Unless you know me in real life or have any interest in running, this post will probably not be interesting to you.
Recently, my personal life completely imploded. Odd Couple style. Sort of. I arrived home from working at a convention in Iowa on a Saturday afternoon to find my on-again, off-again boyfriend of 7 years waiting to tell me that he wanted to end our relationship. We’d broken up two years prior in a dramatic fashion – with me moving out, renting a place, etc., but we got back together 6 months later. When I moved back in, I’d assumed we were heading towards some sort of commitment. But unfortunately, my now ex-boyfriend never felt the same way. He informed me that things between us were over, that there would be no discussion, and that this was what was best for both of us. I was completely devastated. I’ll spare you the graphic details from the inner workings of my mind, but let me just tell you, it wasn’t pretty. I stopped eating and lost 15 pounds. I stopped working out. I was too depressed to leave the house I needed to stop living in. It was ugly.
Before this life altering chaos set in, I’d been training for the Moebius Green Monster 50k. I’d run my first 50k earlier in the spring and had hoped to try my hand at another ultra before the year was out. My first choice was YUTC – a 50k in Youngstown in September, but due to some life events that were coming up, I didn’t think that date would work. I happened to go to a training run for the Green Monster with my friend Erin and really liked the course and impulsively signed up. As a woman said to me when I was trudging past her on the course, “this seemed like such a good idea when I signed up.”
After barely being able to run more than 3 miles after this bomb was dropped on me, I told myself, “There’s no shame in dropping out of this race. Your life is falling apart. You’re not physically or emotionally strong enough for this. Better to drop out now than embarrass yourself on the course.” But then I thought about it some more. The Moebius course consists of five 10k loops. I told myself that if I got too tired, etc. I could always drop out if I needed to. And so, like many of the decisions in my head that seem to be going back and forth these days, I decided to forge ahead and stay in the race. I managed to get one long training run – 18 miles. My first double digit training run in over a month. It went well, and I was encouraged about the prospect of running in the race but I was still afraid of failing.
Fast forward to race day. With my head crew member in tow – my mom – we headed to Aurora at 5am. Unlike in my last 50k where I’d forgotten basic things like socks, I had enough food, clothing, and gear to run for a month. We had a cooler full of electrolyte water. I had gels. Bars. Sunblock. I was ready. My friend Tyler from my running group was attempting his first ultra and I was honestly more nervous for him than I was for me. I think that’s one of my fatal flaws. I care too much about other people when I should be concerned about me. We anxiously waited for the race to start. Watched the sun come up over beautiful Sunny Lake. And before we knew it, it was go time.
I started out in the middle of the pack of 70-ish people. Started out too fast, in fact. I felt it in my head but sometimes when you get into a pack of fast runners, you get swept up in the moment and keep going. I kept thinking, “Slow down! Slow down.” But I kept going. After my first loop (of 5), I was more tired than I should have been. But I kept going. Until I fell around mile 7. Right next to a tree. I skinned my left hand, left knee, left ankle, and right knee. I picked myself up, totally discouraged, and continued 2 miles through the forest to the aid station. By the time I got there, the dirt and dried blood stained my skin, and no matter how hard I scrubbed with baby wipes, I couldn’t get myself cleaned up. So I said “f it” and kept going, telling myself for the next 3 miles that I was done. I felt sad, ashamed, sore, dehydrated, and so discouraged. The course is mainly in the woods but for the last quarter mile or so of each loop, you had to run on a paved path in the park. I popped out of the woods and saw my mom and two friends – Erin and Neil - cheering for me. They stopped cheering when they saw how upset and messy I looked. (my mom later told me she thought I was done at that point) My friends told me I couldn’t give up. Erin said, “You’ve got this only 3 more to go!” When in my mind I thought, “I’ve barely made it two loops there’s no way I can go 3 more.” Then my friend Neil even said he’d go the 3rd loop with me. I begrudgingly agreed to let him go with me.
We ran/walked the whole 3rd loop and it helped me to regain my confidence and my strength. I’m not sure I can ever repay him for that act of kindness. He saved me. As we were nearing the end of my third loop, Tyler stumbled up on us. His nipples were bleeding though his shirt and he was covered in mud. He’d gotten dehydrated and had fallen 3 times. He wanted to stop but we wouldn’t let him. We told him to keep trudging on. Tyler ran ahead of us as Neil and I kept walking. Neil chattered away to keep my mind off of things. When I got back to the start and got ready to head out for my 4th loop, Tyler almost collapsed as my mom was refilling my water bottle. He turned white. He was covered in dried salt. I’ve never seen anything like this in person. I thought I was witnessing someone dying. I had to keep going before my muscles locked up, but I worried about him the whole time I was on that loop. He only had one more to go and I hoped he would find a way to finish. While I was running strong on loop 4, my mom and running club friends got him to eat, drink a lot, take some salt tablets and then Neil ran Tyler’s last loop with him. They caught up with me around my 23rd mile.
I kept running. And then walking. And then running some more. I stopped to eat something at the beginning of my 5th loop and my mom decided to walk with me a little. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have walked with her. That caused my muscles to lock up more than they should have and made my last 5 miles agony. But I appreciated the gesture. I was sunburned, bloody, thirsty, and a little angry. Angry at myself for not being prepared. Angry at myself for being in such a bad place emotionally. At mile 26, I really wanted to be done. If there had been a way to get back to the finish line, I would have quit. But the good and bad thing about trail races is that you can’t just quit. You still have to make it a few miles before you can give up. I made it to mile 28 – a place where I could have dropped out – and talked myself into finishing. I’d come so far. I couldn’t give up then. I was determined to make it to the finish. I wasn’t going to let my ex-boyfriend and the overwhelming sadness I’ve been feeling lately defeat me. So I trudged along. My last mile I saw no one. It was agonizingly slow. Until I got back to the path near the end. My mom was waiting for me. She told me I could do it and that we’d finish together. And we did. She ran it in with me. It was one of the greatest moments in my life.
This week I started on a big new adventure in life. I packed up my stuff, left the place I’d called home for the better part of 7 years, and moved into a not so great rental house. I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been tough. I own my own home, but it’s rented, and the place I’m living in isn’t nearly as nice as any place I’ve lived before. But at least it’s my very own space to get my head together, regroup, and keep moving forward. Time is my enemy and my friend at this point. I face some moments where the hole in my life left by my past relationship seems too overwhelming. It feels so strange to just have to worry about myself and no one else. But I look forward to time passing so I can get my life back on track and start working on building a better future. And in the meantime, I’m going to try to get back to living my life, not neglecting my friends…and blogging about my adventures along the way! (so to make a long story short, blogging Roxanne is back, baby!)