The gang at the start line!

They used this pic of Denise and I as a facebook post after the race!

My daughter Sarah and I at the finish line area

McKenzies by the giant Chrsitmas tree - downtown Mt Dora

40 and fabulous dinner!

SO I wanted to do something "epic" for my 40th birthday, which was Dec 4th. I scoured possible race options. My first choice had been Vegas Marathon, which usually fell right around my Birthday but for some reason this year it was a few weeks earlier. We also looked at marathons in Jamaica and Hawaii. but eventually I happened on this race in Mt Dora. They had various distances available, which meant that people had choices; half marathon, 50K and 50 Mile distances. It was within driving distance, which meant it was pretty easily accessible for most of our group, with no expensive flights involved! Several of my awesome running friends signed up and we started training and before we knew it race weekend was here.

We all drove to Mt Dora and upon arrival discovered that there was a ton of holiday events going on that weekend. It is a very quaint little town and with the parade, wine tasting, lighting of the Christmas tree, it was really pretty. We spent Friday evening checking out the cute little stores and restaurants. Race day was scheduled to be a little warmer than expected and as we pulled up to the start in the dark, it was also lightly raining. The start area was literally a field with a small tent in it. No lines, no waiting to park, very grass roots!  The 50 MILER people had already started an hour before us so at the start line were participants for the half marathon, Marathon (they had since added this option some time after we signed up) and 50K. The race director gave us a one-minute pep talk about the course which was basically "flags should always be on your right" and then yelled GO! And we were off!

Denise and I started off together with Tom, Wallace and Jaime right behind us. Elaine and Gina were also doing the 50K and Steve the half marathon. We tried to settle in to a pace but the terrain was VERY uneven. The long grass hid the dips in the ground so we were often tripping over ourselves as we landed awkwardly. There were also huge patches of mud with no choice but to go thru them, as there was no way around. There were other runners around us but we were unsure what distance they were doing. One girl did ask if we were doing the half marathon and when we told her the 50K she bolted ahead of us! The course was a 13.1 mile loop which the half marathon people did once, the full marathoners twice. The 50K runners had to add a 2.4 mile additional part on each loop so that we would do two 15.5 mile loops to get us to 31 miles. By the time we turned on to that add-on part we could not really see anyone in front or behind us but on that course with all the turns it was hard to see anyone. The last part of the first lap was by far the hardest. There was very long grass and roots. It was difficult to even run through it. Denise and I both laughed at how hard that would be come lap 2! I was struggling a bit with my breathing. I had used my inhaler but I think that our pace was a little erratic I was finding it hard to get in to a rhythm. We were both stumbling over the long grass and uneven ground. As we can thru the start/finish at the half way mark I stopped briefly to grab a bottle of Gatorade, an extra Gu and my inhaler in case I needed it. Denise kept going slowly and I sped up a bit to catch her again and off we went for lap 2! Every now and then we passed a 50 MILE participant. They were easy to spot as most of them had packs with water, food and protective clothing, as they would be out in the sun for most of the day. I had debated doing the 50 MILE option as I figured it would be more "epic" for my 40th but  at that point in time I was SO thankful to be doing the 50K. An additional 19 miles on that course seemed inconceivable at that point!

We were still keeping a good pace but Denise was starting to let me know I could go on ahead. At first I said we would stay together but then she pointed out that she would leave me in a heartbeat if she could (and I know after 10 years of running together that she wasn’t kidding! LOL) so I decided to go for it. I picked up the pace a little bit and put on my iPod. For a brief few minutes I got a fabulous runners high. I was invincible. I could run FOREVER! Shortly afterwards I went back to my regular plod pace and reality set in. I still had quite a few miles to go and this time I knew the course and knew that some of the long grass sections were still ahead! There was one long section of long grass that seemed even longer on lap 2. I kept running but was beginning to wonder if I could walk the same speed as it was getting hard to pick my feet up high enough to clear the grass but if I didn’t then I was tripping on it.

Finally I saw the giant mud puddle and new I was heading in to the last really long grass section. There was another runner trying to get around the mud but I knew I was close to finishing so I just plowed right thru the middle. He was doing the 50 Miler so still had one more loop. We chugged thru that last really long grass section together and then as we hit the asphalt of the old run way he told me to “GO! Finish strong!” My legs were a bit wobbly but I was smiling from ear to ear. I ran down that run way with the finish line slowly coming in to sight. As a final torture the finish line itself was back in the long grass again. Just the last 20 feet before you crossed. I thought I was going to have to walk in the finish chute but as I got close my son Ian (Age 6) ran across and met me and we ran in together, which was awesome. After I crossed the finishline I slumped down on a big icebox and started chugging Gatorade. Then the timing lady yelled out that I was the first female finisher for the 50K. YAY! I had no idea as there were people doing all different distances.

My husband and kids were hanging out at the finish line and he said that he thought I was the first person to finish, not just the first female so I hobble back over there and checked and sure enough I had won!?! I had no idea there were no other people in front of us doing the 50K distance. Now that is "epic" I had never been the overall winner of a race before!  I hung out at the finish line with the kids, Wallace and Jamie's Wives were also there and Steve who had run the half and was waiting for his wife Denise to finish the 50K. Next in was Jamie. First male finisher. Not bad for his first 50K! Next came Denise. She had suffered with bad leg cramps the last 9 miles or so and had to walk but still finished well under 5 hours for her first 50K. Next came Tom but we were started to get a bit worried about Wallace who people had seen close to the finish but he still had not come in yet. A few minutes later a 50 miler participant came running in and said that he had collapsed. Denise had just seen him and talked to him and he said he was OK. I ran and got his wife (Tish) so she could talk to the EMT guy while the race director and the other EMT guy raced off in a pick up truck to get him. Next we ran to her car so she could get his ID and her purse etc. and I got her keys so we could get her car to her. Obviously she would want to ride in the ambulance to the hospital. As we were running back down they passed us in the truck with Wallace lying in the back. It slowed down but then suddenly sped off out of the field. Apparently the ambulance could not get in to the field. Tish and I jumped in to my car and I raced after them and we caught them at the gate where the EMT guys explained everything to her. They assured her he would be fine but need a fluid IV for dehydration etc.  After they left the rest of us hung out at the finish and waited for Elaine and Gina to finish. The kids were having fun, Ian on his skateboard and Sarah with another little girl who was there. It was getting pretty hot for people still out on the course, but they finished together looking strong! I then went to the hospital to check on Wallace and drop off their car for them. They would be keeping him overnight to make sure but it would end up being Tuesday before they released him due but the good news is he is recovered now and already discussing his next race! That evening we all (minus poor Wallace) went out for a fabulous dinner. Denise my running partner had made a little goody box for everyone with a little "Ode to Helen" poem that went with it... The traditional "over the hill" walking cane, 40 and Fabulous sash and crown! Once seated she hands me a little box which contains one of those little origami number games. She asked me some questions and eventually it tells me to look up, where upon I see a paper airplane flying towards me. Written across the plane was HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ONE FLIGHT TO THE SHAMROCK MARATHON IN VIRGINIA BEACH! They had all gone in together and bought me a flight to the race in March! I could not believe it. So, all in all, my 40th Birthday race weekend was pretty EPIC!

Finish time 4:33 - First Overall Finisher!
Average pace 8:48 min/miles.

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