Guiding with Joyce Cron, 2016
In getting to know these incredible runners and more about the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI), I have learned quite a bit about the every day needs of those who live with vision loss. About a month ago I read this article about Sassy Outwater-Wright, Executive Director of MABVI, who not only lives with vision loss but is also battling cancer. In the midst of the pandemic, she explains, those who live with a disability such as vision loss and/or contend with a chronic illness are now at a double disadvantage. People who are blind or visually impaired who rely so much on touch are now at risk every time they leave their house. A task as simple as grocery shopping, which many could do on their own prior to the pandemic, was no longer feasible without help from a volunteer. This story really struck a nerve with me and given my connection to TWAV, I decided to use my run as way to raise awareness and funds for the MAB COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, which was created specifically to ensure that the critical & changing needs of the MABVI programs and those who benefit from them are met during this national crisis. Done and done. To make it official, I signed up for the Ten Junk Miles Sugar Badger 50 miler so I could do my part to support a race organization as I know they're hurting right now, too. For the two weeks between my 50K and my 50 miler I took it pretty easy, running light mileage with a day or two off each week to keep my legs well rested and ready to go come Mother's Day, which is when I was set to run. Which brings us to May 10th. 50 miles. Happy Mother's Day to me.
The night before my run I'd laid out both my gear and my fuel. I posted both images to Instagram primarily so I could ask those who had done ultras before to chime in and let me know if I was forgetting anything. Remember, this was new territory for me. And running for seven to eight hours was a hell of a lot different from running for four hours and change.
I ended up getting some great advice including bringing a change of socks and multiple face coverings as they would likely get pretty gross. It was also recommended that I bring more whole food like PBJ's and pretzels because fast fuel like gels and chews can get old quickly when you're out there for multiple hours. More than one person told me to have a Coke ready for that final push; that the caffeine and sugar would be a very welcome treat at that point. I wasn't taking any chances. I packed it all.
Sunday morning I woke up at 5:00am to a beautiful albeit very chilly morning. I had my traditional coffee with Clover, inside of course, as it was way too cold to sit on the porch. I ate some waffles, stuffed my pockets with anything that would fit, double checked all my gear and put my music on. Then I headed outside at 7:00am to say a prayer to the running gods before I got going.
Jeff took this photo right before I left. As I said, I really had no idea what I would be dealing with and that was a good thing. Someone had left this sign out for me the night before which was such an awesome surprise. I still have no idea who made it. But it was a great boost. Ready or not it was go time.
My first loop was about seven miles. It was a breeze. There were not a lot of people out which was nice as I didn't have to cover my face except for the two miles that I was running on the trails at Horn Pond because, as it turns out, a lot of people get up to go birdwatching early in the morning. I'd been told to fuel and hydrate every forty five minutes to an hour. So Jeff, who had agreed to crew for me for this craziness, (bless him), met me with NUUN and food. He also set out a chair which, fortunately, I didn't need yet.
My second loop, miles seven to twelve, were also smooth sailing. It was still pretty quiet out and I was just zoning out to my music and enjoying the scenery. My legs were feeling good and my energy was solid, so I was cautiously optimistic. Jeff met me again and I quickly refueled and took off as I wasn't super hungry or thirsty at this point. Around mile thirteen I met up with my sweet friend and former LHS athlete, Maya B., who was planning to run my third loop with me. I hadn't seen her since the fall and it was so nice both to catch up with her and to have her company in general as it totally took my mind off the miles. We ran together through mile twenty at which point I stopped to fuel up and she kept going as she had a brunch to get to. At this stop I actually sat down and ate a PBJ, changed my shirt as it was getting warm and swapped out my neckie for obvious reasons. This would be my last stop with Jeff so I thanked him profusely, gave him a hug and headed back out. I was three hours in now. I had a long way to go and I was trying hard not to thing about it.
I ran about five miles and then scooped up my good bud and running partner, Steve McKenna, who would be joining me for the next nineteen miles. Yes, he rocks. He also has a pretty swift "easy" pace so I had to remind him that I'd already logged twenty five miles and that he was going to have to reign it in for me as best he could. I know, I know, he said. I still doubted it, but whatever. We ran from his house over to the start of Battle Road, a beautiful hard packed trail that we would be taking until it ran out, which would be mile thirty one for me. We stopped here for water and food which was provided by Pauline and Izzy, both LHS runners. They also rock. They'd made Steve and I daisy chains as they'd waited for us to arrive which we promptly put on for a photo. We tried to run with them but they fell apart pretty quickly. Didn't matter. We felt the love.
Pauline and Izzy met up with us again at mile thirty five with some more water. This stop was pretty soon after our last but the next stretch was going to be a long one and we wouldn't have access to fluids so I forced it down even though I didn't really feel like I needed it. My legs were starting to talk to me at this point. They were getting notably heavy and a little sore. I tried to massage them out a bit but I could tell the next fifteen miles were going to be tough on a whole new level. I knew it was bad when we set off again and my first few steps were brutal. Just super rickety and tight (think Tin Man). It took a mile or so to find my groove again, groove being a relative term at this point. The nice part about these miles was that most of them were on trail, so my legs were not really taking a beating. As soon as we popped back out onto the road to head back to McKenna's house I could feel the difference big time. My quads were not happy to be back on pavement. Steve doesn't do long runs on a regular basis so for these last few miles with him there wasn't much talking as both of us were riding the struggle bus. Finally, we got back to Steve's house around mile forty three and change. I won't lie and tell you I wasn't insanely jealous that he was done and could go inside and lie down. But, then, I only had 6.7 miles left. So close and yet so far.
I ate some food and took a few sips of Coke before thanking McKenna and starting back up for my final push. Now everything hurt. I could feel my toenails bruising with each step. My gait had shortened to a stutter step. I was just willing myself along. My music helped but not much. Even though I'd hydrated well throughout the last six hours, I still felt pretty depleted of fluid and could feel it in my upper body which was cramping. I can only imagine what I looked like as I passed people on the bike path. The simple task of lifting my face mask up felt ridiculously difficult. But, I couldn't just leave it on as I needed to breathe the fresh air when there weren't people around. It was a sad state of affairs. At mile 49 I texted my husband and let him know that I'd be finishing sooner than I'd thought and could he please come pick me up as I would not be able to take one single step beyond 50 miles.
Jeff and the girls parked and they got out of the car to come get me. Literally. They had to hold me up at first because I was so loco at that point. Yes, the girls each had on one roller blade. It's just how they're rolling these days. I slid into the car and breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Shoes off. Socks off. Eyes closed. Praise be. I was done.
We got back to the house and I sat down in my kitchen and proceeded to eat a bag of chips while also chugging chocolate milk. Both tasted better than anything I'd ever consumed, maybe in my life. After that I went up to bed and didn't really move for the next few hours. But, damned if I didn't bask in the glory of knowing that I'd successfully competed 50 MILES. And I'd done it for those who need it the most right now which made the pain and exhaustion I was feeling totally worth it. To those who supported my cause, I can't thank you enough. I was able to raise $2,131 for the MAB Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund* and I would happily do it all over again if they asked me to. I mean, I might need a couple days of rest and maybe a new pair of shoes, but I'm definitely game. This was such a wild ride and I loved every second of it. I am truly blessed with the ability to run. It is such a gift and I never take it for granted. But how great that I can use it to give to others as well. I have no idea what's next but based on the last few weeks it will likely be something interesting. Because life is crazy right now but running will always be open and the possibilities are endless.
*Note: Please click here to learn more about the MAB Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund and to make a donation. Everything little bit helps.
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