My Marathon Was Cancelled
I remember the moment when I found out the Glass City Marathon in Toledo was canceled. I knew it was coming as a result of cancellations and closures due to the COVID-19 Virus. But, it didn’t make it easier. I was really disappointed. A month or so later, my friend Marvin, who I had previously done a 100-Mile Week Challenge with suggested that I test my limits with an ultra marathon.
I wasn’t sure I was ready for it since I had not run a lot of long runs. But Marvin as well as my husband assured me I was ready since my weekly mileage was consistently high.
40 Felt Right
Originally I thought about doing 50 miles, but there was something about 40 that felt perfect. It felt like a legitimate ultra. I had turned 40 in November, and the number seemed symbolic. I felt like naming the race. I decided that the Glass City Marathon could be part of my race, but was not going to be the focus. I was in charge, and it was time to shatter the glass ceiling.
I would go beyond what I had done before, and once the glass was shattered, I couldn’t go back- I had to finish.
Choosing the Course
40 miles seemed like a lot to run around St. Clair, so my husband, Nate suggested he drop me off at least 15 miles away. Shortly after proposing that idea, he offered to run some of the beginning miles with me. I was excited to break the run into as many pieces as possible since I knew I would have my share of solo running. We decided that the starting line would be a last-minute decision and determined either the night before or morning depending on the direction of the wind. The evening before I got a text from my friend Amy who told me it was going to be windy from the south. So a starting line in Marine City sounded good. The weather forecast for the big day looked amazing! It would be around 60 degrees. It was going to be sunny and pretty mild- with a wind that was supposed to pick up later in the day.
May 2nd, 2020 – Race Day
We got up around 6 the morning of the ultra. I wanted to shower, have coffee, enjoy a bowl of oatmeal, and feel relaxed. My goal was to be in Marine City by 7 am. We took off at 7:10 am. Each of us carried a water bottle. I did not want to wear the hydration pack if I didn’t need to. We were going to loop back and end 12 miles near our car, so I would have a chance to fuel up.
The First 12 Miles Were Awesome
We both focused on keeping my pace pretty slow. My goal was to move back and forth between 10:00-10:15 pace. A few high 9 minute miles were okay, but the goal was to take it easy for quite a while. I had heard that it was more about effort than pace. So far, I felt like I was barely moving, and life felt really good.
After taking two days off and having a pretty light mileage week I was really It was so different from a typical marathon or shorter distance race where I watch the clock to make sure that I am going fast enough.
The water was packed with fishermen in boats. The water looked so crowded. On the right side, I saw Algonac State park and noticed how empty it was. We also noticed a Porta Potty collection that captured our attention.
I remember about 6 miles in and I had a really deep thought. I thought it might be too early for deep thinking, but I decided to let my mind turn it over a few times. I realized that I needed to do two things differently as a parent. 1). I needed to be more intentional about making sure that I cultivate an open relationship with my kids, in particular, my daughter so that as they get older, they will feel comfortable coming to me about anything.
I know I have told them that I want them to come to me no matter what, but as I gazed forward, I wondered if I was creating a culture that would facilitate that. I definitely thought about this for the next few miles and decided that I needed to work on this more when I returned home.
2). And secondly, We need to start role- playing more at home. When the kids were younger, my husband and I made a habit of not just telling them what to do in certain situations but showing them how to respond when something happened at school. Role-playing always offered an opportunity for a lot of laughs, but at the same time providing very specific strategies that could be immediately applied.
Venturing Out on My Own
When the 12 miles were up, I was sad that Nate would be driving home, but I felt good. I ate a Lara bar, adjusted the hydration pack, and was ready to take on the streets where I grew up. Born in Marine City, I was excited to run the town. Growing up, I was the opposite of a runner. As I glided down Water street, and past so many familiar locations,
I remember crossing the bridge over the Belle River thinking about how much my younger self would have never imagined that I would consider running 40 miles.
I used to do anything I could to avoid running. I remember the famous 12 minute run in gym class when I was in high school. It didn’t matter how far you went, or how slow you went, you had to run for 12 minutes to get an A. Somehow I mustered up the will to run for 12 minutes. Today, I would run for over 7 hours.
Being Spontaneous About the Course
The unique thing about a virtual race, is that it can be done anywhere, and as a runner you get to decide the course. I chose to venture on the bike path that would end up at East China park. It was quiet, but it was gorgeous, and the weather could not have been better. It was 60 and breezy. I was in shorts and a t-shirt and felt amazing. I kept trying to find the perfect podcast to listen to and for some reason felt like I was striking out. They were okay, but nothing really allowed me to settle in and enjoy what was in my ears. It was too early for music. For some reason, I didn’t mind it too much.
Maybe that was because I was so focused on the excitement of the weather and the fact that I was able to not worry about my watch, and just glide down the streets and inhale the opportunity to run.
Ankle Issues at Mile 18
Out of nowhere, my ankle started to hurt around mile 18. It wasn’t a sharp pain but didn’t feel right. I stopped a few times, consumed some more water, and got back to it. There were a few moments where concern crossed my mind. But, something told me not to be worried. A few miles later I had made it to the bridge in St. Clair. The bridge was starting to go up, so I knew I had an opportunity to stop and wait if I was interested.
However, I thought to myself, “Why are you waiting? Keep going. Run around the Boat Harbor Parking lot”.
I Thought I had More Food
I was at about 24 miles and getting really tired. I was looking forward to a break at the house and some much-needed fuel. Somehow I thought I had packed more in my hydration pack than I had. I had more than enough water, but the food was pretty scarce.
Marathon 30 Complete
As I rounded the last of two streets before my house, I looked down at my watch and realized I had officially completed my 30th marathon! 26.2 miles were finished!
It was at that moment when as I do in every marathon, I fell in love with the distance. I couldn’t wait for the next opportunity to line up at a marathon starting line.
Aid Station Break
I kept my watch running as I walked into my house (aka the aid station) and went about the business of refueling and even changed my shirt and sports bra. It was nice to be in fresh clothing. My husband made me some Gatorade, I had a few sips of coffee and ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was to die for! I realized that at least 12 minutes had passed, so I needed to get back out there.
13.5 miles remained in my 40-mile race. In some ways, it felt like I had hardly any miles left. But my 11-year-old son confidently assured me I still had a way to.
Throughout the 40-miles my friend Kayla sent my pictures of signs that I would have been so excited to see in a regular race! They were perfect and made me feel like I really had the best support system!
Hitting a 50K Distance
The wind had started to pick up. I decided to go north and venture towards Marysville. Starting to run again felt slow and sloppy. I struggled to move. I had decided that I was going to break the 13.5 miles into two different parts. When I got to mile 30, I turned around, I started to feel okay again.
I remembered that 31 miles has been the longest I have ever gone at one time and I was almost there.
A Fantastic Surprise
Much to my surprise in the distance, I made out three figures holding a sign! As I got closer my enthusiasm climbed! Fellow runner from our local running club Andy and his two kids were out holding a sign and cheering me on! Andy’s presence along with his kids was a gift. After taking a few minutes to say, “Hi”, I realized how much I benefit from the gestures of other people. I felt a renewed strength and couldn’t help but smile all the way back to my house.
6 More To Go
As I made my way up the driveway, I realized that I had about 6 more miles to run. I needed to quickly use the bathroom and wanted to re fuel again. I was ready for pretzels, gummy bears, Gatorade, coffee, and just about anything I could get my hands on. As my husband worked hard to prepare snacks I felt blessed. I realized that unlike other distances, the ultra is about community.
I have always been a pretty solo runner, and am not used to depending on other people to get through a run. Man, it felt good to lean into the help I was being given.
A Mile With My Kids
My kids told me that they would be willing to run a mile and a half with me. This sounded great! As we settled back onto the road, the funniest thing happened. My sons on both sides of me started a speed walking contest with each other. I couldn’t stop laughing. The first half of the mile was great, but the second half was really tough! It was into the wind, I looked down at my watch and my effort level came nowhere near matching my pace. I felt like we were crawling.
The Wind- The Impossible Wind
I said goodbye to the troops and was on my way. I had around 4.5 miles left to go. Some of it had to be into the wind. The wind was uncanny. It felt like nothing I had run in before. As I headed into town I knew I only had about 4 miles to go, but felt like I was beginning to sink deeper and deeper into the rut of the wind.
I was staggering back and forth slow enough to text, so I sent Kayla and my husband messages complaining about the wind. Sure enough, Kayla immediately sent encouraging words.
The Gift of Community
And, within about 6 minutes after a text to Nate had been sent, I saw my husband on his bike riding towards me. I still continue to be amazed that he jumped on his bike and came to me. His presence was a gift. I immediately felt calmer and figured out how to gather myself even though the weather felt impossible. For the next 2 miles, Nate rode next to me as I did a slow combination of walking and running. At just over a mile left to go he took off for home so that he could be there when I crossed the finish line.
I Could See The Finish-line
As I rounded the corner, I saw the family at the end of the driveway. My husband was cheering and ready with the phone to take pictures.
My daughter had her arm stretched out with two medals and my two boys were holding a finish line made of a strip of toilet paper.
I Shattered the Glass
8 hours and 1 minute or running clock (7 hours and 4 minutes of actual moving time), I crossed the finish line and broke the tape. I was a two-time ultra-marathon runner, had completed my 30th marathon, and shattered the glass.