Last year I set out on a journey with 11 other people to run across the state of Florida. I met some amazing people and as you know one of them changed my life. This year we set out on a completely different journey on that very same path and those people would be there for us in different ways. This year, we decided to take those 180 miles and conquer them with just 4 people and one fearless driver. Its Monday and I still can’t wrap my mind around the entire experience and I think it will be some time before I can fully grasp what happened. No story would be the same on this experience so keep in mind this is just my take on this.
Friday morning at 8am began the first steps into 180miles. The first 60 miles or so always seem to be the easiest. You have that can do attitude and everyone is still full of energy, legs are fresh and you are ready to keep moving forward. It was around nightfall that the things became to unravel. Somewhere along my 19.27 mile leg I was alone on the levee without my team to cheer me on and it was then that I began to question my own strength. I had become very nauseated and the pain in my IT band was pulsating. I kept thinking that if I could just make it to the next set of blinking lights that I would be almost there. My Garmin became my enemy at that point because it wasn’t clicking off miles as quickly as I wanted it to. I turned up my music so I didn’t become fixated on the Garmin or the sounds of gators croaking in the distance. All I recall was Mark and Kara waiting for me in the distance and it was the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen. The nausea had hit so hard at that point that I just collapsed in Mark’s arms with my eyes full of tears. I remember apologizing for going so slow on that last mile and for getting sick. Seems silly to apologize, but you take so much pride in your team and their efforts that you want to go full force for them at every moment.
I wanted so badly to sleep, but at that point it didn’t even matter anymore. Mark was pounding out the entire levee practically on his own and I knew the levee can shake even the strongest of people. I am sure he will tell you his take on the whole experience eventually !!!! We all started to worry about him taking a bit longer to run 20 miles, so seeing his flashing lights in the distance was a huge relief. Maybe it was that smile that I saw, that gave me the bigger sense of relief. I knew he was hurting and broken down, so all I could keep saying was “im here and im proud of you!” It was late, it was cold and holy shit was it windy. The night would only get more interesting.
At about 330am our former team mates showed up with hot chocolate and support signs. The screams of encouragement were more than anyone could ever ask for. It was like finally being found on a deserted island. They had been there before though and they knew exactly what we needed. At that hour our spirits needed it because at that point every bit of us were at the point of despair. It’s hard to keep everyone positive at that point in the journey and showing your teammates anything other than positivity can be detrimental. Amy, Melissa and Mistee gave us the boost we needed at the perfect time.
At this point I was 35.27 miles on my portion. I got out for my final leg and was shivering uncontrollably. I was groggy and still nauseated at this point and almost worried I would fall over either from the wind or my body just telling me it was time to wave the white flag. I ran 9miles and had to exchange a little earlier because at some point we all make a judgement on whether something is going to cause an injury. I will puke and run anytime, but the pulsing pain in my left leg told me that I still had a 50mile race to train for and run in May. I gave up a few of my miles to mend my leg in the car and the most painful blister on the bottom of my foot, but I would make up that mileage later on when I could get myself together. We changed our strategy at that point and decided it would be best if we just started exchanging our runners at every exchange point. Our bodies were too tired at this point to keep pressing on for miles above 10, so it just was a smart move at this point to finish out strong and keep the teams behind us off our heels. As we pulled over at this point, there was a familiar car behind us who came out to give us hugs of encouragement. Thank you Sherry for being our next saving grace. She also knew what we were going through at this point, because she was there too one short year ago.
I got out of the car for 6 more miles and my legs yelled back, but I yelled louder. I yelled at myself and said just get to the next stop light (we were thankfully back in civilization at this point) or the next street sign. I only came around the bend to realize I had to run one of the toughest bridges. I muscled to my team and let them know “I got this!” One foot in front of the other, I made it to the other side of that beast unscathed. It was then I heard the honks and screams of two amazing friends who made it out again to support us AGAIN and bring coffee. Who can ask for more??!!!
At this point we could see the finish line on the other side of the water. Just little 3 milers left to get there and it seemed so challenging. From someone who runs 60-70miles a week, this has got to tell you how broken we were at this point. Mark had the last leg to the finish and the team decided we would run it in together at the last portion. I decided after all this I would run the last tough bridge alone with Mark. One mile left! I got dropped off, while the rest of the team parked and met us. I saw that yellow shirt coming towards me and a big smile on his face. I said, “hey you want to finish this race and run this bridge with me?” Not going to lie, but it was really emotional as we crossed over that bridge together both in a lot of pain. We saw the blown up FINISH line at the bottom and our team waiting to join hands to cross together. We screamed all the way to the finish line and as my foot crossed all I could yell was “Holy shit we did it!!!” 28hours 17mins and 41secs later and we had beat the cold, the wind, the pain, the nausea, the trots, the exhaustion, the hunger and the voices of defeat. I’m proud of being the only team of 4 out there and doing it all in one vehicle and one amazing driver. We roughed it the whole way and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. We toughed it out despite all odds. We are champions!!
I’m proud of all my team mates for overcoming their own personal battles and thankful for each foot step they took forward. It was not about who ran better or who ran harder, it was about finishing it as a team and being there for one another. Each of them would have their own story, but I know for me it broke me down and built me back up into someone stronger than I was Friday morning. I’m grateful for my best friend for taking on this adventure with us and being a constant voice of encouragement and positivity. With this I say….ON TO THE NEXT!!!