Sunday, October 31, 2010

Autumn Leaves 50 miles, my first. October 30th, 2010

October 30th, 2010, I ran my first 50 miles.
The race was at Champoeg Park in Oregon.

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go"

Going into the race, I had a do or die attitude. I wanted to succeed, I had to succeed, I was going to succeed and there was absolutely nothing that was going to come between me and my success.

I have always taken my training extremely seriously. I did not make the decision to run this 50 until after my last 50K, which was on August 21st. So I didn't train for this 50 based on what the schedule that I had in front of me said I should do. I had to alter it. I also knew that I had to get faster. I decided to do the early start, 6AM because I had have started the final loop by 4PM or they would pull me off the course, which meant a DNF. Through training, I did increase my speed by a minute. According to the schedule, I ran the 31 miles 5 weeks too early and I should have ran 26 miles immediately after. What I did do was run 16 immediately after the 31, than increased it. I think it is okay to alter a schedule if it means staying healthy and injury free. I was listening to my body. I knew because I had already trained for the 31, I was trained. I had the mileage in and my heart and mind were totally into it. That being said, I still had two months till race day. So those 2 months leading up to the 50 was just to keep myself fit. I altered the schedule in different ways. I ran 2 marathons on back to back weekends and ran 50 miles in 3 days, I did that twice. For example, on a Sunday, I ran 27 miles, 8 the next, 14 the next. But the 14 was a combination of my 4 mile run that was on my schedule and my 10 mile run. In addition, I am normally a trail runner; love the trail, so I was running more on the road, especially during the higher mileage. So thinking about how I trained for this 50, I wouldn't change a thing. I think I handled things well.
For my next 50, I'll do what the schedule says. I'm certain it will be the Mt. Hood 50, so I'll train on hills and add the 50 in 3 days, etc.

The course:
The course was simple. It was a 10K loop at Champoeg Park in Oregon. It was mostly on a bike path, about 1.5 miles on a trail. For everyone running the 50 miles, we ran 8 times around. Going into the race, I was fine with it. I liked the routine, knew what to expect. The first aid station was a 1.5 away, you ran another 1.5 miles, turned around and back to that aid station, than it was 1.5 to the start/finish again. Simple.

Prior to the race:
The night of the race, I slept about 2 hours. I took my sleeping pill, but still tossed and turned all night. With not getting enough sleep and having to get up at 3:45, I was tired and was worried it would affect my race. My husband dropped me off at 5:15 and I had my first energy drink, which helped. I was a little cold standing outside in the dark, nervous. Immediately people that recognized me came over to say hi. I even sat in a gal named Lynn's car and she put a sleeping bag over my legs.

The start:
When the race started, a group of us were huddled together in the dark. You couldn't see anything on the trail. Running in the dark was something I did not train for and wasn't going to. My very good friend Mike, whom I've known for many years, ran with me for awhile and we talked and it was comforting. Then someone else came up to talk to me. I soon calmed down and was enjoying talking to people in the dark.
We all got a little confused on which way to go in the field, but quickly figured out.
Soon enough we finished our first loop and the sun was coming up. I still had my head lamp on for part of the way during loop 2. I was even beginning to see where I was running and felt more confident, but lost a lot of the companionship, which was okay. I didn't put my Ipod on until I was on the 4th loop.

At about the 3rd or 4th loop, I was feeling really sleepy and chugged my 2nd energy drink. The last one I drank was at about 12PM and I had actually just added it to my water bottle. The aid stations were great and the volunteers were awesome. A lot of the volunteers stayed out there all day and they were very attentive. My system was to grab a salt tab at the first aid station plus a few potatoes and at the 2nd aid station, I would fill up my water bottle with water and grab some candy. Occasionally I would also drink from a cup. I would then re-fill my water bottle when I came back to the same aid station and then head to the honey bucket.

Pain tolerance:
Every loop got a little more painful. I remember thinking at mile 25, "ouch this hurts". At mile 35, when I was at the point of being further than I have ever been, thought "oh crap" I still have 15 miles more to go. I remember feeling dizzy on my 6th loop and thinking the sidewalk was moving, but luckily that didn't last long. The pain started to get more intense on the 6th loop. I thought it was bad at mile 26, well that pain just kept getting worse and this is where I started to really begin walking. But at this point, it was for about a minute and it was fast. I was told going into the race I should run for 20, walk for 5 minutes. Another person told me to run for 9, walk for 1. Well I didn't do either. I never wanted to stop running with the group when it was dark and I was too afraid I would be too slow and DNF. Pain wise, the last loop was the worst! To cope during the last loop, I ran for 8 minutes, walked for 2, walked up the small hill to the turn around. 2 men were in front of me, I would see them walk and I walked too. My Ipod was a big help, being able to focus on the music. Sometimes I would say to myself "run to the end of the song." What also helped was looking up. During training, I would look up and not look down, I was forced to look at the cars on my route. It made me feel more confident and actually made me faster. During the race, it had the same effect.

"I don't stop when I'm tired, I stop when I'm done "

Family/friend support:
It was at about mile 36 when I saw some of my family members. I saw my brother, sister in law and kids on my 6th loop. I saw my parents on the 7th loop. On my last loop, my mom ran with me to the aid station. She said I was fast when I was at my slowest. I saw my husband and girls on the 7th loop.
Seeing the other runners that I knew pass by me was helpful, I tried to look up, smile and say hi. After awhile, even that was too much and I could tell by a lot of others faces, it was a big effort for them as well.
At mile 40, I jumped over a Salamander. The story with this is that I always have to jump over something at some crazy mileage. It is usually a snake and before this 50, it was at around mile 30. But this time it was mile 40. So not cool.
I remember on my last loop these two little girls first asked me if I was going to run till midnight and then they asked me if I wanted their umbrella.

The finish:
When I was finally at about mile 46-47 is when I didn't take anymore walk breaks, guess I got a 2nd wind.
Finishing the race, I sprinted the last 1/2 mile getting up to a 9 min pace, coming in just slightly under my goal time of 10 hours at 9:55:44. The race started with 99 participants for the 50 miler, it ended with 43, I came in at #34. Out of these 43, there were only 9 women and I was one of them, placing 6th for gender.

Last words:
You know there are a lot of people that have admitted to me that they don't know what an ultramarathon is, so therefore they have no idea the kind of strength that comes from running such a distance. Not just physical strength, but mental. Running 50 miles was the hardest thing that I have ever done. At one point, my whole body was screaming at me in complete agony, but because I had the absolute determination to succeed, I kept going, one step at a time.

“What does not kill me makes me stronger.”