Redemption has never felt so good! It was personal! I had nothing to prove to anyone but myself!
42.54 miles complete!
I did it!
CedarIsland40 was my ultra redemption race. This was my opportunity to learn from my previous defeat, push my mental and physical comfort zone, and succeed. To succeed, I had to put in the work. I was the only thing that was going to get me across the finish line and I had to be ready! I owned it!
I committed week one of 11 to nail all my training workouts and stick with my program. While, I did not make every single workout I am very happy with my efforts. I can honestly say in my 5 years of running, I have never taken training so seriously. It felt good, and gave me the confidence I needed race day I knew I had put in the work and that I would cross the finish line.
Katherine (KMac- my awesome friend who accompanied me to the race) and I volunteered at packet pickup that was hosted in a private room at Sammy’s Seafood House and Oyster Bar. It was great to mingle, meet, and eat with some of the fellow participants. I was in awe of the ultra runners I would be sharing the course with. Participants ranged from ultra virgins to ultra legends. Everyone was super nice and very supportive.
Big Thanks to Kmac who sealed my race strategy down for me. I knew I was going to do a run walk segment but had not given much thought to what that would be. Thankfully, KMac suggested 10 min run/2 min walk. I loved it and immediately programmed the interval into my Garmin. This was my saving grace! AWESOME!
3:50 am wake up call came super early! We picked up two fellow runners Jason and Garrett, whom we met at packet pickup, and headed to the starting line. Jason and Garrett were very trusting individuals to rely on complete strangers to get them to the start of the race! We were happy to help! The minute the doors of the car closed they were no longer strangers but our newest friends. Jason was running his first ultra to celebrate his 40th birthday. Wow! The Irony of that was surreal since my first ultra attempt was for my buddy’s 40th birthday…and we all know how that turned out 🙂 Garrett, signed up two weeks before the race and decided to join his buddy! No training outside of a single 3 hours run. He does not even like to run! Now that is a good friend! Crazy but good!
5:00 am the race was started with a “ready, set, GO!” by my adorable niece Chloe. Headlights bobbing in the darkness we were headed from Morehead City, NC to the Cedar Island Ferry (42 miles)
The temps were mild, warmer than I had desired but we were off to a good start and feeling great. Around mile 2, Ashley and I fell into step with one another. I inquired about her race strategy and shared my plan. She liked my plan and that was the start of our 40 mile journey together. Ashley, a seasoned ultra runner, is also a good friend of my sister Amy, whom was the race director.
I had planned on running alone and was totally fine with that. As extroverted as I am, it is shocking to people that know me well that I am perfectly content running alone. Partnering up with Ashley was a race day bonus!
The course while very remote ran through beautiful coastal tidelands and marsh. The views were absolutely beautiful. There was definitely more traffic than I anticipated and was unnerving at times but nothing we could not handle. We got a friendly honk from an 18 wheeler and a wagging finger from a grumpy old lady. One passerby was so curious as to what we were doing she slowed down to inquire. When we told her we were running 42 miles she flipped out! She screamed “You go girls!” and drove off.
We had been warned of a one lane, wooden plank bridge along the route. As we approached the bridge we contemplated what our strategy for crossing would be. We certainly did not want to get taken out by a car on the bridge. Before we could finalize our strategy, my brother-in-law Lee, whom was monitoring the course appeared and escorted us across the bridge. We felt like running royalty. Perfect timing!
We ran over several bridges and the views were always breath taking! It was also a great excuse to stop and take a “selfie”. This was the first of many!
On course support was often and entertaining! We never felt abandoned as Amy and her volunteers did a great job of monitoring the course and keeping an eye on the participants. I almost fell over in laughter when Amy and my niece drove by spraying silly string and shouting Color Run! It was everywhere. It was a great pick me up!
The coastal towns along NC 12 are very quaint. It was a nice change of scenery.
Not everything was cute. While the natural beauty of the tidelands was pleasant, there comes a time when enough is enough!
My picture, while hazy, is a perfect representation of the steamy slog through a portion of the course called “Dire Straits”. Its long,winding, barren, asphalt that seems to go on forever. We survived!
As temperatures rose ( into the upper 70’s) and we grew tired we would often wonder what we were seeing up ahead on the road. We saw plenty of mirages while we were anticipating the next aid stations. Fortunately, Heather’s Edy’s Lime Popsicle delivery was not a mirage! We deemed it Heaven on a stick! It was the best Popsicle I have ever had in my life!
The Popsicle delivery was such a wonderful surprise and a much needed pick me up! Diligent with our 10/2 run/walk segments, we decided we would walk and enjoy our Popsicle! Ahhhhhhh! I have to mention my last minute decision to pack my daughters FroggTogg Chilly Sport towel was a true life saver! I had never used this towel or anything similar before but my gut told me to pack it and give it a try. AMAZING! Why have I never used this towel before? This is now part of my MUST HAVE gear list and will never leave home without it for warm runs. It really stayed wet and cool. I rolled up ice in it at one of the last aid stations for the super cooling effect.
Neither Ashley or I ever checked the mileage on our watches. We gauged our distance based on the aid stations having a general idea where they were. I figured we had a long distance to cover and we would get there when we get there. It was rather exciting, when the road side signs got close to single digits.
It was hot but we ran on. Both of us were feeling great and enjoying the run. We had great conversations but also spend a lot of time running in silence. We stuck to our 10min/2min run/walk segments and consistently fueled and took our Salt Sticks every hour. The sun was out in full force so we also applied sun screen every few hours. It was great having company and an accountability partner. After running hours, upon hours in the heat your brain function slows and you need a little help from your friend to stay safe. We laughed that Ashley was a running traffic cone in her BRIGHT yellow and orange shirt. A perfect selection for the day. I kept my Amphipod Xinglet around my waist ( I wore it correctly before the sun came up). Its so light I did not even know it was there.
I had a complete brain slip and forgot to put my nuun in my Nathan vest. Luckily I did drop some tablets in my first 2 liters of water so I did have some early on. Just none for water refills The Salt Sticks did the trick! Thank God!
About an hour behind us were Jason & Garrett! We got updates from the course monitors that they were having a blast! Wondering what those two goof balls were doing pushed me to get to the finish line as I knew they would have some great stories! They had no worries about time they just wanted to have fun, enjoy each others company, take in the sights, and finish before the cut off.
Take note of Jason’s super cool camouflage shades! As the sun came up, Jason realized he forgot his sun glasses. He thought he would quickly remedy the situation by popping in one of the very few convenient stores along the route and buy a pair. Easy enough, all convenient stores at the coast have sunglasses right? Well, not this particular store. Oops onto Plan B! While most would simply do without, Jason was on a quest for survival. No glasses officially for sale the next best thing was to buy them off one of the customers. Yep, Jason purchased his glasses right off the face of a lady in the store for $20! Resourceful!
Sometime after mile 26.2,at one of the aid stations, Garrett realized he had officially run his first marathon! Pretty darn impressive for a guy who signed up for his first ultra two weeks prior and his training consisted of one three hour run! YOUTH! Way to go Baby G!
Because running 42+ miles is not enough, in an effort to break the monotony Garrett decided to throw in some push ups…or perhaps they were burpees! Either way just crazy!
Finally, we made it to the last manned aid station and knew we had 9 miles to go. Hitting the single digits felt great! It was HOT , we were tired, but still enjoying the run. We made good time and caught up with some fellow runners and had a surprise visit from KMac, whom dressed in running clothes, was there to run in the final 5 miles with us! Such an awesome surprise and a wonderful pick me up for both Ashley and I.
The final miles were long. Likely the longest and slowest 5 miles of my life. We were elated to make it to the last aid station! 3 miles to go!
Jason and Garrett, recognized the tree at the last aid station as the “lone” tree on the CedarIsland40 web page and took the opportunity to snap a photo. I had no recollection of the tree. I love that they captured this photo. Not sure how Jason was able to get up. If I laid down at that point in the day I would be staying until someone picked me up.
Ashley and I REALLY enjoyed Katherine’s company on our final miles to the finish line. The fact she surprised us made it even better. 8+ hours in, a fresh perspective was greatly welcomed. She encouraged us, filled us in on the runners who had finished, those who had not and generally everything that was going on. We took a brief pit stop to take our picture with a HUGE Crusty Crustacean whom had seen some hard times. At that point in the day I felt like I could totally relate to this poor fella.
We were so close! Ashley alerted us that if we pushed through and ran the next 1.5 miles without walk segments we could potentially come in under 10 hours. Secretly, 10 hours was my goal/desire second to JUST FINISHING. We agreed to push through and run it in.
I was so excited to almost be finished. My accomplishment of ULTRA REDEMPTION was so close I could literally taste it. Where the hell is the finish line? I was running slower than ever and thought the finish would never been in sight. Kmac informed me we would take a right just ahead. The right hand turn finally came, I saw the FINISH LINE! My emotions immediately swelled, on the verge of hyperventilation, I declared I could not breath. Ashley assured me I could breath. It was at that point, I decided we were going to sprint it in! Ashley, whom all day, was trying to decide who was crazier me or my sister(Amy) yelled “YOU are crazier than your sister” and she sprinted with me across the finish line!
10:01:21! Redemption Achieved! Amy immediately hugged me after I crossed. I had no words only BIG, UGLY, SOBS, and TEARS! It was an ugly cry like no other but I did not care… I was finally a legit ULTRA MARATHONER! Amy asked if I needed anything and I simply replied ” Just hold me”. 🙂
The finish line was awesome with lots of food ( unfortunately I was not up for eating), cold beverages and live music. It was a beautiful day! I iced my horrific feet then decided to take a rest in the grass and wait for Jason and Garrett to finish.
Never give up on what you want! Don’t let your failures derail you! Learn from your missed achievements and simply do better the next time! The satisfaction is priceless!
- Coach Chennelle, Raleigh Cross Fit, for overseeing my training plan and weekly motivation. She helped me safely integrate Crossfit into my training plan and kept me accountable for my weekly training more than she will ever know!
- Bryon Powell, irunfar.com, for writing Relentless Forward Progress A guide to running ultramarathons. I read every page of this book and loved my training plan! I was also super excited to blog chat with him as he somehow found, read, and commented one of my earlier blog post 🙂
- Ashley, for covering the miles with me! You were a lifesaver I did not even know I needed!
- KMac, for insisting on traveling with me to support and volunteer!
- Amy for giving me the ultimatum to either volunteer or sign up for her race! Sisterly motivation at its best! You did an awesome job at your first Race Director gig! So proud of you.
- RaceENC, Brandon, Heather, & Amy for hosting a spectacular race. The organization, amenities, communications, and course were top notch! Job well done. I cannot say enough good things about CedarIsland40 and your successful execution of it!
- Last but not least my Husband(Dan), family & friends for never doubting my ability and encouraging me!
I have fallen in love with the ultra…just as Amy said I would. Dimity McDowell sums up my new found love and quest so nicely “Going big isn’t really about the distance. It’s about taking on something that isn’t necessarily a gimme” Well Said Dimity! Next quest(it makes my stomach hurt to type it)…100k (62miles) at Croatan24, November 8th, 2014!