Saturday, October 4, 2014

Not Yo Momma's 50k... It's a training run...

I get lots of stupid ideas when I start to plan a race season. This Fall my stupid idea was to train for my second 50 miler in November. And if that wasn't stupid enough... I thought..

Hey, here's this 50k that falls into a good place in my training schedule. I could use it as a training run.

I told my husband about it and he found that it fit right into his schedule too.  But here's the thing. He's training for a very hilly 50 miler in November and I'm training for a very flat 50 miler in November. When my husband called me and said, "man, did you see the elevation on this thing?" I might have panicked a little bit, but I played it cool. I mean... what's a little elevation gonna hurt? It's just a training run. Right? RIGHT? We have hills here. I'll run them... sometimes.

The closer the race got the more nervous I was. I hadn't tackled a really hilly ultra in a few years and I had no idea what the terrain would be like. And we were camping. I grew up camping and I like it, but it does add another layer to the planning and the stress.

By Friday we were on the road and I was committed to doing this. Because if I didn't get thirty miles in during this race I would have to run thirty miles where I live and frankly, I liked the idea of having my longest run be somewhere different.We were almost to the state park when I realized that we had forgotten pillows. Meh, we were tough, we could handle not having pillows, we'll just wad up some clothes, it'll be fine (it wasn't. apparently I'm the kind of diva that really likes a pillow).

Soon enough, camp was set, we had our bib numbers and we decided to scope out the course a little since it ran right behind our campsite. The surface was nice and there were a few hills right off the bat, but we kept saying it didn't seem that bad. Then we got to the top of a little hill and saw THE hill. Sugarloaf Mountain...

We both looked at it and immediately realized that it didn't have kind switchbacks. This bad boy went straight UP. Crap. Welp, no more kidding myself, this race is obviously going to kick my ass.

We ate dinner, packed our race gear, and met a nice fella that was doing the 100k at the race and shared our campsite. My game plan adjusted itself to:

Remember it's a training run, try to be smart, try to finish close to 10 hours.

Ten hours!?!?! Yep. We had heard elevation rumors of 5,000-6,000 feet and the winners were still taking just under 6 hours. So, for a slow runner 10 hours was a reasonable assumption. And that hill...that trail went straight up! Was the whole course going to be like that? Oh my puke.

Race day started early. We got to see the 100 milers and 100k runners get going for their 5:30 start. There are not many things that are cooler than a dark start to a 100 mile race. So much nervous energy and then... just a bunch of bobbing headlamps heading into the woods to start an adventure.

We got ready and headed to the starting area for announcements and then waited for things to get going. In the starting corral I met lots of nice folks and we chatted about different races, what they knew about this one, where they were from. Good stuff. AND..... GO!

So happy to get things going, we were off. When we got to Sugarloaf Mountain, I took a deep breath and headed up, and up, and up. The lack of switchbacks was AMAZING! But what do you do? You keep going up. I would glance away from my feet a few times to look up and there always seemed to look like MORE UP! Finally, there appeared to be a break in the up and I saw a sign.
 If you look closely, I believe my Garmin is actually reading 480 feet in one mile. WHAT!?!?!? And I've got this sign saying I'm not done yet? Thankfully, there wasn't too much more up before I got to go down. But down wasn't any better! I skittered down the trail and then all of the sudden, the trail seemed to disappear. You know that part when you're riding a roller coaster and you get to the very top of the first hill and you can't see anything below you? Well, that's what happened on the trail. As I got closer I saw it. Straight back down the mountain, NO SWITCHBACKS!!!! At which point I said

I said this a few more times during this first loop (I had to do two loops).

I navigated down the trail by diving from tree to tree and catching myself. It was more than a little terrifying and I couldn't help but wonder what it might have been like in the dark for the groups that went out before us. WOW.

After I got down Sugarloaf, there were a few more runnable sections, but my intention for this race was to really try to keep it in the training run realm, therefore I was doing my best to keep a low heart rate. Which meant walking and more walking. Miles one to four had me thinking that maybe I was going to need that entire 20 hour cutoff. The first four miles just felt relentless. I couldn't find a groove and felt like all I was doing was walking. 

Around the four mile aid station I started to see other runners on their way back (loop course with a little crossover in the middle). It was so nice to see people and get lots of smiles and encouragement. It was then that I saw our campsite neighbor and he asked how I was doing. I slightly screamed:


He told me that the worst part was over. I wanted to believe him, but I couldn't get my hopes up. The good news is that before I knew it I was running. Comfortably and finally ticking off some miles at a "decent" pace. I couldn't help but think about doing that first four miles again on my second loop, but it was so comforting to know that I had this section as a reward. That section changed the whole race for me. I was finally able to look around and appreciate how gorgeous the course actually was!

Soon enough, I was assaulted with another hill that was severely lacking in switchbacks. I yelled at it, and then started up. I did see a sign up ahead, but I was sure it was just another smarty smartpants sign about not being the top. Finally, I got close enough to the sign to read it. It said:

Pick up a rock

(I didn't take a picture because I couldn't breathe. And I was afraid that if I moved my forward leaning position too much, I may just fall backwards all the way down the hill)

Did I pick up a rock? You bet I did! Why? Weeeelllllll, I'm not going to lie, there was a small part of me that was hoping that if I brought that rock back for my loop count I would be rewarded with an easier or shorter second loop maybe? Wishful thinking.

BUT, when I did get to the top of the hill I was greeted by a giant stack of rocks and this sign.
I added my rock to Jesse's Big Ass Rock Pile and kept going up, where I saw this:
I had to take a picture of it because part of me wondered if it actually existed or if I was just imagining it. Totally real. A bit more running on some BEAUTIFUL switchbacks. Beautiful because OMG look at this gorgeous nature!

Also beautiful because OMG I FREAKING LOVE SWITCHBACKS!!!!

After the first loop, things felt easier (except that first four miles). I got to see my husband on his way to the finish and I could see he was totally enjoying himself (and bringing in a 3rd place finish!)! My second loop wasn't much slower than the first which I consider a win. AND my guts did GREAT! I mean my guts behaved better than they ever have in a race this long! Using Tailwind has completely changed the game for me! I was exhausted but the whole race felt like a total WIN!

I can't say enough about what a fun weekend my husband and I had at this race. The race director was great, aid stations were full of wonderful volunteers and tasty food, camping was cheap and convenient, and the other participants were a blast!

I am in awe of anyone that completed any of the distances that weekend because that course does not disappoint!


No comments:

Post a Comment