Remember how I said a 50K isn’t a real ultramarathon and I felt silly calling it that? Well, forget that, I’m an ultramarathoner!
Let’s start at the beginning and I promise to get to the good stuff quickly.
The weather was perfect. At the start temps were in the high 50s! Talk about luck being on my side. 50s in August?!
The course…oh my god, the course. I ran 12.5 x 2.5 mile loops, with the first loop being 3 miles. That’s already over 31 miles. And the 2.5 mile loop wasn’t so much 2.5 miles. I knew going into this race that there was a strong possibility of running over 31 miles. Turns out all the 50Kers ran about 32.4 miles.
The course consisted of…
1. a dirt road – no issues there
2. trail running through the woods – I was OK with this too; everything was well marked so my fears of getting lost were put to rest. The trail had some tree stumps in areas which required some fancy footwork. Bonus – I didn’t fall once!
3. grass running – about 50% of the loop was grass running (a la Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie, although I wasn’t nearly having that much fun). The grass was long, the ground was uneven, and it was slow going…like running in sand. I detested this part of the loop.
After each loop you had to cross over the timing mat in order to count your loops. More on this later…
After the first loop I knew it was going to take me awhile to finish.
The race for the most part was uneventful. Loop after loop passed and I felt alright. My legs were more tired than normal because of all the extra effort on the grass portions. There was just so. much. grass.
Around Mile 24 or 25 (?) I asked Matt (my awesome 1-man support team) to find out from the race timers how many loops I had left. Doing the math from my Garmin, I figured 2 full loops and then the 1/2 loop to the finish line.
I already knew the course measured long. The guy that won the 50K told me (as he lapped me again) that I should “be prepared” to run at least 32 miles.
So imagine my surprise when I find out that I only have 1.5 loops left (after mentally preparing for 2.5 loops). OK, well I guess my Garmin is measuring short? While everyone else’s Garmin is measuring long?
Me: “Really?! Are you sure? Oh my god, that is the best news I ever heard!!!”
Matt: “Yes, that’s what the race timers told me” (not sure of his exact words but it went something like that).
I cannot tell you how happy I was. I bid adieu to the grass and finished my last full loop with a huge smile on my face.
As I neared the timing mat (about to start my 1/2 loop to the finish) Matt’s face didn’t look so happy. Turns out the race timers were counting wrong and everyone got the awful news that they had to run 1 more FULL loop.
I wish I could say I handled this well. I was pissed. F-bombs flew. How could they mess up? Mentally it was a HUGE blow. 1 more FULL loop + the 1/2 loop to the finish. F$%k!
I was exhausted and I was starting to get hungry. I walked for a bit to regain some composure and forged onward for some more grass running.
Somewhere out in the grass field my Garmin clocked 31 miles in 5:38.
I crossed the finish line in 5:54, running 32.4 miles, 10:57 average pace (Garmin stats). I’m slightly annoyed that 5:54 will be associated with a 50K even though it wasn’t a 50K. But that’s how these races go and I need to get used to it.
After I crossed the finish line the race official shoved a small trophy in my hand and says “you were 3rd female, congratulations”. What?! It was hard to tell where everyone was but I thought I was bringing up the rear of the 50K for sure. There were some speedy men and women out there.
Full disclosure: the field was very small (see pic below) and I counted 7 women total, including myself. Official results haven’t been posted yet but I do know 1 woman dropped down to the marathon distance (there were 3 other races besides the 50K). So 3rd place out of 6 isn’t so impressive but I’ll take it!
This race was definitely my toughest – tougher than Boston in the heat. I completely underestimated how much trail (and grass) running slows you down. I definitely need a lot more experience running “real” trails before my next trail race… which isn’t anytime soon. For now, I am going to savor my mandatory rest week and enjoy the post-race high!