It's hard for me to write about this race, as I am still so disappointed. I've had time to process things, and I've come to terms with it. I went out exactly as planned, and that lasted well for the first 3 hours. But then severe pain built up in my medial knee. I've dealt with IT band pain before, but that's on the lateral side. This was different, and I still don't know exactly what it was or what caused it. Luckily there were two amazing massage therapists at the race, and I quickly took advantage. That allowed me to return to the race, and at that point (around 4 hours in) I was only a few laps behind schedule.
But then the pain came back. It built up over time, and with it severe low back pain as well (that I believe stemmed from tight hamstrings). Once again I was forced to stop for a massage treatment. After that point, I had lost a solid hour off the course, but I was still hopeful I could at least PR, although 140 was likely out of reach.
But once again the pain relief didn't last. At the 12 hour mark I wasn't even to 70 miles, and I knew any significant goal was impossible. I honestly thought about quitting after that realization. As I told Alec, I had come with certain goals, and what was the point of continuing when they were all out of reach? But I had also taken a 7-hour road trip, and Alec had flown down, and I couldn't just stop.
Massage treatment number 4 was with the other massage therapist, "Australian Michael" (both men were named Michael). His technique was different, but also temporarily effective. I kept going through the night, at this point just thinking maybe I could break 120 miles, which would technically be another national team qualification, although not even in the top 15 performances.
Early in the morning I needed to stop again for a treatment, at this point exhausted and highly emotional due to my disappointment. On top of everything, a very close family member had received a cancer diagnosis 3 days prior to the race, and I was hoping to run a great race "for them". I felt as though I had let them down, despite knowing they would be proud of me no matter what. I was crying pretty hard for a while, but continued running.
In the end, I did manage to complete all 24 hours- minus the 2 hours or so spent on the massage table- did not walk at all, and finished with just under 121 miles. Aly Venti, an amazingly talented runner from Florida won and made the national team with just under 141 miles. She was so encouraging to me all race, and definitely deserved her result- but I can't pretend it wasn't difficult to see someone else accomplishing what had been my goal, almost exactly.
So what's next? Well, despite the cost and stress I've entered a "last chance" 24 hour race on January 3rd- Wildcat 24 hour in Pensacola, Florida. It is USATF certified, and on a 400 meter track. My last track ultra didn't go so well but I've learned a lot since then so hopefully this time will be better! My friend Danielle from Tallahassee will be crewing me, and I have a few friends racing as well, which should hopefully help encourage me. I feel a bit guilty spending so much money to fly down, but if I don't at least try one last time for 2015 I will always wonder "what if?".
But I'm also trying to resign myself to being, at best, an alternate for the 2015 team. Once I have the financial means I will hire a coach and get serious about getting on the team for 2017. It's hard for me because I am very impatient, but I've only been running for less than 5 years, and racing 24 hours for less than one year. I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but maybe if I say it enough times it'll sink in and I'll stop being so hard on myself! In 2016 I will be turning 32- that's probably not even my peak yet as a runner, so I'm sure with the right training I can continue to improve.
Today I did a 50k training run in less than 5 hours. I'm sore but my knee pain is gone. So maybe I'll have a chance at Wildcat in 4 1/2 weeks. And maybe I'll come away disappointed again, although I will almost certainly learn something new about running or about myself. In any case, I'm trying to be grateful to have the ability God has given me, and remember the joy of running!