|LOVED running through the morning fog.|
A few statistics: I finished in 6 hours and 7 minutes. I placed 5ish out of 9ish (not sure who was running the 50k and who was running shorter distances). The weather started cold and got slightly less cold, which I have come to realize is my favorite type of running weather for long runs. The course was a 5k loop that we ran 10 times. So 10 times I passed a roaring wood-burning bonfire around which spectators and runners of shorter distances would convene to enjoy warmth and camaraderie. And beer. I had to laugh every time I passed them. 5 years ago, I would likely have been around that fire. NEVER in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would pass up the warmth of a fire to run in the cold. Much less for 31 bleepin' miles. But now, as a 30-something full-time working mom to a rambunctious two-year-old, I was running circles through the woods and having the time of my life.
|Pre-race group photo|
If you ever have to run a 5k loop 10 times, this is the course to do it on. The first section consisted of hard-packed dirt with lots of roots and rocks and fallen leaves as well as a short segment of gravel road thrown in for good measure. The third section was more or less more of the same. But the second section was the fun part: technical single-track that had you winding through the woods, dodging tree trunks, twisting and turning beneath the leaves. I felt like I was running through a Mario Kart course. Running that technical single-track made me feel like I was flying, even though I'm pretty sure my splits never dropped below 10:00m/m. You really had to focus on your footing, but the course was so well marked you didn't even have to look up to know where you were going.
|Mario Kart for Runners!|
At one point, I could sense a runner coming up behind me, so I moved to the right to let him pass. As he zoomed by, I noticed he was wearing a shirt that said...Hardrock. Whoa, what? "Did you really run Hardrock?" I called after him. "Three times," he said as he slowed waaaaay down. "How did you train for that around here?" I asked him. "I ran a lot of stairs."
This is what will always impress me about runners, whether of the ultra variety or not: we will do whatever it takes to achieve our goals.
As amazing as the whole day was, the best part was running with people who didn't think 31 miles was really all that far. I've only run a 50k, and I don't think I can really call myself an ultrarunner just yet, but running through the woods with veterans of 50 and 100 mile races--who have tackled Hardrock, Badwater, Angeles Crest, Grindstone, TNF 50, UTMB, and who were trying to get into Western States--just made me feel...I don't know...like I was running with celebrities. IT WAS JUST SO COOL.
|Posing with one of the running celebrities!|
It wasn't all fun and games. I did learn something. Well, I learned a lot but specifically this: Fig Newtons work really well as a fuel source. Bagels not so much. I loaded my race vest with Gu gels, Fig Newtons, Ritz crackers and a bagel since most of these worked well for me on my one "real-food" trial run a few weeks ago. And after DJ Research's experience during his 50-miler, I decided I was going to scarf down some calories after every loop whether I wanted to or not.
After the first loop I ate some of the bagel. That was hard. Chewing and running takes some practice, let me tell you. Also, it took a while for the bagel-energy to kick in, and it didn't last very long. Perhaps I needed more bagel, but the chewing was wearing me out.
|Attempting to shaka,|
but foiled by my sock glove!
So next loop: Gu gel. Aaaaah. Got me a nice energy kick. Third loop: Fig Newtons. Interesting (and yum!). Fig Newton-chewing is not so laborious as bagel-chewing, plus the energy from the Fig Newtons kicked in sooner and lasted longer than the bagel. Gu gels were definitely the most efficient energy source, but fig newtons are a great alternative when you are sick of the goo.
I alternated between Gu gels and Fig Newtons for the rest of the race, as well as taking an S-cap about half-way through (I also tried Ritz crackers out there. Too dry and didn't offer much energy anyway). Still, by mile 24 I was feeling low, so I had another Gu, turned on the tunes, and air-drummed it to the finish line. The Chemical Brother's Galvanize got me through to the end.
As I completed the final loop, all three people at the finish line applauded and congratulated my efforts. I took a bow. Or collapsed out of sheer exhaustion. Same thing.
I changed into more comfortable clothes, helped myself to homemade sweet-sour meatballs and pulled-pork (sooo delicious!!), and took a seat around the crackling bonfire. I listened to the stories told by these veterans of ultra-distances, loving that I was just a small step closer to contributing stories of my own, and excited for the day when I could truly test my grit.