"Pushing your body past what you thought it was capable of is easy. the hard part is pushing yourself even further...past what your mind wants to let you. That's what ultra running is all about - introducing you to a self you've never known." - Rex Pace
The night before the race, I didn't go to bed until after midnight. I was a big ball of nerves trying to figure out what exactly to pack and also calming the demons inside of my head that were screaming and taunting me - causing me to become extremely anxious about this race. I had never run a 24-hour ultra before and the last time I stayed up for a solid 24 hours was probably over 24 years ago back when I was in middle school. My night owl days have been long gone as it's become a habit to hit the hay at around 10:00 PM with my sound machine on meditation mode as I'm misting my pillows down with chamomile and lavender oils. Yawning at around 11:30, I finally finished packing my big plastic Rubbermaid tub with extra pairs of socks, shoes, running gear, headlamps, fuel, and pretty much everything under the sun and hit the sheets...only to lie there with my eyes wide open just thinking about the feat of running a 24-hour ultra.
Jacy came and picked me up around 6:00 AM on Saturday morning and we were off to Delirium, located in Ridgeland, SC, less than an hour away from Savannah. As we got to the site and parked, we saw the bustling "tent city" lining the beginning of the course. These tents of all shapes and sizes were filled with runners and spectators preparing for the race - everyone smiling...and shivering. It was a cold, frosty morning! The Delirium beanies and blankets we received as race swag came in very handy! I couldn't believe there were folks who actually camped out in the bitter cold the night before. It was frigid! We located our Moms Run This Town (MRTT) crew and started unpacking our gear in our tents.
As we got closer to start time, all the participants gathered around for a group photo at the Start line. Tim Waz, Race Director for Lowcountry Ultras (who puts on Delirium), made a few announcements - one being that this would be the final Delirium race. There were several moans of dismay audible in the crowd, but Tim explained his reasoning. Family commitments come first and besides, he wants his time to run some ultras as well. Who can fault that? Once the general announcements were made, we were off to tackle cycles of the same 1.7-mile trail around the R&M Plantation - for the next 6, 12, and 24 hours. Although cold and frosty, it was perfect weather conditions for a long endurance run. As we started our journey at precisely 8:00 AM, the trails led us around a lake that greeted us with the morning dew, the fog gently lifting from it as we passed by. It was going to be a great day for a long, long run.
I began the race with a few MRTT ladies, Jacy, Katie, and Lindsay, and played around with my GoPro. After a few laps, we all parted ways with our own miles in mind. I love running with a pack, but with ultra races, I have come to really treasure my moments of solitude. I think that's the beauty of ultras, it has become something spiritual for me - granted, this is the third one I've ever done. When I'm alone on the trail, I am far away from my daily routine and life. With my eyes closed, I start inhaling the gentle breeze and exhale all my doubts and any negative energy I may have stored. My mind starts to wander and I begin to think about things I've inadvertently put on my mind's backburner. I also start thinking about my mom and look for her. I find her in the breeze blowing through the strands of my hair and I hold my hands out to my side and embrace her. Shortly after that, my friend Ann, ran up beside me to tell me that a song popped up on her playlist. The song was about angels and it was playing as I ran past her. She shared with me that in that moment, she knew my mom was with me. It was so thoughtful that she would divulge this with me. It meant so much and my heart was happy. As I ran through the start/finish chute and back through the tent city, spectators cheered us on. Dan Hernandez had set up his tent and I went to look for my prayer flags he made for my mom and I. Another thoughtful and heartfelt gesture! He's got a 150-miler he's going to accomplish in April along the Coastal Greenway from St. Marys to Hutchinson Island. Kudos!
As the day went on and the 6-hour was over, I still felt great. I had some minor hip pains and took some Aleve just in case. I didn't want to start dwelling on any discomfort so early on in the run. Larry and Wesley Wilson came out for support. Wesley had made some delicious energy bars for me. I devoured one and Larry joined me on the trails for some laps. He was so excited about his earlier PR at the Tybee Critz 10K and half marathon. So proud of him! We've come a long way! As it neared dinner time, I reassured him that he could leave me and thanked him for running some laps with me. I greatly appreciated the company. Then the 12-hour was done and I was still in good spirits, just short of 50 miles. The sun was setting and Tim announced that we needed to have our headlamps on (a huge thank you to Chris and Melissa Ramsey for loaning them to me). Dan joined me on a lap and I got to hear about what he's got planned for the Savannah Grit. I'm still too chicken to do it. As we get back to the finish/start chute, I see my fellow CREWbie, Chris Letsinger, waiting for me. How thoughtful! Sometimes I just want to cry thinking about how supportive runners are! He had also done the entire Tybee race and shared his PR with me. He's such a strong runner and I love how quickly we've bonded. We shared laughs around the course and the night sky turned pitch black - although it was a beautiful starry night. Once Chris left, I headed out to do some laps on my own. I realized this would be my first lap in the darkness....and then I quickly figured out just how afraid I am of the dark. I needed to see a headlamp in my sights so I would run enough to catch up to a light and so it went on and on for the rest of the night. As this point, it's just me and the frogs croaking and the occasional rustling of the trees. Run Cecilia!
And then my eyelids started getting heavier and heavier by the minute. What time was it? 2:00 in the morning? 3:00? Nope...it was about 11:30 or midnight. The Blerch came to visit me...whispering and singing lullabies in my ear, "You've worked so hard today. It's nighty-night time. Rockabye Cilia on the treetop...when the wind blows...the cradle will rock." Or the Blerch may have actually been Tim stoking this amazing campfire as it lured my weakling self to the warmth. Hahaha! Damn it Blerch - you win! I fell asleep - curled up in an uncomfortable ball and wrapped in my Delirium blanket...freezing my ass off...in Dawn's front passenger seat - that I couldn't figure out how to recline. She tried to wake me up around 3:00 and told me I wasn't having it as I was making strange grunting noises. Then she came back around 6:00 , warmed up the car, and told me the sun was going to rise in about an hour and we should walk a few laps before the race was over at 8:00. I agreed and we went to pick up Ann and Tony to finish the race. We had some great conversations over chocolate cake. Tony and I talked about perception; Ann and I discussed the emotional roller coaster of running an ultra; and Dawn shared her story about the infamous incident of her "rolling stones" on the mountainside at the Pistol 100 :) My husband, Michael, joined me on the last lap as I recounted the journey of my first 24-hour. I ran through the finish line with Tim and the group of finishers before me - all smiling - as he gave me the biggest congratulatory hug and hung my medal around my neck. I had finished my first 24-hour with 57 miles in the books.
Would I do another 24-hour run again? You bet! I want to be able to stay awake longer for the next one!
If you look up the idiom "on-the-run", it means to constantly travel or moving from place to place. Welcome to my life! I get asked the question - "Do you ever sleep?" at least once a week. The truth is - I am always on the run. My weeks are filled with work, training runs, dropping kids off to school and extra curricular activities, traveling out-of-town for races and soccer games, theatre rehearsals, civic duties - you name it. In addition to being an avid runner, I'm a happily married wife, mother of two, an actress, singer, a Fleet Feet CREW coach, and work full time as the Marketing Manager for Thomas & Hutton Engineering Co. I love being on the run!