A Tale of Two 50ks (Afton and Rosaryville RR)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Clearly Dickens wasn’t talking about doing 2 50ks in July because only an idiot would do that. But you all know I’m not very smart. 
Here’s your 2 in 1 Ultra Report. Afton is long, Rosaryville short. But in a nutshell, here’s how I felt during them:
Afton  Rosarville 
 
Afton 50k – 7/7
 
You guys already know MK kicked absolute butt at this race. If you dont SHAME ON YOU! Stop everything right now and check out her blog!
 
There are 2 reactions when people hear “Afton 50k” – either they’ve never heard of it…or they say “Oh, that’s a toughie”….I’m definitely in the latter now! No only is it always on a scorching hot weekend…here’s the Garmin elevation:
 I’ve done 50ks with more elevation gain…but these hills did not give up!
 
Despite the awesome-for-July weather, I didn’t feel well from the first mile. You know those dreaded races, when you know from the very first step it’s going to be a long day? Combine that with a notoriously difficult course in July and you get less of a race report and more a tale of survival. 
 
The race started out innocent enough with a quick meet up with MinneDan. In my head I always said “MiniDan”…but he is not Mini.
See? Zam is Mini.
 
Like all trail races, we gathered around the RD last min directions. He mentioned an impromptu scavenger hunt involving someone who has just gotten a tattoo of an Afton eagle. I looked around and saw a bunch of Ironman M-dot tattoos but no eagle. Dumb Jenster didn’t realize the foreshadowing at the time – If someone gets a tattoo because of a race, consider that race BRUTAL and brag worthy. 
 
The first few miles were more of a struggle than I care to admit. Even though I hadn’t had more than a few sips, I felt jittery like I had drank too much coffee that morning. My breathing was really off and I kept taking puffs from my inhaler even though it wasnt helping. In hindsight the inhaler was what was probably making me jittery. After cresting the first big hill, we exited the woods and enjoyed the breeze of a wide open field. I felt much better here and hoped the worst was behind me. 
 
MK up ahead and Zam’s elbow on the Africa loop – only part of the course I felt normal. 
 
Miles clicked by, and I started to feel off again. MK and Zam would pull ahead and I’d struggle to keep up like a Vespa in a Nascar race. The climbs were brutal, but I know I would have been sucking wind even on an easier course.
 
Stairway to Heaven….as in they were trying to kill me!
 
This pic was taken about halfway up one of the endless climbs. 
 
By the end of the first 25k loop, the trail had beat me up…literally
I think I look more beat up at 25k than at 50k. That’s dirt on my chin, not a goatee.  
 
To prove I’m not lying – About 3 falls earler….no goatee. 
 
The last fall had covered my Nathal HPL valve in dirt so I asked a volunteer at the 25k aid station to rinse off the bite valve. He asked if I wanted to rest of me cleaned up and I decided I’d better get the loose dirt off my front or the bite valve was just gonna get dirty again. Luckily Zam and MK were graciously waiting for me at the aid station to capture the moment. I almost wish it was video to get the chorus of young male volunteers exclaiming “I picked the wrong job!” and “You want some HEED too?”
 
I’m not ashamed…it felt really good!!
 
I really wanted to drop to the 25k and end my misery…I wasnt sure another 25k was physically possible…but seeing MK so happy gave me a swift kick in the pants. Zam let me borrow her CEP calf sleeves, which I almost couldnt get on because I was cramping so badly, and some dry socks. And we were off for round 2…
 
The cramping got really bad after another half mile and I quickly dropped back. I walked up the first hill next to a guy in a maroon shirt. We talked a bit and then he pulled ahead.  I hoped I’d feel better in Africa like I did in the 1st loop but when I tried to run my calves started to spasm and cramp in a way I’ve never encountered. I settled for power walking…but it was more like power waddling since contracting my calves wasn’t much of an option. 
 
The power waddle worked because I caught up with maroon shirt. From our earlier chat, he knew I traveled for the race…so when I said I was thinking about DNFing at the aid station because I didnt think I’d make it he told me not to. “Just walk it out and if you get swept, you get swept.” I chewed on those words for another mile. 
 
The aid station said “Your friends just left” as soon as they saw me and I felt horrible that MK and Zam had been waiting forever. I knew they’d be back through in a few miles so I asked the volunteers to tell them I was cramping like a mofo and not to wait next time. They responded by giving me popsicles. Even though at that moment I hated ultras…the popsicle made me fall in love again. It was only about 3 miles before I looped back to that aid station…and then I’d get another popsicle.
 
Challenge accepted!
 
By the time I looped back I was delirious. The volunteers kept asking me what I needed and it seemed like too much of an effort to respond so I kept saying “nothing.” A volunteer smartly didn’t believe me and pulled open my hydration pack like a mom checks her child’s diaper and said “You have 40 oz, is that ok? Let me put some ice in it” and other volunteer pointed at the Golden Retriever by my side and said “Pet a dog you feel better.” I really did feel better after petting the dog and managed to get down a gel before they told me the sweepers were about 15 min behind me. I took off in a power waddle. 
 
That’s not a smile – that’s my power waddle face. 
 
The next 10 miles were really lonely. The only real company I had was the feelin the sweepers were right behind me. Half of me wanted them to come and end it all. The other half was determined to hold them off as long as possible. I’ve had some tough races before, ones where I wanted to quit…but this was the first race I didnt think I could physically finish. It’s hard to describe how heart breaking it is…knowing you have miles and miles to go…and every mile hurts more than the last…and the fact that every mile is taking 20 minutes means it’ll be hours and hours until you’re done…IF you can finish. I had pretty much accepted the fact that if I managed to finish, I’d be DFL. 
 
I actually passed the time playing Mr Bacon’s Scavenger hunt game. 
Bridge
I think I counted the letters in environmental 4 or 5 times but my brain kept shutting down after the 6th letter or so….so I took a pic and hoped there was a 12 letter word somewhere on this sign. At this point I’d been out on the course for 7 hours so I deserve a pass.
 
Novelty – I thought this puddle looked like Texas if the eastern part melted.
 
There are more scavenger hunt pics…but they make even less sense.  
 
Miraculously, I made it to the last aid station. The amazing volunteers were cheering so loudly I could hear cowbell from a quarter mile away and I was somehow able to run again. A man there gave the best pep talk I’ve every heard….if only I was coherent enough to remember it all but it went something like “Less than 3 miles to go…some guys just came through and you look like you’re in better shape than them – go get them!” between that and the ice water sponge, I was blazing at a 13 min mile. I caught up to the guys and passed them. I cant remember what I said to them…but in my head all I could think was, “Heck yeah, I’m not last anymore!!!”
 
The “run” to the finish was super painful, but I was determined to not let people cheer for a power waddle. 
 
 
After 8 hours 38 min and 58 seconds…it was over. 
 
 
Kinda amazing how quickly friends can make you forget how crappy you feel
 
 
Loopsters lookin pretty darn good after a brutal race. 
 
Super proud of MK and Zam…and beyond happy I got to spend more time with them. It wasnt enough!! But luckily TCM is right around the corner!
 
Rosaryville 50k 7/22
 
 Afton was the worst I’ve felt in any race…and it’s amazing how different Rosaryville went. 
 
I had planned on running the at least first few miles with BiscuitPusher, depending on how either of us felt. If you read her report, she fell about 3 miles in and busted an already tender ankle. She told me to go ahead but no loopster leaves another loopster alone in the woods miles away from an aid station. Besides, although I felt good at the pace we were going, it was probably too fast and a little walking would do me some good. Soon enough the fabulous Larry Macon came through and we latched onto his tail. 
 
Larry is amazing. I had seen this video of him when I was training for my first half marathon back in 2009…and being in awe. How cool that 3 years later I’d get to run with him! Just being around him was relaxing – this was marathon/ultra #895 for him and he said he was finishing even if he was there till midnight. Oh, and do I need to mention he had ran a 50k the day before? After the first loop I was feelin good so I told Larry and BiscuitPusher to go on because I was stopping at my drop back to put on the calf sleeves – because now I meant business. 
 
I passed several people on the first part of the 2nd loop, including the RD who was completing his 100th ultra. He commented on how good I looked and I mentioned that the 1st loop with Larry really helped. It felt amazing. Occasionally I heard Larry’s laughter echoing through the woods, reminding me to relax and just have fun. At the halfway aid station I caught up to 2 guys and stuck with them for a few miles. We talked about everything from races to Monty Python. I really enjoyed them but the slower pace was hurting a bit so I went ahead. 
 
Third loop didnt feel as good, but it was by far the best I’ve ever felt during a 50k. Everything just felt right. My hyradtion was right (I def drink more with a handheld, which was getting topped off at every station), my fueling felt right. I just bopped along on the trail and passed two more people. it wasnt until I exited the woods at the end of the third loop that it all started to catch up to me. The half mile on asphalt, uphill was def a little mean…but I finished happy – 7:36:12
 
I didnt take a camera on this one…so all you get is the Maniac picture. 
 
 
I almost skipped the second race because of how poorly I felt at Afton..but I;m so glad I did it! Judging from when I hit the aid station at the end of each loop, my first loop was the slowest by about 10 min….while the next two were within 2 min of each other. I definitely oweLarry and BiscuitPusher for my race – thanks guys!!!
 
I felt totally normal the next day and was able to hit up the run club (in the rain)…which gave me the extra confidence to register for theRocky Raccoon 50 Miler!!!! OMG. Even more OMG….I’m actually training again!! Wowzers!
 
Thanks for getting this far people. Hopefully I’ll be able to blog more often so you dont get these crazy long double reports!
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