Two Bare Feet, One Hail Storm, and 24 hours

Blog entry posted by Barefoot HannahC, Sep 27, 2012.

The endurance weekend started unexpectedly on Thursday at 7:30 pm in the emergency room at the Cleveland Clinic. My husband was having a possible bad reaction to a tetanus shot: soreness, fever, muscle fasciculations. We were a few miles and 36 hours from the start of the North Coast 24. We couldn't be farther away. No race was worth being away unless something improved.

I felt like the biggest ass on the planet. Only a few days before I had joked, "This time don't end up in the emergency room." My first marathon and first bare foot race, the Cleveland Marathon 2011, ended with him at the Akron City emergency room for an unknown allergic reaction. Our nurse was an ultra runner.

She was going to run my dream race at the time, the BR100, in a few months.
Out of the hospital at 1:30am and home at 2:30am. The doctor didn't seem worried, but there were no real answers just another 'If it gets worse, come back.' That is already why we were back.

It was going to be a short night and a long day. I would be up by 5:30, go to work, a last minute run to the store, pack, and clean the bathroom as company is coming over whether I'm there or not. So, 5 hours of sleep. Less, really, as I never sleep well before races. Still, I'm not sure I should go.

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The skies were beautiful and pink that morning.




Things seemed better race day morning. To be honest, I was a little afraid to ask. It felt like a long drive.

The park was already busy. The course just past the start line was already filled with tents of all sizes to be used by runners and those fortunate enough to have crews. Some pop ups looked like "pseudo-GNC outlets" as described by one racer. My little two man backpacking tent was spacious and easy to carry. Aside from getting dropped off and picked up, I would have no crew. Not that I'd know what to do with one anyways.

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Tent city before the storms

The race started at 9:00an. The start was set back a short ways to make 100 miles an easy 111 laps. 100 miles earned a belt buckle. I so wanted one. I don't even wear belts. Some people read Born to Run and walk away saying, "People run barefoot?" I walked away saying, "People run 100 miles?"

I tried to line up at the back. Humorously, so did nearly everyone else. We had to move up a little before race start. I had the good fortune to line up beside #45. He was friendly, charming, and had me at the mention of running 3 and 7 day races. As if there ever could have been anything better than 100? I need to get there. I have a long way to go.

Another gentleman beside him mentioned that he could loan me a right shoe, but not a left. It turns out he had brought about 12 right shoes and 2 lefts. He has more problems with the right foot. There was also a mention of running the state of Michigan at the age of 65. I think he may be the most interesting man in the world.

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With all respect and a little humor

And we were running. Everyone seemed like old friends. The running joke in the beginning was, "I have all day." If I had any wish, I would have written down everyone's stories of how/why they were there.

The course is a .9 mile loop with two little up hills and for the most part a slight downhill. Somehow, they managed to work the course where the uphills get steeper as the day goes on and each loop gets a little longer. I was four loops in when I realized that I had started out way too fast. I tried to correct, but would pay for it later.

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In the Zone. Photo by johnnydajogger.smugmug.com

Later, some people thought I was in 'the zone.' Mostly, I was worried about Adam and feeling selfish. He is the type to tell me everything is O.K., drop me off, and drive straight to the hospital. It is to keep me from worrying. I react by worrying about every little thing. There was nothing to do but suck it up and, "Run with endurance the race set before you." Hebrews 12:1-2. It was a quote off of a race shirt that has stuck with me. It was time to set anything but the race aside or it would be too heavy to carry.

There is a theory that setting small, medium, and hard goals can help with race motivation. For such a large race, I set a series of mini goals. The first goal was to not do anything that landed me in the medical tent even if it meant stopping early. Goal two was to cross the start line. There is no DNF in a race that is go as far as you can in 24 hours. Three was 26.3 miles for one more ultra. Harder was 41.7 miles to pass my longest run to date followed by 50 and 52. 52 was the distance of the race I DNF'd in this year and redemption.

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Maybe it won't hit here. Storm photo by Pat Dooley.

Around 3:40 pm the storm hit. There had been a crew putting up trivia questions on a white board. They put up a notice to expect a storm and even hail. I shrugged. As someone who had lived in Cleveland before, never expect better from Lake Erie. The winds were estimated at near 60 miles per hour. They were bitter cold.

The Race Director was on his megaphone directing runners to take cover. It was raining sideways and the wind was bitter cold. I paused in the pavilion for a minute, but was soaked. The icy winds were cutting me to the bone. Finally, I decided to bolt to my tent for a few more layers. On the way, Denise of DaDivaRunning threw a poncho at me and another lady ran out to help put it on. I said something about ducking into my tent and dove in in that amazing action hero fashion that would be seen by none.

The hail had hit about 20 feet before I reached the tent. It was like someone had dumped 1000 snow cones all at once. hail is sharp! At least on asphalt. I checked my feet as soon at the tent was zipped. There were faint marks, but nothing to be concerned about. No point in going out til the hail melted. Rest and food were in order.

Some crazy people ran through the storm. I took a break for cookies. Most race foods, especially gels and power bars leave me nauseous. Soy and especially corn products have caused...ahem...violent digestive upset. The bulk of my food for the race were made with natural peanut butter and cane sugar, bananas, and sweet tea if food became an issue. Later the race served plain rice to settle upset stomachs. It was a great idea. I mostly hit them up for coffee.

I headed back out after about 25 minutes, and I was shivering. The sun came back out for a little bit allowing me to lose the poncho and hope for my clothes to dry. Then, the rain picked back up. Poncho time again. The cold made it hard to add layers. My hands were too chilled to do the snaps on the poncho.

After taking too long to do that, they flew apart as soon as the wind hit. Walking and problem solving, I just tied the sides closed. It was early and all my layers were on. The next step in the stay warm plan was to keep moving. Running made it almost comfortable when the winds would let up. It was a slow shamble. The cold just leached the strength out of all my muscles.

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Volunteers saving the timing system. Photo by Pam Rickard

I was dismayed that by 2:00 am I was reduced to walking. The wind had picked up again and I was shivering. Not even at 60 miles yet. All hopes of 100 miles were gone. Worse, when I shivered hard, my left thigh would jerk. It was like being trapped in Monty Python's bureau of funny walks sketch. I couldn't remember the last time I had eaten and figured grabbing food and maybe an electrolyte capsule couldn't hurt. Soon as I hit my tent, it started raining sideways again. My thigh hurt just to touch. I was frustrated. Time to think.

First, food. No way to keep warm if there is no fuel to keep warm with. Second, hydration. Just because it is cold and wet is no reason not to drink water. Third, I brought my roller just in case. It was worth a chance. It had helped with a post race twinge in the past. Mind you, this is all new ground for me and it is literally taking a shot in the dark. Next was a flashlight check of the feet. They hadn't felt numb at all, but it was colder than I was used to lately. They looked as good as after the hail storm. Sprinting on hail sucks.

It was still raining sideways. I was shivering, but it was now bearable. Get truly soaked again and it would be all over. An hour later, I woke up. The rain was quieter and I really had to pee. Accomplishing that mission would at least take me one more time around the track.

I felt worlds better. Running was once again an option. Running also led to feeling warm again. Slow but steady progress was made to 60, then 70 miles. The next goal, goal #9, was 75.1 miles just because it was closer to 100 than it was to 50. The rain had picked up again between miles 70 and 71. The strength sapping cold hit with the wind. I was reduced to walking and waiting for sunrise. I was happy, though. Even walking, there was time for goal #10, 78.6 miles. It is the distance of three marathons. It just sounds good.

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Feet after 79.4856 miles of asphalt

On the final lap, the race officials passed out blocks with our numbers on them to count partial laps. Adam showed up about that time, too and talked to me as I shambled my partial lap. I made it to the end and didn't quit. The final results were 79.4856 miles to place 30 out of 108 .
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