Short version ::
Sorry. There is no short version. 😂
Long version ::
I’m not sure where to begin this race report. First, it’s probably going to be long, and second, it’s probably going to be raw. So if either of those turn you off, sorry not sorry.
It’s Tuesday after the race and my emotions surrounding it are still on overdrive. Originally, the IT100 was not in my race plans for the year. It was potentially going to be a backup race in the event that Mohican went south, but Mohican was my WS qualifier race and that was “Plan A”. I wanted to volunteer at IT because of how amazing the aid stations and volunteers were the previous year when I ran it. But then in December, there was this ornament hunt up at ChainO, and I ended up with a free entry into the IT100, so I accepted it. And plans changed. Mohican happened and I finished, so IT was not an imminent “must finish” race, but I needed to do it justice because….free entry…. Don’t want to waste that at ALL. After the Kanawha Trace 50K in August, I became increasingly frustrated with my feet and the tendon pain that’s plagued me since I started ultras. Previous surgeries had left me with tendonitis and everyone I saw said “it’s just going to be like this or you can stop running” (paraphrased). I wasn’t taking that for an answer. I was tired of my long back-to-back runs being cut short because of the extreme pain I was in after the first one. I was tired of just “running” to get miles in not knowing if my foot was going to cooperate. I was tired of driving up to my ART guy once or twice a week (45 minutes away each way) to get “fixed up” enough to get my next run in. I needed answers. I wasn’t done with ultras. So Steve suggested I talk to Stephanie and a few days later I had more answers than I had gotten in ages and a strength training plan to start working on my feet. It was painful, also. Having not actually strengthened those muscles much, some of the exercises were pretty rough. Then came the change-up in my training plan for IT100. Not much, but just enough to give me back some speed work and hills (thanks, Suzi!). I stuck with the plan with minimal pain, still working through the foot/tendon/muscle strengthening. There were ups and downs but I was getting my long runs in fully, and faster than usual. I was feeling stronger and much more confident heading into taper. And then I tweaked the muscle on my left leg and had some IT band issues THE WEEK before the race, and I about freaked out. Everything had been doing so well. We added in some more/different strengthening things but even the day before IT, things were still not great. The weird irony of the whole thing is neither of those issues EVER reared their ugly heads during the entire 100 miles, even when I was putting far more stress on them because of babying my right side. So. Mad props to my coaches for the help in getting my strength up!
I was so ready. I was prepared. I know things never go quite as planned, but I had trained hard and worked hard and I was SO ready. My time goals were narrowed down and well within reach. I had my husband crewing me at the boat launch, and two amazing pacers to get me through the last 48 miles. Everything was planned out.
I ran the first 7.5 with Amy, which was amazing, really. It was a decent pace and even better conversation. About mile 3, just after the South Park aid station, my GI started not feeling the greatest. Lower GI. My stomach never gives me issues. I regretted not stopping at the porto or pit toilet but decided to gut it out until Hilltop. We came around the prairie bend and up onto the ramp/bridge. We were warned about potentially icy bridges but none of the previous ones were icy. Well, I took it at a 90 degree turn (thanks, Joe!) but as soon as I stepped onto the ramp with my right foot, it slid sideways out from me and I went down hard on my left side. My hip hurt and my elbow hurt, both on my left side, but I got up and brushed it off and kept moving, not realizing that in the process, I had twisted my right knee when my foot slid out. We made it to Hilltop and Amy and I parted ways. I narrowly made it to the porto, grabbed some ginger ale, and headed out to Rally. My left side felt better. I knew I had a scraped elbow, but my hip felt normal again. By the time I made it to Rally, I narrowly made it to THAT porto. My pace was a tad under what I had been hoping for my first loop, but I was still okay, just really upset that I felt so, well, crappy. Literally. This was new territory for me in a race. I’ve never had lower GI issues like that. Suzi and Stephanie were out at Rally and I briefly explained what was going on, grabbed some more ginger ale and a quarter sandwich and some soup because I hadn’t been eating OR drinking enough because of feeling bad. I knew I was behind on both hydration and calories. I left Rally to head back to Schoolhouse and used the porto yet AGAIN. A couple times I thought I was feeling better, so I took another quarter sandwich, ginger ale, and soup, and headed for the boat launch and the S/F area. I quickly changed out one of my bottles because, yes, after a full loop, had only made it through ONE 500ml bottle of Body Armor/water mix. I had been drinking at the AS, but I knew it wasn’t enough. At the S/F, I met up with Suzi and Stephanie again, and did NOT use the bathroom there (WHOA!), regrouped, and I’m pretty sure I told them I was mad because I was off my times that I was aiming for. Suzi gave me a time goal for loop 2 and I took off again.
Loop two, I ended up stopping at BOTH South Park AND the little pit toilet just after it for yet MORE bathroom stops, but after this, I was feeling mostly better. What was NOT feeling better was my bottom half from chafing in places I didn’t expect. I had tried out the undergarments on a 35 mile run, but apparently, given the circumstances of the day, etc, they were NOT working out well. But I didn’t have any other options at that point so I kept pushing toward Hilltop. This issue was super bothersome, but it wasn’t a reason to stop and whine too much. This was also the stretch when I first noticed my knee starting to bug me. I didn’t have any idea why it hurt because at the time, I didn’t remember that the slip had twisted my leg out. It just felt off and was getting a little stiff, but I made it out to Hilltop, grabbed some more ginger ale and food (bacon maple oatmeal cookies!!!) and took off for Rally. I was staying close to my pace goal I needed to keep in order to make my loop time and I ran the entire flat stretch out to Rally slow but steady. At Rally, I ate some more (woohoo! No more stomach issues!) and felt pretty good. It took about 32 miles to get the lower GI issues out, but by then my knee was bugging me. Still no foot/tendon pain or IT band pain. There were several people I ran with – Jill for a while, I saw Sherry and shared a few minutes with her but she was cooking and took off, and David whom I chatted with for at least the last 3 miles of the loop. There were others, of course. I switched my bottles out at the boat launch and got my waist light and flashlight and got my watch charging before heading to the S/F. Got some more food, knew I’d be meeting Shannon at Rally to pace me, and I just needed to get there. I just about made that loop’s time goal, and I was okay with that, but I knew things were quickly slipping away with the amount of pain I was feeling in my knee now. Walking was happening more frequently, and running was slowing way down. Somewhere during loops 2 and 3 I started singing the chorus of “500 miles” and running as I was singing, then walking a bit. I stretched it into singing the chorus twice while running. Then tried for three times. Mind you, the chorus is not very long, but it was stretches of running I wouldn’t otherwise have made myself do. I swear I sang that song at least 500 times.
Loop three was rough. The first half for sure. There was some ugly crying and getting REALLY down on myself for not having things go how I thought they were supposed to go. In the time it took me to get from the S/F to Hilltop, I had determined I had let myself down, already let my pacers down because I was moving so much slower, and was letting down everyone else in the Ignite group who had supported me and run with me and helped me so much. By the time I got up the hill to Hilltop I was a mess. Dawn (you are amazing) asked me how things were going and I couldn’t even say anything without just crying. She hugged me and got me into the tent and I got some ginger ale and food and she massaged my knee and stick-ed it really good for a few minutes. Joe came over and refilled both my bottles and I can’t even remember who else was there encouraging me on. I still felt like a disappointment when I left but my knee felt a little better temporarily. I didn’t want to push it and the section right before Rally quickly went from being my least favorite section to one of my favorites. I have always loved the pine needle section about a mile out from Rally, but the sun was setting and it was getting beautiful and I just tried to take it all in and regroup and re-set myself. I’d be getting my pacer soon. I think I apologized to Shannon within minutes of taking off from Rally because I was so slow. He helped work on my knee a bit which REALLY helped, both at Rally before we left and again at Schoolhouse. It was cooling down, dark, and not very late but I DID get my first drink of Coke at that Rally stop and that was energizing. It had been weeks and I needed the caffeine at this point. I honestly don’t remember a lot about the rest of loop 3 other than my knee was in full force hurting. And it was this point where Shannon determined after asking me a few questions that the pain in my knee was likely from the fall at mile 5 and twisting it and then continuing to run on it. It made sense since I did remember my foot and leg sliding out from me and that’s why I tried to compensate by falling on my left side. After a quick stop to replace bottles, get my hoodie on, and trade out mittens and hand warmers, we headed to the S/F for loop 4.
Another loop I remember little of, other than aid station to aid station, rolling my hamstring out, trying to fight through the pain. Shannon and I discovered we both enjoy the Clifty Falls area and we talked about camping a bit and the woes of looking up and picking a “full shade” campsite only to get there and they’ve cut down all the trees! At this point I was definitely questioning my ability to finish in time. My time goals were all thrown out the window and it felt like a death march. I did get my streak mile in just before Rally but by the time I got to Rally I was a wreck. This is one of the many times that aid station volunteers who have run ultras are so priceless to have out there. I didn’t know what I wanted or needed. I wanted to sit down and warm up. I was freezing, I was tired, I was in so much pain and was having a hard time bending my leg at all now. This was my first thought of DNFing. I just didn’t think I could do it anymore. Nick came over and talked me through the options, none of which were dropping right then. It was “get back to the S/F and reevaluate.” It was “put your head down and close your eyes for 5 minutes”. I think I argued back that I didn’t think I HAD five minutes to waste but I did it anyway. I didn’t sleep, but it got my breathing back a little and the coughing under control (from the cold) and five minutes later it was “okay, Kate, time to get up and get out of here” and away we went. I think I remember Shannon telling me I got a bit more with it after leaving Rally. Sometimes, encouragement and rest can do wonders for someone. We weren’t running, but I was definitely walking quicker than before. I was in agony by this point. Worse than Hennepin. Worse than Mohican. I couldn’t even WALK fast like I could last year. Hills were nearly impossible because my leg wouldn’t bend. And every step down was complete pain. We got back to the main tent and Joe was waiting. We had ages to do the final loop but I was pretty sure I would take all the time as slow as I was moving. I apologized a hundred times to Joe about walking so stupid slow. Before we started the last loop (the “victory loop” as Joe called it!) I saw Jen at the main tent aid station, snapped a photo with Steve at one point (maybe that was before the 5th loop – it’s a little blurry to me!) and then Joe and I headed out. I tried a cheese quesadilla and couldn’t finish it, but my nutrition was still okay.
The last loop was one of the most awful and amazing experiences of my running “career” over the past few years. It was agonizing. Every step. Hills were nearly impossible, I was nearly hyperventilating over the pain, and Joe just took it in stride and helped me get my breathing back under control and supported me through all the hills that I couldn’t manage. I’ve never experienced volunteer support like I did on that loop. I remember very little of it because when pain is that extreme your brain tends to fixate on that and nothing else sticks. I remember not seeing ANYONE for ages as we walked slowly on, mile after mile. Joe had landmarks that he would tell me about. First we would come to the bridge, then to the slow uphill, then to the… over and over that entire loop, he set landmarks that were so much closer than the “5 miles to the next aid station” that had me overwhelmed. Point to point, slowly ticking them off the list. I didn’t know HOW we would finish in time because I knew what our pace was and I was barely able to hold on to a 20 or 21 minute mile at that point, limping every step and trying to control my breathing so the pain didn’t raise my blood pressure and heart rate to the point of no return. Every aid station volunteer was so helpful and encouraging and supportive in getting me what I didn’t know I needed at that point. I remember so many people asking me, “what do you need?” And I would just shake my head and say, “I don’t know” and pretty soon someone would be filling a bag with salted tater tots for me, or handing me a Coke glass and a cookie. They just knew. It was absolutely incredible. We got to Schoolhouse one final time and Joe got me a lei while I kept on moving. I think I ended up with a glass of Coke to get me through to the finish. In the last 2 miles, what seemed like about 10 people passed me and it was so gut wrenching to just have to let them go. There was no way I could physically catch them at that point. So we trudged on. We came to the boat launch and my car was gone so I knew Eric was at the finish waiting for me. One last hill to get up, then the downhill. Then the finish. It was within reach with hardly any time to spare, but I knew, for the first time EVER, that I would not be able to run through the finish line. There was absolutely no way my body could do that. I was not able to bend my leg at this point and it was heartbreaking to walk through the finish line feeling defeated rather than running through. But I did it. We did it.
That buckle meant the world to me and at the same time I wanted to throw it into Sand Lake because I didn’t deserve it. I know I was sleep deprived, but I was really and truly very angry at myself about this race. I still am to an extent. I know I should be so, SO happy that it was a finish and not the DNF it could have been the 5+ times I almost did. I should be happy I made it through and should enjoy the accomplishment. But right now, a couple days later, it’s still a bitter pill in my mouth. I should have done better. I should have moved faster. I should have done SOMETHING (who knows what, though, since this was kind of outside of my control!) different. It wasn’t what I had planned. It wasn’t what I was capable of. It was on that day. But it’s not what I had trained for. And although I’ve had several races like that, this one really struck me harder than the rest. Maybe it’s because it’s my home course with my home people, but it’s still hard.
What’s harder still is lying on the couch with my knee barely moving, and being relegated to “DL” status. I’m a SUPER bad injured person. I don’t handle it well. I need to be moving. I need to be working and planning toward my next goal. Instead, well, I’m not. Which is also hard for me. Sorry this wasn’t the super encouraging end to the race report. In a few days, my head will clear a little more and I’ll gain a bit more perspective, but right now I’m stuck in the rut of disappointment. Which is SO not the place I’d like to be! I would LOVE to be smiling and “faking it until I make it” but I’m still upset with myself.
Things that went well during the race? Once I got past the initial GI stuff the first 32 miles, my nutrition and hydration were right on par. I never had stomach issues or didn’t want to eat. My pacers were amazing and the volunteers kept me going. I started caffeine at mile 52 and it worked AMAZING. I was tired, of course, but I don’t think I ever did the zombie walk or started falling asleep on the trail. I was pretty lucid except for the whole pain thing. The other thing that was amazing were my feet. It was dry, but I still didn’t get a single blister. I recently started wearing Darn Tough socks and I think they’re now my favorite. I wore one pair of socks and one pair of shoes the entire race with zero issues, which was fan-freaking-tastic.
Things I’d do differently? I’m not actually sure. I’d probably have a more designated crew out at Rally to help push me out of there sooner and get my stuff filled, etc, but everything really did work out okay. There was nothing I could have done about the slipping on the bridge thing. I didn’t realize it was an issue or I may have tried to help the injury sooner. It was out of my control and I do realize that, even though I’m upset about it!
I love the IT. I love the volunteers and the course and the well-oiled machine that the race is. It is truly a top-notch race with top-notch EVERYONE involved. My race didn’t go according to plan (they rarely do, right?) but I am still glad I pushed through with a lot of help from my friends. That buckle will definitely mean something special to me. Man, that was a group effort for sure. Now it’s time to rest and recover and let my knee heal up so I can get on to the next thing! I couldn’t even begin to list the people I am so so thankful for. My pacers for one – Joe and Shannon, and Steve, Mike, Brenda, and Jerry for being such amazing leaders and giving me such an example to follow. The aid station volunteers who all kept me from quitting – you know who you are! There are too many people to even try to list them. This was a group effort and I am so very grateful for the opportunity to run the IT100 this year!