” Should i go to Miami still ? Am I mentally and physically ready for a 100 mile run 4 weeks after pushing through a gritty 400 mile finish with an injury that was taking longer than normal to heal post Dome ? This was the question I had asked my mentor, my husband, as well as myself. The Miami 100 is an urban road ultra ( not many road 100 milers out there and this is my passion) I was invited and participated in Luis Coco’s inaugural event in 2018 so it holds a very special place in my heart. ( destination unknown, Incase you ever wondered where that hashtag came from!) Florida is my second home, full of good memories and friends I’ve made Over the years and where my husband proposed to me on Valentine’s Day on South Beach, so you can see why l really wanted to go, not only to run, but for the nostalgia of it all. The feedback I got from the ones I asked was a mixed bag, you should go, you should not go …so it ended up ultimately being my decision. I spent nearly 4 weeks nursing the “tendonitis” leg with massage, stretches, heat and ice, I know the drill. I thought i would be ok, and had made the decision to have a fun race, no pressure on myself just enjoy it !! BUT was I writing a check my body wouldn’t cash ? Being my usual stubborn self, 2 days before I was to leave I finalized all arrangements to go. Just have fun, have a good time and be a happy runner ! Plus getting to see Lauren ( who is a fantastic one handed crew angel and my girl ) all day was an additional blessing for me. Little did I know how things would play out, and in a 100 miler you never really know what will happen. There are so many unknown things that can happen. I guess behind every buckle lays a story. Here’s the story behind the Miami 112.3
Jokingly ( no I guess seriously ) I get lost very easily, everyone who has crewed me knows this ( my sister Amanda and good friend Jay Lee will vouch for me here !) For some reason it’s gotten worse post Tran Con, I think it has something to do with running in a straight line the majority of the time. I had made this joke at the pre race meeting about ending up getting off course last year, maybe I shouldn’t have said that because I seem to have jinxed myself, ( and poor Lauren too who had to work extra hard to review directions with me constantly)
The morning was slightly warm with a bit of humidity ( I heard later that the dew index was higher than i thought ) but none the less I felt comfortable. The start went pretty quick; national anthem followed by 3,2,1 and GO ! Luis doesn’t waste any time!! Let’s kick the party off !
I was feeling good, at the time the only thing I was worried about was the dull ache still lingering in my left ankle and shin. It was tolerable. I just added a little extra Rock Tape for support ( and had the magic pantyhose incase, if you’re wondering about the pantyhose you will need to go back and read my Dome write up ) and Didn’t even give it a second thought. Heading out of the parking lot, I was able to share the first 8 or 9 miles with Lisa and Jeremy, It was fun and we joked about the heat and Lisa’s blue blinkie, staring at it too long would put you in a trance. They were both holding a very strong pace and I felt myself slip back a bit but I needed to go at my own and remember I was here to have fun ! I watched Lisa’s blue light fade away and continued on to checkpoint 1. Still feeling really good and moving well. I looked around as daylight broke, the homes here are so beautiful as are the sunrises . Don’t forget to enjoy the view the voice inside said.
Checkpoint 1! The Jetty ! (Biscayne Point ) I made my way and got my next set of directions for myself and Lauren, my head was still on straight and all was good ! It’s funny how things can blur together, and certain parts of the route have specific memories. I didn’t see any iguanas here on my way back out of the Jetty, like I had last year. With all the standing water you shouldn’t be surprised to see a critter or two creeping across the sidewalk. The sun had started to heat things up a bit, Lauren is a saint and kept me iced and hydrated as we moved along. I started to have a bit of a stomach ache, which I don’t normally have, I knew it would pass, just had to let it work itself out. A little coke and Pepto Bismo did the trick. We continued on to checkpoint 2 Coral Gables which was in a park. I swapped out my direction card for a new set and continued on. The course was not the same as last year, why are there so many round a bouts ? It must be an East coast thing, these “ROUND ” Circles of hell I called them always make me nuts and maybe it’s “Sandy Logic ” that gets me into trouble, but if you tell me to go straight through it technically it’s a circle so wherever you happen to Stand going “straight through” it could technically not be where you need to go I learned. Here is where I got off course but was corrected not too far off. In this instance I missed the 3rd exit in the bubble and in my defense I didn’t see it after retracing my steps there, I made my way out of it and also thought sharp right was the turn I had just made to get through it. Well, I missed that turn too and went on straight for 6 miles, see running in a straight line is my jam haha !! I didn’t even realize i hadn’t seen Lauren, nor had I noticed how much time had passed. I finally decided to stop at a gas station and call Lauren and saw my phone had been in airplane mode ?! Lucky for me I had my credit card Went in and bought a water and a Cuban sandwich and proceeded to go slump down on the curb outside. I was really upset about it but decided to TRY not beat myself up. It was a Battle in my head about how much time I had lost and the good segment I just had wasted. It can be very demoralizing but I was here to have fun, so enjoy the Cuban snack and use the down time as a break. It had started to get much warmer but there was a gentle breeze. No ankle pain or stomach issues so all was good. But still ?? How did I do this again ?? Time to move on …the mind is a powerful thing you know.
When I finally hit 31 miles at the correct spot of the course, my watch said 38. Ugh don’t look at your watch. Need to keep moving to next checkpoint, beach access, I was going to be going through little Havana next! As we headed on, I ran through a nice shopping area and saw people getting coffee and carrying nice bags. Sometimes I wonder what people think when they see someone with a pack and a handkerchief full of ice around their neck running through people having a good time ? I was excited to see this next part in the daylight last year this was segmented later in the course so I didn’t see it in daylight. I took advantage here and stopped and took some photos. I could smell the coffee and many of the shops and restaurants had music playing, it made me smile, I even stopped and took a photo for a girl that asked me ! ( I had her return the favor !)
Did I mention Lauren is also a fantastic photographer ?? I said she was amazing !! ☝🏾 Working toward Key Biscayne, After making our way through here we hit the beach, and deja vu hit. “ You need to stay on the bridge and go over “ ok I think I heard that before. I went over the bridge and I don’t know what I did but lost in thought I was looking straight ahead and followed the path that took me off the bridge ….wait ? This is right, I need beach access 7… I started looking at the signs on the beach and counted them …5, 6, 7 where is everyone ?? Ugh again ???? What the heck , I called Lauren and asked her she said I got off the bridge, I looked around and was like how the hell did that happen ? I back tracked a bit and got back on the bridge. It seemed there was a break off in the path and I followed it right off. Needless to say I made it up and over eventually . I was starting to feel defeated, I kept repeating what had happened earlier and now again ? This wasn’t as bad but still …adding more miles, I just wanted to get my next set of directions and keep moving. The tears were stinging and I tried to keep smiling “don’t think about it , it’s ok” …”ugh that’s 3 times now and you aren’t even at 50 miles but technically you are close to it Sandra if you hadn’t missed that turn you would be farther ahead “ “stop looking at your watch and beating yourself up.” These were the thoughts that kept playing over and over. As I made my way back over the the bridge and out, I see the 3 amazing runners on their quest for most 100s ! It was quite a vision ! Billy ( who carries the American Flag for the ENTIRE run )Walter and Mike. It made me smile and I thought wow !!! This was the first time they had ever all been together and ran the whole race as a unit. I took a minute to let that sink in and pulled my phone out and took some photos of them coming !!! I am surrounded by inspirational champions. We cheered each other on and that made me happy and brought me some peace. I also stopped for a minute and enjoyed the view from the bridge. I really do love it here. The ocean is amazing and the buildings and sea port in the horizon made me think of the cruise Roger and I took a few months ago.
Ok keep it moving on to Winwood. The next part was a bit more through the city area ( downtown if you will ?) Awhh yes I remember this only it’s not dark !! this was a segment later in the race last year. Making my way up the street, I see people backed up …. a draw bridge actually up ! I have never actually seen one up like that, very cool to see. I made use of the time and stretched out my legs, I was feeling good nothing hurt, I noticed a runner up ahead with some cool neon compression leg sleeves. She saw me and waved I Waved back and thought I will try and keep up with her through here. All things happen for a reason, right? This part was very noisy and congested, many turns and what’s hard is a lot of the street signs don’t have signs, what the heck ? I kept her in my sights just hoping to get out of here and I lost my footing and nooooo I felt myself falling no no no no …too late I landed smack on right side hip and leg and hand. I couldn’t move, I lay there for what seemed like an eternity glanced up up to make sure there wasn’t a car coming out of the parking garage I was sprawled out in front of. I felt the sharp pain of the pepper spray in my right pocket pushed into my leg and then the kind runner who later I learned was Rebecca was helping me up, she must have seen me fall and came back to help me up, I put my hand on my leg and felt all this wet warm, wait was that blood ??? Omg I’m bleeding!!! no it was a Huma gel I had in my pocket that had exploded from the fall. I chuckled to myself and tried to start running again, the pain was pretty tough to endure but I shuffled along, hopefully I would see Lauren soon I thought to myself. Finally there she was like a beacon of light with my pink ultra chair and hot food waiting !! I saw her and couldn’t wait to tell her what happened she immediately told me to sit down, eat and let’s get you cleaned up. I handed her my slimy iPod which was an innocent victim in the crash and burn from earlier. The good thing about Lauren is she will distract you, in a good way 🙂 let’s fix it and get you moving mentality. I sat down and ate some chicken nuggets and changed socks. New bottles with ice and off I went, it was cooler now so I ditched the ice bandanna I still needed to get to Roberto Clemente Park ( checkpoint 4) I got up and studied the direction card again, up the street and I had a left turn coming up. I started moving a little better but the fall had some consequences, wait this doesn’t feel right. I grabbed my direction card agin and saw that I had read the 2nd line of directions. I had a right turn first THEN a left, Oye Ve !!! Again ???? I caught this one myself and backtracked. I just kept adding more lost time and the extra steps were adding up. This next part was a bit sketchy, right as I was starting to feel a bit nervous about the “area “ I was in, the Miami Race Marshall Mathew showed up providing a personal escort, through this zone: I was relieved and happy to see him ! He was there to make sure we all got through safely. It was a short patch and I moved along, the next checkpoint was the beginning of the long stretch. Checkpoint 5 was at mile 71 at Miami Beach. I was feeling tired mentally I kept reliving the lost time and looking at my watch, plus I had significantly slowed down after falling. This argument went on and on and I was feeling completely demoralized. I started telling myself I shouldn’t have come, I wasn’t ready for this, then I just didn’t feel like running. And when that happened my mind was winning. I was done I wanted to be DONE, I told Lauren” I don’t want to run anymore” this went on and on for a few miles. My mind had taken over and I was in a very dark place where I didn’t care, my whole right side was hurting and i hadn’t planned to take this long ? I don’t have anything to prove ? Nobody is going to care, I didn’t …Did I really want to gut it out another 37 miles ?? I would not be done until the next day way after the sun had come up AGAIN !!! But If I hadn’t missed that one Major turn all the other unfortunate events wouldn’t have happened and I would be farther along. With all that in my head I couldn’t get my legs to turn over anymore.
The next time I saw Lauren she had me get in the car and sit. She told me to think about it. I laid there and closed my eyes. Where was the happy runner, where did she go? Dawn was not far behind me, her crew vehicle came up next to ours and next thing I knew LuLu was there in the window asking me what’s wrong? The tears started flowing and I told her I was done, she immediately told me how inspirational I was to her and she told me I could do it. She made jokes about why she likes to run looped courses, which of course made me laugh because there was some booty slapping involved. She suggested I wait for Dawn so we could keep each other company (butt slapping ??) She told me to eat and close my eyes for a little bit and wait. I listened to her and Lauren. I ate and drank and closed my eyes for a few to think some more. I opened my eyes and saw Mike, Billy and Walter heading up the road. Mike immediately came over to the car and asked what’s wrong. I told him I was done, I don’t want to run anymore. He
Told me “but what about the Compass ? “
I must have looked puzzled because he went on to remind me that 2nd time finishers get a very special award. A compass ( he also mentioned it really worked so I didn’t know if that was a joke with my lacking in “ sense of direction” but it made me smile) Dang it Mike !!! he also shared I had inspired him, isn’t that what it’s always been about for me ? He said “ We will see you out there again right ?” And i said “sure” and with that they left and I got up and out of the car. I decided to move again and prayed I could get my legs to turn over. LuLu came back over and hugged me said she loved me and that was just what i needed. Genuine human touch I believe is kryptonite to dark mental thoughts. (Que “ I get by with a little help from my friends “ ) I know that is what my saving grace was on most days on the trans con from Cinder Wolff. Never underestimate the power of love, empathy and kindness. I felt motived again to move and move with a purpose. My mantra has always been to finish what you start, no matter what and DON’T quit before the Miracle happens. The beat went on, need to get to checkpoint 5. This part was rather blurry I remember eating a cheese burger and crossing some bridges, people were fishing ? At this time of night ? Or morning? We finally made our way from here and heading toward South Beach only in reverse this year. Pros and cons here ! the energy and congestion of people partying, trying to dodge the crowds and major traffic through there make the few short miles here seem like a long journey. If I could get to the other side of the road i could move faster but crossing the street was a challenge so I strategically maneuvered my way through to the end, the noise of the music and chatter grew faint as I made my way up to where Lauren was waiting for me ( I thought of her often, She is Wonder Woman and I know she hadn’t slept at all, crewing solo means MacGuyver skills 24/7 and no naps !) I made my way up the road and back to another “Causeway “ ( what the heck is that ??) basically a bridge, to cross back over and into the downtown area and back toward Coral Gables. I would meet my crew chief on the other side ( get it flip side !? ) little did I know I had some of my own MacGuyvering to do !!!
“ SIiDEWALK CLOSED” huh ???? How the heck am I going to get around this ???
Panic sets in and I text Lauren a pic of the sign, she had the same reaction I had, she told me to hold on, and after a quick call to the boss was told to go through. Oh boy, I was a bit freaked out, why is it closed ? What if it isn’t safe ?? I really didn’t have a choice unless I wanted to run across the median in the middle of the cars. My right side was pretty stiff and I had to climb over the fence to make my way in, I am sure I looked pretty crazy slowly trying to scale this! This would have been a great GoPro moment. Ok keep going ….all the way across, it felt like an eternity, I kept looking over my shoulder, because I thought someone was behind me but It was only my shadow, the hallucinations were starting, Lauren text me stay on the causeway you remember like last year, only we were going the other direction. Yup I got it ! She was waiting for me with the ultra chair and a smile as usual. Quick break and recap of directions, I was about to go through where the wheels fell of last year because I missed a turn and kept going straight for too long and found myself in the dark vagrant part of downtown. I had enough mishaps today so that particular one wasn’t happening again ! Up the street 3/4 of a mile and then a right turn and then 3 streets down left on Miami. It was hard to stay focused I kept glancing down and saw people sleeping curled up in alleyways and under doors . I often wonder what their stories are and how they got here. “Stay focused Sandra” I do believe I said that out loud. Let the talking to myself commence ! I glanced at my watch 5:30 just keep moving don’t go there, you’re almost at 80 !!!! I was going to be on this road for a while, Lauren kept circling to check on me and make sure I was ok, my leg was really achy but I ignored it and walked ran as much as I could here, the sun would be up In a couple of hours. One last checkpoint number SIX !!!! Only a half marathon left!!!! Can I play “ Looks like we made it “ yet ?? I always think of that song, near the end of an event, reminds me of when I finished my second 100 miler Beast of Burden winter edition in 2016. My sister was crewing me and she played it for me on the ride back to the hotel !!! Good times!!! My mind often wanders to past experiences and I guess the things we are challenged with can be looked at as tests of the limits. Ingraham park where are you ??? Let’s wrap this up and bring it home!!
These last 13 miles were tough, everything hurt, the sun had come up, sunglasses and hat came back out. I had caught up to the the fearless 3, I needed coffee and calories. trans con power walk I need you !!! I tried to NOT stop too much anymore as I was already death marching, my body ached I had not mentally prepared to be on my feet this long we were at 26 hours ….the air was feeling heavy, and as the sky grew kinda dark, I remember seeing it was going to rain Sunday. Please don’t let it rain, please don’t let it rain I kept saying over and over, but apparently I don’t know the weather elders so you guessed it !! it started raining, I thought this too will pass just keep moving ….Wait ? It actually feels really good!! Sorta like a refreshing splash of water on your face. Embrace the moment you have come this far I was way to tired to let the wheels fall off again for my sake and Lauren’s. She went on a scavenger hunt to find me food I didn’t have to chew anymore and wasn’t sweet. Hummus and avocado dip it was, insert in mouth and swallow. We were down to the LAST section A few more turns through this hood and it’s almost time to buckle up. The temperature was rising again, I just wanted to stretch out, my back and my leg were throbbing. I studied the directions again a blurry mess, can I make it through here no wrong or missed turns ?? Right on 87th I got this, 3 blocks in I realize it was 82nd I didn’t go down far enough, ugh it’s ok it’s not that bad just get back on course, mile 96 ish we were almost there. I had to sit down Lauren whipped out the ultra chair and I immediately sat down very SLOWLY grimacing the entire time. Ok one last push here, the LAST mile. Luis has come out, with a big smile and some encouragement!! I hit the end of the road and Lauren met me so I could shed my pack, 3 blocks to go, I was then greeted by the Marshall again who was getting the last few steps in with me. Now can I hear “ looks like we made it” ???? I could not believe WE did it, the longest, grittiest most painful 100 ( 112.3) miles ever.
It’s true what they say, running a 100 miles isn’t easy and if it was everyone would be doing it. The ones you pour your blood and soul into, the ones where with every test comes a blessing in disguise, are the most meaningful and impactful ones. I am forever grateful, and so humbled by the love and care of those around me that refused to let me give up. My Crew chief who worked tirelessly so I could finish, to the random hands that picked me up when I fell down physically and mentally. I thank you ALL from the bottom of my heart. That’s the story of this 30 :48 adventure to buckle and compass up ! the DNF that almost was, well …not this time 🙂
#whichwaydoigo #turnornoturn #morethanithought #lookslikewemadeit #finishwhatyoustart #relentless #blessed #miami100 #destinationunknown
Photo credits @lauren Hadley @luis Coco
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