In the days leading up to Daytona 100, I felt like a little kid anticipating Christmas morning. I could barely sleep and found myself thinking about the race constantly with a “how much longer?!!” countdown running through my head. After thinking about it so much, for so long, I ultimately just wanted to get to that starting line and not have anything else to think about but running. The pre-race meeting only added to the excitement, with so many awesome, inspiring friends and fellow runners equally pumped to make this happen. I was thrilled to have a crew consisting of a dear childhood friend of mine, Amelia; a long-time running friend named Dave; and a new friend and accomplished ultra runner, Michele. We met briefly as a complete group for the first time on Friday night; and I felt confident that we would have a great time together! For me, knocking out 100 miles has been something I’ve looked forward to for some time… but an injury had kept me from the starting line twice in the past year. Sooooo…I decided to put any doubts aside and enjoy the experience. This was it – at long last!
I ran the first 13 miles through Jax Beach and into Ponte Vedra with Pat Hrabos, Daniel Kosla, and Joe Fejes, with Dave Carver out in front. We exchanged stories and laughed, making the miles pass quickly, and even ran (literally) into my high school cross country coach, Rushton. Upon hitting the first (long) beach stretch, I initially felt fresh and just glad to be out there, taking in the sight and sound of the waves. Pretty quickly, however, I began to feel a bit overheated and became separated from the others. …Then I ran out of fluid after missing my crew at one of the designated stops, which meant I wouldn’t see them for several more miles. I began to feel a mild panic. I was looking closely at every fisherman to see if anyone was carrying water and was prepared to ask for a swig. At one point it felt I was moving so slowly that a woman just standing on the beach had no trouble casually asking me what we were all doing, as I approached her. She was holding a water bottle. Should I ask her? Would that be rude? Did I care? Instead she told me it was her birthday, which I took to be a good omen. I wished her a happy one and suddenly spotted a friend of mine up ahead on the beach. He didn’t have water, but he had been waiting to cheer me on. That gave me a boost, as did seeing another friend who had walked out on the beach to show support during his bike ride. Ultimately, I came upon Regina’s crew, who kindly let me take several sips of their water and shortly thereafter was handed a whole bottle by a gracious Dave Carver crew member. They were life savers. In the following several miles, George Myers and Regina Sooey exchanged a few friendly words as they passed by; and I focused on getting to the Reef (end of the beach section), where I knew my 3 year old son was waiting.
Reaching the end of that section was exciting because several friends were hanging out on the beach and cheering. I took some photos with my little boy before heading out on the road, where Rokas and I passed one another back and forth a few times. I was pumped for Michele to join our crew vehicle at this point. He noticed I was hot and had arrived to the Reef a bit slower than expected, so he offered to run a few miles with me. I decided to wait a bit on pacing, knowing there was a chance that some special friends were waiting for me close by on the Vilano Bridge. Sure enough, I came across the bridge to see the little boy for whom my run was dedicated. He was accompanied by his entire family; and they had waited there for me, although they were preparing to celebrate their other son’s birthday shortly thereafter. Their presence was so heartwarming; and seeing several other loved ones there touched me greatly. Michele and I ran together through downtown St. Augustine where we were cheered on by several amazing members of a class that I teach. As we passed the fort, I realized we were going to get caught on the Bridge of Lions… As it turns out, we ended up having some good laughs while stuck there with Rokas and my crew.
It took me some time to recover from feeling affected by the heat. I was now running my regular route, off and on with Rokas, in my hometown, which I had imagined would be a real highlight of the entire journey. And it absolutely was in terms of moral support. As I passed Salt Life, a group of friends cheered me on. I came upon another lady from a cycling class I teach; and she was immensely supportive. As I ran along St. Augustine Beach, I noticed a series of signs encouraging me. This was amazing… I felt the love. As I approached the Aid Station at the Anastasia Publix, I saw more supporters and a group of stylists from my all-time favorite hair salon, who had gathered outside to root me on. For some reason, at that moment, feeling all of that positive energy, something changed. This was basically mile 40; and from that point on, everything steadily began to improve.
I enjoyed miles 40-52 and felt I had finally found my happy place. My body felt good; and I felt motivated. At points Rokas and I ran and chatted casually together, separating for various reasons (his bathroom stop, my blisters, etc.) I hadn’t planned to change my shoes but had a nagging pain in 2 areas just before the Matanzas Inlet. Although I hated to take the time to stop when I was feeling so good, it turned out to be a good call. My first several steps after changing shoes were awful. My feet felt worse than in the previous pair….but miraculously after a few minutes, I felt fantastic. The scenery around me was out of this world. I was overcome with the reminder that it isn’t often we are able to spend a whole day running like this. As I got more miles under my belt, Dave told me I wasn’t racing people- I was racing the heat. I understood he and my crew were wanting me to conserve my energy; and this was definitely helpful advice. But I also wanted to know how I was doing. Eventually, I learned I was in 3rd place behind Daniel and Joe. This felt exciting; and I continued to feel strong. Around mile 60 I saw Chris Roman; and Michele rejoined us. Their excitement was contagious; and I knew it was time to turn it up. A particularly special moment was passing by the winery in Flagler Beach, where I finished the Oceans 50 solo race exactly a year before D100. A group of folks was still there celebrating; and they cheered enthusiastically, as I went by. At the Aid Station around mile 70, I finally saw Joe and passed with Michele pacing me. These were enjoyable miles with the weather gradually cooling and us periodically running into a handful of friendly 50 mile runners. At some point Joe and Rokas passed us, both looking exceptionally strong. By the time I reached the Aid Station at TGI Fridays, I had passed Joe again and had caught up to Daniel; but Rokas had pulled ahead.
The remaining 20+ miles didn’t feel like TWENTY.MORE.MILES. …Conversely, they flew by. My body felt better than it had the whole day; and I was able to hold a faster pace far more easily. Dave paced me through parts of Daytona and helped me field questions about what we were doing to people enjoying their Saturday night in ways far different than ourselves. Michele ran with me on the beach, where we were able to exchange a few words with more 50 mile runners. As we approached the beach exit, we came upon a large group of people celebrating and waving sparklers. I wondered if this was a wedding or the coolest aid station I had ever seen. …It turned out these bright, beautiful lights weren’t for us, per say, but we so enjoyed them. As I got back onto the road, Michele reminded me there was just a 10K to go. As I went through the final Aid Station, Amelia and I brushed arms, which somehow felt comforting at the time. It was extremely real now: I was about to complete my 100 mile journey. We passed several women fighting for the 50M female win and eventually came upon Dave (RD and my coach) on a bicycle, who was so encouraging. I was solidly in 2nd place and would finish under 18 hours. He also informed me that my cousin, Dwyn, had driven to Daytona to surprise me at the finish!
I recall the last several miles of the race feeling like a little party. My crew vehicle went by snapping photos, singing, and playing my self-proclaimed race theme song. I glanced down at my garmin and realized I was comfortably running sub-8’s. I almost didn’t want it to end.
Every single person who took the time to support me in this great adventure will forever be remembered for making my first hundred really, really special. I was able to run for a deeply important cause and experience a lot of fun and learning with some amazing people in the process. Thank you. Can’t wait to do it again!