Monday, November 16, 2015


I sat on the king-sized hotel bed at the Mountainview Best Western the night before the Double Tap 50K race in Ellijay, GA. It had been a busy week, what with rehearsals and preparations for our school’s participation in the state’s High School Musical Theater Awards, two long days of tech rehearsal at the Cobb Center in Atlanta, and a very long evening of award giving, performances, and speeches. I had received a nomination for best musical director, but in the end a veteran teacher much older than I won, deservedly so.
I was spent, extremely fatigued and running on fumes. There wasn’t much hope of completing the entirety of the next day’s distance;nonetheless, I still had a race to at least try the next day.
As my friend Kelly and I sat on the bed eating pizza (we had ordered a medium pizza to share between the both of us, but somehow ended up with two extra-large supreme know, CARB LOADING...) we started to talk about our upcoming race plans, because that’s what you do before and immediately after a difficult race. She had signed up for Bryce Canyon 50M and I was waffling between signing up for another 50k or my first 50M.

I then decided that I wanted to celebrate the end of my thirties and the beginning of my forties in style. I wanted something different, something out of the box and way out of my comfort zone. To many seasoned marathoners and ultrarunners, moving up on the distance continuum is a natural, logical step. You do a few marathons, then graduate to 50Ks and 50Ms. Then you may or may not take the leap to doing 100Ks and 100Ms. Those are for the crazy folks and freaks.
The Javelina Jundred was a race that had been milling about in my conscience for the past few months. Reading posts on the Trail and Ultrarunning Facebook page and several race reports made me simultaneously shy away and really want to attack this seemingly impossible distance. My curiosity was piqued, and I wondered aloud if I should go ahead and sign up for this crazy sounding race, even though it was a distance way beyond what I thought I could actually achieve. I had read about Jamil Coury and his girlfriend's family in Trail Runner Magazine and was a bit afraid that I was about to be drawn into this mysterious world of ultramarathoning outside of the east coast, to the point of no return.

“Should I do it? Should I do it? What if I can’t? Should I do it? KELLY!!! TELL ME WHAT TO DO!”

“Do it.” she said without skipping a beat.

“Ok. I did it.” I clicked on the purchase button on UltraSignup and posted it on Facebook. I was committed. I had just announced to my ever increasing public that I was about to do some crazy shit. 

Then I started to panic. WHAT DID I JUST DO???

The next morning we drove to the start line of the Double Tap 50K. I DNF’d. There were bears. Kelly finished with a great time. We drove home. I worried that I hadn’t desired/been able to finish Double Tap, what with its power-line climb and ridiculous other elevation gain and bears. Did I mention the bears already? I worried that maybe this meant I wouldn’t be able to finish the race I had just signed up for and paid through the nose for. Maybe I had just wasted upwards of $250. Maybe….


Right after school let out in early June, I began a training regimen that was part Relentless Forward Progress (I tried to keep my weekend long runs in tandem with Bryon Powell’s suggested length and frequency of back to back runs)  and part do-whatever-the-hell-I-think-works-today. I signed up for several races: The Tortoise and the Hare Hourly Ultra in Canton, GA, the Finger Lakes 50s 50K in Hector, NY, the Catamount 50K in Stowe, VT (I dropped down to the 25K--those HILLS tho’...), the Montour 12 Hour Run Danville, PA, the Wildcat Ridge Romp 50K (I dropped down to the 10M option because of extreme fatigue and having to drive 13 hours the next day to Georgia from New Jersey) and finally the Georgia Jewel 35 Miler in Dalton, GA.

Each race propelled me towards my goal race in different ways:

From the Tortoise and the Hare, I learned to run through the night without much stopping. I also learned that eating only watermelon for the bulk of 50K is a great idea in theory, but if you want to be able to get food down the next day, you should probably eat other food too.

At the Finger Lakes 50s, I learned to keep going through calf-high mud and rain and general grossness, mental fatigue and a daunting second loop that was guaranteed to be longer and more difficult. I also learned (well, I actually knew this already) that my mom is the absolute best crew and best race traveling buddy I could ever have.

From the Catamount 25K, I learned that there is excellent running in Vermont, (and how have I never spent any real time up there in the mountains being a northerner and all?)  I also learned that the Von Trapp family is alive and well. In all seriousness, the most important lesson I learned up in Stowe is that trail folks are the same everywhere, and even if the aid-station fare and trail-talk change slightly by region, the heart of the trail running community remains constant.

At the Montour run, I learned that I could actually still run at a fairly brisk-for-me clip after 26.5 miles without pain. I also discovered that having a wine festival happening at the same park wasn’t entirely bad. Sangria at mile 19 and beer at mile 23...

Wildcat is always a crap shoot for me. I never actually know how much I’m going to finish. It’s a ten mile loop course that has some pretty difficult trailrunning as part of it. I did 10 miles this summer and discovered that when I don't need to go on, I can stop and not feel bad or remorseful.

Finally, I hadn’t been planning on really doing the Georgia Jewel, since I had NOT enjoyed running in the dark for the 1.5 hours it took me to get through the first 6 miles of the all uphill in the beginning course the previous year. A friend suggested I do it, and after much back and forth and rearranging of plans and school duties that same week, I did it. I’m so happy that Hunk Hulsey gently but insistently urged me to get my run on up in the Carpet Capital of the US. I believe it was the GJ that made the difference in my leg strength and physical endurance along with perseverance and mental fortitude. I also came up with a whole host of new mantras that day and an insatiable appetite for Panda Express Saigon Beef and fried rice that day.


I went to work telling anyone and everyone who would listen, including NBC and various other media outlets that I was training for the JJ100K. This made it real for me. I would have to do it, unless I wanted to be the girl who said she would but then didn’t.  I would have to prove to myself that this fat girl could actually keep moving for 62 miles and in less than 29 hours, despite the internal doubt that pestered me from time to time, and despite the moments of fear that I wouldn’t be able to finish the distance.

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