I have to be honest with you. I’m sick of social media right now. The whole presentation of “this is my perfectly curated life, and my perfectly executed run” just gets old after awhile. It’s not real, guys! It’s just not.
Most people have a LOT of hard stuff going on in their lives, and no a lot of it is not “instagrammable”, but it’s happening nonetheless. And all the while, people are comparing their innermost thoughts, fears, and failures to oftentimes fraudulent presentations of other people’s successes. We all know it. I am guilty of it, too!
We’ve got to end this. Can we all please stop trying to be these inspirational beings of success and hope, and instead just maybe kind of suck a little?
Well, y’all know I’m always down to help the suckfest. I have plenty of suckage that’s accumulated in my run life. And though you probably already know the stories, I want to bring them up again, because they’re worth remembering. Some people say, “forget the bad”, but I disagree. I think it’s good to remember the bad, because it helps us stay humble, and reminds us how far we have come or how we can improve! So without further adieu….
My most amazingly awful ultra and run fails, working up to the most epic of them all!
5. HINSON LAKE 24 HOUR- THE FULL HIP DESTRUCTION!
Oh gosh. This one was fun! (Sarcasm font.) So back in winter of 2011, I ran a 12 hour race without much training, and knocked out 70 miles like it was a walk in the park. After that, I got this grand idea that I would try to qualify for the world 24 hour team. Yes me, at 24, with minimal talent and zero training plan…I WAS GOING TO BE AN ULTRA HERO.
If you are unfamiliar with these type of events, timed races often take place on small loop courses, such as a track or a one mile loop. So I started training, and training, AND TRAINING mostly on small loops. Running the same direction often. Running all hours of the night. Running all hours of the morning. Running while my kids were at school. ….In retrospect, I was kind of going through a lot at the time, and it probably would have been a better idea to just pay a shrink to sit with me on the couch and talk for a bit.
But, I didn’t. Instead, I toed the line of the 24 hour race that Fall. Mostly depleted, and with a pain in my hip that I figured “was nothing”. Oh, it was something….
After a few hours of the race had gone by, the nagging pain in my hip had become pretty terrible. I willed it away mentally and continued. I tried stopping briefly and getting massages, I even greedily begged the kind massage volunteer for more than on. I took [too many] pain meds. But as the miles progressed, the pain in my hip began to radiate all the way down to my feet.
Still, I kept running, but around 73 miles or so, I finally collapsed. My brain gave up, and after that, I couldn’t even stand up, let alone walk. Come to find out at the ortho the following week, I had completely torn my gluteus minimus and iliacus! Additionally, I had signs of a stress fracture. I couldn’t walk for a long time after that. It was such a disaster. I didn’t ever opt for surgery because we couldn’t afford it, and to this day, my hip is always flaring up and will be the first thing to take me out of a run.
THAT’S WHAT YOU GET FOR DREAMING BIG, PEOPLE!!! A JACKED UP HIP!
Just kidding!!! …..Kind of. Stay in school, kids.
4. THE TRAIL 100 THAT TURNED INTO A ROAD 100
In the Spring of 2011, I was given an entry to a new 100 miler in Santa Barbara. This was going to be my 2nd 100 mile trail race, but my first ever mountain event. I got a rundown of the trails and elevation profile, etc, and trained the best way I could for an event there was little information about.
At the time, the whole minimalist shoe trend was going on, where basically everyone was just running crazy technical things in nothing short of water shoes. I was on that train. Right before I flew out to California, I upgraded my tried and true WT101’s to the newly released version of the New Balance Minimus. They were these weird super thin grippy things with roughly ZERO support. Much like a vibram five fingers. You’re laughing, but you probably wore them too. This would have been a plausible shoe choice if I was running say, a 10k on trail, but I wasn’t. I wasn’t even running on trail, period. Come to find out on race morning, the RD failed to obtain a permit, and the entire event was moved to 75 miles of pavement, and 25 miles of hard packed jeep road.
Already I was (unknowingly) screwed in my glorified water shoes. But after about 50 miles, I was super, super screwed, and ended up with the nastiest (I MEAN NASTIEST) blisters and ultra feet I’ve seen to this day. On top of that, the toenail of my big toe completely removed itself from my foot, but it remained attached by skin. The onslaught of pain from running on that— I mean, really I still have nightmares. And I’m not blister sensitive either!
Additionally, I was totally unprepared in every other sense of ultra preparedness. It was cold up high on those mountain roads, and, you know, being the Georgia girl that I am, I was just wearing some tiny shorts and a tank top because, “It’s always sunny in California”, right?
There were 44mph wind gusts at night, guys. After 20 miles of that, I finally got my hands on my husband’s XL HANES sweatpants which, I’m convinced, weighed at least 30 pounds filled with his sweat, which made for interesting running attire.
Also a very critical aid station actually blew off the mountain, and since I was like the very last person out there waddling in my sorrow, no one really cared that the aid was not there anymore. That 16 miles without water was….memorable.
Oh and also I got off course for about 10 additional miles.
I finished the “stupid freaking race” I affectionately called it, but it took me like 32, 33 hours? Maybe more? I honestly don’t remember as I’ve completely blocked the event from my mind.
Side note, there wasn’t even anyone at the finish line when I got there…. Like it was legit empty. No humans.
And another side note, I don’t think that this incredibly well orchestrated race is taking place any more, sorry if you were hoping to run it based on this amazing recap.
3. Moonlight Boogie 50 – the time my face melted
I debated posting this one. Mostly because I’m certain somebody out there is going to pop up with, “I have a picture!”
Lord have mercy, I hope not.
So in 2009 —I think?– Again, another intentional blockout— I participated in my 2nd / 3rd ultra ever, a 50 mile race that took place in the dead of night on a 10 mile road loop course. In the middle of summer, oh, and in the middle of the South too. Perfect. This year was particularly steamy. I remember we were in a heat wave vividly because my husband and I were poverty stricken at the time and our A/C had gone out and we couldn’t afford to fix it. Every day was a sufferfest then.
The race took place in North Carolina, and I drove there with my girlfriend Beth. Since the race was in the evening, I had fixed up a bit earlier in the day for the trip there. I did my hair in cute braids. I had put on makeup, too. A lot of it. Too much, maybe? Lipstick. Mascara *please note, not waterproof. The works! I had intended on rubbing most of it off before I started the race, but, I guess I forgot. Yeah, I definitely forgot.
About 10 miles into the run, with humidity above 90 percent and temps well into the 100’s, I began to notice people looking at me funny. By 20 miles, I was already puking my guts up and hallucinating, so folks were still looking, but I truly didn’t care at that point.
The night just kept getting worse and worse, and there was no hiding it.
By the time I finally caught up with my friend Beth, she took one look at me and just started laughing uncontrollably. “Oh…my…gosh… YOUR MAKEUP!!!”
With all the heat, and vomit, and sweat and running, and everything, my face had completely melted. It literally liquefied itself into this terrible and bizarre mix of a Bozo the Clown meets Kesha. And worse, I was entirely oblivious to this fact. Raccoon eyes would be an understatement. And why I was wearing maroon lipstick is beyond me, I think I got it at the dollar store? Regardless, it had firmly planted itself on my chin and cheeks. And my cute braids had worked themselves into what could only be described as an attack on humanity.
AND I WAS RUNNING AROUND LIKE THIS. FOR HOURS…. HOURS!!!!!!
If a picture shows up of this, I’m going to be livid….but also grateful, because my words truly cannot do this scene justice.
Also, I DNF’d this race…. Of course.
2. ASHRUNS81s straight onto the bathroom floor.
No, I wasn’t drunk in that photo. In fact, I’ve been sober for almost 15 years now, but you’d never guess from my ultrarunning pics. (And somewhere right now in the great state of Florida, my best friend Jen is laughing hysterically…)
Winter of 2012, I participated in a fun event in Florida, one of my favorites: The Ancient Oaks 100. The event is put on by a dear friend, Mike Melton, who always does a fantastic job RD’ing. The year prior, I’d won overall female at the race, and I was invited to come back down the following year to run again. Remember how I mentioned we were poverty stricken earlier? Well, not much had changed. My sweet husband had given me the green light to drive to Florida, but I had to scrimp and scrounge every last penny to buy some food to get through the race. You guys seeing the theme here?
For most runners taking on an event like this, it means stocking up on expensive gels and various electrolyte solutions. For me, it meant like four 2 liters of mountain lightning (couldn’t afford The Dew), knock off Great Value gummy bears, and cheap mostly cardboard pretzels. (If you haven’t been there, and you judgin’, well then your life has been too easy! Bye, Felicia!)
Anyway. I ran pretty well loaded up with sugar for a solid 75 miles. By 80 I was winning the race for the females! YES! But then, everything hit the fan. Around 81 miles, I guess all the cheap sugar hit me, and I had one of the most MASSIVE crashes I’d ever had in my life. Like we are talking night and day here.
One minute, I was walking and laughing on course with my friend Jen, and then next I was literally hunched over, sobbing. Like I have no idea what happened. I just started sobbing. And I didn’t stop sobbing!
The worst bender imaginable, but running induced.
I couldn’t stop crying, but I did start walking….directly off the race course, straight into a bathroom, and plopped underneath a table. Yes, I just dropped onto the ground and laid down. Still crying. Still for no reason.
At some point, my friend Jen brought me her sleeping bag, as the sugar crash fused into a dark deep sleep on the middle of a dingy bathroom floor. And that, my friends, is when the above picture was taken. ….You’re welcome.
Eventually, I woke up and realized “WHAT THE HECK AM I DOING ON THE BATHROOM FLOOR?” and waddled to the car for my official DNF. But to this day, I have never lived down the epicness of this crash. Dave, a friend who was there, still calls me “Ashruns81s” and references 81 miles in every single facebook exchange. And Jen often finds opportune moments to remind me that she lost a perfectly good sleeping bag that night, as she had to burn it to pieces thanks to the “venereal diseases” it likely accumulated while resting on the filthy bathroom floor. …..Good times.
AND FINALLY, THE MOST EPIC OF THEM ALL….
This one is actually quite serious, but no epic ultra fail list would be complete without it.
In 2011–yes, again, it was a rough year— I signed up for my 3rd attempt at 100 miles at the inaugural Fort Clinch 100 mile. The race took place in Florida in the summer. It was on a 10 mile loop of trails set under a thick and dense canopy of trees, running up and over hundreds of ancient sand dunes. I was kind of [okay, very] cocky back then, and just figured, “Mehh, I got this.” and didn’t pay much attention to just how demanding the race would actually be. Of course I ran the thing like a bat out of hell, and I clearly failed to accurately hydrate my overeager self in the process. Around 70 miles, it all started to catch up with me. I started out for another loop, and asked my husband, Dan, to jump in and pace me, which proved to be the best decision I made that day.
Roughly three miles from the aid station, I told Dan I couldn’t see very well, and he handed me some chia seeds in a cup and said, “You need to eat.”
The chia seeds and me hit the ground… kerplunk. Yes, I passed out. Cold.
We were in the middle of the woods. No phones. No people. But thankfully, my husband is an athletic beast of a human. The man picked me up, threw me over his shoulders, and RAN me back to the aid station, as I floated in and out of consciousness. Apparently screaming things about demon trees and missing my children in the process. Dan finally got me to the aid station where I was told everyone just stood over me in confusion and wonder as I shook violently and screamed things, not sure what in the world to do with me. Majority said call 911, but Dan, in his stoic toughness, and knowing we had no health insurance at the time, insisted, “She just needs some Gatorade.” …The quote he will never live down, and still gets used today for various life threatening emergencies.
Yeah, turns out I needed more than Gatorade. I fell into a coma, and was taken by ambulance to the ICU where it was found that I had an extreme case of rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdo is a medical emergency in which your muscle fibers die and the contents are released into the bloodstream. It had gotten so bad that my heart was affected and there were a disgusting amount of cardiac enzymes in my blood. My kidneys couldn’t process the whole thing. It was pretty dang bad. After a multitude of IV fluids and 50 thousand dollars of medical debt later, I finally came out of the coma and lived to run again!
In hindsight, 600 bottles of Gatorade poured into my nearly dead, passed out mouth by my husband might have gone over a little better financially. Sorry, Babe.
After reading this, you’re probably wondering why I’m still running. Honestly, I am wondering the same thing, and am really questioning my life decisions right now.
I should probably stop typing.
In all seriousness though, fails happen, and they happen often. In fact, these are just my fail highlights, and I would say the majority of my races are fails. If you browse this blog, you’d find even more wild stories. There are for sure some successful events thrown in there, and times where I felt more like a champ than a chump. But I hope that “CHAMP” is never the vibe or impression I give off to people. When I realize that’s the message I’m sending, I know I’m being a fraud, and I need to work to be more authentic. And that’s why you got this post today. Because reality is this: nobody has life figured out. We are all just here squirreling around on this planet, trying to navigate it and survive, and NOBODY is getting out of here alive. …So we may as well smile and laugh while we’re at it.
Have an awesome day everyone, and don’t forget to keep it real!!!!