I survived and even lived after to tell about it.
Short version: It’s every bit as tough as people say. It’s every bit as rewarding to finish.
What in the hell was I thinking? As the wonderful RD was explaining all the details I found myself rather scared witless. All I wanted to do was grab some pool floats and go for a splash in the leech pond. Really. I’ll take leeches any day. Instead, I heard the important info about following blue markers and told myself to suck it up and run. So I did. I followed the people in front of me and ran a little, then a little more, then around another pond, across the damn dam, through the campground (cheering people!!), pass the photographer, almost go back into the campground until he said “hey, where you going??”, oh! blue marker that way, and into the woods. Aww, little caterpillar. Dodge him and keep going. About this time, I noticed that I’m feeling a little shaky. It’s only mile 2 or 3, so what the crap am I doing low on sugar already?? Humidity. joy of my soul. One gel down and I haven’t even played in the skirts of becky’s bluff yet. This is going to be a long morning. I topped one little hill and saw the photographer and jokingly asked “I guess that wasn’t the big hill was it?”. He said “Oh it gets nasty. I ain’t gonna lie”. Seriously, dude, lie to me next time. Tell the biggest freaking lie of your life right up there with “No, the camera does not add 15 lbs”.
Bluff my ass. This was no bluff. A bluff is a nice angelic outcropping with butterflies and fairies playing cellos. This was none of that. I saw more bugs and tried to dodge them.
This whole time, I’m trying to mentally prepare for the bluff. It’s impossible. There really is no way to prepare yourself for that. I didn’t really know I was climbing the actual hill until I saw dirt in front of me instead of sky and trees. It goes straight up. UP. I caught up with 2 girls who were in shock that their legs would not work right. So, the 3 of us inch up. and up. and up. Tree over trail. no snakes, just grubs. Straddle the tree. keep going. If I heard “we have to be near the top” one time, I heard it a gazillion. They were not quite finding their inner Survivor as I was. Finally, we reached the top. I was a little sad there was no Jesus. I tested, low low low, grab a sugar cube something or other from Yellow guy (if he was supposed to be Jesus, someone should tell him Jesus didn’t have a cell phone to distract Him from important duties like encouraging the flock), and take off.
After the bluff:
My best miles were the 2-3 AFTER the bluff. Now that it was over, I felt so awesome that I made it that far. I really did. I was thrilled at this point. Now I’m at the top of the ridge and I knew it was a series of ups and downs, rolling hills as we say here in Alabama.
It’s not long until I get to the next aid station. Right away, the photographer (different one) said “Hey, that’s the girl in the red hat they were talking about”. As I’m shrugging out of my camelbak to test again, I ask what’s up with that. Her answer….”Umm….they were saying at the last station how WAY ahead of the others you were” That’s a big fat lie because there was only 2 other girls and NOBODY was behind us except one other girl. I wasn’t way ahead of anybody. I still do not know what that comment was for. Anyway, test, low again, grab something I can’t remember right now, and I’m off again.
Photographer: You’re doing great! Next table is the turnaround!!
(15 hours later, no table. Me: )
Well, not that long but it seemed like it. Lots of nasty bugs. I’m gettin tired of all the bugs crawling on my shoes.
The next couple of miles are not that bad, but they seem to go on forever. The sun came out and it got really hot and humid fast. If it was possible to be more humid, that is. Blech. Stop to test again, low again, jeeze, 3rd gel.
Turnaround!!! Hi Shannon!!! Hi Shannon’s Mom. Grab some powerade, knock the damn bugs off my camelbak , test again, doing good this time. Back to the point to go downhill.
This is where it gets kinda ugly. It’s hot, my hip starts nagging, I’m doing more walking than running at this point. All I can think about is the downhill where I can just roll down the stupid hill if I have to. This is where I’m asking myself why am I doing this????????? Huge swarming Hummer-sized bugs flying in my face. I saw one big nasty something or other and I promise it was taunting me by going faster than I was. I crunched him. I know we’re all God’s creatures, but some of us need to be fertilizer and TODAY WASN’T MY DAY FOR THAT JOB, SO SUCK IT BUG!!!! I passed one guy and he asked where the turnaround was and I didn’t lie. I told him it was about a mile away and he said “Im done. I’m going back” I told him to just walk and he could finish! He wasn’t interested. He turned went back the direction I was going, running rather fast.
It was during this death crawl that I thought about some advice someone passed along. “when you get to the point where you wonder why you’re doing it, remember WHY you’re doing it. Because you love to run”
I waddle along for another mile and finally reach the point to go downhill. I promise I would have done the white girl dance with just the music in my head and the groove in my heart. I was that happy.
Here is where it gets dicey.
Photographer told me and the drop-out guy (he just kinda hung out at the aid station waiting to go downhill). She said “look for the blue markers. There are about 7 of them and that’s a lot for Becky. When you get TO the waterfall, go right. There will be a sign and all those blue markers.
Well, I reach a dead end.
I followed the blue markers. Up and up and up and I thought “Hmm…this is strangely familiar. I do believe I might be CLIMBING THE FREAKING BLUFF AGAIN” (evil insane laughing here).
I climbed for about ten minutes, thinking maybe I have to go over a little hill to eventually wind myself back downhill. I blame this thought on blindness from all the kamikaze bugs in my eyes. No, really. I do. It’s their fault and I’m glad they had to die for their transgressions.
I decided, screw this, I’m going back down and I’ll wait for people who know what they’re doing.
I went back down, back up the trail and low and behold there are two paths, neither of them have blue markers. I have no idea which one leads back up to the aid station. So, my thinking is that I should just stand there at those two paths and wait for people. I walk around and wait and wait and wait. and wait. I got a little panicked. I tested and was low, ate my next to last gel and then really panicked. I felt like I was trying to breathe through a straw and had to really talk myself down from a panic attack.
I played the photographer’s words over and over. “AT the waterfall, go right, blue markers, go right AT The waterfall”. There was no waterfall. Now, I realize at this point that I was a little sketchy, but I knew there HAD to be that waterfall. I walk up the right path a little ways and HEAR the waterfall. Bless America, I was close. I ran like a wild banshee and almost run into the damn cave. I saw a sign with a arrow drawn in black marker pointing the way. I really could have used that sign back up there at the path split off. (Looking back, I kept my eyes on the blue markers, straight ahead. Where I was supposed to turn, I didn’t see any markers, but I saw the ORIGINAL markers leading straight ahead and up the bluff, from the beginning of the race. I should have been looking all around for the turn)
So, adrenaline is a deal-breaker for people like me. sucks the sugar right out of me.
Anyway, after my brief moment of scare thinking I’ll hear chainsaws any moment or die like the bugs I’ve been joyfully stepping on, I run like hell…for about 15 steps then I walk.
Back through the campground, back around the lake, across the damn dam. Hi fisherman, you have to be hot and the fish ain’t biting. Back up the pavement, and I saw the bridge. But I really thought I was imagining this. Nope, bridge. I ran and yelled. I did. I let out a primal yell with a nice twangy accent. I heard my name “Katrina!!!” I heard cheers and imagine my surprise that after almost 5 hours, there were people from a local running group were yelling my name.
Cross the line, stumble and can’t believe I just did it.
Hotel ice bath. There is nothing greater than eating Doritos and drinking sprite while sitting in an ice bath after finishing the hardest thing I’ve ever done.