"God, The Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places." Habakkuk 3:19
Only two weeks after competing in a Half IronMan I set out on another epic physical journey.
The goal: Run from Sunset to Sunrise. Solo.
The distance: As far as the Lord would allow my legs to carry me. Hopefully farther than I had ever run before.
The Terrain: Primarily gravel roads with plentiful hills & a few paved sections.
The journey began at 10pm with the sun almost entirely set leaving only enough illumination to make out the sillouhettes of tree lines that surrounded the area farmsteads & tall grass lining the roadside. The entire landscape was cloaked in a rich shade of blue, the air was humid & the wind still. It was serene.
I ran without light until I could no longer make out the terrain, then flipped on both headlamps. One around my waist aimed where my footfall would be & the other strapped to my hat casting light straight ahead.
It didn't take long for fear to start tapping me on the shoulder. Running in the dark is not new to me, but this was on remote country roads & I was solo. Every dark shrub off in the distance was startling. It took 5miles before I was finally able to lock into logic.
What was I afraid of? Why? This area isn't really known for animal attacks or strange people lurking in the woods in hopes of a lone ultra-runner passing by. The taps of fear on my shoulder followed by adrenaline spikes became more of an irritant, but a steady reminder to pray. While I may have been running lone the miles between meeting up with my crew for aid, I was never truly alone.
"You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance." Selah. Psalm 32:7
This verse was heavy on my mind, especially as I had earnestly desired to complete the first section of the route roughly 13miles without the distraction of music. I succeeded.
There were many large rollers along this part of the route, but when you can only see as far as the headlamp will cast there is no way to fully grasp just how large the climbs are until your 1/2 way up them. I did my best to remind myself to walk the uphills in hopes of giving my body longevity for the miles ahead. This seemed to work well, but often as I stopped to walk I was tapped on the shoulder & all I wanted was to push past whatever it whatever it was that spooked me so I ended up running a lot of them.
When meeting up with my crew to top off the water in my pack & grab additional fuel I was informed that thunderstorms were forming and heading our way. There was talk of me being pulled early if the weather got bad. I didn't want this. My heart was set on epic.
I continued down the road picking up the pace in hopes of getting myself as far ahead of the storm as possible. Music while it can be a great encouragement during a run can also breed weakness & this training run was all about limiting any emotional or physical crutches so I limited my use of the Ipod to 3miles at a time. If I wanted music I would have to earn it and wait the 6-8miles between doses.
Miles 13-18 passed quickly and the residual muscle fatigue from the 70.3 was getting beat out with every step. Flashes of lightning & the slight rumble of thunder began to make their presence known off to the west. When I turned my head to eye the storm cell moving in I was met with 10 sets of green eyes reflecting back at me. The lightning provided just enough light to make out large black creatures & I instinctively said aloud "Dear Lord, let those be cows." I have never longed to hear mooing in my life. They never did, but I was eventually able to cast light on to the only white cow amongst the solid black ones.
At mile 22 I stopped to picked up more water, perpetuem, orange slices & my rain gear. Jeremy debriefed me on the severe thunderstorms forming around us and we modified our game plan adding in another aid station in case the weather became to poor to continue.
Just as I hit the road again the rain began to fall and I was thoroughly soaked within a mile. I've done plenty of running in rain so this was not about to deter me. Instead of breathing the 85-90% humidity as I had for the last 20+ miles I was now being invigorated by the showers. So far I had only needed music for a total of 4mi the entire run, running deaf in a storm didn't seem wise so I packed the ipod away & used the bag from it to protect my headlamp from the rain.
As I hit the marathon mark I sent a cheer out into the silence that surrounded me & then started climbing the next hill as my quads began to growl reminding me to pop another dose of endurolytes to stave off any cramping. Periods of muscle fatigue would come & go, but I mentally powered through. Thankfully the fatigue of no sleep wasn't causing any issues, yet.
When I looked down at my watch and read 27.5 miles I started looking around for the next turn on my route, I thought I was close. My crew was waiting for me there. The next road sign I saw was 20 streets from where I needed to turn, but my directions card indicated that due to the mileage I should be nearing my turn. 20 streets away is not "near". I must be lost. I stopped to call my husband, no answer. Sent a text, no answer. Signal was close to dead here. With the rain still falling & fuel/water getting low I made the decision to turn around. Within a .8 of a mile I saw a car approaching from behind. My crew. I was not lost, I had just changed counties and this effected the street numbers. So I turned around for the second time.
Having to retrace my steps was discouraging so I pulled out the ipod for a little reprieve. It was now past 4am. & I was beginning to get tired. Jeremy waited for me at the turn I feared I had missed and once I reached it we made the decision that I would have to cut the run short when I reached my parent's farm which was supposed to be my final aid station. Severe weather warnings were now being issued, the skies were beginning to turn that eerie shade of green & the wind was picking up. Thankfully the sun was beginning to rise away from the storm-clouds and the rain stopped, renewing some energy.
With the shorter distance now in mind I picked up the pace. If I wasn't going to make it to the 35-40miles I had set as my hypothetical goal, I was going to haul. My legs were feeling pretty hashed by then, but they still managed to run swift. Finally I was onto familiar terrain again & knew I would at least make my goal, running farther than I had ever run before.
I reached my family's property-line at 33.45 miles & proceeded to run around the house to round the mileage out at 33.5.
It may not have been as epic as I hoped, but it was still epic. I overcame irrational fears, rain & fatigue. Another great night, another blessed run.