Race morning was cold. 37 degrees to be exact.
As Spence and I sat in the car before the start, watching the sunlight start to peek out over the horizon, I debated wearing a light jacket (I brought my Patagonia Houdini) or a set of sleeves.
That was my only indecision of the entire day. (I went with the jacket.)
There was something about my focus on race day where I just knew what to do next, I didn’t question my pacing, I didn’t wonder if I could make it, I just went for it in all aspects.
In a previous post of mine, I mentioned that my strategy would be to walk for one minute out of every 15 to focus on hydration and nutrition. The night before I decided that was way too conservative and that I’d just consciously drink more while running. I mean, I was fit and I wanted to use it!
I had a mental plan in place for each of the four loops. I wanted to have a different intention with each one. (This 50 miler was a four-loop course.) Loop one was the ‘settle in’ loop. The second would be my ‘run at my own rhythm – not anyone else’s’. The third was the ‘do work’ loop. And fourth was the ‘just get it done’ loop. Having a different intention for each loop really helped me stay focused on just that one loop, and just the section I was running at the time.
I was extremely well hydrated going into the event. I started focusing on hydration the Sunday before the event and it really paid off! Pre-donation I would teeter on dehydration on not care too much – I could gut it out through most anything, and I hated taking breaks for bathroom stops. I had to pee the entire Rockford Marathon that I ran back in 2016 and didn’t stop once.
Post-donation Tracey doesn’t do that anymore. I was stopping (quickly) 2 – 3 times per 12.5-mile loop in the course for the first two loops, then only once the third loop. By the fourth loop, I didn’t stop at all, but I wasn’t too concerned. I was still drinking often, and never actually felt thirsty. I know my body well enough to know I was hydrating and not too far under where I wanted to be.
In terms of aspects outside of hydration, I felt really solid in my pace. I ran even pacing the first 25 miles, and only slightly slower on the third lap, then maybe ten or fifteen minutes slower on lap four. Somehow, over the last few years, I have been able to run much more even splits (starting with the aforementioned Rockford Marathon). That really saved me as I feel like I get tired more quickly when my pace is all over the place. I like settling into one speed, then power hiking longer climbs where I then eat and drink a bunch.
Weather-wise it was awesome. The first three loops were totally overcast and cool, often with a light breeze to keep the gnats from landing on me. It made it very easy to go out harder and maintain pace for the first 43 miles!
And then the sun came out. I pride myself on being a decent hot weather runner, but something about that sun that came out withered me a bit. I went from a confident pace to what felt like a glorified shuffle while sucking down even more Tailwind. Spencer was still telling me that I looked strong when I was feeling anything but.
Miles 43 – 48 were a lot of self-talk saying things like ‘just get to the bridge’ or ‘do not ever walk on the downhill – use gravity’. Miles 48-50 were a little harsher saying things like ‘just f-ing run Tracey. You’re almost there.’ And after 9 hours, 30 minutes and 59 seconds, I got there.
I took a moment to put my hands on my knees and breathe, taking in what I had just accomplished. When I looked up my ‘kidney crew’, a good friend from high school and my boyfriend were all cheering and congratulating me. I felt very emotionally ‘together’ which surprised me! And then the announcer started telling the crowd that I was a living donor and this was my first ultra post-donation, then the entire crowd cheered. And I cried with my head buried in Spencer’s chest.
I had done it. My remaining kidney held strong and did it too.
As I lifted my head and dried my tears I was showered with hugs – I had two other kidney donor friends there to support me, as well as another friend that is donating next month! Emotions washed over me and that was amplified when the race director walked over and handed me some hardware – I was the second female finisher!
I was shocked. I thought I had done fairly well, and no women had passed me after about 10 miles in, but 2nd place? Really? What a day.
The cherry on top of this amazing day was that the Denver Post wrote an article about me, my donation journey, and this event. I can’t think of a better way to commemorate the day.