I was nervous going in to this 50k. It was an all new distance for me, I had very little trail running as part of my training (I think I logged 33.5 miles, total, over 2 separate runs. All the rest were on roads), and I just wasn’t sure what to expect. The week leading up to the race was predicting an 80% chance of thunderstorms, so when the forecast cleared I was really happy to see a sunny day, even if it was supposed to be 87°. We also tapered for four weeks before the race, which was by far the longest taper I’ve ever done. I just wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew I could finish, but I didn’t know if it would be ugly, slow, and painful.
Kimberly and I left Indiana on Friday afternoon, happily joined by Pattie, a fellow runner, Kimberly’s best friend from college, and our designated crew chief for the weekend. Pattie drove 11 hours to Indiana and another 2 to Ohio so she could sit outside for 6+ hours, hold on to all our bags, and be there when we passed on each loop, ready to provide anything we might need (and I packed it all: extra shoes, socks, shirts, shorts, GU chomps, drinks, etc.). She took pictures, cheered for us, and was such a steady and wonderfully familiar presence at each of the loops.
Kimberly and I made a plan the night before to run together but to also run our own races, giving each other permission to go ahead or drop behind depending on what we needed. We lined up with the other 100 or so runners and the race began 3 minutes early, with the race director shrugging and saying, “Everybody ready then? Okay. Start.”
The first loop Kimberly and I hung together. We tried to hold ourselves back, wanting to pace ourselves as we got a feel for the course. Three miles in, looping over gorgeous, shaded trails, rocks under our feet, I told Kimberly, “this is so fun!” I realized even as I said it that it might be premature to call a race fun, with still 28 more miles to go.
Here’s the thing: it wasn’t. I truly had the most fun at this race of any I’ve ever done. It never lost its appeal for me and even deep into the fourth and final lap I found myself grinning as I ran alone through the trees. It was the best.
Kimberly and I ran the first loop together, separated for the second and some of the third, and started the fourth loop together. Kimberly pretty quickly told me to go ahead, as she could feel the heat starting to mess with her stomach and head. At the start of each loop was the dam, an almost mile-long flat stretch in full sun. It was long and hot, but I knew once I was over it I could get back in the trails and the trees and play. Miles 19-24 were probably the hardest, as they are in the marathon, but I never doubted I would finish. At mile 26 my Garmin died, so I estimated for myself when I passed 26.2. It was all new distance from here. I was surprised to find around mile 27 my legs actually felt really good – like they got a second wind. I thought I would walk more of the last loop but I really didn’t – I found myself wanting to push ahead and keep moving. I fell once around mile 29 or so and whacked my hip into a rock, but I quickly popped up and kept going. One last turn through the aid station for water and gatorade and fruit and then it was the stretch to home. I finished with a huge smile on my face at 5:58:26 and immediately gushed to the timers, “that was the best!”
I recognize that the race could have gone very differently for me – as runners, you never quite know what the day will hold. Will your stomach act up? Will you get dehydrated? Will your legs just feel tired and heavy? Saturday was one of those awesome days where everything came together for me and I’m so grateful. I drank a ton of water (I think I refilled my water bottles 14 different times) and early on could tell the GU was not sitting well, so I was able to switch to PBJ and fruit at the aid station.
I’ve been riding the 50k high all week. I was pretty sore Sunday evening. Monday morning I attempted to run to shake out my legs and only made it a quarter mile before I thought my quads were shredding. But Tuesday a few miles felt really good and I’m excited to get back out there again tomorrow. It definitely made me eager to keep chasing running goals – new times, new distances, new races, new experiences with friends. And it was a great reminder of all the things I love about running – the hard work and sweat, the challenge, the reward and the high, the pure fun and adventure, the time outside, the time alone, the time with friends.
Many, many thanks to my friends who logged miles with me, to Dave for fielding kids and indulging my thirst for miles, to Pattie for crewing and cheering and supporting, to Kimberly for always being my friend in running and adventure and life.