by Dawn Lisenby on 03/05/22
The tale of my Donna 110 race can be told via the letter C.
Mine was made up of two very good friends; one, Victoria who has been an athlete of mine for close to six years. And the other T; who has been my medical support, and right hand woman, at all of the races I direct for as many years. I originally asked them to help at the start to get my things to base camp and again at the finish of the marathon to get me back to the hotel. In between I would crew myself. They insisted on staying for the duration. I certainly was not going to say no to that and am so thankful they did!
They posted up 4 miles out from base camp on the 8 mile loop and were a welcome sight the 9 times I saw them. They selfless crewed through the cold and rain, staying positive, focused, encouraging, and ready for me. I never saw one bit of negativity, despite the very miserable conditions they endured from 9 pm till our finish the first night at 3 am, and their having been in the cold since 6:30 am. Fortuitously, once the winds got high they had the ability to take cover in a tent conveniently placed and weighted down for the marathon.
After getting back to the hospitality suite, and their bringing ALL my stuff inside in case I needed it!, we got a tiny bit of rest. We awakened at 6 am to be at the marathon start by 7am. I was stiff but not as bad as thought I would be due to foam rolling/stretching. They then met me every 4 miles of the marathon. Once again anticipating my every need, bringing me a much enjoyed Egg McMuffin/coffee and endlessly championing me all the way to the finish. I could not have done this without them. I am so grateful for their support. I know even more now what two truly amazing people and friends they are.
I am not going to lie they scared me to death, but they also brought out the best in me. The toughest one in getting to 72 miles in 18 hours. With the weather that one worried me. I appreciated so much Chris’s encouragement that I could meet them. But again it was not easy. I NEVER really stopped. My crew walked with me to hand me my needs. My longest stop was 17 minutes to suite up for rain. Thankfully due to my sponsors SUPERIOR products (see hashtags below:) I did not have to change my shoes and socks NOT once in 82 miles, nor did I need to change my apparel. I had ZERO blisters or chafing, despite running in rain for 12.5 hours!! Nor after running 26.2 miles in it the next day!
The 8 mile loop used for the ultra is a beauty. I never grew tired of it. I LOOKED forward to seeing parts of it again and again. I heard an owl just before sunset and saw two red-tailed hawks. There were beautiful houses to view. And many sightings of my Big Blue. It does not get much better than that for a city course.
I have never had so many people come out and encourage me while running an ultra. The mayor of Atlantic Beach, Ellen Glasser
was at our start and came to base camp to cheer us on at night. One of my new athletes that lives along the course made me signs and cheered me on all the first day with her sweet family. This community loves this race and it shows!! Thanks to to my friends who took the time out of their races on Sunday to offer encouragement. It truly all made an impact on my running a strong race.
The Donna 110 is part of the 26.2 with Donna The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer
/Half/15k/5k which benefits the Donna Foundation. It is committed to funding ground breaking breast cancer research. As well as to provide financial assistance and support to those living with breast cancer. The research they fund enables women like my sister to have the opportunity to live as long as they can via trials developed. Without it her life span would have been much shorter and her now 10 year old son might not have remembered his Mom. It is a vital mission with 1 in 8 women developing breast cancer. Thanks to Donna, Amanda, and Chris for creating and contributing to this life giving mission. I also greatly appreciated the support of all those who helped on the day: Marc, Mollie and Dave; and the Donna Ambassadors who cheered me into the finish.
It is my hope and goal to be a part of the future of the Donna 110 and see it grow. If your an ultrarunner, or an aspiring one, you need to run this race. You have never felt ultra love like this before. It stands out as the most amazing race of my life, and not just because I was the first female overall champion in the history of their race, but for all of the above, as well as it being in memory of my sister, Debby. I know she would be proud to have played her part in bringing attention to such a worthy cause.
by Dawn Lisenby on 03/05/22
When I first saw the word fortitude in a comment made on my post regarding my worry about finishing the Daytona 100 after losing my sister, it spoke to me. When I looked up its meaning it became clear why:
1. courage in pain or adversity
2. “she endured her illness with great fortitude"
My sister Debby showed great fortitude throughout her entire 8 year battle with metastatic breast cancer. Surely, I thought I could do so for a little over a day despite my grief and an injury sustained 3 weeks prior to race day from a hard fall on both knees while out on a run.
It occurred just after returning home from being by my sister’s bedside, and getting the news that her liver was rapidly declining. It was painful enough that I had it checked for a fracture and had to run with a compression sleeve on my left knee leading up to race day.
I have reflected on how I finished despite these obstacles and have come up with the following nine items (using the letters in a word I now cherish) to share what enabled me to have the “fortitude to do so despite my pain and adversity.”
F-Friendship and family. My crew, pacers, and family, showed great understanding and love for me throughout the days leading into and during the race. Lulu
, (crew) Andrea
(pacers) were attentive, caring, invested, unflaggingly positive and fun. As all good crew, pacers and friends are.
Additionally, along the way I was buoyed forward by my friend Mike Martinez
who was manning the 50k AS. At mile 22
I had begun to experience excruciating pain on the top of my left foot, most likely a compensation from the taping of my left knee for the race.
I thought about quitting due to it. Seeing him running out to greet me with his bull horn, and displaying a sign he made for me, lifted me so high that it carried me all the way to mile 50. Where he once again showed up to check on my progress.
O-Ocean aka Big Blue. At lows I listened for it to keep me moving through the 70 miles I ran solo till I picked up my first pacer around midnight. I was also motivated by my Big Blue quest to finish another 100 miles, with now all but two short segments left to complete it.
R-Radiant sunsets and sunrises from the beginning to the end of the race. I have truly never seen so many back to back gorgeous ones. As depicted in my pics that are in order of occurrence. It was a gift that fed my soul. It kept me moving forward with gratitude to be out there.
T-Trust-At the beginning of the race I was probably 3rd to last. I went out especially slow due to my knee injury and exhaustion. But I kept trust in the process, my training, my plan, and my fueling. It paid off with my passing many runners and running strong up till mile 70. I was proud to finish in 27:08 considering my circumstances.
Had my injury not led to my having to tape my opposite knee at mile 50 due to compensation, and both knees swelling by mile 80 inhibiting my being able to run anymore, there is no doubt in my mind I would have PR’d this race (which I was only 15 min off of doing) despite all that should have kept me from even finishing it.
I-Intervals-I changed my run/walk intervals for this race due to injury and they worked like a charm. That’s all I have to say about that. Somethings must remain secret.
T-Teamwork-We had a simpatico team of crew and pacers. Cooperation, along with plenty of laughter, was had from beginning to end.
U-Ultra adventure and community. I love the problem solving that a 100 mile adventure brings. And the ultra community once again showed up for me by bringing me into this race feeling supported and cared about. It made all the difference.
A special note of thanks to Lisa Smith-Batchen
for her understanding and love shown to me in the days leading into the race. Having lost her sister just recently to cancer too, she knew more than most what I was going through. I carried her words with me through the race “just think one more step forward”.
D-Dedication to the goal of achieving my Badwater qualifier. It has been a long held dream to run the “worlds toughest footrace”. It therefore was a great motivation to reach that finish with only a month left to secure a necessary qualifier to secure my 2022 race entry.
E-Emerge. I wanted to use the inspiration of my sister to come out of this race with the courage and strength to face the future without her by my side. I believe I have, and will continue to be successful in this due in large part to the overwhelming support shown by all of you along the way. I know you will continue to be there for me in the days ahead, as I will for you in your life challenges. We got this! Thanks to all of you for all your love and kindness these past 4 very difficult weeks.
by Dawn Lisenby on 03/05/22
Big Blue 62 was planned in essence to be a training run. An audacious endeavor for sure, but one from which I could see exactly where my hip was at 6 months post injury, and how well it would hold up to the pounding of that many miles of pavement.
It also was part of a quest to eventually run the entire east coast of Florida, after having completed my Big Blue 132 last July from Delray to Melbourne, which was a way to use my many months of training once Badwater 135 was canceled.
Additionally, having run Keys 100, and various other races along the east coast, I realized there were not too many miles left to accomplish that goal and it would be “FUN”.
MY ONLY goal for the BB 62 was to finish and feel “strong” when I did to give myself the confidence that I could go 100 miles in a few months to get my qualifier required for my 2022 Badwater 135 guaranteed entry due to its 2020 cancelation.
Once Lulu and I arrived at our very appropriately “Blue” Airbnb we looked at the exact route I would take. We saw that it would have to start a bit south of New Smyrna in Oakhill, Florida to be 62 miles in length in order to reach the spot I finished BB 132 in Melbourne. We also concluded that due to the Merritt Island Nature Preserve on that section of a1a causing it to dead end, I would have to run for many miles on US1 to reach it.
I began at 5:45 am running along the dark shoulder of US1, practicing my white line love. I enjoy running in the dark so through the nature preserve listening to the sounds of animals I was in a happy place. I did have to watch for cars but as it was early, they were few and far between allowing me to settle into a nice rhythm for the first 10 miles. Once the sun came up I entered into the town of Mims and was entertained by my sights and the very cool aspect of getting to experience remote Florida towns on foot.
As I moved closer to Titusville the traffic got heavy and with no sidewalk, car exhaust, and temps beginning to rise, I was desperate to get off that road. I would have another 17 miles before I did. Many times, I had to step off the road, slowing my forward progress, while also managing my fluids and calories. Lulu was a bright spot, once again proving what amazing crew and SIS she is, stopping every 2-3 miles to keep me cool and fueled.
At mile 20 we did some re-lubing of the feet and changing of my clothes due to it being HOT and my being drenched from sweat. At twenty-five miles in, US1 intersected with a major highway. With it being too sketchy for me to navigate safely, I hopped in the car and was driven past the major intersection. This being a training run our rule was if I needed to do so I would, as we did not do any reconnaissance beforehand. This amounted to some time and 1.5 miles on the tracker, but was added to the end as watch was paused.
I got a short reprieve from dodging cars as I entered into the lovely town of Titusville and found sidewalk. It was 10:30 am. I was nearing my marathon distance and things were heating up with the index of 93 degrees. I was still maintaining a good pace and eating/fueling well. Not long after, I was back out to US1 and no sidewalk for a bit, which mentally was wearing me down along with the temps.
Eventually just before the 50k distance I made my turn onto Indian River Dr, which was where I finally was running along the beautiful, blue, water and with amazing, homes on my right. I ran comfortably here for a bit even though there was no sidewalk as traffic was light.
However, as I neared Cocoa it began to get heavier resulting in my continually having to step off the road. I also was feeling SO HOT with the heat index nearing 100 and running in nearly no shade for 40 miles. As soon as Lulu would put ice on me, which was every 2 miles at this point, it was melting. I also could no longer wear my ice hat as weight of it was straining my neck. From that point I used boob ice, my sleeves and my baseball cap to keep cool. My stomach also started to resist food with my HR up 20 beats when running from heat, so was relying on mostly fluids with some bites here and there.
Just as I was nearing 40 miles, I had to cross my first bridge. Now I have crossed many a scary bridge in my lifetime as an ultrarunner, hello seven-mile bridge in the Keys 100 twice!, but on the 520 bridge to Merritt Island the fear of death factor was at an all-time high. I kept repeating to myself for its MILE!! length as cars were flying past me at 55+, “just get to the other side”, “you can do this”, and “keep eyes straight ahead, legs moving forward”.
This should have been a place where Lulu transported me. She said as she watched me crossing that she was worried, but there was no way of rescuing me at that point due to fast flow of traffic and ZERO shoulder to run on. To every car that went by I lifted my hand with my water bottle so they could see me.
There were about 40 or so cars that I did this to due to it being around 5 pm and flow of traffic being heavy. One of which found it funny to swerve right at me. Why is this always a guy in a truck?! I literally had to make a move for the ledge on the guard rail, which he found amusing. I think he read my lips well of my response.
Once over that hurdle I tried again to settle into a rhythm for my last 20 miles, as I turned onto Tropical Trail. It had nice water views on my right and was my final road before hitting a1a. I was hoping a threatening storm would come to wash me off as I looked like, as Lulu described me, like a “drowned rat”, due to the excessive humidity. The storm never came and the humidity remained.
I also had no reprieve from heavy traffic as this road had very little sidewalk again and had faster moving vehicles. There also was little shoulder causing me to have to run over the grass for long stretches. The stomach was also beginning to no longer find anything appealing, except for some mashed potatoes that were a welcome change. Fluids were still processing well though.
As sunset began to loom, we realized it would be too dangerous for me to continue on this road due to visibility and footing issue, so we made the choice to cut over earlier than planned to a1a via the 404 bridge. Not wanting to risk anything with it being dusk and my last harrowing bridge crossing, Lulu transferred me over the approximately 2 miles. Again, to compensate miles were added on to route.
I had finally arrived on to a1a. My final 12 miles was on! I was spent, but buoyed forward by finishing the quest and Lulu’s relentless enthusiasm. I briefly flirted in my mind of making it the Big Blue 50 when the route and heat made it longer in duration then I expected. LOL. BUT, I knew Lulu would never have stood for that, even though she had been crewing for 14 hours.
Also, that I would not be happy with myself being so close to my goal and not seeing it realized. I soldiered on, still battling 93-degree heat index at 9 PM. I did stop to still take my pics, as I had been doing, to remember what I had the privilege to see, and despite the suffering to soak it all in before its end.
I made it to within a mile of the finish and saw a most wonderful sight. Lulu running out to do my final mile by my side. Up to then I had run solo, as I wanted to and needed to. I truly felt like crying, but instead was given much energy by my SIS’s presence, even though so drained. I reached the planned finish spot and came up at 61.5 miles on my watch, after all that, so like any good ultra-runner I ran a few loops around the parking lot to make it an official 62. LOL.
WE had DONE it! I was worked, but so happy, thankful and full of gratitude, to all who helped me arrive at another Big Blue finish line. My SIS, Lulu who sacrificed her weekend to spend it following me and who I could never have done this without. To my athletes, who inspire me with their goals, dedication and trust. To my friends, who motivate me to always give my best. To my family who understands my desire for ultra-adventure. To my sponsors whose products get me to every finish line feeling like a champion. I love you all and thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Big Blue 62 was truly something I had to accomplish to know that I am able to pursue bigger goals ahead. Thanks to all of you who believe in me. It really does make all the difference.