Busiest week ever
If I could have planned the week leading up to my first 50 mile attempt, it would have consisted of a whole lot of nothing, maybe with some spa treatments mixed in. This is how my week actually went. Woke up Monday, 4/25, at 3:45 am, flew to San Francisco. Spent all day Monday sight-seeing. Had an all-day work conference on Tuesday. Wednesday, did a full day of work, then flew home and got back at midnight. So, not only did I not get a lot of sleep, but my diet was also not what it usually was.
To top all of this off, I was reading the Facebook page of the race, and seeing that there was a lot of rain, and the race director wasn’t sure if the race could even be held. Because we didn’t know how the roads would be, we decided to rent a big truck. We did this about an hour before we were going to leave.
Stress. That’s the one word summary of my week leading up to the race. Not ideal.
Kelsey and I loaded up the truck and started driving to our hotel in Wendover. We got in at about 3. Enough time for Kelsey to try out the jacuzzi tub (yes, we got a room with a jacuzzi in it), and then head over to the pre-race briefing at 5pm.
At the pre-race briefing we learned what the modified course looked like, there was 3 inches of water covering the salt flats where the race was supposed to go. We also found out that the only place that my crew could get to was at mile 39. Originally, they would have been able to see me at mile 32. I was initially worried about getting a pacer at mile 32, but then the day before the race to find out that I’d have to run an additional 7 miles. It added to the stress I was feeling.
At about 8pm Brooke and David got to the hotel. We went to a buffet at a nearby hotel, because I wanted some pasta. The buffet was like the crappiest buffet, made even worse by going to it right when it was about to close.
Before I knew it, we were getting ready for bed, and I had my kit and supplies all laid out, and an alarm set for 5:30am.
It’s go time
We got to the start line, and it was pretty chilly, luckily Kelsey had a blanket for me.
Before I knew it, the countdown started, and then we were off. From the moment I started running, my stomach felt a little off. Kind of queasy. Not sure if it was the nerves or, more likely, it was ill effects of having a non-normal diet this week. The first 4ish miles was on asphalt, which wasn’t much fun. But the miles went by really quickly. I didn’t hear my watch beep after the first mile, and so I thought I was at less than 2 miles, but I looked down and I was at 3.5. Time was moving weirdly all day.
After the asphalt, the race transitioned to some hard-packed jeep roads, which was better than asphalt, but not by much.
I settled into a good groove on the jeep road. Talked with a couple of the other runners. Just some small chit-chat. We rolled into the first aid station at mile 9. I knew that the next aid station was only 2-3 miles away, so I didn’t get any water, just grabbed 2 red vines and then kept moving.
The second aid station was at mile 12.5. I knew that aid station 3 was 10 miles away, at mile 22. So, I made sure to fill up my water bladder, grabbed 2 more red vines, and then started the 10 mile journey to aid station 3.
A lot of ultrarunners talk about running aid station to aid station. Because ultras are so long, it can be overwhelming to think about the entirety of the race. Instead, you only think about the distance to the next aid station, or the next big climb or other big milestone. This way you can break your race up into manageable chunks.
Leaving aid station 3, I just tried telling myself that I had an easy 10 mile jog. It was during this section that we passed mile 15.5, where the 50k runners turned around. It was tough to think that if I was running the 50k I’d be halfway done, but instead I had 35 miles left. I tried to push the negativity away and just concentrate on how good I was feeling, and enjoying the scenery.
A few people ask me what I listen to when I’m running. They are surprised to learn that I don’t usually listen to anything when I’m out running. When I’m running on the road or on a treadmill, I’ll listen to some podcasts. Out on the trail, however, I just take in the scenery, and get lost in my thoughts and try to “live in the now.” I think that a lot of people view running as a punishment, or something that they want to be over as quickly as possible. When you enjoy running, you don’t need distractions or anything to help make it go by faster.
All by myself
From aid station 2, mile 12.5, until the end of the race, I didn’t run with any other racers. I was alone for a long time, until I picked up my pacer. At times it was great to be by myself, but a couple times the loneliness was a little much. I was glad when I rolled into aid station 3, at mile 22. I filled up my bladder, but instead of grabbing red vines, I grabbed some tortilla chips and some Lay’s potato chips. The salt tasted so good. Best tortilla chips I’ve ever had. From here, we headed back the way we came, 10 miles back to the second aid station.
It was cool to pass by the other runners, especially the 100 milers, just knowing that they had a long, long race ahead of them. I also saw a few of the 50 milers that looked like they were in a tough place. I tried my best to tell everyone good job as we passed by each other.
Throughout the race, the weather was pretty cool, with liberal cloud cover. But there were omni-present clouds that looked like rain during the entire race. So, I was always a little worried that I was going to get rained on.
At the marathon mark, I was grateful that I was still feeling really strong. My right knee was a bit painful, and my legs were a little tired. But overall I was feeling good. I ran the first 26.2 in 4:49, which I thought wasn’t too bad.
A few more miles and I was at the fourth aid station, mile 31ish. It felt good to be at the 50k mark. I ran the first 50k in 6 hours. I was able to get a text out to Kelsey, letting them know where I was in the race, because I was a bit ahead of where I thought I’d be. At this aid station, I grabbed a cup of Mountain Dew, and then a piece of watermelon. It was the greatest tasting watermelon ever. I ate it down to the rind. It was so delicious that I had to grab another piece. I also enjoyed the soda so much that I grabbed a cup of coke. Then I was off.
There were only 2 climbs on this race, and leaving aid station 4 was the first of them. It was awful. I was lonely. I felt like I was moving so slowly. I didn’t know if I could make it the 7-8 miles until I could see my crew. I just concentrated on moving at a consistent pace up the mountain. This was definitely the low point of the race. It always happens that the climbs are the low points of races for me.
At about mile 34, I was over the climb and started the descent down. It was a really rocky and sandy downhill, not very much fun, and really energy-sapping. As I was running downhill at about mile 35.5, I saw a couple guys up on some rocks to the right. One guy had a camera and looked like he was setting up to take some pictures. The other guy started running down the rocks, and headed toward me. As he got closer, I realized that it was David, my pacer! I was overjoyed to see him. He said that he wanted to get some more miles in, so he ran a couple miles from the aid station to meet me.
It was great to have some company. I don’t know that I was very good conversation, but it was great to have someone talking at me. I must have been mumbling a lot because David had to keep asking me what I said. We finally arrived into aid station 5 which was at mile 39ish. I saw Kelsey and Brooke, and it was awesome to see more familiar faces. It was such an emotional lift to have people out in the middle of nowhere supporting me. I sat down and took off my shoes and emptied out some of the rocks and sand in my shoes. I felt super full and bloated, but I grabbed a couple red vines and a handful of pringles, and David and I were on our way.
I didn’t eat the red vines or chips right away. I just didn’t feel like eating. The thought of eating the pringles was making me nauseous. David said he’d eat them for me, so it worked out. I was able to eat the red vines.
It was a couple miles and then we turned left and headed up the second climb of the race. Again, I felt like I was moving so slowly. Luckily, I had some company on this climb, which made it much better than the first. At the top of this climb, we were treated to a great view of the salt flats below. We both just exclaimed as soon as we saw it. It was worth the climb.
The descent down was really sandy. It was really tough, and drained what little energy I had left. But I tried to keep moving as fast as I could downhill. It was at this point that I knew that I would finish. Even if I had to walk the reamining few miles, I knew I would finish. My legs were so sore that I thought I just might have to walk the rest of the way.
Finally, we reached the Bonneville speedway access road (earlier than we were supposed to, more on that later), the 3 mile road that we started the race on. The road was so long that we couldn’t see the finish line from where we were. Running that last section was the biggest mind trip ever. It felt like it would never end. I tried to mix some jogging in with my walking.
Eventually, I could see the finish line, and I was so happy. It was such a long journey to get here. Months of training. Pnuemonia. Blisters. Lots of climbing. Lots of miles. Each race is the culmination of such a big goal that there is a flood of emotions as you cross the finish line. It is one of the best feelings there is.
As we were leaving the race, a feeling of dread came over me, as I realized we had made a wrong turn, and had missed out on the last aid station and about 2 miles of the race. I felt awful. I didn’t want to be a cheat. I wanted to finish the entire course. As soon as I got home, I sent off an email to the race director letting him know my mistake. I don’t know if it will be a DNF or a DQ.
But it honestly doesn’t matter to me. My finish time doesn’t matter to me. The only thing that matters is that I pushed my limits. At every moment of the race, I don’t think I could have given any more than I did. When people talk about leaving it all on the playing field, I feel like I did that. I know that I would have finished the complete race, if I hadn’t taken the wrong turn. I worry that people will think of me as a cheater, or think that I don’t have a legitimate 50 mile race.
I’m super proud of the race I ran, I’m super proud of the effort I gave. I am proud, that I was upfront with the race director. The hardest part of this race could be convincing myself that I am a legitimate 50 mile finisher.
I need to thank my crew. Brooke, for traveling out to Wendover just to see me race and for being super positive anytime I was freaking out leading up to the race. David, for being a great pacer. He is so fast that I felt bad about making him move so slowly, but he was great about just trying to get me to the finish. Most of all, I need to thank Kelsey, she puts up with me running for hours and hours a week. She travels with me to crazy places and waits for hours as I do these crazy races. I hope that I can have as great a crew for all my races.
I have been looking at doing a 50 mile race in September, in my hometown in Colorado. I’m sure I’ll throw in a 50k somewhere in between now and then. Maybe a road marathon. Mostly, I just want to run as much as I can.
Here’s a link to my run on Strava