Man, what a weekend for races, huh? Seems like everyone was hitting the roads or trails for races or loooooong training runs!
Well DW and I were no exception! Saturday marked the date of our first attempt at completing a 50 MILE RACE!!! After a Shamrock Half last March, we’ve pretty much spent the whole summer building a strong mileage base and adjusting to being comfortably uncomfortable for long durations. We’ve done some trail races, but they were mainly in service to our training for this race, the “Rock’n River 50”.
The alarm went off at 3 and preparations began. Our parents were coming out as support crew, so we packed a cooler and grocery bag full of ultra goodies and got all suited up! Mom and Dad showed up at 4:15 to drive us to the start, excited but a lil’ groggy.
We got to the start and I remembered why I like ultra starts. It was in a dark parking lot with a couple shop lights and about 30 people milling around, smiling and chatting about the race to come and where they were from. Very low-key, just people who love to run through nature and make friends. This is the reverse of the AR50 course, so it’s net downhill and the last half is on a paved bike path. Consequently, a LOT of runners were using it to qualify for Western States, so we spoke with runners from our area, England, Virginia, and who knows where else. The race was capped at 200, but there were a few more the director let in last minute.
We lined up and GOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!
It was odd, but one of the first turns wasn’t marked, so everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) breezed past it and ½ mile down a steep road down toward the river. Someone who’d done the race before started yelling after us all that it was the wrong way, and confusion ensued. Some of us ran/walked back up and rejoined the course. Others kept going down to the river and scrambled across rocks to rejoin the course later on. So there we were, having gotten lost and putting in an extra mile in the first 30 minutes! We lost about 20 minutes there, but the journey continues!
I’m so glad we ran the Sierra Nevada 25M Endurance Run (Californian Runnin’s blog here) in prep for this cuz it traced the same course, only in reverse. We knew what to expect! My hip was feeling a bit tight, so I kept taking note of how it was feeling, ready to stop and stretch if necessary. The miles seemed to fly by, whisked away among rock-hopping and root-dodging. After the first aid station it began to heat up and the course got awfully rocky, but thankfully I had Diablo to compare it to, so I stayed in high spirits and just soaked in the amazing views!
When we got out of the hills we found out that quite a few people were dropping. I felt so bad for those who were really hurting, but refused to let the mood bring the race down for me. Determination kicked in and there were miles to cover. This whole first half of the race followed routes that DW and I run most of our trail runs on, so it was like playing in our back yard, so cool.
Folsom Lake never fails to take my breath away.
The miles ticked away and we began to settle into a nice groove. We run together so much we just fall into a rhythm, cruising along and relishing the run. When we hit the halfway point we did the best thing we possibly could have done: we changed shoes. More specifically, I changed socks, shoes, shirt, and threw on a buff to cover my head from the sun. It felt like I had new feet! And since the last half was all paved, it felt phenomenal to have ample cushioning. (We both wore NB 101s for the 1st ½, Kinvaras for the 2nd ½).
I know it sounds cheesy (in fact, I may need some chips for all this cheese), but it just got better with each passing mile! My hip never got worse! By mile 30, I felt really warmed up, which I haven’t felt in quite a while. We began to speed up, actually. We hit the 50K mark averaging a 15:xx pace, and by the end we had an overall average of 13:25, which means the last 19 miles had to be around a 10:xx pace. To keep it broken up, DW and I divided our minutes: run 5, walk 1, run 5, walk 5. I guess it worked because we started to beat our crew to some aid stations! Maybe that Galloway is onto something!
As we approached mile 45, we saw some familiar faces waving from the aid station. Fellow Buffalo Chips! C and L, both accomplished ultra-heads, had come out just to greet us along the way! Our family crew had been incredible throughout the whole race, and seeing friends from the running club too was just an awesome cherry on top of this delicious sundae of a race.
5 miles later and we were flying across the finish line! (At least I felt like we were flying!)
We held hands and I jumped as we crossed the timing pad at 11:11:09. We were shooting for 12 hrs so we were pretty ecstatic! Plus, if it weren’t for that extra mile in the beginning we would’ve qualified for Western States in our first 50!
The post-finish area was a mass of smiling runners in various stages of penguin-waddling. Everyone we had spoken to on the course came up and we exchanged congrats and warm handshakes. It was simply great. You can’t run one of these and not feel a kinship with everyone who shared the experience. It’s an indescribable atmosphere.
I know the title was technically earned with our first 50K, but now I really feel like we’ve unequivocally earned the right of being called ULTRARUNNERS!!! I am grateful to have run this race, had this experience and to have met these people. The collection of familiar faces and stories grows with each race and I am loving it!
Here’s to each and every one of you having a race as enjoyable as this one was for me! I’m still trying to wrap my head around it!