***ATTN: Nerds. That was not a typo. I did not mean MST3K. This is a Race Report for the Mountains to Sea Trail 50k.***
Insanity is hereditary and I get it from my Loop Family.
A Marathon and a 50k in 14 days? Cheeky runner does it all the time…With another marathon and 3 5ks thrown in between. Santiago and CR taper for 50 Milers with back to back 50ks.
So, even though I was already doing Shamrock, when a 50k popped up within 15 min of my house, I had to do it. My friend Melissa, who wings sub 4 marathons like its no biggie, wanted to come along for her first Ultra. Even more reason.
I didnt take time off after Shamrock. I ran the very next day to see if I could do the double in November. Then Loopster JGrant said he was in Raleigh that Wednesday and wanted a run. It made me a bit cocky…a PR marathon was nothing. Who needs recovery? I even ran some trails the Friday before the race…just because it was nice out and I felt like it. Who needs taper?
Going into this race I knew the course would be challenging. Longtime readers will remember I cheered for Captain Hottie at this race last year when he ran the 12 miler, and he told me it was rough…and that he had gotten lost.
Does this mean no peeing in the woods??
Earlier in the week the weather gods had messed with my emotions – threatening highs in the 80s, then thunderstorms. Luckily, the storms passed through overnight (lucky for me, unlucky for the people running the Umstead 100 miler that night!) and brought a deliciously cool morning in the low 60s, with very little humidity. I was a tiny bit scared of a muddy trail, but that just makes it more fun, right?
Right. Drop bag down…time to go!
Like a Bob Ross painting – Happy little drop bags.
Melissa and I started in the back. I was a bit nervous starting with her since I know she’s a great deal faster than me and way more competitive. The first 3.5 miles were one some pretty technical trails. I was worried about the rest of the race because I really wasnt feeling it that day and knowing I’d have to come back through that section dead tired did not make me happy.
Sunrise on the lake did make me happy though 🙂
The aid station at 3.5 was unmanned. It was also at the start line for the 12 miler. We had an hour head start, but it had taken about 40 min for us to get to that point. I knew it wouldnt be long before We’d be pulling off the single track to let the speed demons through.
Things got interesting here. We caught up to a guy who was jammin to some music. He sang along very loudly, but he only yelled out certain parts. I was pretty sure it was 80s hair band rock. And he was wearing track pants. This is not something you see or hear in a trail ultra (you trail monkeys stop me if you have and I got it all wrong) so we laughed behind him for almost 2 miles. He knew we were behind him, and he asked if the singing bothered us. Of course we told him to ROCK ON! and when we fell back he’d yell “come on, girls!” Too fun.
Luckily it didnt rain that much the night before….crossings were hoppable.
We lost him once the 12 Milers started coming through. I think I stopped to let people pass earlier than I should have. It’s kinda of like getting to a yellow light – you can speed up to get across the street before you’re smooshed or slow down to hit the red and get a “Free” break. It was just one of those days in which I was giving in to the red light. Melissa didn’t like getting passed, and said we needed to pick it up because we were slowing way down. After passing through the 6.5 aid station I told her to leave me again, and she took me up on it.
Alone, I pretended I was a tribute in The Hunger Games. I def would have died right away or spent the whole time hiding here.
I found myself talking to a lot of the 12 Milers. The most memorable by far – a group of guys weaing shirts that said “FEAR THE MOOSE” of course, I didnt get a pic of it…but in my defense I was using all my energy to keep up with them while I learned what the shirt meant. Did they know about their Running Moose cousin in Italy??
But the story is still funny to me. Raleigh is a transplant city…it’s rare to even meet people from NC here. So when this group of Northerners came to Raleigh, every time they heard “Falls of the Nuese” (the name of a street here, yeah, we have dumb street names) they thought people were saying “Balls of the Moose”…so they learned to fear the moose.
The only flat section without killer rocks and roots. I had to get a pic.
As we got closer to the turn around/12 miler finish, I started seeing 50k peeps on their way back. They were all so nice! HOT guys were coming towards me yelling “Looking good 74!” and pretty soon people started telling me I was almost at the turn.
Even without people telling me, I started recognizing the area from Captain Hottie’s race last year. I saw the road I parked on and remembered seeing runners darting around flags, popping in and out of the woods. Running through the 12M finish, a volunteer grabbed and refilled my water bottle while another grabbed my drop bag. Ultra volunters are the best.
Normally 50ks dont require and inhaler, but there something about a darn finish line that makes me run way too fast. So I sat on the ground fishin into the bag to find it (darn thing had fallen into one of the extra shoes I packed just in case). As I sat there, I thought about the dumb boy getting lost last year, and how well the trail was marked (with white blazes, just like they said)…so I made a mental note to make fun of him for being a navigationally challenged moron.
Wow, did that come back to bite me!
The turn around wasnt a turn around…more like a turn-a-loop. Everything was going great for a half mile….until I came across a lady in a 50k bib coming towards me. She said there was no more white…only blue markings. I had just past a part with Montrail tape directing us left…so I was pretty sure we were supposed to go left. She said again “But it’s all blue.”
I took a pic the second time coming through…
She had a French accent that under normal circumstances I’d think was cute. But I was frustrated and tried…and when that happens I turn into a teenager again so any older woman in an accent is my mom. Ugh, go away and leave me alone! I told she could do what she wanted, but I was taking the left.
After about a quarter mile of nothing but blue, I got scared. Maybe mom was right? I always hated that feeling when I was 15….realizing maybe my parents weren’t full of it. I turned around and went back, under the tape, which popped me back onto a road. A volunteer told me to just follow the road and I’ll come up to the trail again. Apparently we were supposed to follow blue for a little bit. Approaching the trail head, I saw Frenchie again. She was way up the road, so I yelled at her to get her attention. She blazed by me a little later..and even though all evidence pointed towards her having no freakin idea what she was doing I followed her.
And then the most awful realization…I started recognizing the area from Captain Hottie’s race last year. I saw the road I parked on... Yes. I had wasted 30 min getting back to the 12 mile finish.
I wanted to cry. I’d had nightmares about this. I didnt know if turning around would get me more lost so I kept going until I saw a race offical talking to another lost 50k guy. Forget crying, their convo almost made me quit.
Up until then, I had only thought of the extra miles and time on my feet. I hadnt thought about a possible cut off. Apparently we were at 4 hours (I went through the 15.5 checkpoint at 3:36). The cut off was 8. I had 4 hours to cover 15.5 miles of some pretty tough trails. Knowing I had taken the first 7 miles too fast with Melissa…there was no way I could make it back in 4 hours. No Way! It would have been so easy to quit. I could tell an offical and get a ride to my car.
Most of the way back looked like this…only the hills were scarier in 3d…and with more tree roots.
But the other lost guy said he was finishing no matter what, even if he didnt get a time. Really, dude, Why you gotta be a hero?
If insanity is contagious, so is manning up.
You knew this already, but I manned up. We were together most of the way, sometimes there’d be gaps and we’d lose each other, but we always seemed to meet back up. The way back wasn’t all that memorable. I really zoned out….running, walking, hiking…pretty much on autopilot. The only thing I remember was seeing some guys fishin on a boat near the trail if they had any beer. They said no. I think they were lying (not that I could have made the catch without falling into the lake). My friend said I was trouble.
You cant see the stingy non-beer sharing a-holes…but they’re out there!
Waves of DNF panic motivated and pushed me the rest of the way. I remember hitting my right heel hard on some rocks more than once*. I rolled my ankles countless times. I fell again and again but was up before the guy coud ask if I was ok. I was finishing this sucker.
Despite my fears. I made it across in 7:47:38. My slowest 50k time by far but I will consider it a 33 miler PR 🙂 We got a pint glass and a water bottle instead of a medal. Ultras are so dang cool…and practical!
Post race party had died down a lot by the time I came through…but it still had that happy trail race atmosphere of a picnic in the park. The spread was awesome, although I never feel like eating after such a long run.
Why eat when I can check out bruises and see my dirt “tan” line?
The most awesome part talking to one of the maniacs, who happened to be waiting for another lady to finish so they could take a maniac race pic. When I mentioned I was one, she said “Are you Jen?” and knew some of the races I’ve both done (Maniacs have a calendar in you can see who else is running the certain races and their bio/race history). I knew who she was too. I love runners….I’ve never met her and it’s totally ok that we’ve stalked each other!
With the maniacs. Turned out Bon Jovi from that morning was a brand new maniac too!
Ovbiously I’m very glad I didnt quit. I’m kind of ashamed how close I was to letting the possiblility of a forced DNF take me down. As if choosing to quit was so much better? Part of me doesnt think I was ever in danger of quitting…but it was stoopid close.
I recently read that DNF actually stands for Did Nothing Foolish. I like that meaning a lot better 🙂
* I def came out of this thing with a bruised heel. Probably a blessing because other than the heel, I was ready to get back to normal after 2 days and I would have hurt something for real. But because of the heel, I took a week off everything. Ran 5 last night, and other than losing my hat twice in the wind, everything seemed ok!