The night before the race we saw Timothy Olson post that he was entered in the 50 mile. This changed things, lol. I told Jared to just run the 50 mile so he could say he got to run with Tim Olson. He thought it over for a bit but he has his sights on a 50 miler in June and he said he was committed to running with me. I think he is crazy, but sweet. I tweeted to Tim that it was cool he was running and how it was my first ultra. He tweeted back wishing me luck and that just started the race event off on the perfect foot.
Right before bed it started to rain again and I thought my non-muddy trails were far gone. We woke up at 4 a.m. and got ready to drive to the shuttle. Luckily it wasn't raining but it was still very cool. I was not sure of the lines for the race day packet pick up so I wanted to be early. We were early, very early. We were greeted by a happy and energetic man who pointed us to the direction of the next bus leaving. We waited only about 10 mins (perfect porta potty time – which they had strategically placed next to the buses) and we were off to Bear Mountain Lodge. We arrived at Bear Mountain Lodge and walked right up to packet pick up – first in line. Then the gear check people helped get out bags in order and we waited for the start time at a fire pit with a few other runners. The weather was very cold but it was going to get up to the high 60s. I decided I would trade my windbreaker for my long sleeve and the gear check guy let me switch up my gear in my gear bag.
They started making announcements as more people arrived and photographers were taking pictures and pumping people up. The race was going in 5 waves all 1 minute apart. I was wave 3. We walked up at 6:57 and were gone in no time it felt like. I believe there was only 500 runners. Within 2 miles I was taking my long sleeve off and climbing the trails. I was passing a lot of people on the climbs but the moment the downhills came all I heard was a stampede of people and blurs flying by me. Again, every climb I would glide up as others were walking and then BOOM I was passed. Clearly I needed work on my footing for downhills. They just ran with abandon, my ankles were rolling and I was not going to take myself out of the game so soon. I think Syracuse, NY just sucks for training for that type of thing. I have nothing like those trails to train on. The trails were clearly marked with ribbons for us to know where to turn. For someone like me who always gets lost on the trail, I was pleased with the blazes.
I ran by the 1st aid station, Anthony Wayne, at mile 4 and shoved a waffle in my mouth. The next section was brief pavement before heading back into the trails before, again, hitting a road that you climbed up until the next trail entrance. After the climb we ducked into the trail and kept going. That particular stretch was beautiful. You had a nice lake to the right of you and the boulders were big enough to hop from one to the other (who would think that would be a blessing?) At the 2nd aid station, Silvermine, at mile 8.7 I refilled my bottle, got some Tailwind and ate my other waffle. It was quick but it was a refreshing stop.
Leaving Silvermine you ran on a pretty nice path for a couple miles until you hit Long Path which turns to a harsh technical terrain. You really have to pay attention to your footing on the rocky path and as you traverse the ridge. You make your way up a steep climb to a section of a hand-over-hand climb over some rocks, but it is doable. I am scared of heights and this was fine and everything is always within the tree line.
4.3 miles later we were at aid station 5 (also known as aid station 1), Anthony Wayne. This was mile 21.2 and it was a goal for me to get to. I couldn't count the miles down or up because all the mileage sounded too much for me. I broke it down by aid stations. I just knew I had a short 4 or 5 miles until each aid station and THAT sounded doable. Mile 21.2 was a rough patch for me. I stopped at the aid station for a long time. I was really, really hot. I was burning too – ouch! I kept pouring water over me and eating some pretzels. I was out of my waffles (note to self, bring more than 3 waffles!!!). My legs kept moving but they were like taffy. One bad foot placement and I had no stabilizers left to catch me. From this aid station we ran on a road for what seemed like forever. I walked bit but very quickly. I needed to get my heart rate down before I could run the trails. I am usually really good about regulating my heart rate but I was having some trouble. I was breathing heavy for no reason. Finally I decided it was time to run, that was what I was there for. I never want to finish a race with, "If I just held on." I have done this a few times and it sucks. I wasn't going to have any "what ifs" or "I should haves". Once we ducked into the trail it was mainly flat – yay! I just kept an even pace and ran. This section I notice a lot of runners falling. Everyone was tired and their footing was not as strong. (Jared was great, picking up wrappers that may have fallen unknowingly and helping others up as they slipped). It felt like no time went by and we were at aid station 6, Queensboro, mile 25.6.
At Queensboro I refueled and took off this was the section that was the hardest – Timp Pass. We had several climbs and it was EXTREMELY ROCKY. I got crushed at the rocky descent almost immediately. About 5 women passed. I seriously could not understand how they didn't destroy their ankles on the terrain. I was fine with them passing, I was doing what I could. I also was now in uncharted territory – over 26.2 miles! We finally reached THE HILL. The one everyone told me about. This was a MOUNTAIN at 27 miles in. WHERE WAS THIS AID STATION that was only 2.8 miles from that last! Ahhh. Then it was there….aid station 7, 1777, mile 28.1. Just 2.8 miles to the finish! This stretch was nice. It had two small climbs which felt like nothing and then it was slightly descending. The marathon relay runners were coming up and they were saying encouraging words to us. At one point we passed a sign saying "Runners keep right", it also pointed to the right for the 5k. Behind this sign, on the other side, was bright colored arrows pointing to the finish. Jared told me to turn and I did but quickly said, "No, this is the 5k!" He argued and then said, "Oops, sorry." He is alive and well today since he didn't make me run another 3.1 miles and miss my goal time. LOL!!! We went through the tunnel we went through at 7 a.m. and people were yelling and clapping. I had the most genuine smile come across my face. I have never felt such support from strangers. I ran the rest of the way to the finish glowing! I was an ultra-marathoner! I got under the time I wanted and I did great for my first one!!!! I wanted to run this race with strength. I was not going to find my speed until I got my fitness down and I would say I did. Even through all the rough patches and times I decided it was best to walk I knew I would finish the race. I could feel I had it in me the whole time. To me, that is success. It also makes me want to train harder on my next training block.
The after party was nice too. We were given a sufficient amount of food (I hate to say this but the burgers were terrible) and I ate what I could. They had a lot of games set up, music and tents to visit.
Just to compare the marathon and an ultra-marathon in the eyes of a beginner ( I guess you could say, in both. The marathon was much harder on my body being on all pavement; I cramped up so soon. You run a faster speed, there is not much time for fueling and you are not going to carry a bottle or pack with you – that just slows you down. The ultra is a million times harder on the body and mentally exhausting. Wait, I thought you said that marathon was harder on the body due to pavement? The ultra you use every single part of your body but on a softer surface. I was engaging my core, stabilizer muscles, arms…everything! It was a totally different pain from the marathon. Mentally it is hard to concentrate constantly on your footing but yet it keeps the mind of the pain. You are in nature and exploring an awesome trail – whether or not I have learned how to enjoy that while I am running it…I still realize what is around me and that is sweet! I think both types of racing helps the other in some fashion. The training that you put in for an ultra is a lot more running time and strength training time. I think I really liked the ultra more. I need a lot of work to become graceful at it, let alone quick, but it was just so much fun even while I was hurting. My body responded very well too; it is only the second day after and I was working out at the gym.
And FYI - Tim Olson tweeted back later that day congratulating us!
For more pics and videos go to my instagram loco315