It’s official! My little weekend adventure got me Ultra-Marathoner status. On top of that, 2 marathons and a 50k in 55 days got me into the Marathon Maniacs!! Yay!!
In a nutshell – it was both harder and easier than I thought. No desire to do a 50 miler right now…but I said after my first Pikermi I was never doing a full…and after my first full I said I was never doing one again. So, you all know how that story goes.
Friday afternoon I left work and drove about 3 hours west towards the Blue Ridge Mountains. Packet pick up was really smooth and I was in and out in less than 3 minutes. I knew it was going to be a good race when I saw candy canes in the bag. Sweet!
Gotta love a no-fluff packet!
Morning came earlier than I would have liked (5 am), and I woke up to a thick coating of frost on my car. The kind that’s so thick you’re scared your car door isn’t going to open. Luckily it did open or I might have cried. It was 28*, which is balmy to you Might-as-well-be-Eskimos, but its pretty much the coldest temp I’ve been in since February.
The race started at Lake James. Had it been light when I arrived I would have taken pics of how beautiful it was….but it wasnt (and I wasnt thinking when I finished) but you’ve all seen this lake if you’ve seen Last of the Mohicans. It’s the lake they used to represent Lake George and most of the movie was filmed in the area. Since I was alone and without an Ipod, the “I will find you” song and scenes played in my head a lot as I played in the woods.
Here’s a link to open in another tab if you wanna play along as you read 🙂
Ok, I took one pic as the sun rose
As per usual, I lined up in the back and ended up next to an older guy in a marathon maniacs singlet. I mentioned to him that if I finished the 50k, I got to join the maniacs. He told me “That’s what a girl told me last week and she finished.” Another good sign. He also told me it’s best to start dead last so we can say no one passed him the whole race. I love ultra runners.
The RD made some announcements that I heard absolutely none of and we were off. I settled into an easy long run pace for me. It was nice being around people who were also going slow..and people who also stopped and walked the first hill. I like this whole energy conservation thing! About a mile in, there was a split and no sign to tell us which way. I asked people around me, they said we did a weirdo loop and “they thought” we should go straight…It amused me how something that would frustrate people in a normal race was met with “Meh” by these people. They just said, “We’ll get there eventually.”
It turned out we did end up going the wrong way, but I only found out a day later by a proactive apology email from the RD. I didnt notice, Gary said 31.4 Miles at the end. What an awesome coincidence.
The first 6 miles were on a paved road. I had about 10 people around me, spread out. One lady was walk-running with a poodle. I didnt know poodles were good distance dogs but the poodle seemed to be taking it like a champ. I spaced out most of the first 6 miles, but I noticed a familiar sight ahead – Philly Marathon shirt!!
You totally cant see because I was trying to catch up to them..but the guy on the left does know how much fun he missed by not knowing us in Philly.
I also saw another sight that reminded me of Philly –
It’s no Paddy’s Pub…but they might sell wine in a can.
Holy cow it was like a sign from above that you guys were all with me. I caught up with the guys and we chatted a bit about the dumb cones and the dumb bridge. I let them go when we hit another hill and stopped to talk to two guys in their 40s who were walking the hill. They told me they thought we were really lost…until finally we saw a spray painted marking on the road, which was there to mark the course were were supposed to take merging with the course we were on. According to Garmin, I hit the first aid station at the correct mile, so it was all good.
Follow the man in the porn pants! Aid station on the left
After the aid station, the climb began.
Porn Pants and Red Jacket left me in the dust 😦
Remember the email I shared with you from the RD? I know you all read and remember every single word I write 🙂 HAHA. Anyway, the RD has sent an email warning about the hilly course, mentioning that as he drove it, he thought we’d be cussing him out at certain spots. Well, you know that Blink 182 song? Not all the Small Things because there was nothing small about these hills. The one the one that goes (earmuffs, kids!): $ht, pi$$, f¢k, ¢unt, ¢ock-su¢ker, Mother-f¢ker…
Gary does not lie. This was hard!
I pretty much sang that song for 2 hours. More directed at myself than the RD
We went through this around every turn for over 3 miles.
I dont think my car could get up this hill. I drive a Prius so you know I’m not kidding.
By the time I got to mile 13 I was toast. I was marathon sore, calves were cramping big time, and I wanted to cry. The down hill for the next 2 miles hurt A LOT. I tried to cheer for the people coming back from the turn around, who were going up the brutal incline I had the pleasure of coming down….but it was too steep to enjoy. I was almost happy when we started climbing again. Almost.
Almost. Ok, not at all!!
At this point even just walking up the ups left me gasping for air. I stopped to puff on my inhaler and take an Advil. Life savers. It was a little less than 2 miles to the turn around, but that uphill was pretty much a death march.
Funny, I hate Yellow and Orange Lifesavers…
I think I need to work on walking uphill faster. Even though everyone else was walking these hills, they seemed to be walking a lot faster than me. A lady wearing shorts and colorful kneehigh socks came up behind me on the hill leading to the turn around. I was pretty sure we were dead last and I hoped to make friends. I tried to talk to her and she reluctantly pulled out an ear bud and had me repeat. She kept her bud in her hand, and her hand close to her ear..and gave me the look like I was trying to talk to her at the gym and she was waiting for me to stop bothering her. She power walked passed me.
This is probably my only disappointment in the race – I felt like people werent interested in talking and trying to help each other (and by help each other I mean help me!!). They were friendly, but I felt like no one was there to make a temporary friend. It felt more like an implied – let me put some distance between me and you so I’m not last.
Breathtaking views through breaks in the trees
About a mile from the turn around I started to encounter the packs of people I had lost when the inclines began. This meant they were about 2 miles a head of me. They were encouraging and told me I was almost there.
Is it sad that all I could think of when I saw this sign was think “Man, I really want a Pisgah Pale Ale” ???
I knew the view was going to be awesome…and worth all the climbing. The harder it got, the more I was reminded of a quote from the movie Big Fish:
“There comes a point where a reasonable man will swallow his pride and admit he’s made a terrible mistake. The truth is, I was never a reasonable man. And what I recalled of Sunday School was that the more difficult something became, the more rewarding it was in the end.”
Finally at the overlook, I took in the view – it was incredible. I could have stayed up there all day, but it was cold standing still. Poodle lady had just taken off when I got there and I wanted to at least finish in front of the poodle.
If my phone took better pics, they’d look more like this:
This was how it really looked – thanks Google Images!
Socks was still at the aid station when I left. I was hoping to drop her non-social butt.
With the Advil kickin in, I felt great coming back down the hill. It was steep, and the loose gravel gave me nightmares of tumbling down like a Goofy cartoon, but it felt good to feel good again.
Even the uphill heading back to the mile 19 aid station didnt feel that bad.
They were starting to look worse than they felt.
I was gaining on Poodle lady and caught up with her at the 19 and 23 aid stations but she kept pulling ahead. Darn poodle.
Around 24 I heard rocks kickin up behind me, turned around and saw Socks walking up the hill behind me. I was pretty sure this was the last of the hard up hills so as soon as I almost crested it, I did a silent “OH HECK NO!!!” (which amuses me because I am not one to get stressed over people passing me). But if that lady wont even talk to me, she doesnt get to pass me.
Basically, I flew down the big hills. It felt like skiing at some points and the image of falling didn’t pop into my head once. Instead, I played the Last of the Mohicans and pretended I was Daniel Day Lewis off to rescue my woman. I blew by Poodle Lady and literally said “Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” as I passed. I meant that to signal I was having fun but I have no idea how that came across. I never saw her or Socks again.
Around Mile 24 – Table Rock in the background. Yes, I wore my Nike medal/necklace to remind myself that it’s possible to feel great on hills. It didnt work!
At least I think I’m having fun!!
I was still flying as I approached the mile 27 aid station (the last one) and came up behind a couple who had dropped me at mile 6, part of the group who were a few miles ahead of me at the turn around. They said “Way to finish strong” as I passed and when I responded, the girl looked startled saying, “OMG, I didn’t know that was you!” I guess I looked like I was on my way to a DNF when they saw me at mile 15. They asked how I was feeling and I can honestly say I felt great.
Even though I had never gone that far in my entire life, I was in familiar territory now. I knew I’d make it another 4 miles and it felt great to be on relatively flat pavement again. Its funny that I walked these hills in the begining…but now they felt totally flat!! I’m happy to say I ran the rest of the way.
Like a good minority, I go a little bit faster past a trailer with a Confederate flag.
I ended up passing two more people before the finish line, part of that group that dropped me at mile 6. I asked if they wanted to run in with me but they declined. Oh well, I tried.
Coming back into the park, I tried my best to just keep going. I was too close to walk. Although I did stop to take a picture with this sign (it definitely just the random back of a reused sign) but in my delierious mind, it was a funny joke.
Just a bit off…
The last mile seemed to last forever….but I kept telling myself this wasnt any harder than the last few miles of Philly. It sounds super cheesy but I had an imaginary MK next to me the last few miles. Even though it was an automatic PR, I kept hearing her say “We’re getting you that PR” every time I thought about walking. It really helped.
As with all my trail races, the finish was anti-climatic. A handful of finishers where there clapping. It was most of the group I started with and they all tell me congrats on finishing strong. I could tell I wasn’t the one they thought would be crossing next, which made me happy. I had pretty much accepted that I would be DFL as I got close to the turnaround so to finsh as I did made me happy. I grabbed a finisher sweatshirt out of a box next to the finish and burrito and a bottle of water out of a cooler….and hobbled to my car.
It was surreal, after the Osomness of Philly, to finish such a run and just get in my car and drive away…instead of getting hugs and high fives and instant race recaps. My dying phone didnt even get service so I couldnt text people or see all the love you guys gave me on Facebook.
Final time (not that it matters): 7:26:54. AG was 39 and under – I was 5/9… and most importantly: I finished before dark and not DFL!
Perhaps the icing on the cake – it turns out I knew one of the guys I passed at the end. I came home to a congrats.
Names have been removed to protect the chicked. But I did kinda kick their butts 🙂
I honestly couldnt have asked for a better race experience and I’m going to plan on this one next year, although I dont know if it’ll be the 50k or the 50M (darn, it’s already starting). Maybe I can get some of you guys out here for it because my only regret was doing it totally alone. Come on…you get a pretty awesome sweatshirt 🙂