The fun started the day before, when DW and I went to Fleet Feet to pick up our bibs and a case of gels. It sunk in that we’d be running over 30 miles the next day! Friggin’ scary!!! The furthest we’d ever gone before that was 26.2 on a downhill course!
Even better, the bibs had a bright yellow sticker on them that read “50K” to distinguish them from the other distances in the event, and I heard someone in line remark to their significant other, “Oh it must be a typo. I bet it’s a 5K.” He he he he, I thought to myself, relishing the anticipation of the challenge ahead.
Being the obsessive compulsive busybody that I am, I wrote out a nutrition plan while my smarter wife rested up with a nice nap. She then awoke and we honed the list into a solid gameplan. You see, we like being somewhat self-sufficient on trails. Yes, aid stations are awesome and necessary, but I really like to know exactly what I’m going to eat 5, 10, 15, and 20 miles down the line. We got our packs packed and tried to chill out a bit.
4am came early, but there was awesomeness in the air and nerves in m’ belly! We hit the road and drove the hour up to the race, hoping we had made a good decision in doing this.
The start area was just great. People milling around, stretching, chatting, and eating everything from pizza to Pop-Tarts (us). We even saw a few people we knew, from both our LRS and our running club! Several were running the 50K, and a few were tackling the 20-miler. I have to say, it was great to head out into the woods with a bunch of friends!
The first four miles are a pretty steep incline, so everyone power walked it. Well, almost everyone. A few shot out like a rocket and ate that hill for breakfast, pure and simple.
Man, the trails were beautiful! Streams, lakes, the smell of pine needles and campfire smoke, smiling faces, and miles of cruising ahead. Swell times indeed.
About mile 13, I feel a little twinge on the outside of my left knee. Weird. But no biggie, sometimes my form goes all wonky for a sec and I have to tighten it up, ridding myself of these little warnings.
At mile 15, it came back. I was running smoothly, but my IT bands complain when I run trails after sticking to roads for a while. Frankly, I was a little worried since there were still 16 miles to go, but what was there to do but keep going! I was still in great spirits, my wonderful wife was right next to me, and we had a challenge to conquer, dammit!
We were trotting up a steep uphill when we came up on a woman who was obviously hurting. She said she felt extremely nauseous and she still had a loooong way to go. I gave her all the ginger I had, since I figured she might need it later. I sure hope she powered through!
At mile 18, we turned a corner and found ourselves at an aid station! We saw a fellow Buffalo Chips runner and checked in with him. Unfortunately he wasn’t feeling remotely good, but when another club member shuffled up, he sucked it up and stood in for a pic!
Leaving the station, watermelon in our tum tums and fresh cold water in our packs, we raced through some downhill single track and then hit it. 15% grade gravel fire road. Brutal. We walked, trying to keep up about a 14:00 pace, following other runners also slowly powering their way up the evil hill. We all got to the top and it dead ended into a traffic road. Wha?! Some cyclists “helped” by pointing us down the road, but alas, ribbons were not to be found. Obviously we’d missed something, but it didn’t make sense for everyone to head back down the hill, so I went down to retrace and report. When I saw the missed turnoff I felt like a complete dorkface. It easily had ten ribbons marking it but we were so wrapped up in hill hatred we trudged right by it! I ran halfway back up and called for the others, who ran down with smiles and thanks. I was beginning to feel loopy, so I was just glad to have some direction again!
I danced around my IT band, playing around with my stride and stopping to stretch every 3-4 miles or so. If it got bad I’d run on my toes, shifting the work to my calves. If the calves cramped, I’d run on bent knees and midfoot strikes. All of it just kept me going!
This is mile 27, the farthest we’ve ever run!
About mile 29 I realized that we were actually going to finish! Hooray! Hazaah! Yeehaw! I couldn’t believe it, but DW and I were closing in on that finish line, and it was a pretty powerful moment for me. I couldn’t help it. I suddenly turned to my wife and said, “This is just great and I love you.” Mushy, I know, but I don’t care.
All of our training together had culminated in the ability to chase these crazy goals and share these crazy times. We’d been running for seven hours and as she beamed back at me, it dawned on me that I’d loved every minute of it.
Two miles later we sprinted down toward the finish line and for the first time I heard the announcer say my name correctly! Kynan (said Key-nen)!
What’s more, the only casualty was a sock! No blisters, no black toenails, no worries!
I got to cross the line of my first ultra with DW’s hand in mine and a smile on my face. All in all, I’d say I’m a lucky guy.
Run happy and healthy, friends!