Continuing My Big Blue Quest with 62 Solo Miles from Oak Hill to Melbourne!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.