Many people know the story of #4Bunny. Many do not. If you don’t, I suggest you read this first:
If you choose not to, in a nutshell, I made a promise to my Mom (Bunny) on her deathbed to find my joy again and to go back to ultra running. To go after the elusive 50 Mile I had been wanting and training for back in 2012.
In October of 2013 I had unexpected spine surgery. This surgery takes approximately a year for the body to completely heal. I walked a lot for rehab, and 90% of my training in 2014 was on the elliptical to reduce impact and allow my body to heal completely. It wasn’t until after October 2014 that I finally kicked the elliptical to the curb and was able to hit the trails, the treadmill, and pavement again.
In February 2014 I went for a walk at my favorite new park, just down the street from my house. I arrived to see a bouncy house and tents everywhere. It looked like a big ole carnival. Turns out it was the inaugural Jackpot Ultra Running Festival. I took a few laps, chatted with people who were in their darkest hour and helped to keep them moving forward. I was hooked. Went home and made a note to register for 2015 as soon as registration opened.
Training and nutrition was spot on for this race. My only setback was coming down with the flu 3 weeks before the race.
I kept pretty quiet about everything publically. Only a few close people knew what I was training for and my goals. Whenever I make a race public or talk openly about my goals it implodes. It’s my own personal curse. I also don’t like the pressure that other people’s expectations and unsolicited advice that public discussion of my races brings.
I originally signed up for the 12-hour race, but really wanted to fulfill the 50 Mile promise to Mom. I knew that if I got to 12 hours and missed 50 I would be livid with myself. So I upgraded to the 24 hour. Having that time cushion was really freeing. No pressure. Goal was to be vertical at the finish. In my head, if I reached 50 and was still moving I would go for 100k but after 50 Miles, the promise to Mom would be fulfilled.
Pre race calls with my Coach and business partner Rebecca Adamson and registered dietician Dina Griffin had me pumped up. Thank you Rebecca and Dina for everything you both did to set me up for nothing but success in this race.
Fuel prepped and ready to go for race day (GenUCAN, Nuun, PB/Honey/See Salt Sandwiches, Pickle juice, Lara Bars (ended up not using them), Salt and Vinegar chips (didn’t use them), Peanut Butter pretzels (also ended up not using), PlowON gum, peppermint gum, and BCAAs (my secret weapon):
Went to bed and slept amazing. Best night’s sleep before a race, ever.
Race morning I sent my husband and son off to CA, my son had a hockey tournament I was going to miss (sad panda). They also would not be there for my race (double sad panda). After I sent them off I had my breakfast and loaded up the car. I got to the race an hour before the start. My crew chief, teammate and close friend Kathryn Bruce was there with bells on. We set on to set up base camp. Fellow Idiots Running Club running buddy Heather Rowley set up her base camp next door. This was going to be awesome.
The atmosphere was electrifying. The weather was GORGEOUS. I am a local so unseasonably high temps expected to reach 80 was still lovely to me. I felt bad for those from other places. It was going to be hot. When they felt great at night, I was going to freeze.
The starting siren sounded and that’s when my heart went to my throat. Showtime!
Quite literally as I crossed over the start line off to the right was a huge group yelling, “Go Kristie” a huge surprise of a group of people from my son’s school. Had to stop and give hugs all around. What a big surprise! One of them snapped this shot on one of my first laps (thank you Amy Tassin and family!)
The racecourse is familiar. I train here. It was a 2.38-mile loop. My son learned to ride his bike here. I walked here during rehab after surgery. I was “home”. I was in my element.
One of the best pieces of advice I received before the race was if something hit my radar, address it immediately. Do not wait. I trained in the shoes I was wearing race morning with no issues. None. No blisters, nothing. Perfect shoes. 3-4 laps in my feet hit my radar like a missile. Something was wrong. Very wrong. My shoes didn’t fit. My feet had swollen (my guess from sodium load the night before and the increasing heat on the course) and I had hot spots starting all over both feet. There was no way I would make it 24 hours in these shoes, let alone 4. I hopped into my tent and put on my backup pair of shoes. UGH. Too big. I was sliding all over. Made it one lap, came back, tried on other shoes, nope. Ok. Pair number two was going to be it. I slathered more body glide on my feet, reapplied sunscreen, and off I went.
Kathryn had a sheet of paper, a fuel tracking log on my table so each lap I could check in and document what I was taking in and to serve as my brain because literally after 2 laps my brain cut off and I was on autopilot. She also had a sign where she was writing down comments that people were sending to me via social media. Seeing this each lap was energizing.
Many races I have run have been motivated completely by demons. Anger, resentment, feelings of having to prove myself, and self worth. While I had some demons for this race, this race was different. It was so positive and uplifting. I can tell you this race was the first one where it was all surrounded by positivity and support. No pressure. Just support. My friends, family, Storm Hockey Family, #TeamNC buddies, Idiots Running Club buddies, KR Endurance sponsors and KR Endurance teammates were all so supportive and encouraging, I felt unstoppable.
Friend Bobbie Davis showed up (time I have no clue) and would be there for the duration. She and Kathryn were my rocks for this entire race.
Teammate and friend Teri Radke was at the aid station volunteering, seeing a familiar face on each lap was great. She would come back and take a couple laps with me after her shift and a couple at night. The most memorable was in the middle of the night we were completing a lap and coming to the Start/Finish line and the song “Best Time of My Life” was blasting. We started singing and dancing. It was awesome.
Teammate and friend Jennifer Teft and family showed up and surprised me. Moments like this in an event like this give you energy to keep moving forward.
Ice buckets were on the course so you could (as in my case) dunk your visor in and/or pour cold water over you in the heat of the day. This was a nice touch for this race. Also hats off to my volunteer buddy who handed me ice to shove into my sports bra every lap.
The day hours went in a blur. I put my headphones on and listened to tunes and enjoyed the scenery.
Charlene Ragsdale, who I had not seen since RNRLV 2013, came at the 11th hour and we did a few laps together. Laughing, chatting, and catching up right where we left off. She captured a funny moment after a pit stop I took. Yes folks, this race was at a park, there were BATHROOMS with soap, water, soft toilet paper, and hand dryers. If you were feeling nostalgic you could hit the porta potties if you so desired too. The race directors were AWESOME and thought of everything.
Let me go on record that I great big puffy heart pickle juice and duct tape. In the heat of the day I would take swigs of pickle juice and it tasted like the greatest thing ever. Duct tape was my friend after lancing blisters- “we’ve got a squirter!!” and taping up my feet. I would NOT have made it without duct tape, thank you Kathryn for bringing this. Our base camp ended up being the location of blister lancing and duct taping for other runners on the course too. If you have duct tape…. they will come…
I talked to my husband and son at some point, I vaguely remember. But it kept me moving.
Some time in the middle of the night it happened. I reached the 50-mile mark. To mark the moment my crew, Bobbie and Kathryn greeted me on that lap in a way that had many thinking they were hallucinating. When I saw them I doubled over laughing. I love you two girls. So much!
I had prepared myself for “the darkness” that would hit my mind and I would battle at a race of this distance. It never came. Not once. I smiled and had a blast the whole time. Even at night when the course was lonely and my feet were screaming. Still then every runner who passed waved, high fived…. lap after lap, after lap, after lap.
The darkness may not have come, but the cold did. Boy did it ever.
I did not plan for cold enough. I didn’t. My spine surgery left me sensitive to cold. I did not pack enough clothes. One lap I sat down at base camp and Bobbie and Kathryn loaded me up with blankets. Blister lancing session #2 also took place. Kathryn stripped off her fabulously floral toasty warm leggings, bundled me with 2 fleece jackets, and gloves. Warm and toasty and feeling good again Kathryn and I set out for a few laps. She kept me entertained and distracted.
One memorable lap, as we were circling the lake, the birds started waking up. You would hear the chatter. A look off to the east you could just see the dawn barely hinting on the horizon. I looked at Kathryn “holy sh$t, I am going to do this, I survived the night”.
Dear friend Fatima Valeras showed up and relieved Kathryn of pacing and took over as my anchor. Another rock in my life I am thankful for Fatima. We set off. Chatting. Catching up. The sun started coming up. I saw lap after lap my goal of 100k was approaching. I was going to do this. I was.
Layers of clothes came off as the sun came up. Seeing the grit and determination of people still on the course as the sun came up was amazing and inspiring. Some running, some limping, some being held up by their pacers. All, smiling, even through the pain.
Let me tell you from the start to the finish everyone on the course was friendly, supportive, amazing. Lap after lap after lap. If I had a dollar for every “good job” I heard out there, I would be a millionaire. I can honestly tell you this is the first race I have ever experienced anything like that.
So the joke was on me. I wanted 100k, which is 62.1371 miles. Lap 26 would be 61.88 miles. Seriously? I would have to tough it out to lap 27. I had 3 laps to go and was figuring all this out. I had plenty of time to do them. I was going to sit and rest 15 minutes between laps. Fatima was pushing me, 3 laps, get it done then sit down and relax until the 24-hour mark.
A few feet from the Start/Finish line, which would be my finish, at lap 27 I was at roughly 22 hours. I wanted to make sure if I went through the finish and had the lap counted that I would not have to come back and do another. Basically when I reached 64.25 I wanted to be done. Finished. My crew found the wonderful race directors Stephanie and Ken, they said absolutely when I wanted to finish, I would finish. I could go home. MUSIC TO MY EARS.
I said, “Oh ok then” and in anti climactic fashion sauntered through the finish. Stephanie (race director) put my medal around my neck. Then it happened, my brain freaked. I started melting down. It’s as if my brain said “and we’re done”. People were trying to take pictures of me. I tried to collect myself. I couldn’t. I was trying to block photos. It was bizarre. Bobbie got in my face looked me right in the eye; don’t remember what she said but it snapped me out of it. A couple photos were taken. The best one captured my shock of what had just happened
I went back to base camp, my crew had packed it all up; I didn’t have to lift a finger. They made sure I could drive home. Then in parking lot, it hit me what just happened and I started bawling. I had done it. My first “official” ultra and I did 64.25 miles (my 50k was an unsupported virtual for skin cancer awareness). I could not have done it without all the support I had from amazing people.
We stopped for a minute and took a selfie and I drove home:
Trying to document 24 hours of the most painful fun I have ever had is difficult, timing is approximate because things start running together, and there was so much awesome I am sure I left things out. Accept my apologies if thank you’s weren’t big enough or if I left something out. After 24 hours of punishment, the brain goes a wee bit bonkers.
I also wish I could mention every runner out there on the course. I felt like we all bonded and became friends. Truly an amazing group of people. Thank you again to Stephanie and Ken for a great race. Thank you to the volunteers, you were all amazing.
I got home from the race and was hobbling. Immediately got my post race recovery fuel and went to the backyard and stuck my feet in my freezing cold cement pond (pool) for an ice bath.
I couldn’t stand back up. My feet hurt. My ankles hurt. I crawled to my pool fence and pulled myself up. I was thankful my family was not there, but then thought oh boy I may need them. In the end this was a good thing for them not to be there. It made me keep moving.
I took a nap. Maybe 2 hours? WHAT? I had been up for 27 hours and couldn’t sleep more than 2 hours. Got out of bed and was certain I was going to need crutches. Something. Hobbled back down the stairs and back out to the backyard for more ice bath. This time I was able to stand up. I kept moving and then went to the store for my post race pizza I had been dying for this whole training cycle. Bonus with my husband and son out of town I would not have to share. Came back from the store moving fairly easily, back out to the pool again for another ice bath.
Insert bragging Mom comment here. Remember why my son and husband could not be there? My son had a hockey tournament. They WON!
Monday morning I got up. Moving well. Feeling REALLY good. Easily going up and down the stairs. Went to the chiropractor, nothing out of whack. He worked on sore ankles. Many thanks to Dr. Easton of Dr. Easton Family Chiropractic who not only diagnosed my neck issue resulting in spine surgery ridding me of the pain, but he put me back together again. No WAY could I have done this without Doc and Martha.
Tuesday I got up, not sore at all. Nope. Nothing. Ok, didn’t I just run 64.25 miles? C’mon at least give me some satisfactory DOMS. But you know what? This is what strong training and nutrition looks like, before, during and after a race. I had a 90-minute sports massage Tuesday evening. All was well, just a little tight here and there, but all good.
Wednesday morning with the blessing from family and Coach Rebecca, this happened
To prevent from imploding I won’t say what race distance/time I signed up for, but I will say this, Jackpot thank you for one of the most memorable moments of my life. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise…I’ll see you next year.
I’ve thanked a lot of people in this recap, but thank you is not a big enough word for what people did for me. Two people however need a special thank you. My husband Joel and son Ty. Without their support during training for this race, I would not have been able to do it. Patience during training patters, nutritional patterns and taper madness I love you both to the moon and back. Thank you both for being my sun, moon and stars. I love you.