“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”
I am a firm believer that with persistence, anything is possible. That might have been what lead me to sign up for the Bimbler’s Bluff 50K in the first place. It seemed to be one of those things where the planets are in alignment and everything just falls into place… although I never could have anticipated upon signing up just how true that would be.
I needed a race to run as a fundraiser for CT-ALIVE this year, and having
done attempted the Ultra Beast last year, it had to be something that would test my limits. Ever since the Ultra Beast, I had considered doing an ultra. I had already done a marathon, so it seemed like the next logical step. Plus, the Bimbler’s Bluff was a bargain at $50!
Since I was not super successful with my fundraising last year, this year I redoubled my efforts. I made an event page, sent emails, and continuously begged for money on Facebook. The fact that I had selected a race roughly 33 miles in length worked to my favor as I had people who offered to make donations in my memory just in case I didn’t survive. (Thanks for the vote of confidence guys) My goal was for this year $500, but I well exceeded it making for my most lucrative fundraising year yet! That only made me more pumped for the race.
The other exciting thing about my big run this year was that a friend of mine (Vanessa from The Purple Song Project) put me in touch with Lana Ives from Ives International Film. It turned out that Lana is working on a documentary involving stories of inspiring people. She had read my blog and thought I fit the bill. She asked if she could meet me at the race and interview me before the start. She also said I could have copies of the film and images for my own personal use (i.e. for my blog- so stay tuned!). Beyond the shock that someone would be inspired enough by my blog to want to involve me in a documentary, I realized that this was an AMAZING opportunity. If my mission with this blog is to inspire people to go out and live their dreams, especially after abuse, then there was no way I could not accept.
Upon arriving at the race, I found Lana and her assistant at the check in. I was beyond stoked to find not only that the race shirts were fluorescent orange, but that the race bibs were orange as well! I took this as a good sign because, as we all know, orange is my favorite color. Even better, the bib had my name on it- which meant the runners and volunteers would be cheering for me by name! Anyone who has run a race with your name on the bib knows exactly what I am talking about here. Plus, it made for better conversation on the course given we all had name tags.
As far as the actual race, I don’t even know where to start. Trail runners are such a special breed. When you sign up and arrive at a trail run, you sign up for more than a race. Rather, you have signed up to be a part of a community, and it’s clear from the moment you arrive. Bimbler’s Bluff was no exception. There was a palpable sense of good will. When the national anthem wouldn’t play, two runners stepped forward and sang it beautifully. However, they didn’t sing it alone because almost immediately the whole field joined in. It was a perfect way to start, and then we were off.
The early part of the course consisted of rolling hills, which are my favorite to run. I picked a comfortable pace and stuck with it the whole way. I only stopped to walk if a hill was particularly steep. I plugged along while everyone else passed me, and before long I was convinced there was no one left to go by. I didn’t particularly mind. After all, it was nice to see another person occasionally, and I figured most of them had far more experience with ultras than me anyhow.
The first real challenge of the race was that markers were not that easy to spot. The red and white tape blended with the foliage in some places and required a lot of attention not to miss them… which many people (myself included!) did… repeatedly. (Might I offer a humble suggestion of lime green or fluorescent pink next year?) This was good in the sense that it gave me something to concentrate on; however it made it difficult to watch my footing resulting in several good tumbles. I caught my toe on and tripped over more rocks than I could count! I was thrilled when I arrived at the first aid station and plowed through it on to the next one.
The second section of the course had areas that were so steep and treacherous that they were really more conducive to
hiking climbing than running… unless you’re part mountain goat. I did my best to run whatever I could safely and was still feeling good when I hit aid station #2. I called out my number to the volunteers and headed up a near vertical ascent. I found Lana on the way up, and she asked how I was feeling. I told her I was still doing ok and scaled upwards. My reward was a magnificent view from the top! The rest of that section seemed to span on forever, and I was sincerely doubting my ability to finish before the cutoff… or finish at all… when I arrived at station #3. Lana, again, was there waiting for me and she even jogged down the street with me asking me questions as I crossed back onto the course. I asked the staff at the station how much longer to the next one (which I mistakingly thought was the last one) and they said another 6 miles. Elated by this news, I blasted past them and they called after me that they had cookies and didn’t I want something to eat.
The next section, again, seemed to stretch on forever. This was at least in part due to the fact that I hadn’t realized I was out of water until after I started it. My legs were no longer cooperating and the down hills were worse than up. At some point I ran a whole extra hill because I had missed a marker. I thought about taking the ibuprofen I brought with me, but I didn’t want to risk injuring myself by blocking out the pain. Then I rolled my ankle and landed on it. I was relieved to find at least that it wasn’t badly sprained, and I could still walk on it. I figured I should enjoy what was left of the race because it could be a good amount of time before I’d be running on it again. When I did finally arrive at the 4th aid station I found Adam. He had ridden his bike from home to greet me. I asked if would make it back in time to see me finish, and he said it would be no problem because I still had 11 miles to go. The volunteer confirmed this information by telling me I did a great job and was 22 miles in. I was crushed because I had thought that there were only 4 aid stations with 8 miles left after the last one. I truly thought that extra 3 miles was going to kill me. Then Adam filled my hydration pack more than I needed despite my protests.
In spite of the fact that the volunteers were wonderful and supportive, I left that aid station feeling totally defeated. My pack was the heavier now than it ha been when I started, and I had 3 extra miles to go on top of the eight mile section ahead of me. Judging by the amount of time it had taken me to complete the last section, I thought for sure that I would never make it past the next cutoff. It was definitely my lowest point in the race. The one thing that worked in my favor was that there were not a lot of uphills on that segment. In fact, it was primarily downhill; and I was able to push through 8 miles in 2 hours. I saw Lana shortly before the last aid station and called out to her “I’m smiling because if you’re here then I’m almost done!” I stopped briefly at that last aid station- just long enough to say thank you and grab some gummy bears. They were the most delicious I have ever tasted in my life! I headed into my last 3 miles on a high. It was only 4:30 PM, and I knew I could walk the rest of the way and still make it.
However, having run everything but the worst hills up to this point, I was determined to keep going. Besides, if I was running to inspire and raise money for victims of domestic violence, I was certainly not going to give them anything less than my best. Plus, I wanted nothing more than to be finished as soon as possible! So I kept running, despite the fact that my running resembled stumbling more than actual running. I was emotional on the last section because it was the first time I knew that I could do it: the finish was within my grasp. I thought of all the hard work and 6 long months of training I had put in to get to this point; and I thought of all the women I was doing this for. This was not a victory just for me, this was a victory for us. All those women who were told over and over that they couldn’t accomplish or handle anything, who had their self worth stripped from them the way I did- it was a victory for them.
When I did finally see the finish, I sprinted to it as fast as my legs would carry me. The people who were there erupted in cheers (not just for me, but for every runner). Lana was there at the finish, and I told her I couldn’t believe it was over. She asked if she could give me a hug and I was more than happy to accept it, though I did warn her that I was pretty sweaty. She asked asked me some additional questions, and then we waited or Adam to arrive (because he underestimated how quickly I would get through my last 11 miles!). When the race director offered me my glass (and it’s a pretty nifty glass too!) for finishing, I had actually forgotten we were supposed to get anything. To me, the reward was just in the experience. I spent the whole day doing something I absolutely love, in good company, with great volunteers, and raised money and awareness for domestic violence in the process. What more could a girl ask for?
Now that it’s all over, I’m still in disbelief that I did it. Even more than that, I can’t even begin to process how much love and support I have had for this race. I don’t think I could have pushed through the pain for as long as I did had I not had so many people rooting for me. Being someone as independent as I am, I am not used to asking for help… or for anything for that matter. However, when it came to my fundraising race this year, the response was more than I could have ever imagined. I am so blessed to have the people I do in my life, from my amazing husband who sacrificed his sleep yesterday to drive me to and from the race and cheer me on, to my awesome family and mom who left me cupcakes for when I got home, to my trainer who kicked my butt for 6 months and helped me become the strongest physically that I have ever been, to all my friends, coworkers, and fellow CT-ALIVE board members, and Arch Angels who offered words of encouragement and made donations. I dont’ know what I did to deserve to have so many wonderful people in my life, but I am truly grateful for each and every one of them!