The moment you’ve all been waiting for…
3am-We were up early on Saturday in order to make it to the 7am start area on time. I didn’t want to be there too early, as I wasn’t planning a warm-up. But I needed to get my race packet and didn’t want to feel rushed with any final preparations. The boy and I ate a quick breakfast, packed up the truck and Chase (it would end up being a very long day with a grad party later that night), and made sure all of my race gear was prepped. I was definitely feeling nervous. And I was definitely still coughing and stuffed up.
4am-We left our house (north Fort Collins) to make the two hour drive to Larkspur and Greenland Trail Open Space, which is south of Denver by about 45 minutes. I tried to sleep, or at least rest my eyes, on the drive. We made a couple of stops along the way and still made it to the race start a little before 6am, thanks to the early hours and no traffic.
6am-Arrived to a cool mid-30’s race area. I was able to quickly pick up my bib, t-shirt, and race packet; not just because I was there earlier than expected but because it was a smaller race that was well-organized. I’m tending to like these types of races that aren’t driven by pomp and circumstance, but instead by the pure love of running. I’m not saying I don’t have a love for the big races (Hello, Boston!!) but I feel a little more comfortable in these locally organized, mom-and-pop type races. I took the next hour to finalize my gear and get my fuel bag ready for the boy to have at each loop.
I found it a bit ironic that I was bib #1. I know it’s sometimes based on last name, and most assuredly in this case. However, the irony comes when I recalled that I was also bib #1 in the marathon where I said I wanted to run a 50k. And now at that 50k, bib #1…
7am-The start of the 50k! The cooler temps at the start was refreshing, as I know this race is “iffy” when it comes to the weather. I knew it would only get up to the low 50’s at most, throughout the race. I donned my Oiselle arm warmers which would not only be great for the temps, but would also serve me well throughout the race for things entirely different than warmth.
The course would be 4 lollipops in the open space. Each would be roughly 7.8 miles, with a final .25 (or so) to the finish. At each turn-around point, the spectators gathered. I knew the boy and Chase would be there for me to support my fueling or whatever I needed. I was actually happy to have a course that I would be able to see him a little more often. I would certainly give me something to look forward to during each lap. Especially when the going got tough.
Lap 1-7.8 miles
I started the race at a mostly conservative 9:30 pace. I was feeling really good, despite the constant snot rockets and spitting. The arm warmers were perfect for quick wipe-ups of the nose. 😉 I felt badly for those around me who probably thought I had a real problem. I guess I kind of did. I think it was just more annoying than anything.
The miles were ticking off quickly as the pack of runners was tight and I was listening to their chatting and banter. I decided to run sans-music and just enjoy the race. It was a good plan. I like being available to chat with people and make short-term friends. It’s a good support and I find I learn a lot from them. I met a man named Pete who hadn’t raced since the early 80’s. He had been focusing on mountain bike races. Nice come-back with a 50k…
There was a well-stocked aid station at mile 3.5, but I kept going, as I had what I needed for now in my fuel pack. There were some loooong gradual hills throughout the course, and after this aid station was the 2nd one. I trudged up the hill, running as much as possible (though slowing down on the uphill) for as long as I could. Some short rolling up and downs along the saddle and then another loooong gradual uphill before the final downhill mile into the turn-around point. I fueled as normal with a few Clif Blocks at the hour mark. I completed the first loop in about 1:14. Definitely faster than I had predicted, but I was feeling SO good! Would this contribute to my demise? I kissed the boy, petted Chase, and continued on my way for lap 2.
Lap 2-15.6 miles
Knowing what to expect, my plan was to keep my pace as best I could and continue fueling as normal. The course was pretty busy at this point, now that the 25k runners AND the 8 milers were also on the same loop. I enjoyed seeing so many people and having the 25kers passing me! I knew my friend, Libby, was running the 8 miler and hoped to see her out on the course.
I was still feeling great. My running nose was constant and still annoying, but I was taking care of it as best I could. I continued to ease up on the gradual ascents, and kept my eyes up to propel me to the tops of each. The miles were still flying by. I couldn’t believe how quickly, actually. I fueled again with some Sport Beans at one of the hilltops and kept a steady pace on the downhill and back into the turn-around.
I was at about 2:22 when I finished the 2nd lap, so I stopped and chatted with the boy for a few minutes, taking in some salty potato wedges I had prepared early this morning. It seemed to be just what I needed. I was still running faster than I wanted, but was still happy that I felt so good.
Lap 3-23.4 miles
I knew this would be the hardest lap. Just like the 3rd lap in the mile (thanks, Erika!). At the aid station, I made a quick pit-stop (now that there was no line) and grabbed a few potato chips. Not long after (around mile 19), on that loooong gradual uphill, I started to feel the beginning signs of upset stomach. Just the smallest niggle in my tummy. But I wanted to take care of it right away. I took out some crystallized ginger that I had in my pack and started to suck on it as I continued to run. An ultrarunner friend of mine suggested this about a month or so ago when I asked for advice about the sometimes-quesy-long-run-stomach-I-get-at-the-most-random-times-and-I-can’t-pinpoint-why issue that I have. Honestly, it worked! Or at least postponed the inevitable. I rallied. I power-walked the hills, hoping that slowing down would settle my stomach. And then I fueled again with more Sport Beans/Clif Blocks. But as I started that descent into the final turn-around, my stomach was not feeling 100% and I was nervous for what it meant.
Pete caught up with me in those final few yards into the turn-around and our chatting got my mind off of my stomach. I was also distracted by my supporters who came out to the course to see me complete my first ultra. Two of my co-workers, a couple friend of the boy and I (and their daughter), and Libby (who ran the 8 miler) stayed around the cheer me as well. Of course, I had to stop and give hugs to everyone for coming out! I stopped to chat with the boy, to tell him how I was feeling, to tell him how I was off my pace now.
Lap 4-31.06 miles
I was nervous starting this lap. I knew it would be my slowest, based on how my stomach was feeling. The next few miles out to the aid station were slow. Occasionally, someone would pass me, or miraculously, I’d pass them. I remembered to take a photo of the course on this lap.
It was starting to warm up (upper 40’s/low 50’s-BEATING sun) and I thought it best to ditch the arm warmers, despite that constant flowing nose. I didn’t want to risk over heating (Hello, Hot Boston!) and I had a fleeting thought that maybe I was already too warm, which may have been contributing to the upset stomach. I took them off at the aid station, had a volunteer shove them into my pack, and continued on my way. But when I started to power walk that hill, I felt lightheaded and the queasy stomach was persistent. I tried another piece of ginger. But, I knew what I really had to do in order to finish those final 5 miles. I had to “fertilize the bushes.” I got off the trail, turned away, put my finger down my throat, and took care of business. Luckily, the runners were so far apart that only a few passed me at this point.
I text the boy to let him know what happened and hoped he would get what I was implying-that I wouldn’t be at the finish any time soon. When I was ready to start again, I realized I was at 26.5 miles. Hmmm…was this my bodies humorous way of telling me it didn’t want to do more than the marathon distance? I actually felt much better after that little episode, but it was really hard to get back into a decent pace that late in the game. I still kept a slow running pace and was actually back in the 9:30 range in the last mile or two.
When I passed the turn-around point to continue on the trail into the finish, I started to tear up. I was so happy to have completed the race, even if it didn’t end exactly how it seemed to be going initially. My whole goal was to finish anyway, and I met that goal. But I was also disappointed that I had tummy issues. I have so many thoughts around this (again) that will be addressed later. I really think that running heightens my emotions, and I also think I’ve cried in almost every race I’ve run. They are mostly happy tears! I teared up even more when I saw the boy, he joined me on the trail, and ran with me for a few strides before jumping off the trail so I could enter the finish chute solo. He teased me, “Are you crying?!” Yes!
Total Time: 5:30:44
This race might not have been pretty, it might not have been perfect, but it was a PR! I am so happy to have completed a new distance. Once again, I learned so much about myself from this race. I learned so much about the distance too. At the time, I had no desire to run another 50k. I think I needed to forget about the race, the pain, the puke. Today, a different story. I’m on board for another 50k! But probably not this year… 😉