Lakefront 50 miler this morning. I planned to use it as a training run to jump-start my training for the Rocky Raccoon 100 miler I want to do in February. I didn’t train for this 50 miler as intensely as I have for the other 50’s I’ve done. Which is why I figured if I could do it in about 9 hours, I’d be happy with myself. I just wanted to go the distance, and see what happened.
Mentally and logistically, I was in no way prepared for this race. It wasn’t until last night that I actually considered how many Gu’s I should bring, if I should bring a water bottle full of an electrolyte drink, what I was going to wear, or what I needed to pack in my drop bag. I’ve been so busy with my new work schedule that I haven’t really had the time to think about it, and so for the past 3 weeks I have just been saying to myself, Eh, it’s only a 50 miler. Whatever—I’ll just run it. As if I’m some super-experienced ultrarunner who has been doing this shit all of her life. While I have been running long distances for a relatively long time (hey, 5 years of ultrarunning and 8 years of marathon running is a good chunk of life experience when you’re only 26), with only two 50 milers and five 50k’s under my belt, I wouldn’t call myself an expert. And, since I wasn’t planning on trying to win it or anything, I thought my projected slow pace would be easy, and thus lacked the need to really prepare.
Well, apparently I have a hard time running slow. Especially in ultras, which is weird, because that’s what ultrarunning is all about—going really slow in order to cover a really long distance. I did the first 25 miles in 3:40 (about a 8:48 min/mile pace). That’s almost an hour faster than I had thought about doing. I knew I was going to fast, but I kept telling myself, Shit, Chelsey, run good while you feel good. In this fast-paced-ness I failed to do one very important thing: eat. I think you can run a 50k without really eating anything but Gu and maybe a handful of pretzels to get some salt into you, but when it comes to anything over 31 miles, you really need to replenish your body. It’s just a good idea. (An idea that helps you to avoid needing medical attention, might I add).
My friend Toney met up with me at mile 25 and ran the second half of the race with me. She became a lifesaver. Due to my lack of eating, as well as my incredible ability to forget about the whole electrolyte-replenishment thing, I started to get SO dizzy around mile 35. My eyes were having a hard time focusing, my hands were numb and swollen, and my body started to do this very fun digestive-fucked-up thing in which I started shitting blood. I know, too much information. But when you’re an ultrarunner this is the shit you (literally) might have to deal with during a race. Toney kept me at a good pace and became my incredible crew person. She picked up and feed me bananas, chips, pretzels, and dried fruit at the aid stations, all while keeping my spirits and my pace up, as well. Eventually, around mile 40 or so I started to feel my body kick back to life again, and I ran (and power-walked) the rest of the race.
The results: a got my fastest 50 mile time! 7 hours and 45 minutes. I came in 3rd overall for the women, and am pretty sure I won my age group.
How the hell did that happen?!?
I had wanted to run slow and steady…to just finish the 50 miles in whatever comfortable pace I could do it in. Well, I guess my body felt like doing a good ol’ 9:18 min/mile pace today. Aside from the bloody shit, the dizzy drunk feeling (and not a fun dizzy drunk feeling) that lasted for a good 5 or 6 miles, the swollen and numb hands, and the few moments when I felt like I was having a hard time breathing, I had a lot of fun! (This is also surprising to me, because I thought running up and down a 6.2-mile section of the lakefront path 8 times was going to be boring as hell). And thanks to my awesome pacer Toney I was able to survive those tough moments!
Note to self: if I want to run a 100 miler, I really have to learn how to eat while running, as well as remember that an electrolyte imbalance can totally fuck up your body in a number of ways.
When I got home and showered today, I couldn’t help but giggle. Right now, I feel so post-run euphoric and giddy. My blood and skin feel really hot, which is kinda uncomfortable, but my brain and emotions are just so damn happy. I realize that when people ask me why I do this, I have no way to explain to them how incredible my body feels post-long run. There aren’t words for this. You just have to do it yourself and experience the surge in self-confidence, the euphoria, as well as the sort of peaceful and calming feeling of being so humbled by your own accomplishments. That’s what this is about.
I’m so in love with this sport right now, especially as I think back to the start of the race. It was cold in an annoying way (about 40 degrees), rainy, and dark at 6am. All of the 50 milers huddled together under an awning, as we gave each other body warmth, joked around about running, and waited until 1 minute before the starting time to emerge from our cave. Once we were lined up, the race director said, “Alright, GO!” And that was it. No fancy bells, horns, or whistles. No chip timing that lets your loved ones track your progress online. Just a group of people huddled together, excited about the pain they are about to endure, and waiting for some dude to say go.
I think this sport can bring out some of the best characteristics in people. It’s like, we’re all in it for the long haul, so let’s tell each other bad jokes to keep everyone awake until the sun comes up, let’s race against ourselves (well, and maybe try to chase down the person ahead of us)—but at the end of it all tell we seek out that person we were “racing against” to tell her how strong and awesome she is, and then let’s hobble around afterwards and eat homemade rice and beans while we cheer in the other finishers. Everyone is awesome in this sport simply for wanting to be a part of it.
Damn, I’m so crushed out on ultrarunning right now.
And PS: Toney, I couldn’t have done it without you.