Well…this race was bittersweet. I’ll explain that at the end of this post. First I’ll talk about the beginning experience.
This was my first 50 mile race. I wasn’t really nervous because I had confidence I could do it and that I had trained enough for it. I had run 37.5 miles previously. I knew it would be a hard course and I could walk up hills if needed.
Packet pick up was at 5am and the race started at 6:15am. We (Chris and his girl friend, Jamie) got lost a little bit on the way there because it was so foggy and dark. It was 5:30am and we hadn’t arrived yet. I was a little nervous that we would start late and I was trying not to worry about it too much.
Thankfully we made it in time. The t-shirt looks pretty nice and they actually had women’s sizes- which is wonderful.
They told us the aid stations were about 4-6 miles apart. So after a lot of thinking and debating, I ended up planning on wearing my CamelPak for the entire race. I was nervous about that because I normally don’t run with it and when I do, it’s only for about 25 miles and my shoulders usually end up hurting. I figured I could drop it off halfway through if it bugged me too much. Inside my CamelPak I packed extra batteries for my MP3 player, gum, ibuprofen, 2 gus and a pack of blueberry sports beans- my favorite. I think from the whole race, I only thing I used out of all that stuff was the beans. Oh well.
Normally I don’t drink much water on my long runs (like I now know you should) but I’m glad I had that water with me because I did get really thirsty from the hills and such.
So anyway, I didn’t know how to pace myself since I’ve never run 50 miles before. I thought I should just start out extra slow and then I can always go faster if I need to. There were runners doing a 50K race and a 50 mile race, on the same path. It’s mentally frustrating though when you have a bunch of people passing you. I start to second guess myself and my pace, and just hope those people are doing the shorter distance.
The course is marked with little pink ribbons on the trees and on the ground. I’ve read stories of how people have gotten lost so I was trying really hard to pay attention.
The first 6.5 miles are on one course, then the next 18-19 miles are on another, you repeat that loop again, and then you run back on the same 6.5 miles. The first quarter mile of the race starts up on a huge muddy hill that everyone walks up.
This first 6.5 mile course was not too difficult. It was on a trail and there were small rolling hills, but nothing too big. I was waiting for the huge, hard hills that I kept hearing about. I thankfully did not have a hard time following the pink ribbons on this first section. Chris and a few others did get lost for about an hour, and then Mark and two others got lost for about 3 hours.
I started my first loop of the 18-19 miles. I talked to a few people for a few miles and then I was by myself for the most part. I was feeling GREAT the WHOLE time! I was going fast and passing a lot of people. I kept getting scared that I would burn out my energy too soon, but I didn’t want to slow down since I had a great pace going. My legs didn’t hurt, I hate a lot of gus, and I was listening to some nice music.
There were bigger hills that we all walked up, but you always later went downhill so I didn’t mind it too much. Most of the course was on a trail that was easy to follow. There was one section were you really were just running through trees, logs, bushes and you had to search for the pink ribbons to stay on track. I really enjoyed it because it was just fun jumping over stuff and trying to not get lost. There were all sorts of thorny bushes that cut up my legs, and falling in one of those bushes didn’t help. I’ll have pictures of my battle wounds shortly.
The 50k people run the 18-19 mile loop and then head back on the 6.5 mile path to finish. I remember Chris telling me beforehand that if I could just get passed the first loop and quickly start the second loop, I’d be fine. So when I passed that point, it wasn’t a struggle at all. I was feeling great and knew I’d finish strong.
I did run slower on the second loop and I walked up smaller hills. The people I had passed on the first loop had not caught up to me. I saw another female runner who was right with me and I knew she was my competition. I also noticed she spent a lot of time at the aid stations (something I’m trying to stop doing) and so I ended up ahead of her on the second loop. However halfway through, I took a wrong turn and luckily realized it after 5 minutes so I backtracked and got back on path. I had wasted about 10 minutes and right when I got on track, I saw that female girl about 2 minutes ahead of me. Dangit! She had caught up. She was a fast runner and I figured she’d just beat me.
I finally finished the second loop and stopped at the aid station before I finish the last 6.5 miles of the race. I felt awesome and I knew these last 6.5 miles would be quick and easy. My CamelPak thankfully was not a big hassle to carry and didn’t hurt my shoulders, but I started to get a few blisters from it rubbing against my skin. There was no water or aid station on the last 6.5 miles but I made the STUPID mistake of dropping off my water at the aid station (that also included my food). I figured it’d be nice to not have that extra weight for this last hour and that during training, I’ve run more than 10 miles without water at all. I’d survive. WRONG IDEA.
As I started on the last loop, I met up with Mark who I mentioned had gotten lost earlier on. He ran ahead of me but he was still in eye sight. As I was running, a person walking came by and told me I was in 4th place and 2nd female. I was happy I hadn’t gotten lost and that I would finish in 10:15 hours. I would have run a great race, no injuries, no pain, and I easily finished a 50 mile race on a hard course. Welp…right when my ego started growing stuff changed.
Mark and I caught up again and we were running on an obvious single path. There weren’t any pink ribbons but at the same time, there weren’t any two paths to choose from so we figured we were going the right way. After about 30 minutes on that path, thinking we’re close to finishing, I tell Mark that I haven’t seen any ribbons lately and that they’re usually closer. We decided to make it to the top of the hill and then make a decision from there: to turn around until we find a pink ribbon or to keep trucking on the same path.
We walked up the hill and that’s always hard, especially after running for 10+ hours, and it was hot, and I didn’t bring any water. We made the decision to go back down the hill and find a pink ribbon. For all we knew, the path we were on could have taken us to another city.
So, we run down the same hill for about 15 minutes until we finalllly saw two pink ribbons on the ground. They were pointing in the direction we had just come from. At that point, I was feeling dizzy and sick and dehydrated. Thankfully Mark was nice enough to give me some of his water and his children’s lifesavers. We figured we were going the right way the whole time and they didn’t put any ribbons out because there was only one obvious path to follow. SO, we went back up the same dumb hill that we had just gone up and back down. We were both beat and annoyed. Again I was feeling sick and Mark gave me some of his protein drink- I think it was Ensure. Is that a brand? He had the good idea of carrying that around during races so he could get more calories and protein.
We headed up the same path and finally hit the campgrounds. We knew we were close since during the first 6.5 miles of the race, we briefly ran by a blue dumpster in the campgrounds. Once we got to the campgrounds, there was not an obvious path to follow and there were no pink ribbons (or runners).
We asked a bunch of campers if they had seen runners or ribbons or a blue dumpster or anything. Some people had no idea what we were talking about and some people said they saw runners running in the direction that we had just come from. We were scared to take that path since there were relay runners who finished up at that last aid station we came from.
We walked all around the campgrounds looking for some huge blue dumpster and we were exhausted and already 11 hours had passed. I wanted to steal the hotdogs and beer that the campers were enjoying.
FINALLY after a million hours of walking deadly around, we found the pink ribbons that connected between one trail path to the campground and then out onto the last trail path. We obviously had taken the wrong route and didn’t know it.
We followed the path and it seemed like it took forevvvvvver before we hit the finish line… I think it was at least 1 ½ hours that it took us to get there. We saw a huge rattle snake, yes, a rattle snake, in the middle of the path and I’m so lucky Mark saw it and we didn’t run over it and die. J
We kept trucking and hoping to be there. We knew about every runner had already finished by that time. FINALLY we are about ¼ mile away from the finish line and Chris actually was finishing at the same time. We ran that last stretch together. I was in a bad mood because I was disappointed about our detour and our slow time, after such a great start.
I don’t know what time I finished and I don’t care. (Skip this portion if you don’t want to hear me complain…this is the “bittersweet” portion) I know it’s a good thing that I finished a 50 mile hard race and that I should be happy, but that’s not enough for me. The fact is that on my first race, I ran the whole 43.5 miles great and fast and was going to finish in 10:15 hours in 4th place. Instead, I think I probably finished 3rd to last and about 2 hours slower. None of you can understand because it doesn’t affect you. It’s just my own personal problem and disappointment and my stupid pride.
OVERALL, I had a great time and I think I would do it again. Even when I was lost, I still had fun. The course itself was awesome. It was difficult, but definitely doable. Don’t let the difficulty scare you away. I can’t believe I’m not sorer than I am. Sure I’m walking slow but I didn’t think I’d even be able to move. The sorest I’ve been after a race was still after my first 50K in Chicago on a paved, flat course.
Oh ya, when I finished I learned that Jamie had sent out EMT for me and other race directors were looking for me. They knew that I should have finished beforehand and that I didn’t have any water on me. Sorry to them for making them worry and look for me- and sorry and thank you to Jamie for being such a great support and crew member along the way!!!
My lessons learned:
#1) No matter way, always bring water with you. You especially need it during the last part of the race!
#2) Always have food with you or a drink, like Boost or Ensure, to fill you up with calories.
#3) Take salt capsules regularly. Once you have the right amount of water, calories, and salt, no more ibuprofen is needed to cover up your pain.
#4) ALWAYS PAY ATTENTION TO THOSE DARN PINK RIBBONS!!!!