Running the Blue Ridge Double is Like Getting Jumped Into a Gang

I just crawled to the bathroom. I climbed my way up onto the toilet. Then kind of fell over off of it, shimmied my pants back up, and crawled to the living room. There’s coffee in the kitchen. I was smart enough to timer that bad boy.

But no one will go pour me a cup and bring it to me.

Blue Ridge Double Marathon.

This was a fabulous idea, no?

We trained for it. A lot. And I feel like we trained pretty well. I know those damn mountains like the backs of my hands. And yesterday they chewed me up and then opened their mouths to let everybody see my mangled body. Gross.

Here’s how it went down.

I had an excellent plan for the week and how I wasn’t going to work Thursday or Friday and I was going to get all of this fabulous rest making a 1:00am start easy breezy. Then God kind of chuckled and said something about “it’s cute that you think you have control over things” before screwing up my work schedule and then sending every single human in the world to my home on Friday. But in shifts. So that it lasted alllll day.

Fine. No sleep. Let’s do this. I don’t need no damn sleep.

And let me tell you, the first loop was phenomenal. Ercilia was super chatty, distracting me from any actual running I was doing. She told me ghost stories on Roanoke Mountain (Like, legit ghost stories. Home girl is haunted.) I kept getting hiccups, which is what I do on long runs, and she’d laugh and I’d laugh and it was fun. I fueled and hydrated throughout the loop, ensuring that I’d be prepared for loop two. Every now and then Ercilia would check her watch and mention something about our pace and how we needed to slow down. And I think we probably did, for a minute. And then my legs would be all like, “Phst. Pick it back up, chick. We’ve got all kinds of juice. Let’s do this!” And so we’d get moving fast again.

We saw Angela on the back part of the course and got hugs and pics and did some more running.

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Finally, Ercilia managed to talk some sense into me and we walked quite a bit of the last few miles. Which might sound relaxing, but really kind of sucked because the temperature had dropped a good 20 degrees by then and we were FREEZING. We still crossed a mostly abandoned finish line with a full hour before the next start.

Not ideal. That’s plenty of time for your body to shut down and say, “hey, let’s go home now and get some coffee.”

I spent that entire hour sitting in my heated seat with heat blowing on me trying to stop the shaking, taking inventory of all the pains. Achilles. Both of them. Right ankle. FEET. Is that a stress fracture? Left hip. That can’t possibly work again. I was talking myself through all of the reasons not to go back out. A full Blue Ridge Marathon is freakin badass. Why do I need two in one day? That’s stupid. And I’ve got a lot of stuff coming up that I need those body parts for. Conquer the Cove. Ragnar. Spartan. Chicago Marathon. I was honestly just seconds away from turning the ignition and driving home. And then I passed out with my head on the steering wheel.

No one seemed concerned.

A text from Kim at 7:30 got my sorry ass back out of the damn car and over to the stupid starting line again. The only thing, THE ONLY THING, that got me back to the starting line was the people I run with. There was just no way I could not at least try to see this thing through. I knew they would harass me endlessly if I dropped out. Michelle assured me that I was correct on that assumption. But I was also pretty convinced that I’d be dropping out on one of the mountains. A DNF is better than a DNS, right? The shaking was uncontrollable at that point.

So, here’s where it all kind of falls apart.

I thought the shaking was purely due to the cold.

It wasn’t.

I had eaten some stuff during that one hour seat heater session.

But clearly not enough.

And definitely not the right stuff.

I had nothing. NOTHING in the tank.

I’d lost Ercilia during all this. It’s impossible to find people at that starting line. There are just too many humans out there. But Denise showed up beside me at the start and that helped get me going. Then Danny showed up as we started up Fishburn Parkway. I think he was fully prepared to stick it out with me, because he was one of my badass training partners and has this mindset that you never leave a man behind, but I told him to go on.  You’re not going to walk your first Blue Ridge Marathon when you can totally beast this thing. Because I was pretty sure that the only way I wouldn’t drop out of this thing was to walk it. All of it. I wasn’t going to beast a damn thing. He protested a bit and then said to call him if I needed him to come back and pick me up off of the side of the road. Because that is exactly how I looked. Like at any moment, I was just going to collapse on the side of the road.

And then at the point where the rest of the distances turn off to go up Mill Mountain while the rest of us have to keep going over to Roanoke Mountain, I saw my Ercilia running back to me.

“We started this together. We’re going to finish it together.”

This woman.

She is the ONLY reason I kept going right then.

Hugs from the forever badass Mountain Junkies Josh and Gina and I felt like maybe I could get through this thing. Keep in mind that Josh just ran Boston in the most horrid conditions on Monday. These people run ultras like they’re nothing. And here they were out there on the course supporting their Mountain Junkies. Oh, how I love those humans.

I mean, how do you quit when you’ve got those folks telling you you’re amazing?

But that quit kept coming back anyway.

So much walking and we finally made it to the entrance of Roanoke Mountain.

This was it. This was the point that I stopped and decided I was done. I just couldn’t will myself up that mountain. My legs just wouldn’t do it. They sure as hell weren’t going to get me another 20 miles. I was dizzy and shaky and nauseous and I had negative energy. Like, not just that I was being all negative and bitchy (which I was. Sorry Rhonda.), but that I’m pretty sure my energy levels were in the negatives and I was sucking the life force out of those around me (Ercilia) to survive.

Several people had told me before this race that if I needed someone to carry me up the mountains, they would. Sarah was one of those. So, you can imagine the look of terror in her eyes as she saw me bent over, nearing collapse, at the bottom of that mountain. If I had remembered her offer, I would have asked. Seriously. I had zero pride or concern for other humans at that point. I had negative life force in me, and I was willing to claim it from whomever was willing to approach me.

And God bless Ercilia, because she’s got more than enough life force to share. And she stuck by my side, encouraging me, but not pressuring me. Just standing there with me as I leaned against the side railing contemplating the end. Just letting me know that she was there, whatever I needed. At one point after I finally stood back up and tried to keep going, she put her arm around me and pulled me up the mountain for a bit. Mind you, she had just run an entire marathon, too. She was in pain, too. And here she was, pulling my sorry ass up a mountain.

THIS is why runners are the BEST people. We know that there is power in numbers and we get each other through.

At that moment, though, I didn’t even want to get through.

You know, there are people that do this thing every year? The Double? Pam Rickard and Brian Walters and a select few others?

They crazy.

Here’s the thing. Your body won’t tell you you’re hungry at this point. It won’t give you any of those hunger signals that tell you to consume food. It just kind of shuts down. It totally stops speaking to you. It’s like me when I’m done arguing. Fine. You won’t see things my way? I’m just done, then. I’ll just pretend you don’t exist. Hmph.

So, it took me a while to figure out that I should probably try a little more fuel.

I grabbed one of my HUMA’s and forced it down.

I didn’t have any hope that this would do anything. I was still ready to just quit.

And then, magically, a few minutes later I suddenly had some energy back. Not a lot, mind you, but enough to get up that damn mountain.

And at the top, I had the most delicious pretzels that I’ve ever had in my life. They were amazing. And so I grabbed a handful to enjoy on the run back down the mountain.

I still had to make Ercilia walk quite a bit on the way over to Mill Mountain, but at least I was moving and a little more hopeful about this process. I think at some point around Mill Mountain is when I looked at Ercilia and said in complete awe, “We’re really gonna finish this, aren’t we?”

More pretzels at the top of Mill. I think maybe even some oranges. Or bananas. I’m not sure. It’s a blur.

What I do know is that I continued to consume pretzels at every single aid station that offered them.

And here’s what happens when your body has kind of shut down in protest to your dumbass ultra idea and you keep shoving pretzels into it.

They sit there. They don’t digest. They just sit there in your stomach and begin to expand.

So, I was once again starting to feel a little desperate as the pretzels lost their magic near the top of Peakwood, when Ali and Mike found us.

And I think this may pretty much sum up my entire Blue Ridge Double experience. The moment Ali looked at me, she immediately asked if I was ok in that voice people use when they know that you’re absolutely not ok, but you can’t just lead with, “Dude. You’re dying. Sit down. Let me call you an ambulance.”

No. No I wasn’t ok.

But they pushed me the last bit up to the top of Peakwood where more of my Mountain Junkies and C&C runners were volunteering and cheering their asses off and I mostly didn’t hate them for all of the energy they had and I was reminding myself that we had just finished the last major climb so I could probably make it the rest of the way and then Ali shoved a bunch of gummy worms into my hands.

Oh my loving happiness. Gummy worms are the stuff dreams are made of.

The immediate sugar high that kicked in was phenomenal. I imagine it’s what a hit of cocaine feels like. Hell yeah! Let’s do this! Drop out, my ass! F- this race! Psht. I’ve got this! Hell, let’s run it three times!

(Side note: someone ran this bitch four times yesterday. Four. They ran a “warmup double” and then ran the actual double. That’s, what, 1,000 miles? Or something like that. At least more than 100. On the mountains. On pavement. Insane. Like, I can’t even admire that. It just feels stupid to someone who was barely able to make it through one double.)

So, I shoved a whole bunch of gummies into my pocket and took off, just smiling and joking and happy-making the whole way down Peakwood. Holy hell, I was ready to beast these last 8 miles.

Now, here’s the thing.

Sugar highs don’t last that long. Particularly when your body is burning through every possible calorie at light speed. So when you crash, you crash hard.

And then you remember all of those pretzels sitting in your stomach just expanding.

And then the indigestion kicks in.

And those freaking hiccups come back and no one was laughing about them anymore.

And your hips are locking up.

And your feet feel like you’ve been walking across shredded glass.

I mean, I knew I couldn’t drop out at that point. You don’t put your body through 44 miles just to quit on the last 8. But I also totally could have.

Thankfully, Mike was there to pace us for those last 8, because I needed all of the push I could get.

I didn’t want to keep running. I didn’t really want to keep walking, but I was willing to  do that to get to the finish line. But the running, however excruciating, was going to get us there faster. I knew that. So, Ercilia would let me walk for a few minutes and then gently nudged me back into running.

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Mike just kept telling us how proud he was of us and how well we were doing.

I was pretty sure Mike was full of it, but there’s something about hearing those positive affirmations when you are at the point of completely breaking down that works. They get into your subconscious and keep you going.

The volunteers and spectators along the course would see the pink bibs and say, “Doublers! Y’all are badass!”

I most certainly didn’t feel badass. And I couldn’t see me, but I know damn well I didn’t look badass. Bad, yes. Badass, no.

I kept trying to think about people that have overcome actual adversity. I knew Kelly was there after having spent the last year kicking cancer’s ass. Or my co-worker that has been dedicated to pushing her students to success while she was kicking cancer’s ass. Or my dad who went through hell in Vietnam. Or my mom who overcame so much during her childhood. Or any one of my training partners, because every damn one of them has overcome at least one incredibly challenging obstacle.

At a certain point, I did remember Desi Linden (the chick that won the Boston Marathon on Monday after almost dropping out by the porta potties?). It kind of helped.

Got to the last aid station and got a hug from Megan. That came at a pretty important point, because I was slipping back into the mindset that I probably didn’t NEED to finish a double marathon. But she said something uplifting to me and I collapsed into her arms and then decided to continue.

That last half mile. That last half mile, though.

I think, if an official had approached me with a vehicle and said, “Hey, you don’t look so good. Hop in and I’ll get you taken care of,” I totally would have gone. I’m not convinced that I had the mental or physical strength at that point to fight the suggestion of dropping out…of a double marathon…when I only had 1/2 a mile to go.

And I know, y’all think I’m exaggerating for entertainment here. But I’m not. I would absolutely have dropped out at that point if someone had offered to drive me to my car.

I just can’t describe the pain enough. My body was legit breaking down. No. It was broken. It was fully broken down.

Like, every single part of me felt bruised. I mean, I get why my feet and legs felt bruised. But my back and shoulders? My arms. My elbow. Why does my elbow feel bruised? Apparently running the Blue Ridge Double is akin to getting jumped into a gang?

I saw Kim ahead of us, obviously in a crazy amount of pain, too. And I wanted to call out to her so we could all push each other through to the end. But I was pretty sure that yelling out to her would have used up the very last bit of life force I had stolen from Ercilia and I just couldn’t chance it. Plus, she didn’t look like she was in a place to offer to carry me, so what was the point, really?

And then here comes Tyree, running up with a huge hug and that motivating smile. I think I may have asked him to please carry me to the finish. And he probably would have, except he’s a runner and he was not about to let me stop with 1/2 a mile to go.

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He and Mike were pretty sure we could manage this on our own.

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See my face? I wasn’t at all sure I could make this on my own.

But we kept moving forward. One excruciating step at a time.

And then there was the turn to the finish. Time to put on our happy, this was nothing and we totally had this the whole time face. I told the two volunteers manning that corner that, if anyone asks, we were running the whole time.

And then we reluctantly started running again as we turned the corner.

And there were the rest of our friends. Cheering. Screaming out our names. Willing us through the finish line. And it was the most amazing feeling in the world.

I cannot imagine that there is any substance in the world that will ever make you feel as amazing as the finish line at the end of an ultra filled with people you love.

The pain COMPLETELY disappears when you’re running through that finish line with your people cheering you through.

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I mean, it comes back pretty quickly once you’re across. But that feeling. It’s freaking indescribable.

This woman. We went through actual hell together. And I can’t thank her enough for getting me through. Because hell is awful and I’m too much of a pansy to face it alone.

And there are so many others that pushed us through.

My Julia put these posters up on the race route and then came out at midnight to give me a good luck hug and give me the most amazing Dorito gift basket. Never mind that she was running the half later that morning and needed sleep in preparation.

Marion came out at 1am to take pictures of the C&C runners running the Double and wish us luck. And he stayed to do the same for the really badass Doublers starting at 2:30am. Never mind that he was running the full and should have been sleeping in preparation.

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Erica Austin spent what must have been a grueling day walking runners through post-run yoga with the most amazing massage thrown in. She would guide me into a pose and then do this little pushy thing on my hips or legs and it was amazing. I just…I mean, it was better than anything anyone has ever made me feel before. At that point, I was fully ok that I don’t have a man in my life, because he could only disappoint me after what she did. She is the most magical healer I’ve ever encountered. And if I lived in Roanoke, I’m pretty sure I would schedule daily sessions with her. Check out her FB page here. Seriously. We all need her in our life.

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She was the only reason I was able to hang out for a bit and enjoy a little fun with these amazing people.

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(Two people had to lift me up out of that kneeling stance.)

They make me feel like I can conquer the world. Or at least the Blue Ridge Double.

But just that once, though.

Next year I’m thinking I’ll do the half so I can have some actual fun and enjoy some mimosas along the race course.

So, that’s it.

We finished in a total of 11:49:54 according to Jones Racing Company. I somehow managed to walk away with a 2nd place Female Masters award. I imagine that’s because there were only two of us elder chicks stupid enough to run the double. But I’ll take it. (Thank you, Michelle, for hearing my name and snatching that award up for me. I sure as hell wasn’t listening for an award. It just doesn’t make any sense.)

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And now I get to take inventory of all the damage I did to my body yesterday and figure out how to repair it.

I heard it’s good to lie with your legs propped up on a wall to help reduce inflammation or something. So, I tried that last night. It took me an hour to try to get back out of this position.

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Maybe today I’ll try some of that yoga Erica taught me yesterday.

And eat. There will be so much eating today. I’ve got 6,846 calories to recoup.

14 thoughts on “Running the Blue Ridge Double is Like Getting Jumped Into a Gang

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