The most glorious part of this past long weekend was that I ran on a different trail each day, each offering a unique benefit.
Friday - Jeff and I patronized our favorite hiking spot...it's a three mile gradual incline (1200' gain)...We agreed that I would do running repeats while Jeff hiked with our dogs. Last year, it took me almost 50 minutes to reach the top. This year, I was able to reach the top in 37 minutes and the entire trip in 1:07.
After reaching the bottom, I ran back up to reunite with Jeff (about 2.25 miles) and then we walked down together.
Saturday - The whole family went on a mellow 2.5 mile flat hike around Round Lake. Our youngest son HATES hiking....We're working hard to change that but this short adventure proved that we've got A LOT of work to do. After the hike, everyone hit the water while I ran back around.
Sunday - I participated in my fourth 50k (sixth ultra). This race was purely for training purposes. After being plagued with stomach issues in my last four races, I am anxious to nail down nutrition. I did not taper for this...After my last 50, I had a lighter week only clocking in 66 miles and then the week leading up to the race looked like this....
M: 4 miles
T: 10.4 miles
W: 10.7 miles
Th: 7.57 miles
F: 10 + miles (Garmin is inaccurate on trails)
S: 8.94 miles
I still ran every day but tried to keep the mileage lower than usual in the few days leading up to the 50k. This is what I knew about the race - the aid stations would be relatively far apart (two >9 miles), the course was primarily double-track ATV trails and the elevation gain was approximately 5000' (decent but not torturous). A hydration pack was a necessity...a 20 oz handheld is just not enough fluid for long stretches in summer....at least not for me. In hindsight, I didn't need to fill the 2L bladder like I did but...better safe than sorry. I put 6 scoops of Tailwind in the bladder and then carried a 10 oz bottle with just pure water in the front pocket of my vest.
During the prerace meeting, the RD advised that the terrain was atrocious and warned everyone (multiple times) to WATCH THEIR FOOTING. The first ten miles went smooth...I was starting to question what the hell he was talking about. Yes, the terrain was a bit rockier than preferred but nothing particularly technical. All the inclines were gradual enough that I was able to run up them without even getting winded. I was feeling spectacular rolling into the first aid station. I was second female and fourth overall.
But things got ugly and fast. The trail became uneven and REALLY treacherous. It's hard to describe...this picture is not from the course but is very similar to how the terrain was...
This may not look that bad but it's terrible to run on....it beats up your feet and the dodging around large rocks causes serious muscle fatigue. Around mile 12 - 13, I landed wrong on a rock and twisted my ankle....I could still run but it wasn't pleasant. Even though the inclines were still runnable, I started walking them....This was training and I was going to be conservative. Running uphill on rocky terrain was just too much of a risk.
I was passed by three runners that seemed much more confident about the terrain. I was about 30 minutes behind my normal 50k pace....I began to make peace with the fact that it was going to be a long day. The first 20 miles of the course felt ALL uphill but then we were rewarded with sweet descent...About 1/4 mile from the mile 24 aid station, I tripped over a rock and then I was tumbling...head over fucking heels tumbling....The wind was knocked out of me. What just happened?!? Am I OK?!? I moved to the side of the trail in order to assess my injuries. I questioned whether I should call it a day...I was about to enter the last manned aid station, my last chance to throw in the towel....After shedding some tears out of frustration, I found myself hobbling down the hill with a firm resolve that the course would not conquer me. Absent a broken bone, I was going to finish. At the aid station, I cleaned myself up with baby wipes then guzzled down 1/2 can of Coke....and then I was off! Coming out the station, there was a decent 1/2 mile climb...I used that hike to regroup....I knew that I needed to get back into a more positive mental space.
At mile 29, I was overjoyed when I could see the trail turn into road; I knew this was a sign that the final stretch was upon me....I followed the course markings until I was greeted by three fellow runners that gave me the worst news imaginable - we took a wrong turn somewhere, somehow. We spent 10 minutes trying to figure out what to do....there was no cell service and we couldn't figure out what happened. We walked back to the road and saw two individuals running toward us. One woman exclaimed, "That's my daughter!!!!" We were pointed in the right direction and started seeing pink ribbons again. We believe that someone removed the directional arrow sign that pointed us to the finish. All day long, I had encountered signs that had been knocked down and ribbons that were removed. It was clear that some douche thought this was a good prank.
I finished in 6:52....Almost an hour slower than my slowest 50k (which I believe was a more challenging race). My husband even became concerned. In the end, a finish is all that matters. Additionally, I ran for close to seven hours with not a single stomach issue. I relied on liquids alone - Tailwind and Coke. I'm feeling a bit beaten up....For the first time in my life, I have bruised ribs which is a great compliment to the sore ankle, busted knee, swollen hip and blue shoulder BUT I could totally run today.... .well, if it didn't hurt to breathe and move.