Jan 31, 2012
Jan 30, 2012
Jan 29, 2012
Jan 26, 2012
Jan 20, 2012
Jan 18, 2012
The 50k course began with a short 1.5ish mile loop, followed by a 10 mile loop that was run 3 times. The official race start time was 6:00AM, though I’m told people had the option of starting at 7:00AM.
Since the start/finish (Tucker Hill) was the beginning (or end, depending on your perspective) of the 10 mile loop, it was also an ‘official’ aid station and drop bag location. (in ultras, runners often set out ‘drop bags’ containing various supplies such as food, ice, water, coke, extra socks/shoes, etc. that can be accessed throughout the race/run)
Temps were flirting with the upper 20s at my 6:00AM start.
The first mini loop started out down a dirt road for a half mile or so before we turned into the woods. The infamous sandy road that demoralized me last year was very packed down and quit pleasant to run on. The 50k and 100k’ers started at the same time, so we didn’t have any ‘fun runners’ (25k) zipping by us. It was a nice, casual starting pace.
Once we got on the trail we transformed into a single line file. Imagine dozens of runners with headlights on, romping through the woods in complete darkness, led only by the dim glow of light sticks strung through the trees.
Before long, our ‘group’ of runners seemed to be the only ones on the trail, with no one following behind us anymore. Can you guess what happened? The leader took a wrong turn and like lemmings jumping off a cliff, we all followed. It wasn’t until someone noticed the orange trail blazes had turned to green that we figured it out. Since my dad runs these trails all the time (and could run them with his eyes closed probably) I opted to turn around and follow him while the others kept going. We never heard what happened to them (automatic entry into the 100k?).
After a little bit of back tracking and going the wrong way on the right trail when we did find it, we got straightened out and finished the mini loop. When we got back to Tucker Hill, I ditched another layer. We forged on, starting our first of three loops on the 10 mile trail.
There’s something about running in the woods at dark that’s pretty cool. There were a few people ahead and behind us and we made casual small talk but for the most part everyone enjoyed just being. The frost on the grass shined like silver in the reflection of my headlamp and droplets of water falling from the trees almost looked like snow.
Five miles later, we came to the second aid station (AS2). By this time it was light outside, so I was able to drop my headlamp. The station only had Heed and water set up, so we dug out our drop bag where I got a half peanut butter and jelly sandwich to eat (minus the crust), washed down with a few sips of Pepsi.
We didn’t spend too much time at the station, mostly because it was COLD! It was strange that different parts of the trail/park were colder than others. Stopping even briefly brought my body temp down. My hands started burning they were so cold. It was excellent incentive to keep running!
The second half of the 10 mile loop had some more hills than the first half as well as more roots and stumps. I could tell my running on the hills of the Piedmont area of Charlotte was paying off. I tackled those hills without major fatigue (and walked part of them too to save energy).
This was the first time I looked at my Garmin and was surprised to see we had already covered 9 miles! When I run on the roads, I’m practically glued to the screen that shows my pace, but I don’t think I used that once for this run. I mainly just used the Garmin to see how many miles until the aid stations and the time of day. I learned you don’t run a 50k by counting down the miles until you’re finished. You count down the miles until the next aid station. You count the hours until you finish the loops. You count the hours until lunchtime. If you run it mile by mile, you go crazy. I imagine longer distances (50 miles, 100k, 100 miles) are the same way. And to some extent, I think marathons are that way too (run to the 5k, 10k, half…etc).
When we came into Tucker Hill, I grabbed a handful of crunchy m&ms and some animal crackers. My stomach was starting to growl and I knew I needed to take advantage of the feeling of hunger. I was doing pretty good, and the new sugar going into my body made me feel great.
The next few miles were beautiful. The sun was starting to come up and the light shown through the trees and lit up the trail, making it look like it was dusted with gold. Seeing the trail in the daylight made it feel completely new.
Somewhere around mile 15 I was starting to feel myself fade a bit. I grabbed a peanut butter Gu from my camelback and slowly worked my way through it. I had been drinking my purple-but-not grape Gatorade the whole time. It was helping, but I was starting to worry that it was going to start to go downhill from here.
I told myself I could start listening to my music when I got to AS2 and I would have some more Pepsi (I'm a coke addict). Knowing those two things were waiting for me gave me motivation to get through the next few miles.
When I finally got to AS2, the spread was completely different. Junk food populated the table, with orange slices and banana halves scattered in. I had a few bites of another PB&J, a handful of chocolate Teddy Grahams, a bit of water to wash the Gu down, an e-cap (electrolyte supplement) and of course, my beloved decarbonated Pepsi (just a few sips).
Onward we went! Another 5 miles and we would get back to Tucker Hill and see David, my mom, and my two fur kids. I put my music on and grooved. My body was loving the fresh calories and my psyche was diggin’ the tunes. It was perfect that the first song my iPod played was CCR’s Run through the Jungle. Perfect.
Mr. Garmin told me I had run 18 miles. I felt great. 20 miles… still feeling good. 23 miles… keep on keepin’ on...
My dad and I came into Tucker Hill and were met with the smell of burning charcoal and burgers and the sight of the 25kers partying it up. They started an hour later and were already done.
True to their nature, Little Paws and Crazy Face were sucking up all the attention they could get. It was great to see everyone. I took another Gu, had some more water, grabbed a handful of m&ms and potato chips, and you guessed it, some more Pepsi.
The final loop started pretty good. I was tired, but I was learning to ‘get over it.’
A few miles after leaving Tucker Hill (mile 25? 26?), I hit some sort of wall. Hard. Until that point, running slow still felt better than walking. Now, they both hurt and I didn’t have the energy to run. Various body parts had hurt on and off throughout, including but not limited to: right hip, left knee, right foot, left foot, upper back, lower back, right knee, both butt cheeks (I’m sorry, the gluteaus maximus) and my arms. (My arms? Yeah I don’t know either). Everytime something hurt, I wouldn’t let myself dwell on the pain or tiredness. I’m not hurting, I’m getting stronger was my motto for this 50k.
Where were we? Right, back to the part where I felt the Grim Reaper had come for me. My run turned to a shuffle which led to a walk that ultimately resulted in a sad, pathetic limp. My Garmin dinged 26 and I swear it laughed at me and taunted, “you fool- if you were running a marathon, you would be done. Instead, you have more than 5 miles to go! Enjoy the next hour, sucka!”
A naproxen and one pep talk later (thanks, Dad!), I walked it off. We reached AS2 around 27.5 miles. I wasn’t hungry anymore but knew I needed to eat something. I nibbled on some cookies and chocolate Teddy Grahams and attempted to recreate some yoga moves to stretch my hips out. I got out a down-dog (well, an old arthritic looking downward dog) and some other moves. I ate a half a banana and drank some more water. Or maybe it was Pepsi. It was probably Pepsi. Between the walking and the extra time at AS2, I had my slowest mile- 23:23.
As usual, getting some food in my stomach helped me feel stronger and the naproxen seemed to be kicking in. My next few miles were back to the pace I had been keeping (11 something). I wouldn’t say I was feeling great, but I felt like I could move forward with mild confidence.
All that confidence went out the door when I tripped on a stump and nose-dived into the dirt. Luckily it was soft dirt and my dad didn’t laugh too hard or long at me. At least the fall helped ‘wake me up’ a little and gave me a surge of adrenaline.
I knew I was feeling better when I got a small grumble from my stomach (maybe it was giving me the bird, I don’t know). I took advantage of this small window of hunger and had a few bites of a Snickers bar. It tasted delightful.
At 31 miles (the official length of the 50k) I started cursing my Dad for letting us get off course at the beginning.
After passing the iconic power lines (iconic because it meant there was half a mile to go) I picked up the pace (10:30/mile was killer!) to the end. We crossed the ‘finish line’ together and were announced as 1st place father/daughter finishers.
Final Garmin stats: 32.13 miles in 6 hours and 47 minutes.
That chair never felt so good on my butt as it did after 32 miles. I changed into dry clothes and grabbed a dog for warmth. I cracked open my celebratory beer and we cheered on the runners coming through: some of them finishing the 50k, some of them continuing on for the 60+ miles.
Overall, it was a great experience. Nice people to run with, beautiful trails to run on, and my first ultra with my dad.
the look of happy exhaustion