My Tunnel Hill 50 Mile Race Journey

10:13:00 PM

Race Details

This race. This race was everything that I had been working towards for months. Technically it was a sixteen week training plan that I worked my butt off through. However, the want, the desire started way back in April of this year. I had signed up for my first ultra marathon late in 2017, it was the Double Chubb 50k which took place in April of this year. I knew I wanted to dabble in the ultra world and had heard great things about this race, PLUS I knew that I liked the Chubb trail.

Take a look back at my CHUBB recap HERE

Anyway, before that race even happened I had my sights set on Tunnel Hill.

I reached out to my then potential coach, Jaime about Tunnel Hill and her coaching me to get there. She had ran Tunnel Hill in 2017 and absolutely crushed it, which was why I knew that I wanted her to be my coach, that and she is just the most awesome person and who doesn't want that in a coach?!

Looking super cute at the Alpine Shop Summer Trail Series!

We reconnected after Chubb and I knew that I wanted to do it and I knew I wanted her to be my coach. I had the fire in me and I wanted to keep going, even though Chubb almost broke me. I wanted more. I needed more.

I had calculated sixteen weeks from the date of Tunnel Hill and knew training wouldn't officially start until July, but it didn't stop me from planning every run, every race around Tunnel Hill from April on!

July came and training started. I couldn't contain my excitement, I was so ready to get everything started! I was ready for whatever Jaime threw at me, I was ready to work my butt off!

First day of training vs. Last!

I have never stuck with a training plan like this before, I have never trained to this extent before. I didn't fully realize what I was getting myself into, however I was determined to do this. I knew that all of this was to achieve a goal that I had my mind set on.

The next thing I know it was the night before the race. I couldn't believe how time had flown. It was almost surreal that we were packing up to head out.

I was nervous, I was anxious and I was on edge.

Pre race, holding my bib, picture in the hotel room ;)

We got to the bib pick up and it all became even more real. I received my bib, my race shirt and hat. Then we were able to head into the cafeteria of the school where bib pick up was being held, for a pasta dinner and to hear the guest speaker. Who happened to be none other than Camille Herron who is a bad ass ultra runner and someone I admire very much. She had also ran Tunnel Hill in 2017 and broke the women's world record for a 100 mile trail run!



We left bib pick up, checked into the hotel and decided we wanted to go out and grab some food on our own. The fun part about this race was that Jaime was going to be there crewing for her Dad who was also running the 50! We got to dinner and Jaime and the fam ended up eating there as well (she was the one who recommended the restaurant in the first place)

If you're ever in the area around Vienna, IL check out WALT'S PIZZA! Delicious!

We were able to meet up where she gave me this pin to wear on race day. This meant more to me than I think she even knows. I placed this pin on the strap of my hydration vest. I was wearing a Nike Sweatshirt that had strings coming out of around the neck piece (like shoe strings) to tighten up the sweatshirt around my neck. Just like at the end of shoe strings these strings had the plastic covering. Where I'm going with this, every time I hit a dark or low place those plastic pieces would whip up and hit the pin making a pretty dinging noise. The first couple times I didn't know what it was but once I figured it out it calmed me. Every time those strings hit that pin I thought "RUN LIKE HELL" just "RUN LIKE HELL" and it got me through the hardest and darkest points in this race!!

Purchase pin HERE

Race morning was here. I slept decently for how nervous I was so it was pretty smooth getting dressed and ready to go. The hotel was INCREDIBLE and started serving breakfast at 4am specifically for runners staying there. Now the breakfast was your typical continental hotel breakfast but the fact that it was available that early was just amazing! I ate a decent amount of food, it was about 5am and since the race wasn't starting until 7 I was confident in filling up to help ward off any hunger early on.



We left the hotel and got into the car. It was COLD. I mean, shivering to the bone cold. I was immediately more nervous knowing that I would have to be running in this sort of weather. The start of the race was about 30 minutes away so we made the trek there and parked about 6. I decided I wanted to close my eyes for a bit and take in as much heat as I possibly could.

6:30 hit and we got out of the car to go through last minute crew prep.

Because there was a sign, I needed a picture

My husband was with me the entire night before and then race morning, he saw me off! The rest of my crew, my Mom and friend Kellie were meeting up with him a while later (the drive was about 2 hours from where they live so being there at 7 was just an unreasonable ask in my book). They were going to be at the first large aid station that my crew could be at which was located at mile 10.

Pre Race picture with my favorite person

As I made my way to the start I saw Jaime and her husband, Ryan and also friend of mine that I had ran with throughout the summer. Seeing these three people was really welcomed as I made my way to the start, I was a bit emotional starting this race and saying bye to my husband was hard.

As we lined up I was standing right by Jaime's Dad, we had met the night before at dinner so we immediately recognized one another. Those few minutes were spent chit chatting and helped that time go by without stress or thinking too hard about what we were going to do that day.

The race started.
We were off.

We ran around the parking lot and then headed out on the trail. The trail was gorgeous, the fact that it was flat allowed me to look around and take it all in, unlike crazy technical courses that you can't take your eyes off of your feet.

photo cred

The first aid station, not where the crew would be, was about 5ish miles out. The first five miles went easy, I had to reign myself in and make sure I didn't go too fast. My coach's Dad really helped with this, we paced each other for the first 16 miles total actually! We got to chat and just get to know one another, it really helped those miles fly and helped keep the butterflies at bay!

We made it to the first aid station and Jaime was actually there! It was so fun running into the aid station and her being there, another friendly face, it really helped!

That aid station stop went rather quickly and we were off.

I was so anxious to get to mile 10 and see my crew. Again I had to reign it in so that I didn't burn out too soon. The course was beautiful and I was feeling great. Making sure I stayed hydrated and fueled was essential. Around mile 7 I realized my hose from my hydration pack was frozen because it was so cold. I couldn't drink any water for a few miles, thankfully I had my Gatorade Endurance Formula on me that got me through until mile 10.

Sexy, right?!?!

Running into that aid station felt amazing. I was so happy to see my crew that I searched the crowd from as far out as I could!


I ran in, found my people and we got to work. Switching out my hydration pack for a hand held, it was only going to be 6 miles before I saw them again! So they were going to work on getting the hose cleared for me. I ate a pbj, stocked up on what I needed and again, we were off!

Leaving the first large aid station!  Mile 10!

These 6 miles got a little more intense as we were starting to reach higher mileage. I started to feel a smidge fatigued so I dialed it back even a bit more because I knew that the day was just beginning. By the time I made it back to my crew at mile 16 I took some more food and they had cleared out my hydration pack's hose! I was back on course quite quickly after that aid station and was walked out by Jaime, helping to make sure I had everything I needed and that I was eating properly!



<3 <3 <3 

From mile 16 to 26 things got a little more difficult, not in a bad way but in the way that your body realizes you aren't just out for your normal weekly long run! The miles slowed a bit but the spirits remained high. It wasn't going to be until mile 26 that I would see my crew and it was going to be around lunch time.

While I was staying fueled as much as possible I was still hungry for lunch. I made my way into the 26 mile aid station and wanted something to eat that WASN'T peanut butter and jelly. The entire training cycle I had eaten PBJ's during my long runs and really enjoyed them, but during this race I wanted nothing to do with them. Thankfully my husband had gotten me a cheeseburger and I immediately wanted it. He made a comment about me eating the entire thing and I gave him this look...

Do NOT mess with a woman who has ran 26 miles and has 24 to go, this cheeseburger is all hers!

After a short break, adding more water and Gatorade to my pack I headed back out with my cheeseburger in hand. I did in fact eat the entire thing and it was glorious! I was hungry and it hit the spot. I had started chafing about mile 23/24 so I added GLIDE to my list of needs at the mile 26 aid station. I applied as much as I thought I needed but immediately after the cheeseburger was gone and I was back at it, did I realize I didn't do a great job. I turned to look behind me so I could pull off to the side and apply more and while doing so I hit a nerve in my back and it spasm'd. This isn't new for me, my back spasm's quite regularly but has never done this during a run. The next couple miles were rough. I could barely run and did my best to relax it out. By the time I hit the next, small, aid station (again, Jaime and Ryan were there... I can't say enough how great it was to see them so often on course, it really was a life saver for me!) I was able to run again and my back had eased out. This was mile 29/30

Cruising through the mile 26 aid station


Because they were all making sure my pack was working properly... They took such great care of me!

I knew I wasn't going to see anybody from that point until mile 36 so I had to mentally prepare for a really long stretch, alone. about mile 26 my coach's Dad fell back a bit so we were no longer running together, I was super bummed about this but did get to see him during a turnaround point further down the road!

Those 6 miles were brutal. This was the lowest of the low all day for me. My back was twinging a bit, no more stabbing pains, I was chafing and my legs were starting to feel heavy. Unlike Chubb I didn't shed any tears and I never thought of quitting, but it was HARD!!!

Then I hear it. The drumming up ahead. I didn't know what that meant but it had to be good. Then I saw it. The tunnel. The tunnel in the hill that the race was named after.



It was beautiful, it was so much more than I could have ever hoped it would be. You enter a race for many things but when I read about Tunnel Hill and about how we got to run through this tunnel twice and the beauty of it, I just kind of shrugged it off. Man was I blown away. This tunnel was beyond beautiful to run up to, to run through and to run out the other side. They had a drummer sitting at one of the tunnel and the music was just beautiful. I was honestly moved to tears, the good kind.

photo cred

I had made it 36 miles, this is the longest distance I had ran, ever. I was looking at such a beautiful site in front of me and I was about to see my crew after a really hard 6 mile journey.

Walking into mile 36 with my guy!

I ran in and found them. I was SO happy to see them. I ate some pickles, went to the bathroom and almost immediately headed back out. I was at mile 36 and only had to run 2 out and 2 back before I saw them again so that stop was quite short.

My cone head and this sign were on POINT!

Those 2 out and back were difficult but not too bad, they went by quite quickly and without hiccups. I was able to see my coach's Dad at the turn around and it was so great to see him and we were all still in great spirits! We were both so invested in this race and having ran so many miles together on this journey, I was rooting for him the entire time!!

 MILE 40!


 This was the best soup!



 Changing into my ear warmers for the night


 He said something, I gave him this look... Basically this is our marriage in a picture!


 How many people does it take to put on gloves?!



"I'll hold the glove, you just push your hand in." I felt like the boys when I get them ready to go outside in the snow and they can't put their own gloves on!

Seeing my crew again at mile 40 was bitter sweet. I knew I wouldn't see them again until the finish line. I was going to have to head back out and hit that long stretch of lonely trail and the sun was setting. This time it wasn't so daunting because I knew I was heading towards the finish. Those same 6 miles OUT were miserable, even though it was tough doing them in the dark hours at least I was heading towards the end.

This day wouldn't have happened without these three individuals. They were my crew, they were everything. I wouldn't have made it a single step without these individuals! They made sure I had every thing I needed, they were everything I could have ever asked for in a crew! I don't think I'll ever be able to properly thank them for what they did!

10 miles to go.



I was going to hit an aid station a little over 6 miles into that 10. I held on to that.

It was dark, it was bitter cold. I saw the lights and I knew I was about to hit the mini aid station about 3 miles from the finish.

Jaime was there, Ryan was there. They were waiting for her Dad so they wouldn't be able to be there at the finish when I came in so we hugged and teared up at this aid station. I was drained but I was still emotional. The journey we had all been on together was long and was trying. We had worked for this, we had planned for this and there was only 3 miles left to go until the finish line. It was surreal. I had almost done it, we had almost done it.



"RUN LIKE HELL"

I did my best to run those last 3 miles, run/walking was more like it, there was shuffling, it was so cold and so dark. I kept thinking I was hearing things in the woods surrounding me. I know it was all in my head. I had been out in the cold, running for nearly 11 hours. I am so grateful that there were plenty of people spread out in front of and behind me. I never felt alone or that I was running this trail in the pitch dark without anyone seeing me. I even made some friends along the way, we all made sure each other was okay and that we were able to make it to the finish, or for the 100 milers the half way point. We all had each others back!

Tunnel Hill introduced the marathon distance to this years events and they had the mile markers set out on the trail, they were to finish the SAME spot we were going to finish. We ran past the "26 mile" marker and a man yelled out "POINT TWO MORE MILES TO GO!"

I had made it.

POINT TWO miles to go. I was there. I was exhausted and cold.

I was proud.

I crossed that finish line at 11:15:59



So many emotions were running through me but the cold took over and I just wanted to get warm.

We made our way over to the warming tent, I grabbed a grilled cheese and some potato soup and attempted to warm up. I was still so beyond cold.

We went inside the building at the start/finish line and I changed clothes. Still cold to the bone.

I was able to snag a moment of Camille Herron's time at the finish line and let me just say, she is as bubbly and sweet as you could imagine. Even in those temps, she was there all day and she was ready to welcome everyone in. I am so glad I got to chat with her, take a picture with her, meet her in general. It was definitely an incredible experience on top of everything else!


I wanted to stay and see my coach, I wanted to stay to see some of the 100 milers come in but I just couldn't. I needed to get to the car, warm up and head back to get my boys who had been at my Mother-in-Laws (HUGE shout out to her for taking on both boys from Friday night until Saturday night!)

I thanked my crew and we headed home.

My love for these humans knows no bounds.

I was tired but I had so much adrenaline pumping through me I couldn't sleep the entire way home! The two hour drive I was just awake and replaying the entire day over in my head. There were points I felt I could have done better but overall I was so proud of what I had accomplished!

I did it.

I finished 50 miles.



I told my husband to not let me sign up for any ultra's in 2019 because 2019 is going to be the year of the marathon but I'm not going to lie, I'm itching to do a 12 hour timed run!!

This entire experience has taught me so much about myself, about my capabilities. I can do anything and I am stubborn enough to get what I want out of life. I learned that I have the best friends and family a girl could ask for. I chose an amazing coach who has become a friend. I am just surrounded by inspiring and amazing individuals and I am one of the luckiest women on the planet to have each and every one of them on my side! I learned that hard work and determination pay off and that I hope to be able to transfer that lesson to my sons, I hope they can see all of the work that I put into this run and not only be proud but motivated.

"RUN LIKE HELL"

I think that's a great motto ;)

Until next time!



*CHEERS*

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2 comments

  1. Well...that brought me to tears. But I also teared up during the race seeing you out there...so i guess I am just an emotional dude! That being said, I want to thank you for trusting Jaime to help you achieve this goal. She learned as much from you as you did from here over those 16 weeks and it was so great getting to share in your journey together as coach and athlete. You crushed...all of it! The training, the workouts, and the race!! There is no doubt you are showing those little guys what hardwork and discipline can bring you in life! Thanks again! Happy Holidays to you and yours!

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    1. How I’m just seeing this now, I have no idea!!! This means so much to me, thank you so much!!! The whole thing, training, racing, the entire journey was one of the best experiences ever!!! I feel extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to have Jaime as my coach and mentor and to have had BOTH of you there throughout the entire thing. Words won’t ever be able to express my gratitude!!! <3 <3

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