This race was a redemption run due to my DNF last year at mile 28 because of stomach issues. I was successful, which is great. It did not turn out to be the race I expected, that’s for sure.
I find it interesting that each of these 50 milers tend to surprise me in different ways each time. I always seem to underestimate their toll on my mental strength and grit, but it’s never in the same way. At any rate, I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s start with the race report.
Got up around 4:10am to give myself enough time to eat and stretch. Never seem to finish the bowl of oatmeal on race day, but I try. Felt pretty good, and prepared. Weather was cloudy, and looked to be in the 45-70 range for the day. Perfect, really.
We got to the race start without any issues. After getting my race bib, and race instructions, and a good luck kiss from Adam, I was off at 6:30! I remembered this part of the course from last year, and it was the same. Fairly runnable, not horridly narrow. Felt good as I ran by Timothy Lake. At the first aid station I stripped off my long sleeve (Mt. Hood) shirt and went on. At about mile 9, the leader passed me, already on his way back! It was tough after mile 9 because it turns to single track that’s a bit uneven, so you have to pay attention to your footing and also get out of the way of the runners on their way back. Not the best for an out and back, but there it is. At mile 13 you’re supposed to get this amazing view of Mt. Hood, but due to all the clouds we saw nothing. Rather disappointing as it’s really the only scenic vista for the whole race. Reached the 14 mile turnaround at about 9:15am. It dawned on me that I’d need to hustle to make the 12:30 cutoff.
On this second section I got in a real running groove, and got focused on making it back in time. I did pause ever so briefly for a photo now and then, but otherwise focused. Going through the last aid station they asked me, “what do you need?” To which I replied, “Just a high five!” Which I got, of course, because the volunteers are great.
I was glad to see Adam at the Start/Finish (mile 28) at 12:15. I was surprised that my legs had already started to hurt. It seemed humid out, and I was completely drenched in sweat, so I changed my shirt (likely scarring children with the view!) The change of shirt made me feel human, for a bit anyway. After grabbing some more food, and another kiss, off I went.
This third section was not that fun. I was basically by myself and there was nothing interesting to look at. Just a pine forest. On the elevation chart there is this massive hill that I was expecting before the next aid station. But…it never really came. It was a gradual incline instead, and far less impressive. Fairly runnable all around, but not very interesting. I made it to the next aid station, out of water and craving juice. Orange slices have never tasted so heavenly. The next part was even more lonely, but I started to see more and more folks on their way back. And as I got closer I saw some with Popsicles. It was at this point in the race that all of the runners became even more encouraging of each other. “The aid station is just up that hill…not far now…keep it up, etc.” It seemed to take forever to get there, though. And I made it at about 3:20, with just 10 minutes before the cutoff. I was feeling slow, and generally not happy with my life choices at this point. Food was rapidly becoming less appealing, but I knew that is what I needed. More orange slices, no Popsicle. Back to it.
Then it really became a grind for me. I was baffled by this because I did a harder 50 miler two months ago, and I should be in stellar shape. Wtf? This should be easy! I felt low before the last aid station, but then I fell even lower mentally. I hate this, why am I doing it? I don’t even CARE if they pull me at the next aid station. I’ve got nothing to prove. GDMFSOB. I had been listening to my favorite podcast (Stuff You Missed in History Class) to distract myself but switched to my running playlist of pop music for the jolt.
Then I think the Universe was getting a bit tired of my griping and said “Oh, I’ll give you something to whine about.” I felt a sharp pain on my left big toe. I stopped, peeled off the dirt-caked sock and shoe and saw a big, torn-open blister. Ah well, I’ve been exceedingly lucky in my runs/races and haven’t had to deal with this particular joy very often. I dribbled some water on it, wiped off the dirt, and stuck on a band-aid. I was laughing a bit at myself because of course I decided to stop carrying the extra pair of clean socks in my pack. The one time I’d like to have them… Universe, point made. Stop your bellyaching about something you chose to do. The torn blister hurt at first, but the pain faded to a tolerable level so I felt like the next 10 miles were doable. Plus, my coach ran the last 40 miles of a 100 miler on blistered feet, so I couldn’t let this little thing stop me.
About now is when I hooked up with Jane, a fellow racer. We started chatting, and found we had loads of things in common. She grew up outside of New Glarus, WI (she was shocked to learn I knew where it was, let alone that I have been there.) She used to be a paralegal, so I told her about Adam’s work. She also has run the Fox Cities Marathon (I’ve run the half.) Each time we stumbled upon a commonality she exclaimed aloud – it was adorable. She’s run 50Ks, 50 milers, and 100 milers so she was experienced. She kept saying that I was moving well (to which I was grateful). We both agreed that this course was tougher in a way that we hadn’t predicted. And didn’t necessarily feel an overwhelming urge to run it again. I was grateful for her company. It always helps to pass that horrid time between miles 40 and 50, and I’ve been lucky enough to have someone there for that each time. My first 50 miler in WI, I met Larry, and we pulled each other along from mile 35 to the end. For Sun Mountain, it was Callista, a fellow High Heel Runner. This time, it was Jane.
We made it through the last aid station (although, again, the longest 5.5 miles of my life.) Up until this point my stomach hadn’t really been bothering me too much, but now it had decisively closed up shop. For the last hour and a half I had one little baggy of fruit snacks. And hoped I wouldn’t bonk. As we kept chatting, the time flowed more quickly. My watch had long since died, so I kept checking my phone for the general time. We had (technically) until 6:30 to finish. We ran into a few folks on the trail, “It’s about a mile and a half.” Great! We got closer and I could see the road, but we were just waiting for it to curve up. Come ON, where is that effing trail? I just needed it to be done.
We crossed the road and there was the finish. I grabbed Jane’s hand and we crossed together. We had a huge hug at the end, and hands down she was my favorite part of this race.
Some quick numbers:
Finishing time: 11:55:59
Elevation gain: 5,600 feet
Calories consumed: ~1,300 (3 very small red potatoes, 3 bags Welches fruit snacks, 2 onigiri, 1 Portable baked banana rice ball, 1 Portable chocolate cake, 8 Glutino Oreos)
Generally my body feels the way I’d expect: tired, sore, joints are stiff. A big difference is my back feels bruised or something from my pack. Or almost like the muscles are seizing up. Hopefully that’ll go away soon – it’s more painful than my legs and such.
I am glad I completed the race, and I’m grateful I came out the other end in fairly decent shape. I am grateful that my coach got me through these months trained and uninjured. But I’m a bit baffled on why a not-so-challenging course so easily derailed my mental strength. I did not come out of this race inspired, and was actually wishing I didn’t have any other races/aid station volunteering lined up for quite awhile. But I do, so I’ll have to sort through that. The big, ugly question of why I do this kept cropping up and I couldn’t come up with a definitive answer at the time. Some soul-searching to do, and a recharge is needed.