The Destin 100 Mile Race Experience
Today is Thursday, February 11.
I am driving down by myself to Destin Florida for the big race this weekend. Been thinking about this race and planning for a few months now and I’m very excited to do my first 100+ mile race. This race will be starting at 4 PM on Saturday and we will run for 27 hours straight until 7 PM on Sunday. After a lot of thought, I decided to go on this trip by myself. Matt and Mark wanted to both go but I thought it would be better if I went alone. It will be less stress, easier to sleep and rest and give me the time and ability to be able to focus on this race completely. Today is Friday, February 12.
It’s the day before the race starts. Got a good solid 8 hours of sleep last night. About an hour after I arrived at the hotel the power went out for about 45 minutes. Luckily I brought three candles with me so I was able to see and still get ready for bed. At first, I was a little bit lonely being there by myself but once I crawled into the bed and started to relax I was fine. Slept really well. This morning I woke up at about 9 o’clock and slowly started getting things ready for the race tomorrow. Got all my bags together and labeled. I went to the hotel where the race is going to be hosted at. Walk down to the beach and it was very windy. Windier than I had expected to be. I will pack an extra layer of clothes but I think everything will be fine. I ordered some pasta at Carrabba’s Italian Grill. Going to have some of it for dinner tonight and save the rest for tomorrow. Going to try to eat small portions throughout the day as needed. Besides the wind, the weather is great out here. It’s currently 68° and sunny. Tomorrow it’s supposed to be warm and windy as well. The low is supposed to get down to 37 tomorrow night. I’ll have layers and be ready. I’m planning to go pick up my pasta and take it back to the room and relax until I go to bed. Going to go to bed very early tonight so I can get as much sleep as possible before tomorrow. I have to go to a briefing meeting tomorrow at 1:30 and then I will just go and stretch before the race starts at 4 pm. Today is Saturday, February 13, 2016.
I’m driving to the host hotel right now for the 1:30 meeting. I slept very well last night. Took half of a Unisom and slept for almost 12 hours. I feel very well rested and ready to run. I’m a little bit nervous and jittery but excited. Just ready and excited to start. Unfortunately I woke up at 8 AM and was wide-awake. I tried to go back to sleep but was not able to. I did rest and relax until I left at 12:30. All my bags are packed and all my food is ready with extra water bottles. I’m just so excited to get started. I haven’t heard anything from Matt or Mark all day and I wish they would make a little more effort to see how I’m doing. I’m sure they just want me to rest but it would be nice to hear from them. I talked to Matt on the phone last night before I went to bed. Haven’t heard much from Mark at all since Friday. I did want to do this solo so I guess I am. The weather is beautiful right now. Not a cloud in the sky and sunny at 59°. Not sure how windy it is at the beach but I will find out soon. I am feeling strong and confident. Today is Monday, February 15. I am very happy and proud to say that I completed the hundred mile race yesterday evening. It was one of the hardest physical challenges I’ve ever done in my life and also one of the most incredible experiences. I’m so happy to be done with it when I finished it. I have to say I did cut it close but I did do it. I finished with 18 minutes to spare and that was all. The highlight of the whole race was getting paced for the last 20 miles by legendary ultra-marathoner Connie Gardener! She saw me at an aid station at mile 80 getting treated by the medical staff for some pretty bad blisters on my feet and decided to run with me since I was alone. She just grabbed a drink of water and took off with me. Once I realized who she was I was blown away! We had a great conversation and she really helps me stay focused. I will get to that conversation in a bit, but I first want to start from the beginning of the race and explain how it went. Everyone arrives before the race start and sets up to crew for the runners a little before 4 o’clock. People had tents and it was like a big slumber party. They had music playing and lights and food and people were camping out and playing with their kids. It was fun to see and all the energy was great. They would be set up with food and drinks for the runners that they were supporting to give to them as they came by. The set up was at the start where we all would have to run through a tracking device system to keep track of our mileage. The race started off great and I was feeling good. Started out a little too fast but thought I would just go with it while I was feeling good. Again made the mistake of starting to quickly and I needed to pace myself to slow it down a little bit. (For future races do that!) I did a steady 945 to 10 minute pace for the first 32 miles. At 32 miles I started to walk and run but mostly ran. Hit the 50 mile mark pretty easily and felt OK. I had an hour and 25 minutes until the 50 mile race started at 5 AM. I had the choice to keep going or to rest until it started. I decided since this was my first 100 mile challenge and I knew it was going to be hard running on the sand that I would be conservative and play it safe. I got all my stuff ready for the 5 AM start and decided to rest. Since I was by myself I needed to rest on my own and I did not have anything to do that so I decided to crawl under a table at the aid station and take a quick nap. Some of the race supporters thought I was absolutely crazy and offered me a trailer a mile away to rest in if I wanted to use it. I didn’t want to miss the start of the 50 mile portion and wanted to stay at the starting line so I politely declined. One staff guy even offered his hotel room if I wanted to go in there and nap. I politely declined and said that I didn’t want to miss the race start and that I was fine just lying in the sand for a little while. One guy gave me his jacket which helped a lot. I had a hard time falling asleep but I was able to dose off twice for five minutes. Just being off my feet and relaxing felt nice. 20 minutes before 5 AM I got up and started changing into some new clothes and getting my gear ready. I was feeling good and felt refreshed when I got up and got started on the 50 miles. I had been drinking a lot of water and fueling on food throughout so I was keeping up with nutrition and hydration. I had already gone through three huge water bottles with electrolytes in it and some tailwind. Plus, I had been snacking on some stuff that I brought and had two slices of pizza earlier in the night….gluten pizza and they were delicious. I want to mention a little bit about how I felt during the overnight portion of the run. I started out in a happy, positive mood which was good. Then I started to think about how I was a little bit annoyed with Mark because he hadn’t been in contact with me very much at all since Friday. Started thinking that if he cared more that he would at least try to reach out and see how I was doing throughout the trip. I sent him a message on Saturday and got a one-word reply and was hoping for a little more interaction. Just got me thinking about the relationship and started to get a little frustrated with him. I ended up calling him and having a 20 minute conversation with him explaining how I felt, hoping to feel better. I did feel little bit better afterwards. After that I started to feel lonely out there at night by myself. It was so dark and you could see every star in the sky and the moon was so beautiful and I just wish somebody was there to share that with me. I was starting to regret doing this big challenge on my own. Before the race I thought it would be a good idea to do this by myself so I could focus more and have less distraction. Then I realized I would have much more preferred to have people there with me that supported me and loved me, and that I could see and interact with. Seeing all the other runners and their crew having such a good time and enjoying the event together made me feel lonely. I wanted somebody waiting for me, to smile at me or tell me I was doing a good job, or just be there even if they were sleeping in the tent. I wouldn’t say I was extremely tired at the point but just feeling kind of down.
So then I thought about listening to a movie that was funny. I needed something to pull me out of my funk. Luckily my iPhone was working/had service and I was able to get Internet connection out there on the beach. I’m on a new plan with MetroPCS with unlimited data. That worked out because I went to Netflix and put on the movie “Meet the Fockers”. It’s a very funny movie that I have seen before so I was able to listen to it and imagine each scene in my mind. It was a great distraction and perfect amount of comedy to pull me out of my lonely state. The two hours of that movie just flew by and I was able to sustain a nice steady rhythm during it. The movie really significantly helped my mood and helped me refocus. After I watch that movie I wanted to watch another one or listen to one I should say. So I put on the movie “50 First Dates” with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. It’s also a funny movie that I had seen before and it was great to listen to. Kept my mind busy and positive throughout the run. Another two hours just flew by. I want to stress that listening to these funny movies helped me significantly. (A must for future races) They helped me so much to stay in a positive frame of mind and give me something to focus on throughout the run. After watching those two movies I didn’t go back into the lonely state that night. Although, later on, I did have some more mental challenges, but I’ll explain that in a minute. Around mile 40 I wasn’t paying attention and ran up on a sand cliff made by the waves when they come up. I didn’t realize I was running on one and I slipped and fell off of it. Fell onto my left knee but didn’t think I was injured or hurt. Just got up and kept going.
I’m glad I made the decision to rest after I finished the first 50 miles. This turned out to be a much more difficult race challenge than I had ever thought or imagined. I’m glad I played it safe. I really needed that in the end. That pretty much sums up the first half of the race. As far as food went for the first half I had two slices of pizza, 2 cups of cold tomato soup, four bottles of electrolyte/Tailwind supplement….two large ones and two smaller bottles, Some regular water and that was about it. I had had a little bit of pasta before the start of the race before the start.
Matt’s black compression pants were easy and warm to use. They were lightweight enough and easy to run in but did block the wind overnight when I needed it. I put them on at mile 20. I just pulled them on over my pants and kept going. When I had to go through the water in them they dried pretty quickly since they were so thin. I liked using them because it was easy to wear and easy to run in. I also wore a vest which I was able to quickly get on and off when I needed to and zip it up and down as the wind picked up or died down. I liked having the ability to swing my arms as I run without having them so confined in a big sweater. For future long races, I need to bring a vest. Or even a throwaway jacket and cut the sleeves off. I almost prefer using the vest with arm warmers then having a full jacket. I used a back heating pad for sore backs that I got in a pack of three from Walmart. I put the first one on during the overnight portion when I was at mile 45. Helped keep me warm and I believe it did help my back which was a little bit stiff but not terrible. I opened another one and put it on my stomach/torso area right before I crawled under the table to take a rest and little nap. I kept both of the heating pads on until mile 54. At that point, I got hot and took them off. They were very warm and great to use. In future cold races, those are a must.
I had a headlamp to use during the overnight portion of the run. I was not use to using one and so I didn’t carry it. Next time I will definitely use it. It was very bright in some areas and I didn’t want to be that lit up (some places very dark). There is actually a mode on it to dim the light a little bit which I will use for the next time for sure. It’s a lightweight headlight that fits over your head. I was wearing a visor but for the future races I will use a little beanie cap and have the headlamp so that I can see. If I was using it I may have avoided the first fall. Although, it was easy to get into my own rhythm and just cruise along in the dark all night. Most of the path was lit up by the hotels but there were some dark spots. A lot of the other runners had headlights too so that lit up the path as well. Now for the second half of the race.
Now for the second half of the race:
Like I said, I was feeling pretty good at the start. I felt refreshed and recharged and ready to get going. All the energy from the 50 and 35-mile runners were exciting! I had put on some extra warm clothes because I got cold while resting. I felt comfortable and excited to get going. Actually, I was in more of a goofy mood than anything. I was laughing at myself at sleeping under a table in the sand and being able to get away with peeing in-between runners on the two-mile loop without getting caught. I know the lack of sleep and rest was catching up with me a little bit and I was more in a goofy mood or state of mind than anything. I put on some music from my playlist (iPod touch) and just started running at a steady pace. At the first aid station which was at 4.3 miles, they had some food and I had a small cup of fruit and a very small cup of grits and shrimp. It was warm and delicious! After that aid station, the sand started to get thicker. There was a lot fewer spots where it was hard sand and running through the softer sand got me tired quickly. I started running on the harder surfaces walking on the really thick or soft sand. At mile 60 they had some more food at that aid station. They made me a medium sized tortilla with two big pieces of bacon and hash brown potatoes in it. It was very good and I felt energy after I eat it. Right after that aid station, I went through a pretty deep area of water. The water was freezing cold and it came up to just above my knees. It actually felt pretty good on my feet and I just kept going. The wind was starting to really pick up, blowing towards me, which was a challenge. After that 60-mile aid station, it seemed like it took forever to get to the next station which was 5 miles away. The sand was thick and the wind was picking up. I was able to get to mile 65 which was the turnaround point for that out-and-back. I drank half of the large water bottle I carried in my Hydroquiver Pack with electrolytes in it so I refilled that bottle at the station. I also took off some layers of clothes. I took off the compression pants I was wearing, a vest, and my thick beanie cap. I felt a lot more comfortable and easier to run. I also grabbed my sunglasses. I started to noticeably feel some blisters popping up on my toes. Specifically one on my left foot, fourth toe. All the sand in my shoe and the water was not helping. Nothing I could do so I just kept going. The wind was at my back at that point which was awesome. The wind blowing behind me really helped keep pushing me forward which was absolutely wonderful. Then the biggest challenge was the sand. Getting through that thick sand again was not pleasant at all.
Right after mile 70, I was starting to feel lonely again. I saw runner crews coming to meet other runners they were supporting and saw how they were feeling after the visit. Pictures, laughing and having such a good time. I started to think that I wish I had somebody there with me to run with for a little bit. It even crossed my mind that I would give anything to have a pacer for a little while. Little did I know that that prayer would be answered shortly. I had grabbed a bag of skittles and started snacking on them for a little while. The sugar felt good and I used it to keep going and running on the harder sand. (Bad idea to have that much sugar that soon. Next time wait till the 90-mile range to have a sugar boost.) I had another bacon and potato tortilla as I passed that aid station on the way back.
I finally got to mile 80 which was at the start/finish of the race. This is where the main supply station was and most of the crew for the race. This is also where I was going to change into my dry shoes and socks. I sat down on the sand and got my shoes off. The race officials recorded my number and asked if I was OK. I told him that I was and was just going to change out my shoes and keep going. While I took my shoes off somebody noticed my blisters on my toes. They called the medical team and they came over with a big box of supplies. They could not have been any nicer. They put a towel under my feet and brushed off all the sand. They dried off my feet as well. They got the baby powder to keep my feet dry and put it all over. Then a girl cut some moleskin stuff and put some Vaseline on the worst blister, which was the same blister on the left foot. She said that this bulky dressing on your toe will probably not feel very comfortable. I started giggling and said at this point in the race we are way beyond any comfort. They all laughed too. I thanked them all very much and started to get ready to get moving again.
While I was sitting there getting my stuff together a lady came over and started asking me how I was doing. She had asked if I had a snack to take with me and if I needed anything. She filled up my water bottle with ice and water and put it back into my pack. She saw that my blisters were pretty bad and that I was getting tired. I asked her how much time I had until the end of the race and she went to find out. I had exactly 5 1/2 hours to complete the last 20 miles. She was concerned that I was all alone and had to do the rest of the race by myself. I told her that I would be OK and was getting ready to get moving. She said I would make it if I kept a steady pace. Without saying anything, she got a good drink of water and started off with me running. Come to find out it was Connie Gardener :-)!! This is an ultra-marathon lady that I have followed on Facebook for a few years now. I am in awe and amazement of all the races she has done and the huge amount of records she holds. She also has a record for this Destin race at running 114 miles in 24 hours. She has done well over 100 ultramarathons. I had known about her for years but didn’t recognize her while she was in the tent. I asked her what her name was and when she said Connie I knew exactly who she was. I could not believe that she was running with me. It actually blew my mind and I was so grateful that she was running with me. I expected her to only run a couple miles with me if that. I figured I wouldn’t have very much time with her and I wanted to know so many things about her and her career as a runner. I really didn’t know how much time we would have so I started asking a few questions. She told me about some of the races that she’s done and was going to the world championship. She told me about one of the races that she does every year that is extremely difficult (Mohican 100) but she does it consistently every year. She has running magazines follow her and she gets most of the races that she attends comped just for going, and her room comped as well. She is a running celebrity and I felt star struck just being in her presence. I actually cannot believe I was running with her! To say that this kept me moving and motivating me to stay in a positive upbeat mood is an understatement. I was feeling great! She asked me if I was fueling and drinking throughout the race I told her I was. Although, I was starting to get slightly queasy and it was getting more and more difficult to eat. I brought a Bonk Breaker bar but was only able to take one bite. I did manage to drink an entire large bottle of water with some electrolytes in it before I got to mile 88.
We had a great conversation. She told me she predominantly fuels on Hammer electrolytes while she runs. She recovers by swimming. She said for ultramarathons to run the first 60 miles at an effortless easy pace. To always start slow and steady and you will catch up with everyone at the end. Starting off too fast equals a huge mistake and she couldn’t be more right about that because I sure was feeling it. She said she avoids sugar for the first 60 miles of the race. Then when she sees something at an aid station her body wants she will just eat it. She said that if your body sees cookies or crackers or candy or anything on the table that looks desirable to go ahead and eat it at that point (last 20 miles). She tries to save the sugar for the last 10 miles if she can. She said one of her tricks is to have some Coca-Cola at mile 92 or 96, that sugar gives her a boost and gets her strength to the finish and then she immediately throws it up. She told me about how she travels all over the place doing all these races that people call and ask her to be in. Connie did say that the Destin 100 miles on the sand were one of the tougher races. She said that she has run the Umstead 100 many times and that that is a good race to try. I have my eye on that one and really want to do it one day. She ran her first marathon in 1981. She runs in the Boston Marathon every year and is going to run Boston again this year. She has set so many records in so many races that are so impressive.
I asked her about her home life and what she does as a profession. She’s a mother of two girls, one is 24 and one who’s 21 with a developmental challenge disorder. The 21-year-old travels with her to the races. She is divorced but is dating someone. She also works at a running store and is as an assistant coach for a high school. She loves the interaction with the kids. One junior high kid comes into the running store and she has been working with him. He ran a 4:57 mile and is only a junior in high school. She is so proud of him and helps him train for various competitions. She also is a running coach for many other runners.
Lance Armstrong is getting into ultra-marathons now and asked Connie for advice which of course she advises him. It was cool hearing about their interaction. The stories kept my mind distracted from how tired I was. I was really starting to get tired and I couldn’t thank her enough for being there with me. The conversation distraction was perfect. We got to mile 88 and I had to do a 2 mile out and back from the aid station at mile 88. She told me to go do that on my own while she ordered me some food. This was the aid station that was right next to a restaurant that caters food to the runners which were absolutely awesome. The owner of the restaurant is an ultra-runner and supports the race completely like that each year. The staff came out and said they would make me anything I wanted and have it ready by the time I got back from the two-mile loop. I really wasn’t that hungry at the time but I knew I needed to eat something to get to the finish. I asked for one piece of grilled chicken and they said they would have it ready for me by the time I got back. Connie told me to run on the flat sand and walk on the thick sand. She calculated the time and expected me back at a certain time which I could not remember or comprehend as she said it. I did just that and made good time. Ended up getting back 15 minutes sooner than she expected me. She had gone to the bathroom and had a piece of tuna and was ready to run back with me. I thought she may not want to run back with me and just meet me at the finish. I was thrilled when she told me she was going to run to the end with me. I really needed her and I don’t know what I would’ve done without her. They brought the chicken out to me in some aluminum foil and I kept going. I was able to get two small bites down and then save the rest. About a half mile later I was able to eat another bite. Just didn’t have much of an appetite but the chicken was very delicious and warm. It was awesome of them to make it for me and bring it to me so I can keep going.
We started going, running on all the flat areas that were there. She said I was doing great on time and had a good pace going. She said that I would finish with plenty of time to spare if I keep this pace up. I just really wanted to finish as soon as possible and wanted to keep plugging along so I could be done. I was running on another little sand cliff when I got too close to the right side of it and if gave out. I fell and landed on my right knee. I think I twisted it a little bit but I just kept going. I had to finish, I was so close. It was really starting to hurt but I figured that’s how everyone feels after 97 miles of running. I fell one other time after that when the water came rushing up and I tried to jump onto the sand cliff but didn’t jump high enough. I just got up and kept going. I got to the last aid station just as they were packing up. I had 3 1/2 miles to go till the end. The sun was just setting and it got really dark and cold really fast. The wind was kicking and I just wanted to get done and get into another jacket. At the last aid station, I met Zane’s (Race Director) father and he took all my gear so I wouldn’t have to carry anything for the last 3 miles which were really nice. He said he will be at the finish line waiting for me. I was the last runner to come in on this race. There was one other runner behind me but she was going too slow to make it in time and somebody went to pick her up. As I was running in the dark and the cold the thoughts crossed my mind that I would’ve been really scared and alone if I did not have Connie with me. Towards the end, we didn’t even talk just jogged. At some points, I just followed her as she was slightly ahead of me. It was like a mother horse leading her young back home, or so it felt like. That was all that I needed, to just have someone there that I could see and focus on and it was such a huge thing. I was thinking that if I was still alone that this would be a point of breaking down. I don’t think that I would’ve stopped but it was a point where I was just so cold, so tired, so exhausted, in such darkness that it would have just been really difficult. The last 3 miles seems like so far away.
When I finally saw the tents and the lights of the finish line I was just thrilled. A lot of the staff came down to the finish line to cheer for me as I came in. I was so happy to be finished in time. I had 18 minutes before the race was over. I was cutting it a little too close for me, but I did it and I was done! It was absolutely awesome. Zane was there and put the metal around my neck and gave me a hug. Connie ran up to him and grab the belt buckle that all the 100-mile finishers get after they complete the race. She said that she wanted to be the one to give it to me. She gave me the belt buckle and said, “Congratulations on your first hundred miler,” and gave me a hug. I was just so happy and thrilled. Thrilled that I made it and that I had to go through such a hard physical challenge but didn’t give up. Thrilled that Connie ran with me and was actually the one who gave me my first hundred miler belt buckle. I will always remember that moment and how happy and grateful I was. I feel like the angels knew I needed some help and send me the best help I could possibly have imagined. It was such an experience and I’m so glad I went through it, even with how difficult it was.
At the finish line, a Facebook friend who I just met for the first time at the start of the race named Dalia was there with her friends. They were there cheering me on into the finish and that was awesome too. She gave me a big hug and said she was proud of me. I had so many people there for me and I was very grateful for all of them. I had so many people at home following my progress, sending me messages, send me pictures, keeping me uplifted and I was so grateful.
Right after I cross the finish line they all asked me if I needed anything. I just told them I needed to sit down for a second. I found a chair and sat down and people swarmed to me to see if there was anything they could get for me. I told them I just wanted to get a picture with Connie and Zane before my leg stopped working. I got up and a lot of people took my picture. I had one of them take some pictures with my phone. I got a great picture with Connie and I and another one with the three of us with Zane. My legs were starting to get really stiff and I needed to get back to my hotel room right away. Zane asked me if I wanted to go to the awards ceremony which was going to happen in 15 minutes. I told him that I wanted to but I really just needed to get back to my room. Zane was concerned about me driving and asked how far away my hotel was. I told him it was 18 minutes down the road and that I felt like I could get there. He said that there is an empty room in the host hotel that I’m free to have if I wanted it. I thanked him very much but told him I’d rather be back in my room with all my supplies. He said to at least let him find someone to drive me there. I agreed and he got two of his friends to take me. One drove my car and the other drove his truck behind us to take the other guy back.
By the time we got to the hotel I was not able to bend my left knee at all. It had swollen to the size of a small grapefruit. I hobbled upstairs into my room and thanked them both so much for getting me there safely. They were happy to help and went back to the awards ceremony. I then called Matt and Mark and let them know that I finished the race and made it back to my room safe and sound. They were happy to hear from me since I had not been in contact with them for quite a while. I needed to really focus with Connie on that last bit of the race so I was not able to communicate with them. They thought my cell phone had died. They were happy to hear I finished the race and were very proud of me. I then took a hot Epson salt bath and tried to stretch. Took a nice hot shower and got into bed. My appetite was not back so I had a little bit of Cheerios and went right to sleep. My legs were hurting so bad that I couldn’t get comfortable so I took two ibuprofen before going to sleep. The ibuprofen helped (I had not taken any during the race) so much and I was able to get comfortable and sleep really hard for nine hours straight.
I woke up and felt so much better. After I started moving around a little bit my legs were starting to feel a lot better. I was able to bend my left knee without having to help do it. I took another hot shower and felt even better. I was actually starting to move around a lot easier than I thought I would. I was concerned the night before since I was so stiff that I could hardly move. I decided to go ahead and get up, packed up the rest my stuff and head out. I am anxious to get home to see the boys and get a big hug.
After I left the hotel my appetite came back and I was starving. I stopped at a pancake breakfast place and made an order to go. I had an omelet, hash browns, and grits. The waitress was super nice and felt bad that I had waited so long for my order to be ready. I took my time eating breakfast slowly and got ready to drive back. I’m a little less than four hours away from home right now and feeling great. I’m doing the voice to text on my phone so I could drive without distraction. I wanted to get all this information down before I forgot it.
When I had a few moments during the race I went through all the Facebook messages that people left. It was overwhelming the amount of support I got. I was so thankful and surprised to see so many people rooting for me. I do want to mention something before it slips my mind. That was the importance of a hotel room. I originally was just going to car camp at the host hotel for this race. That would’ve been a very bad idea. I am very thankful that Janice insisted on getting me a hotel room. I was not thinking or realized how badly I was going to need it. It was important to get some good rest before the start of the race of course. The most important part of the room was that it was really needed after the race. I was so stiff and in pain that there was going to be no way that I was going to be able to sleep in the car and get any sort of comfort. I needed that bed with lots of pillows and to get a good night’s sleep so I could make this drive home today. (For future races like this a hotel room is absolutely essential). I stayed at the Days Inn Destin which was on the cheaper side. It had everything I needed and was close enough to the race. I felt safe there and comfortable. I hope to stay there again if I do this race again. I have no doubt that I will do another hundred mile race one day but I’m not sure where or when. I don’t even want to worry about that right now. I’m still smiling at the accomplishment of this one.
As far as soreness the main part that got sore were my knees, particularly the left one. Then the next uncomfortable point were the blisters on my toes. My lips got chapped by the wind towards the end, even with lip balm. Other than that I was feeling pretty good. My right shoulder was a little bit stiff but nothing bad. My back got a little bit stiff as well but again nothing bad at all. The heat pad helped my back a lot. I may use a heating pad on my shoulder on the next race. I should have brought and used my KT tape for my knees. Having extra support would’ve been useful. Or run in compression pants or both
At one point during the race, I started to feel very confident about what I was doing. I was in a better state of mind and was thinking that I was strong for being able to do this, especially on my own. This was after I started in the morning at 5 AM when I was still feeling good. I was feeling like I was having fun with the race and enjoying the beach. I was enjoying the whole experience and the trip while trying to savor every moment.
Then I got to a point where I started to feel very grateful for everything that I have. I started thinking about the people that were closest to me in my life and how I cherish the relationships with them so much. The family that is in my life are very dear to me and I know I can count on them. I’m so extremely lucky to have married into such a wonderful family. They have a lot of values that I consider very important. The traveling and doing things together really means a lot to me. I thought about those trips while I was running. All the funny moments’ during our trips to Disney and other running destinations. The laughs that we’ve all experienced together. There was a good portion of the race where I was running along and smiling at those memories. I thought about how funny Janice is for always being so prepared. She always packs everything that we would possibly need and then extra for everyone else. It’s like she knows all the situations that could pop up and is so prepared for it every single time. I thought about the dumpster diving for my racing bib when we were at Disney. We have all heard and laughed at that story so many times but it’s always so funny. Thought about how happy and excited Matt is about everything. He’s the most positive person in my whole life I am so lucky to be married to him. Our relationship is so secure and honest and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I also thought about how he has never put any limits on me or my life. Whether it be something I wanted to try to do our experience he has always supported me. Even this race. I thought it would be best to go down and do it on my own so I could focus and really reflect on life and he supported that. I know he would’ve been there in a heartbeat but I felt like it was something I needed to do on my own. Every crazy idea I have he has always backed me up. I truly feel like every year has gotten better in our relationship. Communication especially. We do not argue and fuss nearly as much or as intensely as we use to. Mark has been a great addition to our lives as well. As much as he drives me crazy he always manages to say and do the sweetest things that let me know that he truly cares about us. We’ve made great memories together and I hope to have much more.
I’m grateful that the relationship between my mom and I continues to grow so strong. It’s always been close but it’s been great living in Charlotte and being able to consistently visit with her. It’s also great to be so close to Brandon and to be a part of his life. He is such a special kid and I deeply love him. I’m grateful for my relationship with my sister Melissa but wish she lived closer. I’m glad she’s happy and has two beautiful boys, she loves being a mother. I’m also grateful for cutting ties and not being a part of the toxic relationship with my dad and my sister Heather. They both are bad people and are very destructive. My life is more positive and healthier without them and I am glad that I realize that now and make efforts not to have them as a part of my life any longer. This allows me to focus on the people that actually do matter. I’m also very grateful for the friends that I have. There’s a good handful of friends that I can always count on to be there. I have a lot of acquaintances that care about me but a good handful of them I know I can count on for love and support as well.
All the sweet messages and notes that I received during the race were very powerful. Just knowing that people are following my progress and thinking about me and sending me positive energy meant a lot. Reading those messages at night and during the times that I felt weak really helped to lift me up. My sister Melissa sent me a funny text in the morning that made me laugh too. It was a picture of Tyler and Evan in a shopping cart at Target. The message said they were going to get coffee and play with Legos all day while they cheered me on during the race. Then it said,” keep running Stephanie!”. It was really cute and came at a good time. I’m so fortunate to have so many people in my life that care so much for me. I think that’s one of the biggest things is just knowing that people do care. I care about them very much as well and to know that it’s reciprocated is a wonderful feeling. This is odd but very true for races like this. Feelings that I experienced during the race seem to be so intensified. Whether its feelings of being alone, being happy, being confident, love, or feeling grateful is so magnified. I’m not sure I would call it runner’s high but just intensified emotion. At one point I felt like such a humble human being. To be out there, putting my body through such a difficult demand was intense. People would come up to me wanting to help me if they could, bring me things if I wanted, give me food if I want it, and help me with my blisters. Then Connie going with me and running the last 20 miles with me was just simply amazing. It’s amazing how such little things are so appreciated when you’re in that state.
Another intense moment was when I got to my hotel room and I close the door and saw that comfortable bed sitting there waiting for me. I had no intention of getting a hotel room and thought as I looked at that bed how fortunate I was. It seems silly like I’m making a big deal about a hotel room, but again the emotions are intensified. Janice cared enough and worried enough about my safety and comfort to insist on giving me that. I wasn’t going to stop her and greatly appreciated it but didn’t know I was going to be needing it so badly. Going to that room after the race and being able to take a hot bath with Epson salt and get a good night’s sleep was absolutely amazing. I slept so hard for a solid nine hours and felt like a whole new person the next morning. It’s little things that happen in life that you don’t expect that really make a big difference. The gesture of getting the room just because she was concerned and cared was a big deal to me especially that night. Receiving text from Matt with encouragement and love and hugs and kisses felt wonderful too. Knowing that he was at home and cheering me on and supporting me was a great feeling. I can always count on him to support me and again the feelings were intensified. I think that is one of the things that draws me to such hard challenges. Its emotions like that that you normally are not able to experience are able to happen. The good ones and the bad ones=worth it.
I am proud of myself for being able to set my mind to something and get it done. I love the training experiences that come with the preparation of the race. I love the work that it takes to get ready. I like the way my body looks and feels when I feel ready to take on this challenge. I like how good I feel at the end when I know I did something so hard. How difficult it was to keep going and how bad my body was aching and hurting but I just kept going. I like the mindset that I’m not to give up. The feeling of pushing through for something I badly want feels great. I want to apply that to other areas of my life. I want to be that strong for my relationship and for Matt. To be that strong in my job to help people and continue my education. To be that strong with being a good person, doing the right thing for my family and for those I love. I knew that I would experience some intense emotions during this challenge but I had no idea what kind. That’s why I wanted to write this down, to really express how I felt during those moments. I want to remember these feelings and their intensity.
There was a moment during the race where I did question why I was doing it. Why was I torturing my body and mind so hard? Why put myself through all of this so I can get to the finish line and get a metal. Those thoughts really didn’t last very long because I do know why I did it, and why I will do it again. I did the race because I knew I could do it. Because I have the opportunity and was capable of going through that experience and I took it. To have the opportunity and ability to do something like that. To be able to get to a level of suffering that it really makes you a humble human being. I know that doesn’t make any sense but when you’re out there running it’s very clear. I feel like I am who I am because of the experiences I have gone through and the people in my life. It’s easy to forget that, but once you’re out there all by yourself, alone with your thoughts, your mind wanders to a place where you realize that the significant moments, people, and memories make up the amazing life you have. Seeing Matt on the dance floor that night and dancing with him for the rest of the night I really had no idea it would change my life forever. He has been the best person to walk into my life. The opportunity to be a part of a wonderful family that cares about us and to never have limits put on my life gives me the confidence and love to go after my goals. One of the distinct memories that I have with Andre was back in October during my first IronMan in Wilmington North Carolina. There was a moment before the race started that will always be special to me and I will never forget every detail of it. I was in my wetsuit and standing in the crowd about to start to swim at the very beginning of the race. I was nervous and excited but very happy that Janice, Andre, Matt, and Mark were all there to support me. The parking situation before the race was very difficult and I wasn’t sure I was going to see anybody before I started. Matt and Mark brought me to the race and I jumped on a shuttle to get to the start of the race in time. I wasn’t sure if I was going to see them again, which was ok. Janice and Andre drove their own car and I wasn’t sure they were going to be able to park in time and see me either. I was OK with it if I didn’t get to see them because I knew I would see them later on in the day. Literally two minutes before the start of the race I saw Andre running up towards the crowd saying “where is she? where is she?” (I tear up just thinking about this moment and took a little pause)…….I saw him and ran towards him. The look on his face I will never in my life forget. He saw me and with a single tear rolling down his cheek he grabbed me in a huge hug and said he was so proud of me. I cry good tears of course thinking of this memory. No man in my entire life has ever hugged me like that, with true feelings and expressing that they were proud of me. When you grow up not having love and support from the father figure like that you get used to it. You don’t really realize what you’re missing until you see it on someone’s face and feel it in the hug they give you. Again it was a very intense moment of feelings for me. A moment that is clearly in my mind forever. The look on his face, the atmosphere of the race, and the feeling of that hug meant more to me than anything. I have a few times thought about telling him how special that moment was to me but knew that I would not be able to keep it together if I did. That is another memory that went through my mind during difficult points of the race. Knowing that I had family behind me that were proud of me. Whether I finished the race or not, they were proud of me.
A message from my friend Stephen before the race starts on Saturday. It was a sweet and touching message:
Hey, honey, you’ve got this. You can do it. If anyone can it’s you. All the blood sweat and tears you’ve lost. You can do this. You’re the strongest most determined person I know. When you set your mind to something you can do it. You’re as beautiful on the inside as you are on the outside with the heart of a lioness. Nothing can stop you. I’ve watched you grow over the last few years pushing and pushing wishing I had an ounce of what you have. You can do this. Run faster, push harder you can do this. I have every bit of faith in you. I’ll be pulling for you every step of the way. Because I know you can do this, my dear beautiful friend. May the sun be on your face and the wind at your back. You can do this. This girl is AWESOME! She (you) can do this!!! Good running. Be safe. Love you, your number one fan.
A message from Christy Johnston. She was the female winner in the 27-hour division which I was in. I came in second. She did an amazing job and I was happy to get this message from her:
A message from my friend Christy who ran the 100+ miles that day also:
Hi Stephanie, I ran the Destin Beach Ultra with you this weekend, the 27 hours, and I just wanted to tell you Congratulations on an amazing finish. You ran a really great race, but I was so inspired by your grit and determination to finish. I’ve run a couple of 100s, and that is what these things are all about. Not finish times or places, but who has the grit to gut out the hurt and pain and get to the finish line. You were an inspiration out there! I live in Destin. If you ever return and need a crew or pacer, I’d be happy to help (of course, I wouldn’t be a Connie Gardner!) Wishing you a great recovery. Congrats again!
Thank you so much for this message! I was happily surprised to receive it. So kind of you to take the time to say that. It was difficult but I feel great that I finished smile emoticon That was my first 100 and I thought it was an incredible experience. You did an amazing job yourself! I told Connie when you passed us at mile 92 that you were doing great and deserved that first place spot. 108 is a great accomplishment and you should be so proud!
That was my first 100 race and it was really an amazing experience. Everyone was so kind. I was very pleasantly surprised that Connie paced me at the end. I needed her more than I knew. It was an honor to run with her and that really made that race awesome for me.
That’s cool that you live in Destin, so lucky. It’s beautiful there. I really appreciate the offer for your help. I will send you a Facebook friend request so we can keep in touch. It would be fun to watch what other races you do and how they go. In the future, I will be sure to ask if I need help or a pacer. Thank You! It would be great to run with you and hear about your ultra journey so far. You are one tough chick and your run this weekend was impressive. The race was more difficult than I had expected and I realized at the last 15-20 miles that doing that trip solo was not the wisest decision I made, lol. Next year (hopefully) I will see you there or have a pacer.
Thanks again for the message. Hope your recovery is going well also. Have a great day.
I’m sorry. 110 miles…even better. Good job!
Hi Stephanie, thank you very much for your kinds words. I, fortunately, had last year’s experience (in which I was basically beaten and broken down and barely eeked out a finish) to prepare me for this year. I’m so glad to hear your experience was something positive, especially for your first 100.
When I heard you had finished, I went out to the beach to say congrats, but the volunteers said you had just left. Hate I missed you but wanted you to know what an amazing performance you gave, and how inspiring it was to the rest of us.
I’ve found that my most special races are those that are the hardest, in which I’ve fallen apart, then gotten back up and put myself together again, and gotten to the finish line. You learn so much about yourself when you choose that path. That’s so awesome that Connie stepped in to pace you. What a great memory of your first 100!
I do hope you’ll return. Zane puts on a great race. I’ve been involved in one or another for the past few years. He pours his heart and soul into it, as does his family.
Best of luck in your training. Please let me know if I can ever help and if you do need a pacer (if Connie is busy :)), I’d be glad to help.