Sunday, December 10, 2017

TBunk 150 miles of Endurance "Vive with intensity, Vive with purpose, Vive healthy"

Vive with intensity, Vive with purpose, Vive healthy
TBunk 150 miles of endurance Challenge

November 3rd-5th, 2017
Whitewater, Wisconsin

It is necessary to enjoy the living, because it is useless to live without having lived.

We prepare ourselves to achieve our dreams based on the desire to know our abilities and to fully recognize the potential of our mind, our body and our spirit. Experiences in life are steps that guide us to follow and improve ourselves. They define us under the process of experimentation because all life is experience. No one is born with knowledge. All human beings are instruments of experiments and learning. Empower yourself from your dreams. Discover your skills and polish each one until you see that they shine by themselves. Focus on what you love. Do what you love and you will be happy. The one who does what he loves is bound to succeed because he or she is involuntarily applying his whole being to what he is developing. You may not realize it but everything is held within you. Success will come only because you are moved by the natural force of life.

The TBunk 150 Mile Endurance Challenge was one of the most complex races I have ever experienced. The distance would challenge me physically, mentally and cause me to tap into spirituality to survive. Incredibly I started this experiment on Thursday, November 2nd when I left home in Chicago, heading to Whitewater, Wisconsin, a town north of Chicago in southern Wisconsin. There I rested for the night, in a hotel 13 minutes from the start line. I started this experiment on Friday, November 3 at 7am at Nordic Trail head – a wooded route bordering the southern unit of the Kettle Moraine Forest.

The race plan was run 15 loops of the 9.19 mile blue trail, with a total elevation gain of 1,500 feet per loop, followed by 1 lap around the 3.66 miles green trail, bringing the total distance to 150.7 miles.
This was the first time I ran 150 miles without stopping. It was very different than the 4 Deserts series by Racing the Planet – a stage race where every day, at the end of a long run, you had the opportunity to rest until continuing the next day. In this 150 mile test, everything was different from what I had experienced before. I was confident when I decided to do it and each hour that passed seemed to be an experiment. After participating in different tests of ultra-marathons from my hometown of Monterrey, Mexico to local Illinois races and around the world from Europe, Asia and Antarctica, TBunk was a different experiment for me. It helped me establish an intense connection with my own being.

I made the decision to run this race at the beginning of October, before running the Chicago Marathon. I was very excited to have successfully finished the Chicago Triathlon in August and I wanted to experience something else that would lead me to know, understand and explore more my physical and mental capacity. It ended up me spending 49 hours meditating, completing an introspection of myself, recognizing my weaknesses and learning how to turn them into strengths. With this experiment I was convinced that we must do what makes us happy and use our skills at another level outside of ordinary life to find new ways to make us full.

Friday November 3 was a beautiful cool with 34 degree temps before starting the race. I prepared my food that I would need for this great test. I sorted out my clothes for the cold and rain. I knew I was going to reach 100 miles because it was something I had already experienced. What I did not know was what would happen to my body after that, after 30 hours of experiencing nothing but difficulty and obstacles.
So I talked it over with myself for almost 20 days before the race. I ran along Lake Michigan knowing it would be an experiment and the results will be unexpected. I have a formula to reach 100 miles but after that I do not know. But I will act based on my experiences. Working with these thoughts made me calm, secure and tranquil until I could control and eliminate my fear of the unknown. During the race I focused on reaching the first 100 km (63 miles) and then moving on towards 100 miles and that's how I achieved the first 100 miles in 30 hours 55 minutes.

A week before the event I called some of my best friends who also have experience in ultramarathons and asked them if they wanted to be part of my team as pacer. A pacer is someone who runs with you during the race, helping me complete the event. I called Nate Paluengco ,a good friend of mine who has run the Midwest Grand Slam (4 consecutive 100 mile races in a 4-month period). I also called my friend Karen Wray who has also run 100 miles. I had the opportunity to run with her in previous races.  She was my pacer on several occasions. And of course I asked help from my lovely husband, Jeff, to be part of this crazy challenge. All of them accepted to be part of this extraordinary job of finishing 150 miles in Wisconsin. This support was key in helping me reach the goal. Their company was a great and important part in managing my mental focus. When you know that somebody is next to you and that strong arms are around you, this helps tremendously in finishing the race.

Two days before running the Chicago marathon I told my husband Jeff Lung, “I have to tell you something. I do not know how to tell you but you will know soon.” Jeff was very intrigued and asked “What is it?"
“I'm meditating on this thought. When I'm ready, you'll know, but I want to let you know I'll tell you something soon.” I had already registered for the race and he still did not know. He was already in the process of logistics of the race so after the Chicago marathon, hours after finishing the race and once we were home, I said: "The Tbunk 150 mile endurance run is in 3 weeks in Wisconsin. This is what I wanted to tell you.
Jeff's expression was: wouuu! He said, “150 miles without stopping?”
“Yes! 150 miles in the Kettle Moraine forest.”

“Wouuuu ... okay." There was no more response. I knew inside me that there would be something different because this was a very complex test.
The next day Jeff asked me very casually who else has done the race. I answered that not many people had finished it. Only 13 people had finished from 2013 to 2016. I saw intrigue and concern on his face. Later he asked me how he could and what I needed. For me, life and ultramarathons are both journeys. They are both experiments.

My husband Jeff was part of my team and he ran the last 31 miles of the 150. He picked me up at mile 119, in my delirium and fatigue. By this time I was already hallucinating elephants and other things. I saw my clothes in a closet on the trail. I saw some of my books and a man with a baby. This is the most extreme my body and mind have ever faced in sport. Once I started running with Jeff I told him “I am already very tired, very tired. I am not in much pain. I'm fine. We can keep running but my mind is already deteriorated and I'm hallucinating. Fatigue is controlling me.”
My husband has also experienced running 100 miles so he knows the process. He and I had ran the Hallucination 100 in Michigan just a couple of months prior.  

Jeff and I also know each other in the face of adversity, fatigue and pain. He kept telling me: “Just one step after another, one mile at a time.”
We were 39 hours into the race and I had only had one 30 minute break at mile 81, so I started telling Jeff “my eyes are closed, I wanted to sleep on the ground and rest. Right here on the ground, in the middle of the forest.”

“But you can’t,” he said, “because your body will freeze and you will get hypothermia from the cold. We have to complete the lap and rest in the car.”
Right around that time, after getting to the top of a hill, there was a bench and I said: “Here! I am going close my eyes for 5 minutes. I have to sleep, I have to rest.”
After a 10 minute rest, Jeff woke me up saying, “That’s it. Let’s go!”

I got back to running and finished this loop, with a total of 117 miles run. Once we got to the car, I told Jeff: “Now I'm going to sleep at least an hour. I have reached the maximum level of fatigue and I cannot keep my eyes open.” I got into my sleeping bag and rested for an hour.

After this nap we got back on the route for another 9.19 miles loop. I saw a great friend Richard Plezia, a very bright runner in ultramarathons with lot of experience and he told me at that moment : "Edna, listen, listen what I'm going to tell you… you will feel bad, awful, you'll feel super bad. This is going to get more complicated after 135 miles. You will not be able to control your body but when this thing happens do not be scared. It’s just a reaction of so much work. Rest, sleep, take food until your body returns to your control. Do not be afraid. But above all, listen to me: do not leave this race, do not quit. Listen to me.”

He was right. After 137 miles my body was deteriorating more and more. I would have to rely on Richard’s advice.
I started vomiting. My body was reacting in defense. I could not control this reaction. I told my husband Jeff that I wasn’t sure I could finish. He held my shoulders and he told me: “You can keep going.”

I said “No. We might go back to the car and rest. I need to sleep more.”
We walked back to the car, backtracking 2 miles. I got into my sleeping bag again, stretched my legs, chugged a strawberry Ensure and slept for 20 minutes.  After this break, I returned to course to finish the last 12 miles.

Experimenting with the capacities of the human body in the most complex physical, mental and spiritual circumstances helps me understand that life is a complete journey. It is to live deeply and with more intensity. For me it was to run 150 miles. We never know how far we can go until we put ourselves outside our comfort zones.

The experience marks my life and teaches me to understand that life is a collection of dreams, memories and desires to reach happiness. I am an Mexican immigrant who came to Chicago in 2005 as a dreamer with only 5 dollars in my pocket, a pair of running shoes and the desire to achieve my dreams no matter the circumstances. I came here aiming to make my dreams come true. Many things have happened in the last 12 years but I can say that I have learned understand that life is a zig-zag path like the running trails. Up and down, side to side. I enjoy this amazing journey and life and I delight in every experience like the best food I ever tasted. I love life and I love the way that ultramarathons teach me how to live and how to enjoy!

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