My story holds no performance keys for our top contenders, but it is a story of disability to 10k+, which I think is a step up from the vaunted "Couch to 5k", and an example of how a casual runner/walker might "mind the ducks".
Since this is probably going to get read out of context of the rest of my blog, I'll start with a brief synopsis of why I did this insane thing.
In 2010 I was contemplating how much longer I could get away with not filing for disability, as 25% of fibromyalgia patients do. I'd gotten worse after breaking a big toe, and still worse after my favorite shoe company reworked the last for my shoe. It got to the point that sitting in a desk chair was painful. When I worked customer service over the phone my boss would concede to letting me stay off the incoming line when I was in too much pain to be nice. My other boss with two bad knees and two bad hips occasionally tried to get me to borrow one of his canes.
Then I found these crazy people online obsessed with nutrition, body alignment, footwear, physical therapy, massage, even sleeping positions, all the tools I needed to get a hold on my health and start recovering instead of declining. They were minimalist endurance runners. Even though I couldn't do lesson one of c25k, they took me in and coached me. Tuck, Patrick, and Gordo I am forever grateful.
Some of the forum members I was less involved with decided to come to Mind the Ducks 2011, right in my neighborhood, so I decided to spectate. I biked the three miles from home to race, which was the biggest physical accomplishment I'd had since high school. I stayed a bit and did some photography, did some minor support tasks, and was of course pestered to run next year.
2014 I also dropped by to do some photography, (and was pestered to run next year).
So now we’re up to 2015. Of course I'm not going to sign up, there are a limited number of slots, and there are people trying to beat substantial goals that need those slots. Except with two days left to register there were open slots, and in a fit of insanity I took one.
With no training behind me, and no time to make up the deficit, I set a conservative goal of one lap per hour, but then realized that if I squeezed in one extra I'd have one of those special distances called a half marathon. My secondary goal was to be the slowest runner still on the course at hour 12. (Not that I aimed to be slow, just am so.) My race plan had about equal amounts of walking slowly and napping.
Race day morning I woke up a half hour before my alarm and still could not get my act together. Key items missing or forgotten, I slid into the site in time to get my number and set up camp, but not early enough to get through the porta potty line. I came out and the pack was off, already well ahead. I took my time around the loop, snapping pictures of the pack way ahead or the racers that started lapping me at 0.3 miles. After a bit though I realized that I was spending time on my feet and not moving, and I put the camera away. After lap 2 I realized that the camera has weight to it and carrying it around without using it was counter productive.
At the end of lap one my race plan said to rest, but I wanted to know my pace and went on through the checkpoint. Well after I'd passed my comfy camp and bedroll, it only made sense to keep going.
On lap two I discovered my abrasion points were not where I expected them, so I made liberal use of the Body Glide I had been gifted as I slid into camp and actually took my scheduled rest.
Lap three revealed that Body Glide was insufficient for what was happening with my left foot. That is the side where I broke that big toe and I have not yet been able to completely fix my gait. My foot was sliding around in the sandal something fierce no matter how I adjusted it. I wondered if I was going to be undone early by blisters. Thankfully I was a Girl Scout and came prepared with moleskin. Bodyglide for legs, moleskin for feet. I spent most of my rest break patching my feet.
An aside, yes, I said sandal. Part of my recovery is custom fit shoes. A running shoe would cripple my hip in 4 hours although I might be able to move faster.
On lap 4 I was dragging. The moleskin didn’t want to stay put where I need it. I texted hubby that I was metabolically great, ok on muscle fatigue, but worried about my feet.
For lap 5 I decided to try the moccasins and ate a salt potato. (I'd eaten my own food prior, but apparently I needed that particular potato.) I felt like I was getting a second wind (although I had not been pushing hard enough to get winded.) Moccasins were not made of a breathable leather, but my hot spot moved to the end of one toe in contact with a seam, and moleskin did stick there very well. I stuck with the moccasins the rest of the day and the hot spots from my sandals felt fine without further treatment.
During lap 6 I was supposed to meet my lunch date near the halfway point, and picked up my stride, but he was going to be late and encouraged me to get one more lap in while I was waiting.
Lap 6.5 was done before 1 PM, on schedule. But my date ran ahead to get my ice in the cooler and my expected break vanished. I got into camp and collapsed for a bit. I decided then that I was too tired to maintain the pace, and would increase rest breaks and forget the original 13 lap goal.
Laps 8 and 9 were a bit of a blur... Pizza, Popsicles, respect and encouragement from spectators and participants of every level... Naps every quarter to third mile... Prodding someone else to get up while I stayed put...
Some people were amused by my repeated declarations that this might be my last lap, and then I would nap and start walking again. My mother was the coach that taught me that. Her chronic pain condition was worse than mine, the Doctors told her as a child that she would soon need a wheelchair, and she said no. The trick is this, you convince yourself you can finish what you are doing and then rest, and when you get to the stopping point you reassess if you can do one more. It is the positive flip side of the addict's "I can stop any time I want to." Mom practiced and fostered an addiction to living life as fully as our conditions would allow.
Lap 9 came, and I was dragging, so I decided to clock in before my rest break in case I didn't get up again, but I didn't waste energy doubling back to camp and pressed onwards into lap 10 to find a nice shady spot. I could not get comfortable enough to rest the full scheduled time and got moving again to find a better spot. About then my hip started hurting. Sure I'd had pain from hot spots, from muscle fatigue, but I know when the hip gets bad like that my body alignment is off. I resolved to really make it my last lap, not just leave open the last lap possibility. (Of course no one believed me by now.) I was well hydrated, on my last lap, and my water was heavy so I dumped it out. At my next rest stop I forgot to set my rest timer, no idea how long I was out for. I was refreshed enough to skip my next rest stop, but the hip got to be too much around .7. Well one of mother’s other lessons was no complaints until you have tried to fix the problem yourself, so I threw down my bottle and shade shirt and started doing physical therapy exercises to realign my hip. It wasn't a cure, but it patched me up enough to get to the finish line.
Now giving your all and testing your limits is part of ultra running, but I purposely did not test myself to the limit, because when it comes down to it I am a farmer, and 34 lives are waiting on me back at the farm, so at hour 14 I did my "last lap", with my husband "pacing" me. Even the animals were kind, mostly coming when called and being easily herded through the gate. The one ewe/lamb pair that got stuck, it was the easier to herd ewe that I had to move in circles and coach through the gate. The rooster loomed over the feed bucket I needed to open, but he mercifully did not attack and test my post race reflexes. As I closed the barn door I clutched my shepherds crook and supported my weak side and clocked in at my front door. Now I could collapse, now my race is done.