Fourth of July Tradition

10-year-old marathoner! 🙂

Participating in the Brownville Freedom Run Half Marathon in Brownville, Nebraska, on the Fourth of July has become a tradition for the past three years. This year, however, I did not firmly decide until the week of due to a subtle yet lingering soreness in my right foot, many symptoms of which hint at a developing stress fracture; therefore, I for the first time in 47 races registered the morning of the event, as online registration had already closed. I have not been able to run as frequently or hard as I normally do in the past month and thus added occasional swimming to my training.

With the foreseeable heat and humidity this time of year in Nebraska and not entirely confident in the state of my right foot, I did not set a specific time goal. The majority of this course takes place on rugged trails, but my adrenaline kept me from feeling any unbearable pain in the injured foot, even though I felt the sting for nearly the entire race.

I, still on pace to break two hours around mile 11, thought to sprint the final half a mile, but miscalculating the finish line led me to kick too soon for how little energy I had left, at which point I only focused on finishing strong. Concluding 13.15 miles in 2:02:25.4, first time in almost a year not comfortably coming in under two hours, I felt slightly demoralized until realizing most runners I spoke to after ran significantly slower than their capabilities. The beauty of summer running (and an injury), I guess!

I thank Jesus for protecting me throughout the race, as always. Happy Birthday, America!

H3: Hot, Humid, and Hilly

Committing to my fourth ultramarathon and second 50K in Kansas on July 27-28, 2018, I sought one more 13.1-mile race early in the same month as part of training. Seeing the Brownville Freedom Run as the only option on the Fourth of July, I signed up for the event for the second consecutive year, initially hesitant because I did not want to drive a minimum of seven hours out and back for a half marathon. Again, the temperature was projected to significantly peak on race day, but, having run multiple times in the 90s and 100s in training, I presumed my body would be accustomed to heat by now.

This 9-year-old girl ran 13.5+ miles in these brutal conditions!

Remembering the course from a year ago as mostly flat on a combination of road and trail, I did not prepare for hills. Nevertheless, before the start, the race director announced that the crew had to alter the first/last one-mile section of the course with hills and a bridge due to the flood on the original, and a runner next to me said, “I do not like hills.” Because I was conversing with other participants and missed this information, I asked, “How big are the hills?” somewhat implying, “How hilly could this possibly be?” The race commenced, and I thought emphatically, “What the heck is this?” as the first half a mile led straight uphill with the pinnacle hardly visible due to steepness and then the next half a mile straight back down; runners would repeat this in reverse order to the finish. Around mile seven, the clouds moved away from the sun, taking the feels-like temperature to the mid-90s; I felt I was running in the sauna and that I may have to vomit with all the fluid bouncing around in my stomach.

One lady passed me on my way back up the brutal hill towards the end, and then I passed her on the way down. Here, she really pushed herself to try to pass me again and finish before I, and, wherever the energy came from, I probably ran the fastest pace here out of the entire race as if being chased by a bear. As soon as I crossed the finish line of 13.54 miles (although some GPS watches read closer to 13.7) in 2:20:04, I barely held myself from vomiting, simultaneously thinking, “I cannot puke in front of all these people.” (I did so big time twice on my way back to my disgusting hotel.) Seeing this terrible time place 24th out of 63 runners, I realized others were just as negatively affected by these conditions as I. I actually often feel excited and grateful when I struggle so much in the heat, as the more I do so the more I am reminded I did not run 102 miles in worse conditions alone; thank You, Jesus. Since my upcoming ultramarathon starts at 9:00 PM without the interruption of the sun, I remain optimistic I will perform.

Freedom Run

Running 102 miles just over two months ago, I had firmly decided to take a mandatory 102-day break, one day per mile covered, to safely and properly recover. Perhaps because I fulfilled a dream that took up much of my life for a couple of years, I felt a few days following an immense void in my life, which invited back longer and more powerfully than ever before many disturbing intrusive thoughts, one symptom of my obsessive-compulsive disorder. An innate suburbanite extrovert, I have been constantly forced to fight loneliness of a minute city of 33,000, exacerbated by the not-so-healthy work environment. “Maybe running has been working as my therapy and I just didn’t know it,” thought I, triggering me to jump back into running only a month after the ultramarathon in Texas. The resumption of habitual running brought back my desire to race, and I spontaneously registered for a half marathon at the 2017 Brownville Freedom Run, hosted in the historic Brownville, Nebraska, to celebrate the Fourth of July.

I love talking to people in races! Happy Fourth!

I hoped to embrace again the feeling of running with dedicated, disciplined, and humble strangers and befriend some of them. I simply wanted to have fun and did not care too much about my performance or finish time, as I understood my body still needs time to fully recover. Furthermore, I began experiencing stomach pain a week and diarrhea for two days prior to the event (because I unknowingly drank a brutal amount of laxative tea for days). I relied on prayers and medication and made sure to consume much of sports drinks to replenish electrolytes and water. The hours of fireworks outside my motel in Rock Port, Missouri, allowed me only two hours of sleep, but I trusted my body that could move without sleep for nearly 40 hours in my most recent race could manage 13.1 miles. Indeed and thankfully, I held up without any issues, although blistering heat and nearly 100% humidity did affect me both physically and mentally—along with most other participants—the final 3 miles of the concrete-gravel course. I do not recall sweating nearly as profusely as I did in any of my previous 23 races. All of these obstacles considered, I am semi-content with my 2:05:40. After all, I traveled 3.5 hours, the farthest I have driven for a half marathon, to merely have fun and feel free, which I did.