Forget the fact that it was Valentine's Day. This was THE day for the fun to REALLY get started. Most of my ambassador friends were off to downtown JAX for the 5K. I got a little bit of a reprieve sleeping in before heading over to the start of the DONNA 110. Y'all - that's 110 as in 110 MILES to be run by these amazing runners!
Only 6 people had the GUTS to toe the starting line that fine morning. Three sisters: Kelli Smirnoff, Carrie Neveldine, and Heather Jones-Proctor, as well as Christian Lisowski, Dave Krupski, and Tim "Salt Shack" Purol. Dave was tapped as the frontrunner, having been the only finisher of the race the previous year (although one other runner would have finished if conditions hadn't gone to black, as she was 3 miles from the finish). I got a chance to chat with Dave before the race started. Here's a bit of what we talked about (paraphrased, as I stupidly forgot to record the conversation):
K: How did you get into running ultras?
D: back in 2009, Boston filled up really quick, so I was looking for something else to do. Ended up registering for the North Face 50 in San Francisco, which I ran in December 2010. Since then I've run 15 races over 100 miles
K: What is your plan for the race today?
D: Average about an 8mm pace for the first 30 miles. Aiming to finish the day between 13 and 14 hours. Hoping to get a full night's sleep before the marathon start tomorrow (at 7:30)
K: What is your fuel plan for an ultra?
D: Easily digested calories, so mainly liquids.
K: What advice would you give to someone considering getting into ultra running?
D: Slowly build up miles in training, just like you do for a marathon. In a race, just keep going - it's not like a marathon where minutes count. You can recover from a bad moment in an ultra.
Dave was so humble and really open to talking about running. But it was getting time to get started on that trek of 110 miles, so he headed over with the other runners to line up for the start. Salt Shack showed up about 2 minutes before the "gun" so he missed out on the pre-race photo op. But my favorite is the nonchalant nature Christian had for the start of the race - check out the video!
I got a chance to see the runners a few times throughout the day up at basecamp, set up by RD Caleb Wilson. This great set up allowed the runners to refuel after each 6.7~ mile loop, use a REAL bathroom (seriously, people, you don't realize how much of a luxury these things are as runners), and get out of the sun, even if only for a few quick moments. If you really want to know about how the race went from a runner's perspective, check out Dave's recap of the race (a spectacular read in my opinion!). I would have loved to see them all throughout the day, but there was another event I needed to head off and get ready for.
We were invited to dinner at Mayo, for a "state of the research" sort of dinner. My favorite part, as a giant science nerd, was the tour of the labs where Dr. Edith Perez and her team are working on genomics to better understand and treat cancer. And somewhere in that lab, the cure is waiting to be found! I was also really excited to hear about the work they are already doing around other cancers and know that this is cutting edge, leading research being done because of our fundraising support. Every dollar makes a difference and leads to some significant advances. One of the ambassadors joked that he wanted something in the lab named after him for the donations he helped raised - me, I just want to keep supporting this amazing race and this amazing foundation for the work that is being done at Mayo. Yeah, the food was fabulous - scientifically determined to be great pre-race fuel for runners - but the highlight of the day for me was listening to Dr. Perez tell us about the continued research being done and hearing from one of the women who has been supported by the DONNA Foundation as she has undergone treatment for breast cancer. THIS is why we do it!
It was a great day, but tomorrow was the main event, and it was time to head to bed and get some zzz's before the big day.
Oh yeah - while we were off dining on yummy food and enjoying company of amazing doctors, the DONNA 110 folks were STILL RUNNING! Dave was the first one in, managing to hit his goal of 13:26 for the first ~85 miles, including a stop at Lynch's Irish Pub for a quick (read: 5 min in and out) beer. He had a PR for the 50 mile distance - the man is INCREDIBLE!
On Sunday, I caught some of the finishers after the race... needless to say, they were exhausted, hungry, and ready for a shower!
The reason we all do this craziness - whether a 5K or the monster 110 miles - is to get us #CloserToACure. You can help us #finishbreastcancer - consider making a donation today.
**As I previously mentioned, if I hit $1000 by the March 31 fundraising deadline, I'll sign up for another 13.1 in honor of DONNA (I'll pink out my outfit like I did for the race) and YOU can help me choose the race!