To be honest, I believe a small part of me wanted to forget that the 2018 Hallucination 6/12/24 hour trail race ever happened. I suppose that’s why it’s taken me 54 days to write the race recap.
Whenever I stop to think about how long I’ve been running, I think of how old my oldest kid is, and count back 60 days. Eleven years and four months. Granted I had certainly before that, I grew up an avid athlete, and coaches were always making us run…usually as a form of punishment, but I digress. Further, there were a handful of legitimate races completed before Rowen was even born, including two half-assed-half-marathons and a 10 miler. But it wasn’t until a few months after his birth that I decided to go for that fateful lose-this-baby-weight- one mile run that catapulted me into life as I know it today:
I am a runner.
The purpose of that random backstory is to share this: never in my entire running career has my body protested the simple act of running as harshly and loudly as it did at the 2018 Hallucination 6/12/24 hour trail race.
And for once, I heeded to its protests. Sort of.
But let us start at the beginning. Last year’s Hallucination 6/12/24 went down as one of my best races of 2017. Despite the 4:00 am breakdown and subsequent 2 hour nap, I managed to knock out 84 miles in 24 hours, and tie for 2nd place with a local, accomplished ultra runner that I really look up to (because she makes this sport look ridiculously easy). I was proud of the hard work that I had done to get there, and the fact that I truly stuck to my plan throughout the entire race (minus aforementioned breakdown).
This year’s Hallucination 6/12/24 came off of a long streak of DNF’s and simply doing too much, too soon after my most recent medical malady. To recap (though I’m sure most of you know this already) there was the second hernia surgery, followed by a quick comeback to longer distances, 56/100 miles of Swamp Fox, 40-something miles at Epic, and 61/100 miles at Frozen Hell Hole. None of those races went as expected, each one left me feeling weaker than before.
Running, for me, is an interesting paradox of doing what I know I should do, and doing what I want to do. The educated professional versus the free spirit wanderer. As a running coach, I hound my clients to follow specific training protocol and procedures, for proper progression and safety. As a runner, I tend to follow my reckless, irresponsible heart.
And my heart likes to run really freaking far, even when my legs aren’t prepared for it.
After a year of very careful training, which paid off bigtime with the 2017 Hallucination as well as finally earning my first 100 mile buckle, I pushed the professional voice out of my head and foolishly followed the free spirit heart, that nearly lost it’s sh*t when taking 2 months off from running in order to have surgery.
So now you know exactly where my body and mind was coming from when we toed the start line of 2018 Hallucination 6/12/24 .
Get to the race recap already, Heather.
I had initially registered for the 24 hour race, hoping to beat my previous years distance in the alloted time. But then race director Chad announced the Frozen Hell Hole 100, and I couldn’t turn down the opportunity for a belt buck with a big fuzzy Yeti on it. Alas, that plan bombed miserably, and as Chad picked me up in his truck at the 61ish mile marker in the middle of the night, I told him to please bump me down to the 6 hour race two weekends later. Geoff eventually decided to do the same.
Since we were “only” running the 6 hour race, we decided to head down the morning of the race, rather than camp overnight. The weather forecast predicted cold, windy temperatures, and after One Epic 24 and Frozen Hell Hole, I’d had just about enough of sleeping in ice cold tents for the year.
The drive to Middleton Place Woodlands takes about two hours for us from Myrtle Beach, but is a significantly easier drive at 4 am when there is no traffic. We arrive with plenty of time to spare, and I show up to learn that this time, I was the one in the Hart duo who registered in time for an Eagle Endurance buff (as opposed to Last Chance 25K last fall, where I forgot to register altogether). I was stoked, because it was a cool one.
With plenty of time to kill, I head over to find my friends Arianna and Felicia. Arianna would be making her first 24 hour attempt, and her sister Felicia would be crewing. We chat, I help her set up her Garmin, and I offer what little bit of experienced advice I have. Before we know it, it’s time to line up for the start. I am not nervous in the slightest: I’ve backed down to the least amount of time/distance offered, and I’m simply there to check another race off of the $30 club.
Chad says “go” and Geoff and I take off at a relatively conservative pace. Because we are “only” running 6 hours (my perception of reality, time, and distance has been extremely skewed since joining the ultra world) we decide we can afford to go a little faster than our normal ultra pace. The course is flat and FAST, consisting of a 2.2 mile loop around a big pond. I knew that we could easily knock out a 50K in our 6 hours, so that is my goal.
A casual 50K.
The first loop goes by quickly and uneventfully. We finish the loop just in time to see Gary Cantrell/Lazarus Lake pull up in his car, a half an hour after the race started. Apparently Chad forgot to blow the conch or something, and Laz was late for the race he was apparently participating in. I laugh at how crazy this ultra-life is, and continue on my way. I’m running with a handheld that I barely touched (it’s cold) so I need nothing at our aid table. We continue straight through.
Lap two is equally as uneventful, but hey, this is an ultra. I have plenty of time to tell stories. Right?
FIVE MILES IN TO A 6 HOUR RACE my body starts screaming. Specifically, the Achilles tendon that I’ve been battling with ever since, well, November if we’re being honest. And it didn’t start off as a dull ache, but instead went from silent to a loud roar. Five miles into what I hoped would be a 50K and I’m limping. Five freaking miles.
What . The. Hell.
I immediately tell Geoff that I’ve got to come up with a plan B, asap. This is not the kind of pain that you push through, but on the other hand, I’m so damn frustrated with my string of DNF’s, I just want some sort of finish. (Damn you ultrasignup.com, when will I realize that your rankings don’t really matter anyway.) We shuffle on in to the aid station (now 6.4 miles into the race) and I track down Chad.
“How many miles do I have to run in order to be considered a 6 hour finisher?” I ask him, as bluntly as possible. Before he can give me a hard time for already whining, I emphasize the fact that I’m not being a pansy, I’m legitimately injured.
This, my friends, is where a logical thinker would say “maybe I should just take a DNF.” But noooo, not stubborn Heather (don’t worry, I’m rolling my eyes at myself in retrospect).
Chad responds that I need at least 15 miles, so I turn around and tell Geoff 15 miles is exactly what I’m going to do. No more, no less. And I’ve got 5 hours left to do it.
So I decide to take a loop off. Geoff is feeling good, and there is no reason for me to hold him back, especially on a timed course with a simple 2 mile loop. I’d see him again in another 25 minutes. I head over to our aid table, sit down in a chair, and put my sore ankle up. I spend the next 20 minutes or so chatting with Felicia, and answering the quizzical looks that come my way from a number of friends who are also running, wondering why I’m suddenly not running
Other highlights of the race include:
– Passing Laz a few times on the course. Despite this being the second small event I’ve been to where he has attended, and despite the fact that he consistently makes fun of me and the “Myrtle Beach Mountains” on Facebook, I’m still too “starstruck” to “bother” him mid race to chat. Oprah? Wouldn’t phase me. The President? Let’s chat. I am a regular Chatty Heather (my sister’s name is Cathy) and do not let celebrity status get me tongue tied.
Except, apparently, when it comes to Laz. I’ve been Barkley obsessed since around 2011, pre-Netflix-documentary, what can I say.
– Sharing a loop with Paige, Jesse, and Eric, some other badass $30 club members. I love the new friendships that are developing from these crazy events of Chads.
– The aid station snacks and commentary.
– Holding hands with my husband for a few miles straight. If you can’t race, and you cant even run, you might as well enjoy a beautiful morning with the love of your life.
So to sum this up, I ran a few laps, I walked a few laps, I sat a few laps. Everything hurt. Eventually I hit 15 miles, approximately 4/10ths of a mile from the finish line. I joked with Geoff that I was going to sit down right there, call Chad, and ask him to come get me. But I know Chad’s rule is “get in the truck, get a DNF” and I imagined this applied for the 4 wheeler as well.
But it would have been pretty funny to have him retreive me within eyesight of the finish line.
So we crossed the finish line, approximately 15.4 miles, and 7 loops later. I walk up to Chad and tell him I’m done. He asks me if I’m sure, and I don’t even bat an eye.
I’m beyond done.
He hands me my finishers coin and doesn’t give me too much shit for falling short once again. I briefly talk with him about how I’m really just beat up, not from today, but from the last few months combined, and I see the outer layer of hardass race director crack, and inner, compassionate side of Chad shines through.
“Sometimes our bodies just need a break” he says. And I agree.
In fact, I agreed two weeks earlier, when I wrote my Frozen Hell Hole race report, and waxed poetically about how I had found whatever the hell I was seeking in the ultra world (two months of rest would reveal that there’s nothing that needs to be found, I just love this silly sport.) But for whatever reason, I still showed up to the starting line of Hallucination 6/12/24, and my pathetic, humbling, and miserable performance was the final nail in the “you really need to take time off” coffin.
So I did.
And it was great.
When you wait 54 days to write a race recap, you find yourself with absolutely nothing monumental to say at the end. No life lessons, no captivating closing paragraphs. So instead let’s end with the following thoughts:
- Eagle Endurance races are amazing. This course is perfect for a 6/12/24 hour PR. So you should run it.
- When your body demands a break, LISTEN TO IT. Don’t keep testing it over and over until your limping a mere 5 miles into a run.
- Write your race recaps immediately, or else you’ll be rambling in circles with nothing poignant to say.
The end. (See you at Wambaw Swamp Stomp)