All About Angela

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sun Mountain 50 Recap

My morning started just like every other race day....

I consumed my insanely healthy + delicious breakfast of two chocolate toaster pastries sandwiched together with almond butter while still laying under the blankets....After ensuring the bed was adequately covered in crumbs, I jumped straight for the caffeine (Amino Energy).

When I began racing last year, I was a frantic mess up until the point that I started running. Something has changed....I have enough races under my belt to realize that come race day, the outcome will be what it will be....stressing doesn't help matters much. My stomach is grateful that I am now flooded with a bizarre calmness before the running storm.

Hanging with Yoshimi moments before the start
Prior to the start, I lined up in the middle of the pack. I didn't want adrenalin pushing me to hold the pace of the frontrunners. On mental repeat was the saying, "If you feel like you are going slow, go slower..." This is a really common piece of advice for beginning ultra runners. A sustainable pace is absolutely critical for a strong finish....or perhaps finishing at all.

Aid Station #1 (6 miles)

The first handful of miles went by in a blur. Other than a slight incline here or there...the running was easy....perfect for warming up and finding a groove. I topped off the handheld with water then zoomed out of the station.

Aid Station #2 (14 miles)

The temperatures began to rise and the climbs became more frequent. Pace began to slow but I was still in terrific spirits (as demonstrated in the goofy photo below....and no, I have NO idea what the hell is up with my thigh).

At this aid station, I refilled my handheld and sucked down a few small cups of soda.

Aid Station #3 (20 miles)

Our first steep climb greeted us upon leaving the second aid station. Just when you'd think that you were almost at the would switchback...Boom! More incline! This became the theme of the day. I should be thankful that brutal ascents were matched with glorious descents. However, the climbing meant that fatigued legs could only push so fast on the flats.I began integrating short intervals of walking.

I was almost bummed to have arrived at the third aid station thirty minutes ahead of the earliest expected time....This meant that Jeff had not arrived.

I refilled my handheld with water, adding in 200 calories of Tailwind. I inhaled like five slices of Watermelon + another few cups of soda.

Aid Station #4 (27 miles)

The heat REALLY began taking it's toll on me. We were running on farming / ranching land; there was significant exposure to the sun, which you could feel pounding down upon you. I was sucking down fluids FAST. I fixated upon rationing what I had. I slowed down to what felt like a crawl. I walked A LOT....I hated that I was walking so much....Beginning at mile 14, I began battling with nausea that continued to haunt me....Climbs made me want to vomit....and there was no shortage of climbs! Mentally, I was losing a battle.....

I was so relieved to see Jeff when I reached the station. The exchange was rather limited....At this point, I was talking in one word sentences. Simply seeing him and hearing his words of encouragement brightened my mood. It was time to throw on the hydration pack for extra fluids. He helped me pour another 200 calorie bag of Tailwind into my handheld. Now, I also had two 10oz bottles of pure water. From the aid station, I ate a handful of grapes (oh my god so delicious) and drank like five cups of soda.....On a quick side note, why are the cups so freaking small?!? We are talking shot glass size (maybe smaller than that even). 

Aid Station #5 (36 Miles)

Under normal circumstances, this was an easy section....mostly downhill, not technical....There comes a point in an ultra event where downhills begin to hurt. My problematic knee throbbed and I could feel the blisters forming on my feet. Now in uncharted mileage territory....muscles were rebelling, tightening up and cramping. I was moving slow enough to have conversations with those around me.

This aid station would be my last opportunity to pull from the race....I wouldn't see Jeff again and I wasn't carrying my phone. It would be a lie to say that I didn't seriously consider it. I reverted back to a race strategy that I use during marathons. Don't count miles, count aid stations. I just had to make it through ONE more and then I was home free. Even walking, I could make the finishing cut-off. 

Poor Jeff had to help me change my shoes.....I wasn't going to risk sitting down so I had to lean on him while he guided my swollen, rotten feet into the new kicks.

When I left the aid station, I put together my first coherent sentence in hours...."I'll see you at the finish." And with a renewed sense of confidence, I meant it....

Homeward Bound

Just when you think that it couldn't possibly get worse.....
The two steepest climbs were in the final 15 miles.
Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
I couldn't listen to music anymore. I was functioning on a basic level.
Move forward. Move forward. Just keep moving.

After the final aid station (mile 44), there was a three mile ascent. Yes...THREE MILES! It was a complete sufferfest. I am SO glad that hiking was an integral part in my training. Dudes that looked in WAY better shape (physically) than me were having to step off the trail in order to regain composure....and I never saw them again. If a steep ascent at the end of a 50 mile race isn't enough torture....there was a barbed wire fence that runners had to climb over via ladder. Navigating a ladder when you have 45 miles on your's hilarious in a cruel joke way.

I would have been thrilled to reach the top of the final ascent IF I didn't know that I would have to turn around and run back down in order to reach the finish.

Something ignited within me as I began descending. At first, I was barely hobbling down...but then I was suddenly running again....and quickly!

The Final Descent 
My husband's first words to me were...."You did it!"
I think he was just as shocked as I was.
Hell...I'm still shocked.
Did it really happen?!?


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