I’ve been putting this post off, in part because I don’t even know where to begin. I’d heard of this race, having long wanted to do ultras, but hadn’t ever really considered it. Then BRF did it last year and I crewed for him and I absolutely fell in love with it. Became obsessed with the idea of doing it. Not just because he had done it–we have a friendly ‘anything you can do I can do faster’ competition–but I just fell in love with the atmosphere of the race, the race logo, the challenge of the race itself. So I set my sights on running it myself this year. I did a few other races put on by Western Reserve Racing at the end of last year, and I know that they run top notch but not always easy trail events. I registered for my 50-mile venture. I had friends offer to crew for me. I started training. Decided to do a 100k in June to boost my confidence for Burning River (I was really worried about the strict 15-hour time cut off). I did a lot of trail miles. And honestly, by the time the event came I was just ready to do it so I could stop thinking about it.
I felt confident going in. My crew was prepared and I was excited for the adventure. I started off a little too fast–but the first mile was on road and adrenaline took over. I eased up when we hit limestone and trail but settled into a nice pace. My goals were (A) finish before the cutoff, (B) beat Sean’s time (14:22…), and (C) beat 14 hours. I was cranking out well ahead of my 14 hour goal for a good many miles, and was thrilled. I take it one mile at a time when I’m out there–easier to just forget what the miles before held and focus on the one I’m in and doing the best I can with it. This strategy served me well at Eagle Up so I’m going to keep working with it. And honestly, I felt amazing. I was in my element. I was so happy and proud and I felt really really good. Until around mile 40. A lot of the last 10 miles was uphill. I was exhausted. I ran out of water with miles until the next stop. I was struggling. There was so much uphill and so little down that I wasn’t able to make up time and my pace was falling…I was relying on the time I’d banked from earlier miles to help me meet my goals. I eventually pulled out my phone and sent a desperate message to Sean–I needed encouragement and to get out of my own damn head. Quitting wasn’t an option, or even a real consideration, but I sure as hell was questioning my life choices. He talked me down, amped me back up, and I eventually got out of the literal woods. However…they had to change the course this year…and in doing so it was lengthened–by over a mile. So I didn’t just have 50 miles (or 50.2 as they usually do…) I had 51.2.
At the mile 45 aid station I was thrilled to see pizza and soda. I was starving. I needed salt. I needed a caffeine jolt. I needed to stop for a damn minute, though I wouldn’t let myself sit down for fear I wouldn’t get up. I was struggling so much at that point and my feet were killing me, I could feel the blisters. I ran into a more experienced ultrarunner friend who has been a great source of encouragement and inspiration on his way back out to finish the back 50 of his 100, and he told me I wasn’t alone, miles 40-50 had been hard on everyone he encountered, including himself. That made me feel a little better. I’d come this far, I sure as shit was going to finish the damn thing. I set back out for the last stretch and met up with some others who were feeling some kind of way about the extended distance. One of them had done the race with the old course and told me that this year was much more difficult, which also made me feel better. I passed a couple of other runners I knew that were starting on their back 50 and seeing them encouraged me. As we continued though, we started to feel every step of the extra distance and I was so. angry. for that last mile. I was literally swearing the whole time. I was so. angry. when I crossed that finish line. Because of the extra distance, my official time was 14:10–unofficially my 50-mile time IS under 14 hours, but there’s no official record of it.
My BFF Kelly, her husband and their kids were there to surprise me, along with my crew chief Abbie and our friend Naomi. I feel bad that I was so grumpy at first. I was just in miserable pain and annoyed that I was so close to the time I wanted but couldn’t make it happen with the extra distance. Within a few minutes I had calmed down and was just happy to be done. My feet were a mess–the podiatry students wouldn’t even pop my blisters, just bandaged me up to make walking slightly more comfortable (it was not…I hobbled like a mofo). I got my Wendy’s fix (Asiago Chicken sandwich, large fries with chocolate frosty for dipping, and vanilla Diet Coke). I took a super awkward bath (couldn’t stand in the shower) to get cleaned up the best I could and crashed into bed. The next morning Abbie and I went to the 100-mile finish line party for breakfast burritos and beer. I talked to my more experienced ultrarunner friend (having finished the 100-miles) and got some advice about the races I’m looking at for next year. I told him I wasn’t sure if I would be back to BR next year or not…I might need a year off to recover from it, but that I would definitely be back at some point. He smiled and told me to give it a few days, I’d probably change my mind. He was right…by Monday morning I was already talking about next year and looking forward to it. This was by far the hardest thing I’ve done up to this point in my life…and I loved it. There is something about this event that has just enamored me. This is *my* race. I want to go back. Not sure what event I’ll do next year–not the 100. I don’t want it to be my first, that much I know–but kind of waiting to see what they do with the course. I might be talked into the back 50 (starting in the evening and running overnight to the 100 mile finish line) if the course stays the same, but I don’t know yet. I also need to see what other races I want to do and see how the training lines up and plays out. But the one thing I know is that I want to go back and do it again.