Wings for Life World Run – What a Ride!

Here’s a peek into my head during the Wings for Life World Run on Sunday. You can check out my last post to read about the week and how I was feeling going into the day.

2:20am: Alarm goes off. Race day nightmare – the ringer volume on my phone was down super low and if we wouldn’t have already been halfway awake, I wouldn’t have heard my alarm. Roll out of bed.

2:23am: Super hot shower to wake up my body. This isn’t normally part of my race day routine, but with the extra early wake-up and my especially tight body, this was worth setting the alarm a few minutes earlier.

2:30am: Dan’s up and dressed already. He’s calm. We both quietly get ready. I wear black Saucony bullet shorts, the Lululemon shirt I got from the O2X race a few years ago that’s actually tagged inside out but I can’t get rid of, Stance Running ankle socks, Adidas Boston Boosts, and PlayGldn trucker hat which makes me feel like me. Not knowing if it’s raining or not, I top my race outfit with layers and a rain jacket.

2:50am: Toast a bagel in the lobby of the Hampton Inn. I top it with PB&J and eat it on the way to the race, washing it down with a can of Blue Bottle cold brew coffee and water. I also fill my handheld bottle with orange Tailwind.

3:00am: Drive to the race, still calm.

3:15am: Park in a garage very close to the start. Now it’s time to start getting pumped. I turn on Freedom by Pharrell then Ten Thousand Hours by Macklemore.

3:25am: Go find a portapotty. There are plenty and the lines aren’t too bad. There’s  a party happening at the start line already. It makes me feel anxious like we’re late, but it’s not go time yet.

Start line scene.

3:40am: Back at the car, layers come off. I leave my phone and only take my handheld bottle and the key to the rental car.

3:50am: The energy at the start line is palpable. How is everyone so awake? Amazing rendition of the National Anthem. People are taking selfies and videos. This is unlike any other race scene. Thunderstruck comes on and I can’t help myself – I bounce and bob my head. It’s going to be a good day. I keep hitting Dan’s butt, tell him to “do the damn thing.” But then also ask if he double-knotted his shoelaces. He seems annoyed by that question; he’s so focused. Final kiss.

3:59:50: Ten second countdown. Every city participating in this race across the world starts at the exact same time. The magnitude of this isn’t lost on me.

4:00am: We’re running! It’s pitch black out. I have no idea how far I’m going to run or how fast I should go. I truly had no plan. I keep saying to myself, “I’m just running.” The weather is perfect, cool but not raining.

4:07am: I run the first mile in 7:12 and decide to run half marathon pace for as long as it feels good and see if I can maybe set an unofficial PR.

4:51am: I’ve run 7 miles and feel amazing. I think we’ve been going uphill but I hardly notice. I’ve talked with two different people and know their goals. When they ask mine, I tell them that I’m just running.

5:12am: My watch beeps 10 miles and I speed up. I pass a pair of guys and they cheer me on and I yell “I’m going to go set a half marathon PR now!” They say go! I spend the next mile debating if I want to stop my watch when I get to 13.1 so that the half distance can stand on its own or keep it going for the whole run.

5:34am: I click my watch at 13.16 in 1:34:22. My last two miles were sub-7 pace. I yell out a whoop! I fiddle with my watch to re-start it but never stop running.

5:40am: I slow down and some of my friends I passed earlier catch up to me and I tell them I did it. We keep going together. Pink streaks are in the sky.

6:00am: I’m still just running, hovering around 8:00 pace. I feel like I could go all day. I start doing some math. All I know is that to get to mile 20 without getting caught you’d have to run 7:50 pace. I told Robyn the day the before that there was no way that was happening but now I realize that there’s no way that’s NOT happening. I keep thinking that if I get tired, I can just slow down. But I’m not tired yet. I talk to anyone who will listen and keep exclaiming it’s a beautiful morning.

6:27am: I’m passing people. I get to mile 20 before 2:30 hits on the clock. I can’t believe that pace. If I was trying to BQ, I’d have over an hour to go 6.2 miles. I’m glad I’m not trying to BQ – so much more pressure than this. A motorcycle film crew rolls up to me and starts recording. I don’t know what to do. I see a guy up ahead and tell them I’m going to go get him and I do.

Video of me running on the WFL site.

6:40am: I never thought I’d go this far. I have no concept of when the car will get me because I didn’t research what it would be like to go past 20 miles. I start daydreaming about making it to mile 23.

6:47am: I stop at the aid station at mile 22 and refill my bottle for the first time. I’m out of Tailwind and starting to get hungry. I have a few sips of Red Bull. I keep running and I see two ladies ahead of me and I want to catch them. I think I can.

6:51am: A bicyclist comes up next to me to tell me the catcher car is right behind them. I don’t look back. I speed up but don’t make it to the two ladies. The car catches me and a woman in a race vehicle tells me I did a great job and that the shuttle is right behind. I consider asking if I can keep running but I get in and everyone on the bus cheers.

6:55am: There is water and Red Bull on the shuttle but no food. I’m starving because I haven’t eaten anything in over 3 hours. I would have brought something in addition to Tailwind if I knew I was going to go so long. I drink a Red Bull to get some calories in. We all wear Mylar blankets and tell stories about our days. We keep picking up racers and we cheer loudly for everyone who gets on.

7:30am: Okay, this is the longest bus ride ever. Every time we pick up someone that isn’t Dan, I breathe a sigh of relief. We have the 3rd-9th place females on our bus and I learn that a few of them have raced and won before and were going for the win today.

7:52am: Finally, we’re back to the start. Almost everyone is gone as we are the last full bus of the day. I now know what it’s like to be one of the final people to a finish line when they’re starting to pack up the snacks.

7:55am: I need warm clothes, calories, and a bathroom. And to know how Dan is doing. I get dressed and eat a Picky Bar and try to bring up the tracker but I’m not functioning well. I catch up with Robyn on how her race went.

8:00am: I’m in a group text with Robyn and Adam who is giving minute by minute updates. He says Dan is one of the top three. He says Dan is one of the top two. He says Dan is the only one left; he won. I don’t fully let myself believe him. At the finish area, a van pulls up to drop off the racers and three guys get off and Dan is not one of them. One guy looks particularly upset and someone tells me that he’s a professional runner and has won the past two years in other cities. I tell them that Dan works a full time job not related to running.

8:20am: This is taking forever. I talk to people and tell them “my husband won!” I text our moms and continue to get updates from Adam on Dan’s global placing.

8:30am: A race car pulls up with Dan in the front seat. Everyone gets in position. I run up to the car and give him the biggest hug and kiss. The Red Bull team cheers and forms a finishers tunnel for him. He gets flowers and a plaque and cameras are all over the place. He high fives people and takes selfies with a few who ask. He gives a couple quick interviews. It’s all so surreal!

High-fiving after the running through the finishers tunnel.

Whoa.

Reunited.

9:40am: It’s just the two of us and we drive back to the hotel and excitedly talk the whole way about how awesome that was. I say that this is the best race ever and that I only want to run Wings for Life races forever. We get back to the hotel and breakfast is still going on, so we eat. The woman working sees our medals and asks about our race and we tell her and she says to eat more.

10:30am: Time to connect – we do social media and text with all of our friends and family who are going above and beyond with support. We feel so loved. We look up results. We realize that Dan is 9th in the world.* Ninth. We start daydreaming about where we are going to run the race next year. For winning, Dan gets a trip to one of the other cities to compete again. He jokingly tells me I have to be our meal ticket next year.

The rest of the day: coffee, drive to Ventura, beer, beach, dinner. In just another example of how all the stars aligned on Sunday, we had the kindest waitress at dinner who was genuinely so excited for Dan and so sweet to us. People are the best.

Best part of the finishing video: when Dan casually raises the roof.

I can’t speak highly enough about the Wings for Life World Run and the experience we had in Santa Clarita. 100% of race entries go to spinal cord injury research and at the same time, it was one of the most well put on events I’ve ever participated in. Every volunteer and race official was amazing. Every cop blocking an intersection seemed happy to be out there. I will plan my calendar around this race in the future.

The race format, in which there is no finish line, is incredibly motivating for me and presented a challenge I never anticipated to enjoy so much. I would not have run that well if it was a marathon or half marathon. Case in point: a month ago when I tried to run sub 1:35 at Platte River and couldn’t pull it off.

Looking at the official results, I ran 36.26km (22.53) miles in around 2:51. That’s about a 7:35 pace. For reference, my marathon PR is 3:32 (around 8:07 pace). I ranked 1,673 globally. I was the 139th woman in the world, and 7th in California. I was 34th in my age category.

Rainbow in Ventura. It was just this kind of magical day.


Thank you to everyone for following along!

*Official results on Monday place him at 12th globally.

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2 thoughts on “Wings for Life World Run – What a Ride!

  1. Pingback: Wings For Life | Thunderstruck | Endurance Changes Time

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