Saturday, April 18, 2015 marked my third 50-miler race. I
died a thousand deaths on that course on that hot humid day. Okay, so I don’t have to be so dramatic about it, but this was a tough one for me. I did everything wrong, and I knew I was doing it wrong, but I did it anyway. Stupid is as stupid does. I don’t understand why I couldn’t get my head in the game, perhaps it was because that I had such great runs after less than stellar training that I thought I could get away without proper nutrition, hydration, and pacing during the race. It’s a 50-miler for Christ sake…you HAVE to be diligent about all of those things. I wasn’t, I got lazy, perhaps cocky, and I suffered.
I started out running with my friend Tom, who is way faster than me. But he slowed down his pace and I picked up mine so we could run together, and it felt comfortable to me. At one point I looked at my Garmin and saw that we were in the sub-10:00 mile range, which is WAY too fast for me so early in the game. While I was feeling good, I knew I needed to stop…after one more mile…maybe the next mile, or the next. By mile 13, I was done. My legs were heavy and the muscles in my core and upper body already fatigued. MILE 13! I tried to slow my pace down without coming to a grinding halt, but it was very hard for me to reign it in.
An ultrarunner friend told me when I was training for my first 50-miler last year…whatever you do, make sure you eat. If you feel sick, eat. If you puke, eat some more. I have passed this important piece of advice to everyone runner that has asked me what was the most important thing to do. Guess what? I didn’t follow it. It was hot and I feeling nauseated from the heat and didn’t want to eat. I had a couple of chomps, a banana, and some oranges, but not enough to sustain me through 50-miles. Every aid station I passed, I said I’ll get more at the next…or the next, or the next…and well, I didn’t eat as much as I should have. I know better.
Well geez…how hard is it to hydrate when you’re running in a bazillion degree weather?! Apparently, I didn’t feel like drinking much either, but I did force what I could down at the aid stations and eventually towards the end, I got a little better about it, but you can’t play catch up during a 50-miler. I only took two SaltStick capsules the entire time and gave the rest of the way for runners who where cramping up on the course. Again, I know better. I can see all of my coaches and running friends just shake their heads in disgust at me. Go ahead, shake them. I deserve it.
The Universe works in mysterious ways. Out of the blue, I ended up with a pacer towards the end. I think it was Mile 38 or so. Stacey was her name and she was a godsend. The runner she was pacing had to drop, but Stacey wanted to keep going. She asked if it were okay if she ran with me, and I was thrilled to have her. She allowed me to talk out loud to myself to remind myself to “pick up your feet,” and when I got quiet, she took over by pointing out the roots and rocks just as a reminder for me to pick up my feet. I hope I can reconnect with her some day and really show her my gratitude. She made the last miles of my race bearable and helped me keep my sanity.
Seeing my friends on the course. What I love about the loops on this course is that I’m able to see many familiar faces over and over again. New faces encourage me as the day goes on and I get to see friends who are running shorter distances at least once during the day.
Getting messages from my followers. What can I say? Those who follow me on Facebook and send me messages the entire time I’m running really help me get through the tough moments. A quick glace while walking through an aid station lifts me up and pushes me foward.
Crushing a course PR. Boy what a difference a year makes. Last year I ran this course in 12:34:54 and this year I ran it in 11:23:50. That’s a PR by 1 hour and 21 minutes! I placed 3rd in my age group, which was small, but I’ll take it and while I felt like death, I was content that it wasn’t all for naught. It was worth every ache and pain, but imagine what I could’ve done if I did everything right?
There were many things I learned during this race. One, you must always respect the distance. No matter how successful your previous runs were or how well your training went, when race day comes, you must nourish and hydrate your body. Two, your mind and body are amazing. Your body is capable of doing more than it wants and your mind has the power to push it through. And when the mind gives up, all of the sudden your body steps in and says, I’ll give you one more mile until you get it together. The cycle repeats itself over and over again and it’s a beautiful thing. I’m grateful to have discovered this and I never could have if I didn’t discover running. Truly blessed.