Realizing what I’ve gotten myself into(photo courtesy of JTC Running)
I’m still working on my bucket list, and one of the running items on it is an ultramarathon. No, not 100 miles or 50 miles, but a 50k. I did an unofficial one in training before at the Rail Trail, but that wasn’t on trails, so I wanted to try a trail race. This summer was brutal. I only ran up to 23 miles. I missed my marathon. Can I really do this? December 3rd …either make it or break it.
5:30 a m on race morning and I’m up eating my Honey Stingers waffle and banana and drinking my coffee. Then one more check on my fuel for the day and my change of socks, tank, and shoes. The race is at The Guana Tolomato State Park off A1A South towards Ponte Vedra Beach. I park and haul my stuff to the pavilion and make final preparations as well as pick up my bib and race packet. I see a couple of friends and make small talk while the RD preps us for the start. One of the volunteers asks how long is a 50k…31 miles I say to myself.
7:58 a m and it begins. The first loop I plan to run the whole thing because we need to be out of the park by 5:00. I had no idea how long I’d be running so I wanted to give myself ample time. And after all it would 7.79 miles. I had on my Brooks Cascadia, my new My Soxy Feet Owl socks, my 261 Fearless Katherine Switzer tank, and my Athleta shorts. My outfit can take on these trails in style. The first mile/2 were high and dry but roots made footing precarious. The weather was foggy and overcast-perfect. Then boom! I got blessed on the trail by a root-damn, ouch but no blood. Keep going. Then wet, muddy trail. Slippery. Squishy. Ugh! My shoes are a mess. I walked when I came to those. I was afraid to fall again. First water stop, and rinse off my hands so I could eat my Honey Stinger orange blossom fuel. Refill my water bottle and off I go. The fasties were crazy fast! I was still on the 1st loop, they were on the 2nd! More water, more mud-suck it up buttercup. Loop goes through a bog with a bridge-uh oh that can only mean more low spots. Yep. Then another two bridges and on the hunter road. But wait a second…my watch says…8.75 miles?! What?! I cross the timing mat at 9.20 miles. I have 3 more loops to go. I’m no math whiz but that will be 36.80 miles!! What happened to the 50k?!
Bathroom break and I’m off again! Loop 2. No spills-yay! The bad-the mud is trying to suck my shoes off my feet! The good-no hot spots and I still feel good . I decide against changing my socks or shoes-why ruin two shoes? I could use my Cascadias when I hike the AT again. I haven’t seen any wildlife, but plenty of runners and then nobody for awhile. 18.40 miles and loop 2 done. 11:43 a m!! I eat another waffle, drink Nuun(watermelon), swig a Coke, and bathroom break before I’m off. I need to put some space between me and the start because at 1:00 p m the 12k runners start.
Loop 3…run/walk as fast as you can! Then bam! damn I get blessed again. This time it really hurts but luckily no one sees me fall on my face. Stupid roots. Going back, the 12k racers have started. I am 5 miles ahead of them, thank God! A couple of 50k female runners stop me and ask if my watch says 24 miles? Yep. The course is a little long. Thank God, 50k is 31 miles! 26.2 miles! Yes! I just ran a marathon-ha! Take that hot weather training. 27.60 at the Finish and we talk to the RD about the course. My goal is 2 miles out and 2 miles back to reach 31 miles.
I’m so thankful my personal cheerleader came out for me.
As I’m running loop 4, I see the 12k runners coming back, and cheer them on. It’s so good to know this was my last loop. I was going step by step closer to becoming an ultramarathoner. Then the arrow pointing right and there was my hubby Chris running me in! I was never so happy to see someone and that final finish mat. I had done it!! 6 hours and 49 minutes!
Then bonus and completely unexpected, Open Women’s Masters winner for the 50k! Wow!
Low key fun. Never felt like a nerve wracking race. 5k’s are over too fast and I feel out of breath. With this Ultra, I just got to run and enjoy it. The scenery was beautiful. I loved running near the Guana River. So peaceful.
Everyone was so supportive. Struggling to get across the muddy boggy obstacles, other runners were willing to stop and help you find a way. Runners were friendly and talkative. It felt like a community-we were all in this together for 31 miles, and there was a family atmosphere.
Junk food for fuel? You need your energy somehow. M&M’s, potato chips, pretzels, Swedish fish, and Coke! That was fun!
Pint glass for finishers. We received lots of presents! It felt like Christmas! Wicking hat, beer bottle opener medal, and a commemorative pint glass. What a nice way to create a lasting memory that you can use everyday.
If you advertise the race at a certain distance, then it needs to be that distance. I heard some 12k runners ran a half marathon because signs were moved or not there. When you expect a loop to be 7.79 and your watch says 9.20 miles-yikes! And then someone laughs about how the course is long-not cool. I understand how the course was iffy in some spots, but still-not good.
I think I’m in love with the ultra. Definitely will be back next year.
Remember it’s not about the destination it’s about the journey,