This story begins at mile 28 as the first 28 miles of running at Rocky Racoon 100 felt like a bad day at the office. I was at the Damnation aid station, mile 28 feeling gross. This is a special aid station, as it is so remote, no crews are allowed. You hit it twice per loop, and if you drop there, you have to hang the rest of the race to get a ride back. Purgatory. "Have you eaten anything?" The question, over and over again from a persistent aid station worker. "I've been drinking." "What about calories?" "I drank coke." At this point it clicks that I've been asked about eating enough, that perhaps I'm not looking too good. "Do you have any potatos?" "We have potato soup." The day before Rocky, I got the most debilitating migrane of my life. I vomitted a chunky pink mixture out twice, once outside of Walmart, and later at the park. The second bout was like the scene from Alien.
The thought of chunky potatos was highly unappetizing, but I looked in the cup, and it was pureed, and salty and oh so delicious. I grabbed a handful of TUMS, too and snacked on them. A 6.5 mile loop later, I was back at Purgatory, and saw the same aid station worker. "Well you look much better than the last time I saw you!" That was Mike. And each loop, I made sure to connect with him and give him a muddy hug-my signature- as well as the purple Mizuno skirt I was stylishly wearing.
Finish that loop. Finish the next. Eat way more than my share of potato soup. Pig out at mile 56.6 on everything. Quesedillas, apple pie, avacado, dates, three cups of coke, more dates, two quesedillas to go. I had to walk just to digest.
Mile 60: Our glorious Trail Nerd Mudbabe crew station, complete with banners, music, and Hayley my Mudbabe pacer. Many DNF'd at this point. I threw on some tights, grabbed a jacket and light and headed back out. I saw Ben, my fiancee a couple miles in and was so deliriously happy. We exchanged a very big hug and I carried on.
I was so HOT. That just didn't seem right. I shed a layer of tights at the first aid station, but just couldn't feel ok. (probably all that food fighting to digest. Poor body, very confused) I was too cold without the jacket, too hot with it. One layer of Mizuno Breath Thermo and an Elixir jacket. Any time I ran, I roasted. I started walking more.
Damnation /Purgatory: I consider changing my base layer, but fortunately stuck with the plan. That was a good decision. A bad one was to switch the battery in my flashlight. It must've been a dud battery, because the flashlight died. I had a lame headlamp and was forced to walk the rooted section. Now I was cold. So cold.
Mile 73: I was stumbling, and falling asleep while running. I slowed down and joined some gals I'd chatted with before DP (Damnation Purgatory). Earlier they had been playing a game, and asked if I wanted to join.
"I am ready to play the game now. I need your help, I am falling asleep." Nikki and Katie. Cool chicks from Colorado. Nikki was an experienced pacer. Katie was running a smart first hundred. I instantly liked them both. As an added bonus, Nikki had just read the Trail Runner magazine that had the article about the Trail Nerds in it, and knew who I was.
"Sophia... I love that name! make sure you download the song." And oh yeah, I can't remember the band Nikki told me sang the Sophia song.
Headed into the main station to pick up Hayley, the two left me with a piece of sage advice. "The last loop takes care of itself." Ok, makes sense. I just need some sort of mantra.
Mile 80: Enter Hayley. I re bundled up. Dry Breath Thermo. Double BT. Triple for Hayley who wasn't warmed up. Elixir jackets. Breath Thermo tights. Adorable skirts. The air was moist and it was 30 degrees. It was so dark and my light was awful. Matty Mullins hooks me up with a better headlamp and power flashlight.
I just start to cry when I think of Hayley and how much she invested in this race for me. Extra long hours at work the week before so she could have 3 days off, then picking up the extra crew duties for Ben when 2 of our posse, couldn't make it down due to the snow. The extraordinary part, is she'd never crewed or paced before. She held the responsibility, like a champion weightlifter going for the world record.
We are hiking now, as I'd just walked too much to get back to running. I loved having this time with Hayley. We talked and talked about everything. "I bet this is really beautiful during the day. I wish I'd gotten to see it." Hayley had been so busy crewing she didn't get a chance to see the trail in daylight. "Oh, I went back and walked Puccini at 8am and 4pm." Our chiueagle who made the journey, but camped out in the hotel room. "That is so incredible of you. Did he give you a head hug?" "yes.."
Mile 82: "Where is Ben? Why haven't I seen him?" It was about the 4th time I asked. "Sophia, argh.. I just have to tell you. Ben dropped. Everyone told me not to tell you. His cold was just terrible and he was just trembling. He's in the hotel room sleeping. Well just coughing really. He just wants you to finish. He's so proud of you." I was so relieved to know he was safe, and glad she didn't tell me at the main aid station. Mile 92: Last stop at DP. My body was going sideways, my head was spinning in circles. I had had another bout of sleepiness, and standing by the heater, my equilibrium was off.
I sat down in a chair and put my head down between my knees. As I raised my head slightly, I could see Hayley's profile. Her lips were pursed in a determined position and her eyes were laser focussed. In front of me were zombies. 5 silent quitters, none of which were bleading, all of which were headed to the day after hell of a DNF at mile 92.
I was up. Downed the tepid coffe, slurrped the chicken broth and headed out of Purgatory and into-- THE LIGHT. THE SUN HAD COME UP. Hayley was going to get to experience the beautiful trail in the light.
"Let's go Sophia. It's less than a MudBabe Monday!" Hayley runs with my Monday all women's trail running group, MudBabe Mondays, the women's division of the Trail Nerds. Training for Rocky, I would do two loops at Shawnee Mission park, which equals 9 miles.
No more sleepiness. Just a steady humble hobble. "Tell me about the finish line, Sophia." "Turn left, finish, buckle puke. Puke on Joe (Pursatis)" "NOOOO." "Puke on Danny?" "Yeeeessss." Not sure how our Wednesday Trail Nerd run group leader Danny became the butt of this joke/mantra, but it entertained us several times during out last eight miles. Sorry Danny.
"Sophia, just think of the warm bed and snuggle with Ben." Bad Ben. My fiancee. 12 hundred mile finishes, including 3 sub 24 hour Rocky Racoon. I just couldn't wait to see him at the finish line.
Ben had our crew all set up with videos and still cameras so he could give me a hug. "Ben, in my Mizuno bag is a belt with a Free State buckle. Go get it and put this buckle on it."
"Ben, obviously your crewing job isn't over yet." Joe Pursatis was laughing as his wife got my chip off. 27:39 and change.
Cool Stuff: 1. A quick interaction with record breaker and winner Ian Sharman as he lapped me. (of course I, like everyone else had no idea who he was.) "Are you lapping me?" " What loop are you on?" "3." "Well carry on." "I love your accent." I quipped in an imitation British accent. 2. Seeing the legendary ultra guys, Anton Krupicka and Scott Jurek several times. 3. Seeing Mike from the North Texas Trail Runners at Damnation/Purgatory each loop and having him call me by name.
Things I did right: 1. Lubed with A&D ointment. No blisters. No chaffing. 2. Packed warm clothes in drop bag and at main aid. Next time, put an extra jacket at DP. 3. At mile 20 changed from Wave Riders into the lower profile Wave Elixir's-- out of the box fresh. I could feel the trail better, and never fell. Just a couple stumbles. 3A. Note I didn't wear trail shoes. A concious choice to have more breathability, so I would have less possibilty of blistering. 4. Ran a 50 miler in October, which gave me confidence and an understanding of where I would blister. 6. Baby wipes in a zip lock bag. 7. Had a great pacer/crew. I'm letting her wear the belt buckle once every ten days. 8. LANCOME waterproof mascara. "Your feet run, your mascara shouldn't." Man that stuff makes a hundred mile finish photo look great. 9. Injinji socks- to avoid big toe blister. 10. BT socks over too short Injinji socks Things I did wrong: 1. Not enough back to back long runs. 2. Not enough hill repeats. 3. Not enough walking practice. 4. Lame, Lame , lame headlamp and flashlight. More better light next time. 5. Didn't pack some sort of caffiene suppliment. 6. Didn't pack TUMS. 7. Injiniji socks that only came up to the collar of my shoe. Need taller ones next time.
My brother calls me "Rome." Because I can take any idea and make it better. It's pretty fun. I like to create joy and charisma wherever I go!
Here's what one friend says about me:
" An amazing, deep, powerful spirit who seemed to dance with reckless finesse on the fine line between darkness and glory. i always did admire you."