and family on the side-lines…both at the race & afar. shared miles. tracked miles. so many helping + watching + praying for me. i am so thankful for it all. every breathe. every step. every moment. and there were a lot of them.

there was so much I learnt going into this second one. first off…I lay protected under the shadow of my brother in my first Hundy, it was his goal and i went along for the ride. this time I was alone (and that scared the shit out of me). so i prayed a lot leading into the journey…and found great peace in the comfort of my Saviour that in actuality He is always by my side and I do not need to fear the solitude. I ran many many training miles alone and built the mental muscle. And I surprised myself that I kinda liked it. And that it also confirmed that I enjoyed running with others that much more. The team individual sport of running.

The battlefield: One loop 25 miles that you run 4 times.

this is what I remember and how it weaved my second Hundy story:

~ my cousins coming out every time i ran past them to check-in and cheer me on…no matter what time it was…they were tracking me and knew when I would pass them… and I savored their smiles& conversation.
~ listening to an awesome sermon twice because it spoke of His glory. the gift of miles He gave me. singing out loud about His amazing grace + unconditional love + magnificent strength to my favorite songs on repeat. and repeat. and repeat.
~ Teddy and I wearing our ponchos when it first started to rain around mile 45 and pretending we were super-heros in the forest with our capes.
~ My daughter Mya’s beautiful determination to run with me. in the rain. in the cold. we shared 6 miles together…which is amazing for her. so much love for that little girl. she is soft & brave all wrapped up in the most beautiful heart. she epitomizes gentle strength.
~ my ultra-friend Alyson who volunteered her heart + time the whole race. she sat at the start/finish as the time-keeper and every time i went by her she smiled and asked me if i needed anything. this big amazing smile that said ‘everything is fine. you got this’
~ Brian and I contemplating life and balance…yep…out there on the mud in the middle of the night. The adventure of it all.
~ Anne and Steven and their humor and marital dialogue about races and running and her upcoming first ironman that they will do together. I laughed a lot with them… it was awesome… they kept my feet and heart light in the sticky mud.
~ Brother Bear’s analytical dialogue to keep my mind on task. his tears & fist-bumps and constantly telling me he loved me. he kept me on course and took care of all the details…the many many details. I am the luckiest sister in the world. i honor him and admire him and love him more than words can say.
~ Rachel and Jennifer’s soft faces of concern every time I whined…I honestly felt their love and it softened the hard battle at the end when the daylight felt bright and the raw pain began to burn through my skin.
~ Matts silence as he pulled me with heart strings. I love the way my 6 minute-mile-man ‘ran’ when I ‘ran”…its called the ultra shuffle and especially past mile 80 you can walk next to me while I run/dance…its quite funny when i think back on it…but in the moment it meant everything…because it was his way of making me feel like a runner when i started to give up. so much love and respect for my better half.
~ the angel volunteer Lizzie who always smiles with her eyes and looks at me like this all means something…which is huge…because when the darkness invades the soul and the adventure seems stupid it helps to be reminded that moving 100 miles really is epic. all the many many volunteers who handed me soup + hot chocolate + coke + so much more.
~ the many faces of despair and grace and struggle on the path. the “good job” “looking strong” “high fives” we said to each other in passing regardless of the pain or how terrible we looked. hunched over. barely moving. eyes full of struggle. regardless of the solitude. we fought together. we gave each other light.
~ the way people dressed me for protection against the cold +wet. the layer upon layer I wore to guard my delicate body.
~ the ‘huge’ blisters that bubbled & moved under my toes…and the laughter when I look at my feet that all that complaining was for such a small thing…it proves the power of the mind… what it felt like in my head compared to reality.
~ the texts and phone calls from so many who were tracking my miles from afar. all the prayers and thoughts… i felt it all.
~ The anger I felt when i walked/hobbled the final 4 miles thinking ‘f**k….i am last again. another DFL.’ until matt said there is someone behind you…I looked back and saw someone gaining on me…I started ‘running’…and hobbled/ran to the finish. and when Allyson gave me my finishers buckle she said… ‘you are 2nd overall female’. and i was like ‘what…” in the lowest groan… ‘really?’ 2nd overall female. about half the field dropped because of the relentless rain and horrid conditions. so my the DFL that i carried those last miles turned into 2nd overall female!!!! although it still taunts me that i was so close to the cut-off. even though i took 3 and a half hours off my last time. a monster PR. the truth that last time i was over the 28 hour line by almost 3 hours. the mindless-rambling about this could could go forever, but i will spare you my mess…I am working on choosing to BE ok with it all.
~ And Zak-mamma-bear undressing & bathing me back at the hotel. we unwrapped the darkness and wet cold…layer by layer…the aftermath of pain….we breathed through the journey and I was able to let go and finally relax.

and the rain….oh my goodness…that relentless 12+ hours of cold rain (4pm to 5am) which left the forest muddy…which led to too much walking. and with the exhaustion in my body…my balance was off…so I dare not run at the end in the mud in case i slipped and landed face down.

that even after moving 100 miles. i have still cried at not being very good at this running thing. i have still said maybe i could have done more? that no matter whether we are fighting in the dark in a forest, or sitting in the comfort of our home…darkness can still creep into our everyday moments. that the fight is real. every day. the comparison: comparing myself to last time. comparing myself to this time. comparing myself to others. comparing the run. comparing the walk. comparing the adventure. the struggle. needing the constant reminder of grace that every story is so unique in the ink it stencils. every battlefield may look the same at first glance but the delicate strings of heart and love and patience and endurance web different strands. and the overall picture is unique and brilliant. i have to choose to see the beautiful picture.

someone asked me why I do hundred milers..and I said: the journey. my love of the run. the beauty of struggle. the resilience of our magnificent bodies. and the quite conversations of the soul that ranges from gratitude to pleading to bliss to vulnerability. and my time to BE. be with God. be with friends and family. be with fatigue and hunger and rain and mud and the earth. being so weak and so strong at the same time. its crazy to move with purpose and be so unsure at the same time. alone and together. the complexities of the human heart. the opposites that feed each other…. the knowing of one to experience the other. its just like the rest of my life only i get to put it to the test over a 100 miles.

abundant gratitude to the tribe. you are my memories. you are my story. you are what I remember. coz at the end… its the big picture of love that moved me… i was never alone.

the facts:
100 miler in 27 hours + 15 minutes. 3 & a half hour PR. 2nd overall Female and 3 away from DFL (dead fucking last). I heard almost 50% dropped because of the brutal conditions. I ran about 45 miles solo and the rest with family + friends.

Ironhorse 100 miler
bodyNikki Blantonraces, 100 miler