"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, Who is in you, Whom you have received from God? ... So use every part of your body to give glory back to God..." 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hungerford 50 miler.

I had everything laid out for my morning race. The weather was a cool 54 degrees. We all got up easy. I went into the bathroom to get some Kleenex to blow my nose. As I blew my nose I waited to see how bad it was. "YUP that's great!" I thought as I looked at the thick orange mucus. My chest was tight, my nose was running, however, I had no body aches. This was where the rubber meets the road. An entire summer of training. Back to back longs runs, cold plunges, blisters, sleepless nights, constant hunger and still looking like I have an eating disorder. Sick or not I was running this.
As I was having mom pin my bib on me I could see her smile but her nervousness was still transparent.
Andy and I had matching "Team Harless" shirts made for mom and dad a few years ago. They wear them to all our races. Mom and dad are the best support group anyone could ask for.
The Agenda:
It was going to be a long day for Team Harless. I was predicting a 9-10 hour run. A lot of the race was through the Hungerford Forest. It was on a two track. My family would see me on the main roads. On the second loop I could have pacers, this is right around mile 25. I would really need the encouragement at that point.
My Goal:
My goal was to finish before sunset. They had these really cool walking sticks for everyone that finished before sunset. They were engraved with the symbol of SUNRISE. I wanted to finish between 9&10 hours. I also didn't want to get eaten by bears!  
The Starting Line:
We were running at 7:36am sharp. We were huddled together in a small group. 33% of runners ever run farther than 26.2 miles. So what does that say to the overall population? Marathon runners are in the 1% club. Ultra marathoners are small in number but we were hoping to run numbers most wouldn't even consider. I was not the only first time 50 miler. The race director asked how many first timers were lined up. I raised my hand and looked around noticing about 5 others.
Isaiah 40:29-31 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
As the gun went off, we all casually started running. There was a younger shirtless guy with beautiful sandy blonde hair and a full grown beard who instantly took the lead. You could see his curls dancing as he widened quickly widened the gap between us and him.
It was different not being on your toes to speed through the course. The morning was cooler but I knew the temps were going to reach 76 degrees. I wore a tank top and my arm sleeves that I planned to shed when I started to heat up. The arm sleeves are one of the best running gifts I have ever gotten. I volunteer coached a group at my kids school and the Johnston family bought them for me when I ran Boston. I have gotten so much use from them.
Mile 1-15 "Fun and Games"
I was just trying to get into my groove. It didn't take long till I started heating up. I was so excited to see mom and dad at mile 9. I gave them my arm bands, smiled and kept moving. I didn't get far when I heard noises in the woods. It startled me at first but then I saw Alec hiding and the car. I was laughing so hard at my family trying to make BEAR noises that I peed my shorts. I needed to go to the bathroom. There was no bathroom out here and only a few port a john, most ultra runners just go off the trail. After giving them high fives I kept moving. I heard a car coming up with the familiar bear growls a little while later and started laughing again. This time I ran into the grass asking them to keep watch as I squatted and did my business.
They really made the first 20% of my run entertaining.
We had a turn around this first segment that we had to sign in. The "turn around" allowed me to see who was behind me, There were a group of guys that I laughed at saying  "Hey is this the Man Club?" We all were still feeling good therefore laughing and joking came easy. I would pass mom and dad one more time about mile 15. Here I ate some pretzels, filled my H2O bottle and kept moving. Andy yelled " I will pick up with you at mile 25."
Mile 15-25 "Run Your Own Race"

The sun was beating on me as I ran down a flat wide dirt road. There was nothing protecting you from the suns rays. I thought of all the runners I had passed on the turn around. I had the opportunity to see who all was running behind me. I saw a few other gals but mostly men. It appeared that I was trailing behind about 5 others. I thought there were 4 women ahead of me but I didn't see them. I had ran the first 13 miles pretty fast because I didn't know there were that many people behind me. I just saw those ahead of me so I was desperately trying to keep them in sight. It was running out of FEAR. I honestly was scared to run alone. I didn't trust my navigation or the wildlife. I had to run my own race knew I couldn't stay with the few ahead of me. I made a left turn into the woods. This is where it got creepy. For the next 9 miles I NEVER saw a soul!
The breeze wafted through the trees making strange sounds. I heard the cracking of branches and critters running across the path. I remember "Danielle" saying to make it apparent your out there. So I talked out loud, I coughed, I  laughed (You had to at how ridiculous I was behaving) and even whistled back at the birds. I got so paranoid that I actually thought I saw little cubs out there. As if that isn't no the peak of craziness I started wondering if maybe my clamoring might ATTRACT wild life.. So I did what I probably shouldn't have done....I ran faster.
I just kept counting my miles down until I got to see my family. "Anita, you can run a marathon, think of this as that,, steady and smooth." The trails were on a two track and very hilly and sandy. Once I figured out my footing I kept my eyes on the trail trying to stay calm.
Mile 25-31 "Falling apart, when your sons now YOUR Coach!"

Towards the 23 mile mark I wasn't feeling well. I was really looking forwards to company. This was driving me. When I came out of the woods and saw my family at the aid station I was so happy. I felt like Hell but didn't want them to know. Andy would be so worried. I had burnt everything up. I didn't realize there was not going to be an aid station that long and should have eaten more. On top of that I had ran the last 25 miles faster than I should have.
 Mom was like an Angel as she held a handful of gems in her palm. Motrin and gum, it was like she was reading my mind only I had no energy to speak. Austin came up along side of me full of energy and ready to go. Mom, dad Alec and Andy were a team. Getting me drinks, food, accessing me and encouraging me. Taking a second to stretch I realized that I had caught up with one of the men.
I took a second to stretch and get a cup of trail mix. "Love you, see you soon" I yelled.
After less than a mile I asked Austin "Hey, are you seeing spots?" "No, Mom...You gotta drink" He coached me. I had first seen blue spots everywhere. Now they were bright yellow. I thoughy maybe it was from the sun only we were not in the sun. "Austin, I am not feeling well. I am seeing a lot of spots." I confessed. I was getting nervous. My legs were feeling fatigued, my belly was nauseous and I got suddenly very hot.
I ate more trail mix and gulped down the water. "Keep drinking mom." Austin coached.  I asked him to peel my clementine. He not only destroyed it but he also dropped it in the sand. He handed it to me peeled apologizing. "It's ok, Austin, thank you." I gently replied as I ate it sand and all! It was wet, cold and juicy. So refreshing I didn't even care about the gritty sand in my teeth.
"Mom, do you think you will finish?" Austin said as he darted off the trail to play around. "Yes, if I have to crawl sick across that finish line I will NOT quit!" I said trying to convince him and myself.
We came out of the woods and the sun was baking hot. He took his shirt off and I dropped my tank top down. I finished off  the trail mix as I began to feel more normal.
Austin was a great encourager to me that I hated to see him leave but I was happy to see the family again too.
 Mile 32-41 "The farthest I have ever ran"

Team Harless waited with goodies. This was my favorite Aid station. you actually pass it 4 times. they had the largest cheering section and largest variety of food. I took a large vine of grapes as I chatted quickly with my family.  
I only trained 36 miles. On this stretch Andy and I were doing the loop of pure sun. He grabbed a tortilla full of peanut butter and we headed off. Andy was stuffing food down me. I was begging him to chill out. The grapes were divine but the peanut butter looked revolting. "Anita, I am begging you, please please take a bite." He waved the tortilla inches from my mouth. "Ugh" I mumbled as I bit into it. I wanted more trail mix as that seemed to agree with my belly.
"Nita, how do you feel", "What hurts on you?" " I am so proud of you."
I told Andy I got scared with Austin because I had gotten so sick and he responded "Yeah, you have to slow down. You have 18 more miles, please slow down, add walk breaks." During 5 miles of the stretch with Andy we ran that loop where you sign in again. It is all sun, flat and a turn around. I was anxious to see who was behind me and how far ahead the others were in front of me. I was most anxious to get to 36 miles. This was a milestone for me.
Andy paced me adding walk breaks in every 5 minutes. We were coming to a walk break when we passed the "Man Club" again and I whispered to Andy "I know this is going to see silly but can we do our walk break AFTER we pass the "Man Club?!!" I let Andy make fun of me for a while after that one! I deserved it!
We got to see mom and dad one more time before heading into the woods. I ate another clementine, watermelon and more peanut butter. When we reached 37 miles I was smiling and thanking God for the longest distance I had ever ran. "Anita, you have already accomplished more than you ever have. You got this!" Andy cheered me on.
As we came into the woods I had warned Andy it was brutal. A lot of fresh sand and rolling hills which he is not used to, for that matter neither was I. Already running it I was more prepared but less eager. It was just so beautiful that I tried to focus on the beauty of the forest. I zoned in on the smells of the woods, even embracing the cracking of branches and creepy forest echo's this time around.
It was nice to share with Andy all the beauty. To listen to someone encourage me was so much better than the voices of crazy in my head.
We parted ways a little early because Andy was nervous he wouldn't make it out of the woods and to the finish line in time.
Mile 42-48 "Hurt Locker"
My Quads were on fire. This pain far exceeded running Boston. I was so sad to be alone and in this much pain. "Get into your groove Anita." Both Garmins died. I had Andys but it was having a hard time picking up satellite in the woods.  I had a plan: Walk every 5 minutes unless there was a hill. Keep it steady, Just Move FORWARD. Pray Harder. Give Thanks.
I saw that man in front of me. He had slowed down. I was approaching him slowly and steadily. It gave me something to take my mind off the pain. But then I was within yards of him. He had no idea I was right behind him. I knew he had to be deaf to everything but his voices of pain because I was not that quiet. I said a prayer for him and felt guilty passing him. I actually stayed behind him for a bit not wanting pass him afraid it would discourage him. I actually felt bad passing him this was a first for me. I tried not to think about how much more time I had to run. Every time my legs hit the surface pain shot through my quads. My right quad and glute were toast. I knew I was first female back at mile 25 but I questioned whether I could hold that. I questioned everything, I remembered my goals only I had no idea where I was to that. I just knew my legs were begging me to walk. I recited "I can do all things through Christ who strengthen me" Dear God Please fuel me. DRINK DRINK Drink more water Nita. I knew that yes, water would help, calories would help, electrolytes would help but Ultimately I NEEDED God to give me everything man could not and that was a Miracle.
Mile 48-50 "A MIRACLE"

I was praying to see my family. I had been crawling to each mile marker. Praying for another mile. Praying for my family to be around the next bend. I just needed to see them. I need to see mom because I knew she was worried, I needed to see dad because I knew he was proud, I needed to see Andy because I knew he was my coach. I needed to see little Alec because he was my giggle. And I needed to see Austin because I was hoping he was my finishing partner. Another hill, another turn more pain and another mile.
I looked trying to focus. It was them!! Down the hill came Austin. He looked so nervous. "How ya doin mom?"
"It hurts so bad. I'm ok though just help me get to the finish." I winced.
He started reciting mantra that his coach recites to them.
"2 and through mom!"
Every step I could feel. I was aware of every pebble, every grain of sand and every incline and decline. The hills seemed worse than ever. My quads cursed me as we went down them.
Austin asked if my arms hurt. "No Austin believe it or not nothing hurts but my quads and my glutes and they hurt so bad that I might not even know I have pain anywhere else." I cried.
That mile seemed like it went on forever.
Mom, I think that is the 49 mile marker up there!" Austin said trying to encourage me. He had driven the ending of the course so he was helping me with markers trying to break it up for me. I have always been HIS cheerleader. coached Him, CHEERED him on. And now he was trying to get me to the FINISH.
As we came to the mile marker I said "Ok, walk break." I wanted to run that last mile in but I had nothing. We took a minute to walk where that little competitive spirit asked Austin "Is there anyone behind us?" Austin looked and said "No mom, there isn't anyone behind you for a while." 
And back up we went ,Ouch, ouch ouch ouch..every step pounded though my legs. It felt like a sledge hammer hitting my quads over and over again.
"Mom, 1 And YOU DONE"!  More Coach Brinker mantra Austin was cheering into me. I actually found the energy to laugh over this. My pace picked up and bit too much. I wanted to run it in but my legs thought otherwise.
One more walk break. We saw the 26 mile marker for the marathoners and Austin said you have .2 to go mom. Wow, his brain was so crisp. I didn't even correlate that.  Ok, roughly 2 minutes.
We made one more turn and I could see the flags. I could hear mom cheering. I was so happy to see them. I actually felt my legs moving faster and almost missed my entrance into the finish.
I wrapped my arms around mom and couldn't let them go. I just wanted to collapse into her.  She had tears in her eyes and this made me cry with her. I was so happy. I hugged each one of them and felt my body just melt in their arms.
I am ever so grateful for my family.

Distance: 50 miles
Time:8h 37 min.
I was 4th overall.
1st female
BUT...it was a really small field.
So thankful for all the amazing responses I have gotten from so many friends and family.  I am beyond words towards the encouragement I have received.
I give Thanks to God. He is my Strength and Endurance.


  1. What an awesome race recap! I actually felt like i was there with you.
    Dang! 10:20 pace!!! That's my half-marathon pace :) I am so impressed. You did something that most people cannot - either physically or mentally. God did indeed bless you! and your family sounds remarkable!
    congratulations on your win! Stop downplaying it. You came in FIRST! Celebrate the victory that the Lord gave!!!!

    1. Thank You Flaming JUNE. I am so humbled and overwhelmed by all God continues to do. Family support is very valuable. I am grateful for them. I am not sure I could do all that is done without their love and support. God supplies all the tools we need for victory doesn't he?! Thank you so much!!

  2. Wow! You continue to amaze and impress me Nita! Wishing you a speedy recovery. Congrats on pushing through the pain to the finish!

    1. HI TONY!! I love hearing from you. Your encouragement is weighty. Thank you.

  3. Thanks for the great recap and the daily inspiration

    1. Thank Mike, Reading your encouraging words and noticing you took the time to share them is a inspiration to me. :)

  4. As usual, another tear jerker! I am so awed by your dedication, perserverence, FAITH and FAMILY!! I can just see and feel you running when I read your blogs, and it is so amazing to continue to watch you grow stronger. I love to read about Team Harless, and how supportive and encouraging your family is for you, and you for them. You are an amazing woman Anita. Congrats on a job well done, and please take some WELL DESERVED REST this week ;) Love ya!!

  5. It is funny to read your words. We have ran so close together now I am sure it almost seems like you are next to me. I am so thankful God has supplied me with you!! I love ya Danielle. More than you know~

  6. Congrats on your first ultra! They're addicting! I was the female ahead of you for the first 21 miles. I came to the starting line with a broken foot and thought I could run through it. Ended up having to drop. Oh well! Sounds like you had an awesome day! Welcome to the sport!

    1. Amie, You made me smile! Only a runner would think it possible to run 50 miles on a broken foot - and only a fellow runner would read that statement and think "Awwww! Too bad she had to drop out!"
      The rest of the world just thinks we should drop you off at the nearest mental facility :)

    2. Amie, I knew there was another female ahead of me. You were way ahead. You are a beast for trying. I wish I could have met you. I love the sport. I love everything about it. Even with pain of running it was disguised in the beauty around. But the people that run Ultras are one of the big reasons I really enjoy them. They are like a separate family.