Race Recap: The JFK 50 Ultramarathon - Part 2: The C&O Canal

Continued from Part 1...

When I arrived on the canal, I felt...off. After 4 hours going up and down hills and cautiously running over rocks, I was now on the flat trail and it didn't feel right at all. I immediately began my 4 minutes running and 1 minute of walking, but I was quickly feeling exhausted with every mile that passed. Maybe I went faster than I should have on the AT, but it was too late. I was also already committed to finishing. No matter how I felt, I would push through. Besides, I only had a few miles until I would see my friend Chris who volunteered at the mile 19 aid station. I also remembered a Facebook post of the cookies they were offering there. It was definitely motivation to keep going.

As I approached, I immediately noticed Chris, who snapped this photo. 

There is seriously nothing better than seeing your friends on a tough journey. It's even better when they are also runners who have been through hell in training. Chris, for example, just earned a BQ time! That takes dedication! Congratulate him. :)

Anyway, I topped off my Gatorade bottle and located the cookies I was fantasizing about. They were almost too beautiful to eat. Keyword being ALMOST!

Seeing Chris and having this delicious cookie gave me the extra push I needed and with just 11 more miles until I would see my husband, I was ready to go!

Around mile 26, I caught site of another running friend, John. He was not participating in the race, but offering his support to get us through a mile or 2. It made me light up and gave me another wind! I ran with him for about 10-15 minutes and skipped all my walking breaks. It's strange how when you see someone you know gives you an extra tank of energy. 

Once we parted ways, I only had a little bit to go until the next aid station and 3 miles until I would join up with my husband, but as I reached the mile 27 aid station, I spotted my parents, sister, and PETER! My husband ran up to join me and I was shocked. I reminded him that from this point to the end was 23 miles, but Peter basically shrugged it off like it was nothing. What's 3 more measly miles, right?

Within minutes, we spotted my friend Carly. She joined us for a few minutes to see how I was doing. Though I felt as heavy as lead (I had already been running for over 6 hours now), I told her I was well. I was halfway through this journey and in about 10 miles, I would be approaching my favorite place to run: Taylor's Landing. So I needed to remain positive to at least get there. I felt that seeing familiar grounds would give me a boost.

Peter ran in front of me and said he was the carrot that would keep me going. I don't think a carrot was the best metaphor since I was preferring junk food at this point, but I tried my best to keep at his heels. Several times I had to kindly ask him to hold up or slow down. His faster pace didn't bother me as I understood he had a full tank of gas, but it made me realize just how quickly I was coming down to a low point. 

I religiously checked my watch and kept to my intervals, but each time I would walk then start running again, my hips and ankles would scream. I needed pain relievers and soon! I promised myself that I could take them at the mile 34 aid station at Snyder's Landing. There, I took a bathroom break, grabbed a cookie, and also downed those pain killers. I figured that in taking them 16 miles prior to the end, they would help me through the remainder of the race. Unfortunately, the relief didn't come as I had wished. I think my discomfort was beyond anything that my pain killers could relieve.

As we pressed on, my Garmin finally died. It lasted me nearly 9 hours and bonked at mile 37. Thankfully, Peter had his and we were able to keep at the intervals. It also gave me a bit of a break from watching numbers since Peter now had to track it. He would tell me when to go, when to stop, and when to go again. At times I moaned and groaned, but pushed through the pain. I was getting so close.

As we approached mile 38 at Taylor's Landing, all I could think about was red velvet cake. I knew that they served it there and knew I had to down a piece of the infamous JFK 50 dessert. I walked up to the volunteers and said "I hear there's this red velvet cake..." and they knew what was up. 

Look how happy I was! Thanks for the picture, Willow!

The cake was delicious. I don't know how the icing was made, but it was so creamy and cool. Just what I thought I needed. It seemed in that moment, I would be okay. But once it was devoured, I found myself at a low point once again. 

The paaaain!!

I saw my family moments later and immediately began to get upset. I told them how bad I was hurting and how I just wanted this race to be over. My mom and sister both hugged me in comfort, but I was the most uncomfortable person at this point. Even their touch hurt me. My shoulders, arms, chest, hips, and ankles were so sore. Just putting my hand on my hip was next to excruciating. Still, less than 12 miles to go. It couldn't be that bad....right?

As Peter and I continued through our stomping grounds, my spirits picked up just a little. Some of the surrounding homes of people I met on the canal were blasting music and it was a definite pick me up. Even homes up on the cliffs across the Potomac River were celebrating and showing their support by blaring "Boom Boom Pow."

Walking break with Peter just before Dam #4
As much as I love running this area of the canal, I was ready to get off of it. It was a bit of a C&O overdose. So when Dam #4 came into view, I was elated. I could ditch the intervals and just play the last 8 miles of my adventure by ear.

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