A continuation of Part 1: Challenge Races & Back to Back Races, Wendy shares her personal experience with back to back races…
Day 2 at the Biltmore started surprisingly well. The estate was gorgeous with the fresh snow and I was in love with the moment. Running is where I do all the best thinking – sorting out work problems and toying with ideas to do things better – or mentally redecorating my condo and reviewing my strategy to retire in a meaningful way while leveraging my personal financial situation to support my running and traveling addictions. Running is where you are surrounded by people but can indulge in introversion while still being social. Running is where you can sink into the music and just enjoy each song on a carefully crafted playlist. Periodically, you can latch onto someone in your pace range – someone who might be struggling – someone who might need a little conversation to survive this adventure.
I found another two legged to pace with and I was happily meeting my race target time at her pace. Until she needed to use the bathroom somewhere around the halfway point and I waited for her. Somehow, she came out of the port a john, didn’t see me and continued on the race. By the time I realized that I had lost her, I was too far behind my goal time to make it up.
The last 3-5 miles were probably the hardest. My motivation tanked quite a bit as it sank in that I blew my goal time. My legs were fairly shredded and I wanted a hamburger more than I have ever wanted anything in my life. More than I wanted a bicycle for my 10th birthday. More than I wanted a job with health care benefits in my late 20’s. More than I wanted to shower after spending a week working in Romanian orphanage in the mid 90’s. Typically after mile 20, I madly crave red meat. I rode the struggle bus to the finish line. It felt good to finish and it felt good to know a hamburger, shower and beer were in my near future. But what was MOST awesome was the giant enthusiastic hug I got from Race Director Daphne Kirkwood at the finish line. That might have been better than all the bling and swag and scenery and sense of accomplishment combined. Where else do you get that kind of personal attention from an RD?
My Wisconsin buddy and I explored Asheville on Monday while walking slowly. We did a little shopping, a little beer tasting and a little eating. She graciously dropped me off at the airport on her way home and I started part 2 of my vacation.
The Death March part of the challenge turned out to be another, but unexpected, back to back challenge – and also due to a strategic planning error. I booked my flight home with a late night arrival at Dulles on Monday and an early morning connection to Dayton. It was only a few hours and I foolishly decided to just nap in the airport rather than sleep in a bed. I also was using my rucksack as my carry on bag and my Asheville marathon finishers blanket for comfort and warmth in the chilly terminal. What I didn’t plan for was the roughly 2 mile walk it took to get from my gate down to the nearest 5 Guys and back to my gate.
I walked very slow and painful step with satisfaction. I conquered Biltmore to Bataan.
Every since, I’ve been on the hunt for something bigger and harrier. I came back to the Biltmore in 2018 – to help out and work the race – and to cheer on the challengers and support the back of the pack. I was asked to run the half marathon on Sunday as a sweeper and then convinced by a fellow sweep to just go ahead and run the full marathon. In full disclosure, I only ran about 20 miles of it. I’ll be back in 2019 – working the race and bringing a little unicorn magic to Asheville.
To all who served, thank you. To those who run and seek out challenges, be they 5K’s or Ultra Marathon – it’s just one foot in front of the other. Keep pushing yourselves.