How does one even begin to post about 100 miles of racing on your feet? Well, first off, 100 miles is a LONG ways. But doing the race in a looped format really kept me from noticing, it was like a very large and beautiful hamster wheel!
The Moab 100 is a running race comprised of 18 5.37 mile loops plus an out and back section at the end that I called the dogleg. Runners ran clockwise every odd loop and counterclockwise every even loop. This way we got to see the other racers often. This was my first attempt to race this distance. I was well trained for the race and mentally ready for what it was to dish out on me (or really what I was to dish out on myself).
I had an entourage to help me with my day. Most the 100 racers had a table set up near check-in with all their goodies, but mine had a tablecloth! It was just missing a vase with flowers. I was glad that it was so welcoming because apparently a few racers stopped by for a bite and others used my family to help them with their day. Some were there alone, that’s tough!
My parents, Troy’s parents, PIC and her family, Beth, John, Carrie, Tyler, Nicole, Keith and Anthony were all out at various times to cheer, or pace me after 8pm.
On the start line I met up with Maggie who I ran in college with (before I became a college dropout runner). Maggie was on a 24 hour team and it was cool to see her for the first time in 10 years. With a simple countdown we were off and running. The race was small and runners thinned out quickly.
I had outlined a pace chart for my support crew but I really had no idea how long a loop was going to take. I looked at previous years and I thought maybe one hour would be a good starting goal. Everything I have read about ultras seems to state that there is no negative splitting. You simply start slow and get slower. That was my goal. Well, finishing was my real goal.
I ran along easy and tried to remember Chuckie’s advise “When you do more, you ache more”. I focused on thinking “do less, do less”. The early laps are but a distant memory but my times were around :55 including my refill stop at my table. Troy was totally on his support crew game and he handled all of my nutrition flawlessly.
The fact that I ran 100 miles without puking is testament to how awesome Troy is! I had Grape EFS in my 20oz hand bottle and at lap 7 I started adding one NUUN tab to the EFS bottle as well. I had 8 packs of Justins Nut Butter, the Maple Almond variety, and maybe a total of one package of shot blocks. Besides a handful of potato chicps, 3 circus animal cookies and 3 gummy worms, that was it. EFS fueled me the entire day.
Somewhere around 30 miles I had two really bad laps. A 100 mile race is both physical and mental. Of course as I sit here battered and bruised with toes that look like sausages you would think I would say it’s a predominantly physical test. You would be wrong. Running 100 miles is about not giving up. It’s the mental game that you must win…or draw… in order to finish.
30 miles in I just didn’t feel good. I mean, 30 miles is a really long ways to run on any given day so it makes sense. You will see this on the video but all I could think about was “I have 70 miles to go”. And every time I would think that thought, I would start to cry. Can you believe it? I was not even 1/3 of the way done and I was crying. I didn’t stop running, but I was crying. Of course I came around a corner and my dad is filming. I put my head down, quite embarrassed to be crying. I came across my mom cheering, and told her I was “weepy”, and what did she do? She started crying. I can’t imagine how she felt to be out there watching me run so far, unable to change much.
The thing with these crazy ultras is EVERYTHING changes. I can’t say it enough. You can go from your lowest low to your highest high in a matter of 10 or 20 minutes. And while my low was 10 miles long, it switched and all of the sudden I felt like a rock star.
Unfortunately for all the other racers, my case of the happies turned into Singing Sonja. I have a horrible singing voice but I literally sang for 30 miles straight. I ran lap after lap singing up a storm and waving at pretty much every runner that I crossed paths with. I got a reputation on the trail for being happy and having fun, go figure, right?
One of the highlights of my day was when Cami stopped by to say good job. We read each others blogs and we have never met! She was in town for a family vacation and her and her husband drove out to be there when I finished one of my laps. I wish I could have sat down and had tea, but, alas, I had to keep running. Thank you Cami!!
I continued to expect the happies to turn into the grumpies but really, I was lucky. Things clipped along really well. With the additional mileage it was easier to get my head around the concept of completing 100 miles. When your at 50 miles, it’s easier to think “half way”. Then 60 comes and you start to feel like it’s downhill.
I had a total embarrassing moment, and I’ll tell you about it because I’m cool like that. So, you pass everyone every lap, and a few of the boys, were, well, cute. Duh, right? So, there were certain ones you sort of looked forward to. Well, on one lap where I was feeling like a rock star I passed one of them and I actually told him that it was fun to pass him every time, because he was “cute”. Me, the totally happily married woman, telling random hot runner dude he was cute. EMBARRASSING. Like three laps later he dropped out of the race. Then I just felt bad.
I had a goal to get to 12 laps by 8pm when Michelle was allowed to start pacing me. I easily hit that with like 15 minutes to spare and the race director said it was OK for PIC to start a little early with me. He was nice and chill.
So, off we went, PIC and I, trying to find a ton of little yellow glow sticks in the dark to follow. Little did I know PIC has depth perception issues and she was scared out of her mind that she was going to fall off a cliff. She covered it up well and proved to be a tttt-rific pacer. I had her for 2 laps and the second one was one of my fastest of the day. I did however loose my concentration on that lap and I stubbed both of my toes on the slick rock repeatedly. Youch!
And that fast lap was a mistake on my part. One thing I still have to learn is holding back during that late in the game energy surge that tends to happen. It’s never over until it’s over, so you need to be constantly conserving with the ultras.
Tony was my next pacer and he was like the green glowstick hunting master. I could have just followed right behind him the whole time and he would have lead the perfect path. On that last lap with him I did just that. Tony didn’t get a very peppy Sonja. I was getting tired. 4 laps seemed like not a lot to go, but it was. Tony was also with me the first time (lap 16) that I decided to walk the up hill portion. Up until that point I had pretty much been running everything except a few super steep sections (walking both up and down).
I developed this theory. During the race I was afraid to talk about it on camera because I didn’t know if it would come off as arrogant, which I don’t mean to be in any way. My little theory/mantra was “I came here to run 100 miles, not walk 100 miles”. It just really stuck in my head that this was what I was here for…to try my best at running the miles, not walking. I was here to RUN. Not fast, but run.
The second lap with Tony I walked that huge uphill. Dang, out with the plan. But I resumed running on the downhill and we kept a nice clip into the aid station.
Now Keith stepped in to pace me for the last two laps and the dog leg. Poor Keith. He was on the receiving end of a very tired, very done, and very weepy Sonja. And he was amazing. He has this way of saying “That’s fine” and “Your doing great” that I actually believed him even though at times I was walking and crying. Things got bad these last laps. And I fretted and worried about the dog leg for 10 miles.
I don’t remember much of these laps, but it was pure survival mode. When I had the energy to run we did, which happened to be most of the time. When I didn’t we walked. With 5 miles to go I told Keith “I’m done”. He said “I’m not going to let you quit” and I said “No, I’m not done that way, I’m just done running”. Then 5 minutes later, what was I doing? Running. I came here to run, not walk. That was my mantra.
There got to a point where it was bad. The thoughts in my brain were becoming one word. “Walk”, “Ouch”, and “Chair” were the main ones. Finishing that last lap I went over and checked in with the race director. I stood there and looked him in the eye and told him I still had to go do the dogleg. He said “Get it done”. I was secretly hoping he would say “That’s our joke on you, your done”.
But no, I left the comfort of my aid station for another 40 minutes to run up a huge hill that I had been up 18 times already, to TOUCH a cone and then come back down. I cried pretty much the entire way. I moaned, I wined, I sniffled, I cried, but you know, I ran. It hurt, it was ugly, but I was there to run.
After touching that cone and heading back it dawned on me that finishing was 100% going to happen. I had no choice, I had to get back to the car somehow, and the car was at the finish line. Up until that point the concept of finishing was just something I believed in, not something I knew would happen.
Keith was so awesome. He would hold my hand when it needed holding, which it did a few times. He gave me lots of positive reinforcement, and when we were 10 minutes from being done I said “Thank you”. He said “No, Thank you for letting me be part of this”. And then I cried even more.
The finish line was full of my friends who gathered around and cow belled it up to watch me cross the imaginary line between two cones at 4:58am. Just under 22 hours of racing.
I headed straight for a chair. I had been promising myself that chair for miles. As my friends and family gathered around, tired faces but huge smiles it started to sink in that I had done this thing, this task, this adventure, and I had done it my way. With hard work, and with a smile.
Sitting here dealing with the aftermath of such an endeavor, it’s crazy how at 7am on March 27th I was strong and fit and tappered. I was ready to conquer anything that came my way both physicially and mentally. Then, 24 hours later I am bruised and busted, sore and achy. I can barely walk and I cry uncontrolably when my toe touches anything. It’s amazing to me how 24 hours can change a person.
I really learned a lot about myself during this race. I learned that it’s ok to be vulnerable. To cry at mile 30 and again at mile 95. It’s ok to let what comes up, come up. Chuckie wrote some advise before the race and one that really stuck with me was “Don’t run just to finish; run to be you”. That was really the bottom line of my day. I wanted to do this race MY WAY. My way means with lots of research and lots of sound training going into it. Then, let what happens, happen, and roll with the punches. I wanted to keep my smile, help others, and make friends. Except for the poor guy I called cute, I was successful.
This race was not about 2nd overall, or 1st woman. It was about going the distance and “running to be me”.
There were people racing who were alone with no crew. I hoped that my crew helped others and it sounds like they did. My parents, Troy’s parents, all my friends, and my awesome husband Troy went above and beyond to make my day so special.
I am a little shocked that Chuckie could have trained me so well for this having never trained someone for 100 miles. He really knows his stuff. He is the endurance master, equal parts tactical and emotional. The bomb…I’m just sayin’.
Also, Thank you Trakkers, Justins, First Endurance, Saucony, Tri-Massage, TriSlide, Core Concepts, NUUN, Mix1, Nathan, and Petzl (a headlamp review coming soon).
Now, the video! Ok! The caveats: it’s 14 minutes long…so, pop some popcorn. Also, while I put together the video quickly, iMovie has been very ornery this evening and it’s taken many tries to get it uploaded. There is a glitch at the end and your just going to have to deal. It’s relatively minor, but for now, I’m not fixing it. Also, at the end it says I was 3rd overall, I was actually 2nd (oops, we just found this out). Lastly, you are going to be so excited! I have upgraded to HD! So the picture quality should be much better than pervious videos, but it may take longer to load? Enjoy!
(If you like the video, feel free to give it a “heart” on Vimeo)
This video is my perspective of my first 100 mile run race. It took place March 27/28th of 2010. The course was on the Upper Monitor and Merimack trails outside of Moab Utah. It entailed 18 loops of a 5.4 mile course, plus an out and back section at then end.