257 Miles. That was the final distance I traveled along the Cocodona 250 race course. The race started on May 3rd and 109 hours later, I finished. I am not new to endurance sports, but I was very new to this! I competed in my first race back in October of 2007, which was the Westchester Half-Marathon. Since then I’ve raced in numerous marathons, triathlons and ultra trail races.
How It All Started For Cocodona 250
I can tell you about how it all started for me back in 2007 but I prefer to tell you the story of how it all started with regards to Cocodona 250. I wrote a race recap on my Instagram account so this will be more about the process of getting to Cocodona and the lessons learned along the way, because this was the first time I have put a foot past the 100 mile distance and like any distance, the first time can be intimidating to consider. The lessons I learned may help you make the decision to press register on a 200 mile race or may make you decide that it isn’t for you, but as I once said: never say never to this distance or any distance outside of your comfort zone.
For a couple of years I have followed the journeys of friends as they raced Moab 240, Bigfoot 200, and Tahoe 200. Some of those journeys even included the triple crown, which is to finish all three of those races in a single year. My thought then was: that is bananas and I want no part of that.
That was until Cocodona 250 was announced. I have raced in Arizona a number of times. I raced at Ironman Arizona, Coldwater Rumble 100, and Black Canyon 100k. I have loved racing in the desert and this opportunity to see Arizona from two feet was compelling. I was also hesitant because it is still 250 miles and that is a long way to go. Post announcement, Greg Sisengrath, sent me a message that we should do it. We had just come off of racing Black Canyon 100k so it sounded appealing and I said: yeah, we should.
For a couple of months we would go back and forth in a game of chicken. Trying to see who would press the register button first. I guess you could say that I lost the game because Greg sent me a message with his registration page and said, “your turn”. I couldn’t turn back and registered. COVID hit and the race was pushed back to 2021. Each day that passed, we got closer to the 5:20 AM start time on May 3rd. It was nerve racking to think I’d be covering that distance on my own two feet. Who does this? Why do this? How am I going to do this? What have I gotten myself into?
What Happens Over The Course of 109 Hours?
During those 109 hours I discovered that I can be both tough (running through the night and in extreme weather changes) and vulnerable at the same time. After the 4th night of ‘sleeping’ this became quite evident. I had 50 miles to go and in my mind I knew I could cover that distance as I’ve raced 50 milers before……not a big deal, right? Simultaneously, I looked at my crew chief Maria and said to her, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” I could feel the emotion welling up inside of me. The idea of another 20 hour day of constant moving, eating oatmeal gels, sleeping on the dirt, climbing thousands of feet in short order was too much to handle. Make it stop!!!
Maria looked me in the eyes with the same intensity that I told her I didn’t want to do this anymore and said to me,“You will do this. You will put one foot in front of the other and get this done. You have time to finish. You will eat and drink and I’ll see you in Flagstaff.” I don’t know that I believed her since my brain was as mushy as the oatmeal I had been eating. My sleep total at that time was 13 hours over 90 hours so comprehension was not in full effect. Despite all of this, I somehow managed to push away from the van, grab Ashley, my pacer for 2 out of 3 legs that remained. I bid farewell to Michelle, who would pace me in that middle leg of the three and started moving toward the finish line that stood 50 miles away.
Over the course of the next 19 hours, I managed to throw pity parties that the major climb wasn’t there yet, that the major climb was too hard, that I wanted to sleep (which I did on the side of the trail twice during this stretch.) I also managed to run the first 13 miles of the final 50 as if I had been shot out of a cannon (keep in mind this cannon is from 1776 and doesn’t fire as well as it used to) and laugh along the way.
This stretch was hard, but it wasn’t any harder than the previous 200 miles, it was just different in that it was actually welcomed. It provided me with different memories and lessons to be applied to the next 200 mile race. Yes, I said, the next 200 mile race. I don’t know when that will be, but it will happen.
Give Yourself A Chance
Why? Because I always ask other athletes that I pace during long ultra races to give themselves a chance. Give themselves a chance to finish. Give themselves a chance at a PR. Give themselves the opportunity to succeed. You might find yourself quitting a thousand times in your mind along the way or throwing pity parties as you go, but keep moving forward and give yourself a chance.
Every step I took, every calorie I ate, every ounce of liquid I sipped and every minute I slept gave me a chance at success. I will take those lessons, apply them to the next race, and hopefully I’ll cross the finish line again with a new set of lessons to be applied to racing and to life.
Give Yourself A Chance