Skydive Ultra 150 - January 2019
In 2014, after a visit with a doctor and then my own uneducated Google search titled, “how long does someone live with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma” I was struck with a fear I had never experienced before. Fear that I would not be able to watch my daughter graduate from high school; teach her to drive; see her 16thbirthday; help her decorate her college dorm room; graduate from college; enjoy her life; fear that we would not share the special moments to come; fear that my husband will not have a life partner; fear that my best friend will have to be alone; fear that I would not be able to do all the things I wanted to do; fear that I would - at the end of my life - have regrets; fear that I was not truly living; fear that I would not live 5-10 years after my diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (don’t ever Google your prognosis - it’s entirely wrong). While a piece of this fear will never leave and it rears its ugly head every so often, I’m still here and know that I will be for quite some time. Grateful.
In 2015, I ran my first Skydiving Ultra event – a 50k. I also skydived and fell in love with it. So much so, that I received my AFF (advance free fall) license. Later that year I had a skydiving accident and as I was crashing to the ground, only thinking of my daughter, I wondered if I would live. That was fear. I Lived.
In 2016, on my way to crew a friend to run the Skydive 150, I received a call from my sister stating that my Mom’s health took a turn for the worse and I’d better get home quickly. I feared that I would not be able to have one final conversation with my Mom, thank her for giving me life, hold her hand, or tell her I loved her. I quickly turned my car around and got a flight home to see my Mom. I made it just in time and my Mom passed shortly thereafter. Thankful.
In 2017, after doctors stated I may never be able to run far again because of my skydiving injuries, I finished the Skydive 100 miler 11 months after I started walking again without assistance. I cried for so many reasons during that race. I cried for what I’d lost, for what I gained, and for the pain I experienced. I felt like this race had come full circle for me – I was able to finally finish the 2017 race for my Mom. I was happy it was over and never wanted to run that looped race again.Determined.
When I first saw the 150-mile buckle in 2015 I thought it was so far out of reach. I was in awe of the athletes who completed any long race, but particularly a 150-mile races. I thought I would never have that buckle in my hands, ever. I am a back of the pack runner and simply never thought I would be able to do it. I thought my dream of running a 150-mile race was out of reach. I was in total awe of the runners who completed 150 miles at Skydive Ultra. Turn the clock forward a few months and after a direct message to a friend (an awesome female athlete who finished the 150-mile race) I messaged a world class coach, Lisa Smith-Batchen. Lisa and I spent a long time on the phone that evening in the Fall of 2018. She knows my dreams, my fears, my goals, and my plans for the next several years. I did every single thing Lisa asked of me. I trained hard, I dialed in my nutrition, I spent many hours and miles along the roads and on the trails. These are the places where I find solace and peace. Dream Big.
In 2018, I also started practicing yoga which has helped me further understand my body and practice mindfulness. Yoga has also help me reach past my perceived limitations. My Yogi, Sara, is fabulous and what she has taught me over the last year reaches far beyond my yoga practice. Forever grateful to these two powerful and fierce women. Namaste.
My 150-mile race started 6:00:00 am on January 25, 2019 and I finished at 9:43:51pm on January 26, 2019. This race was about pushing past my fears, I am alive, and I am grateful and thankful for everyone who was part of my journey – presently or in my past. All these experiences have all shaped me for who I am today, and I am fortunate and blessed to have been able to experience them. Blessed.
It’s been a week since the race and I still cannot believe that I finished. I broke this race into chunks. I visualized myself at different points of the race weeks prior – so at mile 50, 75, 100, etc. I knew this is how I would feel – because this is how I visualized myself feeling. I also had a few mantras and thoughts throughout the race: I am stronger than my fears, Stay focused, and Be Consistent where the few that I used most often. I truly believe the visualization and mantras played a part in my ability to keep moving and finishing. Fortunate.
I had one rough patch on day two, about 30-31 hours into the race, when I realized that I would have to run into the second night --- I mean, I always knew I would have to, but it just seemed like such a daunting task at the time. I was getting tired, I had only stopped for 15 minutes for foot care and I felt my mental game slipping. I let the tears flow and I kept asking Nancy how many more laps and I swore she was miscounting, and that I had more laps to do than what she was telling me. I kept thinking of my fears and why I am doing this, I thought about my Mom and all those before me who have given me hope and inspiration. My tears continued. In my low point, we see a truck coming down the sugar cane trail and it’s the RD, Eric. Eric gets out and I cry on his shoulder (a raw and snotty, tears kind of cry – sorry Eric) and tell him that I do not want to run into a second night. He pretty much tells me to get my butt moving and that I need to keep going. It’s what I needed, I shake it off and keep going. I get a few text messages from Lisa and other friends throughout the race and these motivate me even more to just keep moving and finish. On one lap, close to the end, when I didn’t think I could run any more, my fabulous pacers, Tommy and his daughter Tessia, said “let’s see if you can run from this rock to this rock…”, so I would run 100 feet which would then turn into 100 yards, then ¼ mile, etc. and this made me realize my limitations were in my head. I could control what my body wanted to do. My brain was foggy, my legs no longer felt fresh and were sore and tired, but my legs could still move. Thank you, Tommy, for showing me what I can do when I didn’t think I could. This was the impetus I needed to get the remaining few laps done. I Am Stronger Than My Fears.
I was fortunate to have the best full-time crew anyone could have (Nancy, Karen, Tony, Sara, Tommy) and guest appearances from Becky, LuLu and Matthew Z. We established ground rules in the beginning, and the team did not venture from what was established. I wanted to be in and out of my aid station in 5 minutes or less – they were so efficient that I was often in an out in 2 minutes. I did not want any comfortable chairs in eye sight, so I am sure they closed the comfortable chairs when they saw me coming - except that one time I told them that no matter what they say I was going to sit for a few minutes. They took such great care of me – food, drink, sunscreen, clothing changes, rain gear, blister care, pacing duties, crying duties, all through the sun, wind, mud and rain. Part of the plan was to ensure they take shifts and slept and ate to ensure they remained strong. Tony told me stories of his parents, India, and his childhood; Nancy kept me from freaking out and knew what I wanted before I wanted it; Karen kept me motivated and engaged; Sara kept me centered and applied the CBD lotion to my glutes, legs and back; Tommy kept me going when I did not want to go any more. Becky and Matthew took care of my blisters and LuLu provided the best hugs ever. I know it’s hard to crew. Team…we did it…we earned this buckle. Teamwork.
My takeaways from this race are still coming at me every single day. I learned so much about so many things, but my ten tenets of this race and what I hold dear in my life are as follows:
I Am Stronger Than My Fears.
2/3/2019 02:35:28 pm
OMG Sue, what a great post! I'm not sure which hole in the sand I had my head burried in, but I didn't know about your skydiving accident nor the necessary recovery that followed. You're amazing for finishing a 100-miler 11 short months after learning to walk again. Even more amazing is your determination to push past your already impressive accomplishments to reach greater heights. You're a total bad-ass and you have my utmost respect and admiration. Congrats again on this amazing achievement. I can't imagine what your next challenge will be but whatever it is, I have all the confidence in the world that you'll best it.
2/3/2019 07:57:18 pm
SUE!!! You are so amazing. You are an amazing wife, mother, friend, and ultra runner. To see you accomplish such a great feat, and overcoming so many obstacles is an inspiration to everyone. ❤️❤️
2/3/2019 11:58:51 pm
So inspiring Sue!! You can do anything you put your mind to!! Thank you so much for sharing!! Hope you are recovering well and I’ll see you soon!
2/6/2019 06:55:08 am
So inspiring. You are a force to be reckoned with and I am in awe of your courage, determination and strength. And motivated!!
2/7/2019 09:28:55 pm
Wow. This was inspirational and breathtaking.
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