I’ve been trying to figure out how to put this experience into words, but I keep failing miserably whenever I try. Then this morning, I received this quote from Dean Karnazes in my inbox:
“Most people never get there. They’re afraid or unwilling to demand enough of themselves and take the easy road, the path of least resistance. But struggling and suffering, as I now saw it, were the essence of a life worth living. If you’re not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you’re not constantly demanding more from yourself—expanding and learning as you go—you’re choosing a numb existence. You’re denying yourself an extraordinary trip.”
This quote epotomizes my first 50K adventure perfectly. There was no “easy” road, no path of least resistance. Struggling and suffering happened from time to time, but thankfully disappeared as quickly as it would come. I was WAY beyond my comfort zone and had to demand more from my body and mind than I have ever needed to on any occasion. But, it was most undeniably an extraordinary trip. Upon crossing the finish, I knew this would go down as the first of many 50Ks and perhaps even a 50 mile or maybe even one day a 100 miler. I think I belong on the trails. I felt oddly “at home” and very happy.
I believe this shot says it all! It rained for 3 days before the race, all night on Friday and didn’t stop until an hour or two into the 50K on Saturday morning. This particular section was just about ankle to calf deep of mud. There were other sections that were more knee to waist deep of muddy water. There are many people I know who frequent these trails and they said they had NEVER seen the Poto so muddy. Not all of the course was mud though. There were a few miles worth of dirt roads and crushed stone to run on as well. If not for the mud, the course would’ve been challenging but, not nearly as much as it was. The course for the 50K was one complete 16.6 mile loop and then one additional loop of the same w/ a short cut point, so we ended up with 31 miles instead of 33. Much of it runnable, parts of it runnable but, you had to go REAL slow and other parts you were lucky to remain upright and not face first in the mud.
Before the start, I felt oddly calm and relaxed, which I think is due in part to ultra runners being more relaxed and lowkey. I waited under a picnic pavilion with the others in an effort to remain as dry as possible before getting out in the rain on the trails. About 5 minutes from the start I took my place behind the marathoners and half marathoners, as I didn’t want to get swept up in their “faster” pace. Not even 200 yds into the race, I take a wrong turn. I should have went left, but I went right. In my defense, I was following the pink flags which I was supposed to. Several of us did the same thing, I ran the course backwards until about 11.5 miles in, when I ran into a friend who had went the correct way and her mileage was the same. I hooked up with her and away we went.
Details by the mile or by the loop get a little foggy as to when or how things occured, so I will bullet some highlights:
* First aid station – a lady takes my bottle to fill it up, a man asks what I want to eat and I stand there stupefied that these folks are going to “wait” on me. I knew that this is how things happen, but it was odd the first time still.
* I was glad that this race didn’t have a river crossing because I was nervous about running in wet shoes. Ummm. . . quickly (about 1/4 mile in) got over this fear as I was faced with a 30 ft long stretch of a muddy river about mid thigh deep.
* Ultra runners are SO nice! Ran with a lady for a while, who was a veteran ultra runner. We chatted about some of her races and experiences. She gave me some advice and she was laughing because within 20 minutes we passed by people who were yelling, “Go Angie!” Hahaha! I guess I’m friends with more ultra runners than I realized and they all happenned to be running one of the races.
* My aid station foods/drinks of choice – PB & J, cut in squares just like mama used to do it, fig newtons and Coke! Yummy!
* Funniest comments of the day, one came from the leader of the RUT group, “Hey Angie, I didn’t know you were running an ultra!” The other from one of my running group buddies at the very last aid station before the finish, “You look fresh. . . from the knees up.” I was covered, literally covered in mud from my knees down.
* I swear I saw a guy in a black trenchcoat, who appeared to me to look like a serial killer. He seemed very out of place and I was a little scared, but I greated him with a cheery hello anyways. I’m still wondering if I really saw him. . .
* 31 miles goes past faster than you would think it would. Before I knew it, I was at mile 20.
* Garmins will only last about 6 hours before dying. I need to invest in a “regular” watch for ultras apparently.
* The 100 milers that I was sharing the course with were extremely inspiring to me. I encouraged each one I saw along the way.
* I met a guy from South Bend, IN and despite being a ND fan, he was pretty swell. At one point, we got to an extremely slippery and muddy hill. I couldn’t get my feet to stop slipping and he reached back and pulled me right up. Chivalry is NOT dead. Did I mention trail runners are SO nice?
* Candied ginger is my new best friend. After eating a skeeter, my tummy wasn’t feeling so good and a little ginger and all is well. This happenned 3 times!!!
* DO NOT stop to dump the giant clumps of mud out of your shoe. This will most certainly result in swarms of mosquitos biting you.
* A little dirt and mud never hurt anyone. Mud pies???
* Stepping into muddy water and not knowing the depth or what may lie beneath is only a little disconcerting.
* The moment I realized I was going to finish this thing, right after the last water stop, I teared up with happy, elated tears. Or maybe I was just a little bit sad it was almost over?
* Crossing the finish line was awesome. We got to run through the little commune of campers, who were all cheering. I am an official Ultra Runner!!! And I have the medal to prove it!
Afterwards, I hung out with some friends and enjoyed some more food. Ultra runners sure eat a ton! I fit right in! What an amazing experience!
On the heels of my first 50K, I can already seeing myself trying a 50 miler and maybe one day 100 miles. Challenging yourself to go outside of your comfort zone is SO rewarding! I can honestly say, running through mud for 7 1/2 hours was never on any bucket list of mine, nor was it something I ever thought I’d do on purpose, but now that I have. . . I’d do it again! It sounds cheesy, but each time I push myself a little beyond where I feel comfortable, the more I learn about myself and my resilience to push through.
50K – 7:26:45, avg pace 14:23
6/8 Age Group
I wish I would’ve remembered how I fueled and what I ate, but I really don’t. I did take an Endurolyte tab every hour or so. I ate whatever looked good at each aid station, mostly PB&J and Fig Newtons, washed down with Coke. Carried my Nathan handheld w/ Ultimate Direction top with Nuun that I had topped off with water at each aid station, dropping in another Nuun tab when needed. Sorry there aren’t more photos, but with all the rain my poor phone probably wouldn’t have survived.