What do you get when you put 70 runners, beautiful trails, and lots of Gatorade together? The recipe for a great race! Now, throw in 95% humidity, temps in the 80's, and horseflies. Things get a little more interesting! I want to thank y'all for your prayers this weekend as we attempted and succeeded in running this ultra marathon out in the "boondocks" in South Carolina!
We were greeted by friendly folks and given directions on the trails to follow. People, do you think that I can remember which trail blazes(the colors on the trees determining which trail you are on) to follow hours after the start? No way! I just follow the pack of runners. Well, there was no pack! It was the three of us for the most part with a few other runners along the way. Y'all, I wish that I could have taken my camera with me to show you the beautiful pristine forest. It was like God had taken a paintbrush and used dark rich shades of green throughout. But, my camera would have been soaked in sweat! We also ran on horse trails--several surprises there (use your imagination!). The hills meandered along for miles and miles. We ran on gravel roads at times (painful). The aid stations (every 6.5 miles) were a blessing! Yummy cantaloupe and bananas were delicious and cool.
Now, to the nitty gritty. Susan and high humidity and hot weather do not mix. But, I had no other options. Warm Gatorade, cytomax, ulta, etc. is nasty anyway you look at it. But, it's very important to get these liquids in your bodies to keep you from dehydration. The electrolytes keep your sodium and potassium levels up. Forcing yourself to swallow is another challenge. Papaya enzymes are a wonderful little natural aid to keep nausea away. I enjoyed those little sweet tart like treats along the way.
After hours on the trail, I finally told Cheri and Heather to go ahead...they were so sweet to wait on me. We only had 5 miles to go. Surely, I could get back to the finish line by myself. (Plus, I had my pepper spray just in case I ran into any wild animals!!) So I ran, I walked, I drank. Repeat. I crossed over a stream...looking for the blazes. I found them and kept going...and going...and going! Only one runner had passed me a while back saying there were only 3 miles left. Surely, I was almost there. And then, I started to doubt myself. Was I really following the right colored blazes? I wasn't sure anymore. I replayed my steps--thinking carefully as to whether there had been another twist or turn I might not have seen. I literally stopped on the trail and prayed aloud to God to send me a sign to let me know if I was on the right path. I had very little water and just a drop or two of the nasty Gatorade left. All I could think of was my hubby getting a phone call from the race director telling him that his wife was somewhere out in the forest, and she'd let him know when the forest rangers found me!! Bless his heart!
I finally turned around and went back in the direction that I had just come from. I figured that I really did need to retrace my steps. I ran/walked about 1/2 mile when I saw something ahead. I was wearing my Ipod---love this equipment so much!! It had been playing softly since mile 15. It kept me focused so my mind didn't wander too much. Casting Crowns' "I Once Was Lost, But Now I'm Found" was the song playing as I saw two runners approaching me!! They yelled out," Why are you coming this way?? You were going the right way!" Y'all, is God awesome or what??? He sent me "earth angels" --very sweaty ones--to lead me to the finish line!! Oh, His timing is perfect. I told them that they were an answer to prayer!! Literally!! I was not far from the finish line when I turned around!! Friends were waiting at the top of the hill (Can you imagine, a HILL at the end of this race?!! Not very nice!) and cheered us on. What a relief! I completed my first ultra marathon in 8 hours and 42 minutes!! Woohoo! God is so good!!Me, Heather, and Cheri showing off our medals! This was Heather's first ultra as well!
While running, I prayed for family and friends. I also ran this race in honor of Joy's Dad who is in the hospital. I wore the Canadian bandanna that Joy sent me. Every time I would feel yucky, I would remind myself that I had the ability to run this race. Not everyone can run or even walk. It is a privilege that we take for granted. One of the runners that we met on the trail, Mike, has a wife who is in a wheelchair. She is disabled and unable to be at races to support her husband. Although Mike had several hours of a drive back to his home in Georgia, he waited for us at the finish. Trail runners are nice people....crazy, but nice!
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything. James 1:2-4 This verse is one of my favorites. We face many different trials each day--from handling a child's meltdown to health issues to finances. As long as we put our faith and trust in the Holy One, we will persevere. We will make it and be stronger because of the trail taken. He is with us through every straightaway, curve, mud pit, downhill and uphill. He is waiting at the finish line cheering us on! Our Father loves us so much....much more than we can ever imagine!