Wowza-what a couple of weeks it has been! Boston is less than a week away and YEAH…a 50 miler I decided that I needed to run three weeks before Boston. These are my thoughts on the whole shebang.
My thoughts on:
Training: Well, I was trying to be fairly consistent with training throughout the winter months and beyond. It was sometimes difficult at best to get the long runs in with my crazy work schedule and the unpredictable winter weather. I obsessed about it continuously. I was able to get in a 31 miler followed by a 28 miler on the road (trails) prior to a 40 miler on the “dreadmill” ten days out from the actual event. You haven’t lived until you spend eight hours on a treadmill with a 3 minute break each hour for stretching & nutrition. Well, I made it through and was happy, yet nervous that it would be my last long “training” run. I did a 10 miler & a 5 miler the week leading up to race. I had enough confidence in my training that I was not the least bit worried about not being able to finish.
Pre-Race: Oh -race eve! I had been adding additional carbs to my daily diet for at least 10 days prior to race day. Every smart runner knows that one needs the glycogen stores to power them through on a long runs. I was digging eating up extra cookies and bread and whatever else I could get my hands on! I was really craving pancakes the day prior, so that was the “brunch” meal of the day. IHOP knows how to do pancakes right! I think I had a cheese/turkey wrap that night, but I can’t say for sure. Packet pickup was a breeze and I had some of the lingering questions answered about what I was unclear of about the race itself. I also met a 25 time 100 mile finisher named John who is the young age of 70. He was signed up for the 100 miler (his 26th). It was a pleasure talking with him and hearing of all of his adventures. Packet pickup was smooth & easy. The t-shirts ran REALLY small. I wear a small but it looks as if it were made for a 10 yr old. The color is awesome- but it is a tight fit. I didn’t pay for the pre-race meal, so I went on home to prepare.
Race Day: We were told we were to have our “drop bags” turned in between 0630-0700. For you non-runners, that is the bag you may have “dropped” off at one of the “manned” aid stations. The bag may have various things in it that you may need as a runner such as a change of socks, shoes, body lube, chapstick, change of clothing, jacket, snacks, etc. Since I was “only” running the 50 miler, and I had a someone crewing for me (a person who meets you at aid stations to assist you in any way you may need), I only needed one “drop bag” which I had “dropped off” at the turn around (27 mile) point. It contained a change of shoes & socks, a lighter jacket, aquaphor, chapstick, aspercreme, trail mix and some fruit snacks. I really didn’t know what I would need at 27 miles. Talk about a small world, I recognized someone I had worked with at Hallmark Cards distribution over 12 years ago. He had gotten back into running and was active with the “Trail Nerds.” He was volunteering at the halfway point for the 100 milers. It was interesting catching back up with him. The race director gave his “talk” around 0730 and we lined up to start at 0750. At 0800 the air horn blew, and we were off. There was a bit of a chill in the air, but overall, it was perfect running weather.
Digressing the Bowels: The first four miles was an out and back from the start line, back to the start line, then due south to hit the trail from Ottawa, KS to Garnett, KS and back. Every distance runner knows that it is ALWAYS best to get the bathroom habits taken care of before the race starts. How this happens is unique to every runner. For me, I am usually too stressed to relax enough for mother nature to take it’s course. This race day was no different. This can be a problem for a marathon road race when one is trying for a certain time & has to stand in line for a porta potty during the race. I felt it coming on at the four mile out & back, but I was too stubborn to stop back at the “Celebration Hall” (where we gathered prior) to use the facilities. I thought to myself, “no big deal, I will hit the johnny room at the first manned aid station.” Little did I realize that it was another 7.8 miles out. There was an “unmanned” water station prior to that, but no porta potty. About halfway into it, I knew I was in trouble. It was either do as nature does, or make like a baby and crap my pants. The latter was not an option at ANY cost. So then I began the lookout. I searched for the most thick pine tree populated area & made a run for it-brushing through weeds and overgrown grasses. I found a delightful spot behind the most BEAUTIFUL thick pine tree I had ever seen. Oh glory day! Drop pants, squat, and POOP! Yes, I did that…POOPED in the woods! Ahh-back to nature. What a relief. Luckily I had my sweat rags (cut off t-shirt sleeves) as emergency toilet paper. But being the super savvy ecological protector that I am, I had to wad it up (wrapped in a clean cloth) and carry it to the manned aid station to dispose of it. Such is life. Desperation beckoned, and I answered! I don’t know if a bear craps in the woods, but I sure do! Don’t judge me-it is a natural bodily function!
Pacing & Strangers: On 3/15/2014, I had the privilege of run/walking a 5k with Olympian Jeff Galloway in Lawrence, KS. He was there to offer his insights into the run/walk method for marathon training. I was able to run along side him and pick his brain for his insight/rationale behind the run/walk method. It was a great experience and one of the BEST things I ever incorporated into my long runs. I went away with a “Boston Marathon: How to Qualify” book and a run/walk timer. I have used the timer religiously on all of my longish runs, which for me is anything over 15 miles. This race day was no different and I used it at the start even though I felt a bit weird having everyone pass me. Either they were seasoned ultra runners, or just plain newbies who had not done a lot of research on how to finish an ultra. At any rate, a lot of them were just plain walking around miles 18-20. It was then that a strange thing then began to happen. Other runners began to run beside me and benefitted from the timer which was set at a 4/1 minute run/walk. At one point, we had a group of 6 of us. It was a great time of conversation and camaraderie. I had a great time with these 2- Allen & Audrey who were both from Texas & after a while did not seem like strangers at all.
Aid Stations: There were 4 “unmanned” (water) aid stations out & back and 5 “manned” ones. The “manned” ones had lots of refreshment to offer and were well equipped. There were toilet facilities at each manned station as well. Those stations were also great places for your crew person to meet up with their runner. We had to “check in” at each manned station so they could keep tabs on everyone. If you dropped out, it had to be at a “manned” station so you could be accounted for.
Mindset/Endurance: I NEVER go into any race with the thought that I “can’t” do it. I truly believe that a couple of marathons I struggled through in the past have helped me to know that I can finish no matter how much I hurt and want to quit. That’s why it is SO important as runners to keep challenging ourselves and never give up. You can draw off of those experiences when the going gets tough.
The Halfway/Turnaround Point: Garnett, KS marked the “turnaround” at 27.3 miles. It was inside an old train depot. It was here that I had my “drop bag” with a change of shoes/socks and a lighter jacket. They also offered sandwiches & tacos. Don’t know why anyone would want to eat tacos on an ultra but hey…whatever floats your boat! It was a nice reprieve to be able to stretch, breathe, talk with others and refocus for the rest of the journey. I stayed there around 15-20 minutes…23 miles to go.
The Way Back: I was solo for a bit but Allen showed up as he had for much of the run, literally “out of nowhere.” Another runner joined us at the first unmanned station and then we lost Allen at the last “manned” station. We ran together for five or so miles and then he sprinted ahead of me. Mile 47.05 was the last unmanned aid station. It was here that I stretched A LOT and encouraged other runners that we only had a 5k left. Amazing how three little miles can seem like 13 on weary legs! I was alone on the rest of this journey.
On Finishing: Isn’t it amazing how the sight of the finish line gives you that extra jolt of energy? I was finally there and crossed the finish line at 10:39:28—48/103 total 50 mile finishers, 10/36 total females, and 3/8 age group. I was pleased with that considering I had predicted my time to be 10:30:00, and given the fact I was at the turnaround for 15-20 minutes. It wasn’t about a finishing time, but an accomplishment. It was about the journey and self-discovery. It was about helping others along the way. It was about knowing that no matter what obstacles, hardships, or pain comes at me in life -I can overcome them with the right mindset…even if that means overcoming them alone.
In Conclusion: This was the 3rd year for this particular race in the Epic Ultra series. Overall, I was pleased with my first ultra as it was relatively flat, well organized & controlled. The only real “gripe” I have is that there needs to be at least one more unmanned water station between the manned Princeton and Richmond stations. That is a span of 6.5 miles which may not be such a big deal on the way out, but definitely is on the way back. Since it is on a trail, no one likes to litter (which is prohibited) or have to carry trash on their person. There was not ONE trash can along the way-only at the manned aid stations. I was also shocked that there were not bike patrols out there making sure everyone was okay. Would I do this one again? Probably not, as I like new things. I would recommend this for first timers though. Photos are free, manned aid stations have a lot to offer, and pre-race instructions were clear. I would not recommend purchasing the after race meal though. For the $, one can get much better fare elsewhere.
What’s next? Pretty sure a hundred miler is in October. People think I’m crazy…well non-runners that is! Maybe I am, but I wasn’t born to be average or status quo. Plus-I DO NOT like the sound that sheep make…baa, baa!
Until We Meet Again,
Some succeed because they are destined to, but most succeed because they are determined to.”