Monday, July 18, 2011

Back on My Feet Lone Ranger 24-Hour

1st woman, 2nd overall. 137.82 miles in 24 hours. PR by 6 miles. CR (over my old CR from last year) by 12 miles. And I made the All-Time North American Ultra List with that distance!

When Anne Mahlum, the Race Director, drove by me on a bicycle at hour 11.5 and asked me how I was doing, I didn’t know what to say because my reality proper consisted in binaries. I was exhausted but caffeinated. I was dirty, but on the inside I felt clean. I was suffering intensely but probably on the same emotional plane that I might be spinning in a sundress in a field of daisies. My legs felt like cars had struck them, but moment-to-moment, I was detached from the immediacy of that pain. I was somewhere afloat in the noumenon with Kant.

Ah, the poetry of the ultramarathon.

I didn’t say these things to Anne. Instead, I said, “I’m okay probably.” I gave her a thumbs up/finger point combo, while expressing consternation with my eyebrows, and that seemed right.
(One year ago. I was such a child. I remember those days fondly.)

Last year at the pre-race medical check-in, the doctor took my vitals, then shook me and asked if I was awake. This year, he checked my pulse, rechecked it, looked bemused by my body temperature, and then asked if I was alive.

I said yes.

He said no.

Apparently, he had been trying to count the number of breaths I had taken since sitting in the medical chair, and I hadn’t breathed yet. My pulse was slow, but it always is. The whole occasion was curious because I felt so alive at that moment, sitting there on the edge of my favorite environment, a race site, where Gatorade and spandex abound. My heart was fluttering, I think, but he couldn’t track it. I think if you move from "asleep" to "not alive," then that means you've improved your fitness...up to a point, that is, when the opposite becomes true.

The Lone Ranger 24-Hour Run is an incredible event. Last year, I enjoyed the excitement of the occasion and the Michael Buble playing on the backstretch of the course, (admittedly. I will admit that.) I knew I’d be back, and this year, it would be an A-race, meaning I would do focused training and build up for it. So technically, I had only spent a 24-hour span of my life on the course, but I’ve revisited it so many times in my dreams that I knew it more fully, like 24.5 hours worth of course knowledge. (Dreams are short, actually.)
(Pre-race, I chug literature as much as I chug Gatorade because it's good to have something to think about other than running when you're running.)

The car ride from DC to Philadelphia was hilarious and wonderful because those are adjectives that describe my co-passengers, Tala and Nathan. I have the best friends in the world. Carrie, Lauren, Kim, Nathan, and Tala not only gave up their weekends to watch me run but also took care of a lot of the planning. I was able to share this part of my life with them! When I sent them a Details and Logistics email thanking them for joining me “on this metaphysical journey into the cosmos,” they decided to take over the practical aspects of planning.
(My crew: Nathan, Tala, Lauren, Kim, and Carrie. BEST CREW EVER.)

I was VERY excited to run, though not in a camp counselor way—more like in a phlegmatic, placid, anticipatory way—smiling on the inside. And I altogether couldn’t decide if I was enthused about the adventure before me or if I was just chipper in general over the amount of Justin Bieber they let me sing along to on the way over.

Race morning came! I sought out Anna Piskorska in the starting area. Have I mentioned she’s awesome? She is awesome.
We hugged, wished each other luck, and were off. FOR A DAY. Twenty-four-hour runs are simple in concept but difficult in execution. This training season was very strong, with 5 peak weeks at over 150 miles/week, so I knew one of two things would happen:

1. I would do well and be happy.
2. Something awful would happen to me.

Both 1 and 2 occurred, actually. But I landed more on the happier than the awful side.

All was going well for hours. I was jubilant and just taking it all in. People kept giving me sweet, feminine nicknames, like "Monster Child," "Beast," "MorANIMAL," and, my personal favorite: "Freak of Nature."

No, I have changed my mind. My favorite thing was when they yelled, "Oh, wow! You're the FIRST LADY!" And I would say, "Aw, yes. It seems I have been confused with Michelle Obama again." This happens all the time. Every time I am winning a race, people think I am married to the president.

Then my stomach went south. And suddenly, I was 13 hours into the race, doing what the yoga people like to call “Savasana,” but that I like to call “prostrate abject failure.”

(Here is a cat I found on the internet, demonstrating. Apparently its name is "Sweet Tater Cat." You're welcome.)

Things eventually corrected themselves. I just got sick for several hours and lost momentum. It was awful, but it happens. I threw up on the bushes! And I wasn’t alone. It was quite the occasion out there on those bushes. This is acid deposition, and the plants will die. I don’t know what happened to everyone else, but I know I got sick because I am not used to eating so much processed food—Gu’s and such things. But I have learned. I wished for a nice spinach salad of pure, unadulterated lettuce.

Twenty-one hours in, I got the record and held a pow-wow with my crew. Rockstar Phil McCarthy joined. I considered being done, leaving room for myself to easily beat myself next year to re-secure the cash bonus, but Phil recommended I pound it out to see what I could do. I went out again, finishing the day with 137.82 miles. Thank you for being a great friend, Phil.

Also, thanks to Inov-8 for equipping me in excellent clothes and sneakers. I spent a great deal of time in my Road X-233s and loved them--strong and supportive--much like my team. I wanted to run for Inov-8 because I love those shoes, but in joining, I also got a family of runners and friends. I love my team. Also, thanks DryMax for the awesome socks! This is the first summer ultra where my feet have come out unbattered. It is actually remarkable.

Mom, Dad: I just confused you guys for buttons. Why? Because you're as cute as them. You're as cute as buttons!

Serge and I are collecting our plaques. Awesome job, Serge.

Fast forward to the real world now:
Today at work, I was washing dishes in the bathroom with my co-interns, and I volunteered to be the bouncer to keep people outside. "What are you going to do?" one scoffed. "Run at them? ... For a day?" Maybe. I don't know. Sometimes, I'm in the grocery store, and I think that if anyone were to challenge me to a game of freeze tag, I might win. I'm beginning to feel more like an athlete, rather than just a philosopher in spandex. The world is opening up before me!

Congratulations, everyone! Great day, you guys. I truly enjoyed meeting all of you. I hope you reached your goals and are recovering well.


  1. So proud. Can't wait to see you in just a few weeks.

  2. You rock, Sabrina! You made us all proud. Long Live WUS!

  3. Awesome job on making the US times!

  4. Awesomeness. Complete and utter awesomeness. So proud of you, buddy!

  5. Amazing. 137 would've been the male record at our local 24 (FANS) before 2009. And it's longer than Badwater. Soon you'll be on the USA 24 team and get to meet another great bunch of people.

  6. So happy for you and the great race! That's truly awesome.

  7. You were awesome! Great job! I was one of the bike patrol volunteers riding along the course into the night. I was truly inspired by your motivation and strong effort. You looked determined and focused whenever I passed you. Just want to add my CONGRATULATIONS!

    Rick (with glow sticks on handlebars)

  8. Wow! Congratulations on #1, First Lady! I was part of an amazing ultra-crew for my friends Maggie and Katie. They ran 97 and 61 miles, respectively, and gave me SO much hope and inspiration, as did you! I'm doing my first marathon this November. I'll be reading your blog between now and then. :)

  9. Loved reading this! My husband, Matthew Weldon, ran with you. Our first endurance run. He placed 19th overall and we saw you lap us a few times. I thought, "That girl is amazing!" Glad you have a blog! I just wrote about our experience at my blog: Feel free to check it out. Congratulations!!!

  10. Sabrina Congrats! I was in the van that brought us back at the end. You are awesome! I dont know if I could have kept my politeness in the end there the way you did. I'm pretty sure no one was mad, everybody gets sick. Anyway,I am so glad Chris shared this link with us. I will def keep following you and good luck with whichever race you have next.

  11. Congratulations Sabrina! Finally had time to read your blog while traveling. Awesome run and great report. Hope to see you on the trails in a couple weeks when I get back!

  12. Sabrina, you have a terrific way with words. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Inspiring performance - It's rare everything goes right in a 24 hour race, so to get 137+ miles with some struggles is awesome. Next up 140+ !

    Michael Henze
    MTP -