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Sandy Stiner Thursday, 27 September 2012 12:01 TWEET COMMENTS 8

100 Miles to Redemption

A rocky trail of rough races lead to a 100-mile finish

It started with my husband reading the book, Ultra Marathon Man, by Dean Karnazes. ...


It started after my husband read the book, Ultra Marathon Man, by Dean Karnazes. He passed it on to me and said, “We should do one of these!” I laughed at first, but before I knew it we had signed up to run the North Country 50 Mile in Wellston, Michigan. At the time, we had both completed a few marathons, and the thought of running an ultra didn't sound too daunting.

A few months after we'd started training, though, my husband injured his back at work and had to call it quits. I pressed on, but come race day, I was ill-prepared for the course's hills, heat and humidity. I fell countless times and wound up dropping out at the 35-mile mark. My husband ran the accompanying trail marathon anyway, untrained and did manage to finish. I felt like a failure. So, I signed up for the Run Woodstock 50 Mile in Pickney in September 2010. I needed redemption. Luckily, the race went exceptionally well and I finished in 13:01. I even took third in my age group. ... Granted there were only three finishers in my age group, but I’m not complaining!

The next spring, I tackled several marathons including one back-to-back weekend: the Kentucky Derby Marathon (Saturday) and the Flying Pig Marathon (Sunday). I reasoned, if I can run 50 miles in one day, I can surely do 26.2 miles on consecutive days. My stars aligned (all four of them in the Marathon Maniacs) and I completed the journey. So what next?

On to what I called the “Epic Fail” of last year. I signed up for the Run Woodstock Hallucination 100 Mile. I felt good, my training had gone well. I had a previous 50-mile finish and a handful of 50Ks under my belt. I had pacers and a crew lined up. So what was the fail? Well, I was not prepared to adjust when things didn’t go according to my plan. The rain came pouring down for days before the event, soaking the trails. It continued throughout the event leaving eight inches of mud that literally sucked shoes right off of participant's feet. I tiptoed around it the best I could, cursing and unhappy the entire time. I wound up a the start/finish aid station at the end of loop three (of six) trying to change my shoes and socks, which was pointless.

The race director told me I had four minutes to get out of the tent or I would miss a cut off. I just handed him my bib called it quits. I felt defeated, I did not think there was any chance to finish the race within the cut off, so I packed it in with a 50-mile finish before risking a DNF in the entire race.
After the race I was depressed. People asked how I did and I said, “Well I only finished 50 miles.” Of course the non-running friends would say, “Only 50 miles, what do you mean? That is great!” They could not see how I missed my goal and 50 miles was not the brass ring I was hoping for.

Friends began to ask me what race I planned to do next. They said they wanted to know so they didn’t sign up for it, joking that the "black cloud" would follow me and make for some crummy race conditions. So, I decided to simply embrace the suck, to take what mother nature threw at me and make the best of it. I took on a motto that I heard a friend say: “This sucks! But I love it!”

After a few days of sulking, I got back on the horse. Determined to surpass the 50-mile distance, I signed up for the Top of Michigan 100K in October of 2011. Again, bad weather struck: 40-mile-per-hour winds with a temp of 38 degrees and driving rain the entire time. I sucked it up and finished it in 13:00. I felt vindicated. I took third place in the "women under 45" category. I like to say that; it sounds good. I always put an asterisk after that, though. There were only 5 people in my age group to begin with. One was a DNS (Did Not Start) and one was a DNF. I scored some nice race swag for it. As a "back of the packer" I rarely get to place in anything, so I take what I can get. After the elation of the race I decided to go back to Run Woodstock in 2012 and get my 100-mile buckle. 

2012 consisted of several marathons and a 50K. I followed a training plan from Bryon Powell’s book, Relentless Forward Progress. The title of the book became a mantra for me. The summer consisted of lots of long, hot training runs in almost unbearable weather. I went out when it was raining on purpose. I was bound and determined to run in all weather so that when race day came, I would be ready. The culmination of the training happened at the North Country Trail Marathon, the same place I DNF’d at mile 35 two years earlier. Granted I only did the marathon, but I was treated to 92-degree weather and high humidity. The race went on and so did I. And, I finished.

Two weeks of tapering began. The Facebook chatter was all about how great the weather was to be for Run Woodstock. Then it changed. The weather prediction went to (surprise, surprise!) RAIN! My husband told me to stop looking at the forecast. Every time I looked at Facebook someone was saying, it was going to be another "Mudstock," like it was the previous year. I refused to let the banter bother me. I reminded myself that I trained in all weather, that I would accept and embrace whatever came my way on race day. While everyone else was complaining about the weather, I shouted, “Bring it on!”


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