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Aravaipa Cave Creek Thriller 50K Race Report: ALWAYS Pre-Grease Your Butt Crack, and Other Advice from a Tired and Happy Trail Runner

This is a long post. Here are the top 6 essential cliff notes for those of you too lazy to read the whole thing (you know who you are):

  • Always run long when training for a 50K: 10 miles is not long
  • Always go into a run with the mindset that you’re going to enjoy yourself
  • Push through feeling crappy: we all feel crappy at some point in time, it’s not a reason to quit
  • Watch for Desert Tortoises, they’re awesome
  • Always drink Coke in conjunction with running, it’s amazing
  • Always pre-grease your butt crack: butt crack chafing is unpleasant

The Beginning of the Story:

My morning began at 3:40am. I slept in my race clothes, so all I had to do was roll and go, grabbing my coffee and breakfast on my way out the door at 4:00am. Why so early? Aravaipa’s Cave Creek Thriller 50K began at 6:30am, and I still had to get there and get my bib and get on the shuttle to the start.

A little back story since I haven’t posted in a while: I haven’t been running much. Random weird injury, (blah, blah, blah) start running again, weird pains (blah, blah, blah), start running again, weird injury or pains somewhere else, (blah, blah, blah). So I allowed myself to take some time off. That’s what I told myself anyway; it sucked. My longest run was 10 miles, which is nowhere near enough to be well-trained for a 50K. I also really enjoy my long runs out in the desert; they are where I get my head to relax. Ten miles is not enough for that either.

Earlier this year, I signed up for the Aravaipa DRT Ultra Plus Series, which includes a 50K at Cave Creek, a 50K at Pass Mountain, and a 50 Miler at Mcdowell Mountain. There have been a few times I haven’t even started a race because an injury of some kind prevented me from training and I didn’t feel ready. I didn’t want to drop from yet another race. Plus, I kept hearing the strangest things like, “Rest is good for you, you’ll actually run a better race.” And, “I’d only run 10 miles for my longest training and I had my best race ever!” So I figured I’d go ahead and still give it a shot. I knew if nothing else, I could walk 31 miles. It would be miserable, but I could do it.

So, fast forward to the start line this morning. I was nervous about how the day would go, and was afraid one of my nagging injuries would rear its ugly head. I knew I was not prepared, but decided I was going to enjoy myself and give it my best. I was also really looking forward to the effort- It was a long desert run, which I have desperately missed. Plus, the weather was on my side. It had stormed the night before and we still had cloud cover, and a nice breeze.

My friend Erica was also unsure of her abilities this morning, but I had a feeling that she would win (she did).

Jamil, the race director, gave a few instructions, we waited a few seconds, and then it was time to take off. I started in the mid-back of the approximately 50 runners. Erica was gone like a bullet and I didn’t see her again until the finish line.

Anytime I run long, I break the distance down into smaller distances which I know I can do, and which don’t sound so long. For this run, I broke them down by aid stations, which is what I usually do when running a race. 9.1 miles to aid station 1, (I can run that far, that’s fine) 6.9 to #2 (so totally got that), 6.1 to #3 (psshh, piece of cake), 5.8 to #4 (what? That’s so short!), and 3 miles to the finish line (less than a 5K, total breeze).

To Aid Station #1: 9.1 miles

The beginning of the race consisted of my usual attempting to settle into a pace that was comfortable for me and which I felt I could maintain. I did so pretty quickly and felt great. The first few miles had a few little rollers here and there, but nothing major. Along the way, I heard burros braying and saw their little footprints on the trail! Mostly this whole section was all flat, which was great for me and my super non-training.

I breezed through aid #1. I was feeling really good, and loving the flat terrain, which was slightly soft underfoot from the recent moisture. I was also loving being out running far. I stayed on top of eating, and drinking, and salt intake. All was amazing. Then, it wasn’t amazing anymore.

To Aid Station #2: 6.9 miles (16 total)

First, the stitches started in my side. Normally this happens when I’m not running with very good form, and straightening up fixes the problem. It mostly did in this case. Then… well… I had to make a pit stop. Thankfully I had toilet paper. All better. I ran okay for a mile or so, then just started to bonk hard. I felt tired and heavy. Next, some nausea set in. The only other time I’ve ever gotten nauseous on any kind of run was at the Flagstaff Skyrace last year, and I think that was due to exertion at elevation. I have no idea what to do with nausea, and no idea why it occurred. I’d been doing great on my food and water intake, and not overdoing it. Ugh, whatever. Then the stitches came back hardcore. There was no more running, I was slogging, even though the trail was still flat.  When the stitches lessened, I ran again until I couldn’t (either due to stitches or nausea). Part of this race went through a desert corridor passing through Anthem (north of Phoenix). There were shops here, and the bane of my existence: fast food restaurants. Fast food makes me feel ill on a good day, which this desperately was not. Keeping my gag reflex in check, I managed to make it through here, and I walked into aid station #2. There I saw a couple of my friends (Jon and Thomas) and chatted a bit, while drinking the sweet nectar of the running gods; Coke. I was so excited to see this!!

To Aid Station #3: 6.1 miles (22.1 total)

I walked out of #2 and the nausea slowly began to subside. I ran off and on, as I could. Somewhere through here, I picked up a runner who was not racing. Her name was Karen, and we talked a little bit. She was out on a long run (20 miles) and was training for the McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50 Miler! I actually was able to keep pace with her for quite a while and I started to feel much better. Right around where she joined me (maybe a mile or two outside of the aid station?) is where some climbing began. We walked the uphills and ran everything else. Eventually I needed a quick break, so she took off. I really appreciated her being there, she helped me out so much.

The views along this part of the trail are really pretty- there are mountains ahead, and it’s exciting to see them getting closer and closer. Somewhere in this section is where the cloud cover began to dissipate somewhat. The sun was definitely warm, but nothing overwhelming. Plus, I could see some clouds that looked a little heavy not too far off.

I was able to run into aid station #3, to where my friend Brett was volunteering. I suppose I was looking a little rough. But I was feeling so much better. Another friend, Greg showed up here to say hello, he only gave me a minimally hard time for hanging at the aid station for a few minutes. Again, Coke was to be had, so I had it. And I was off again.

To Aid Station #4: 5.8 miles (27.9 miles)

This was probably my favorite section of the whole race. The views are so pretty. Plus, that cloud cover I’d seen showed up, and showed up with a vengeance! It began to rain. I love running in the rain! As I crested a hill, I was able to look back over where I’d just been. There was a light mist from the rain; the cacti were super green, but the ground and rocks were black from the moisture. Absolutely gorgeous.

I was still feeling pretty good, considering a whole lot of fatigue, so I ran. I needed to walk occasionally, but all was well, I was even able to run some of the easier uphills.

I saw a Sonoran Desert Tortoise hanging out on the side of the trail! This is only the second time I’ve ever seen one of these, so I stopped for a couple of minutes to watch it.

There was a lot of downhill to the next aid station, so I ran mostly solidly. I was very excited because other than fatigue, I was feeling really good, and I knew I was almost done and would be able to finish. I ran into this last aid station, grabbed a few things (Coke!) and walked out.

To the Finish Line: 3 miles (30.9 miles)

While walking, I rounded a corner and saw the photographer. Agh! It was uphill so I was walking… crap. I didn’t want my race pictures to be of me walking- I had to run uphill! So I did, and smiled and waved, and then walked as soon as he stopped taking pictures.

Mile 28!- Photo Credit: Ron Ceton

Mile 28!- Photo Credit: Ron Ceton

It was a pretty good-sized hill, considering my fatigued state, but I was able to run a few small sections of it. At the top, I knew I only had two miles left and that it was all downhill. It was time to turn on the burners, what was left of them anyway. I ran as hard as I could. The side stitches reappeared with a vengeance, but I wasn’t going to stop. My heart rate must have been through the roof, I was breathing so hard. I gave these last two miles everything I had. I could see a guy ahead of me who’d passed me when I was feeling really bad, and I was out to catch him. He, of course, heard my freight train breathing, and was not about to let me by. With half a mile left, I’d severely closed the distance, but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to pass him. I, however, wasn’t going to let his finishing ahead of me be easy. After the race he came up to me and thanked me for that push at the end. As it turned out, at the Flagstaff Big Pine race, I’d passed him not too far from the end and he wasn’t able to catch me then. He wasn’t about to let me pass him again this time!

I crossed the finish line to my friends Laurie, Matt, and Kathi, and my husband was there too, with the kids! Erica had been in the beer garden, and she came over to congratulate me on my finish, and I congratulated her on her win! Crossing the finish line to your friends and loved ones is undoubtedly the very best part of any race. I had to just stand there for a few minutes to catch my breath though, then I went straight to the finish line aid station and drank Coke. I also ate my wood-fired pizza, provided free by Freak Brothers Pizza with my 50K race entry, and sat around talking to everyone.

Erica's Trophy! -Photo Credit: John Coleman

Erica’s Trophy! -Photo Credit: John Coleman

Remember how much I love running in the rain? The only downside to running in the rain, was, as I discovered upon my finish, butt crack chafing. If you have never had this, consider yourself incredibly lucky. I lubed up all of my normal chafing areas with an anti-chafing stick before the run and they were all fine, however I did not perform this preventative treatment on my crack. My legs were tired and a little stiff, but the thing that hurt the worst was my butt crack. ALWAYS pre-grease your crack.

I have to give a shout out to my husband- he recently took up running, and he ran his first race today, the Thriller 5K! The Cave Creek Thriller 2011 was actually my very first trail race, and I think it’s so exciting that his first trail race is the Thriller, same as mine! And he didn’t pick an easy one: it was a tough course, with a good amount of climbing. He did really well, and I’m so excited for, and proud of, him!

I ran the shortest distance offered at Thriller in 2011; it was hot and I remember how hard it was. It was so exciting for me to get to run this race again, this time the ultra-distance. So much has happened, I’ve changed so much since then. At that time, I never thought I’d actually be able to run this far, and yet, I’ve now done it multiple times. Going into the run, I wanted to finish in 7 hours if I could swing it; I didn’t think I could. My watch read 7:00:51! I will take it! While certainly not my best 50K time, considering my complete lack of training, I feel really great about this! While a 50K can be run on no training, I don’t really recommend it.

My first trail race, Cave Creek Thriller- Photo Credit: Aravaipa Running

My first trail race, Cave Creek Thriller

So, I finished. Even though I struggled with a bunch of different issues during my run, I had an epic time and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Apparently enjoyment is a frame of mind: who knew? I will now take a few days off, and probably do a few days of easy hiking, and maybe a few easy runs to shake things out and see what’s in there. Next? Pacing my friend Kathi at Javelina Jundred for her first 100K effort, I hope (assuming no injuries pop up again) in two weeks, and then, DRT #2, Usery 50K. Can I runanother 50K on so little training? I don’t know. I’m hoping I can get back to regular runs, but if not, I plan to go out and give it my best.

 

(Featured Image Photo Credit: Andrew Fifield)

 

 

 

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Aravaipa McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50K Race Report

As I drove down the road at 5:30 in the morning, on my way to meet a couple of friends for the McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50K race, I reflected on how not nervous I was. I’d even slept great that night! I felt at peace inside, and was excited to see some different sections of trail that I’d never been on. I was just looking forward to the run and viewing it as any other long run. I was going out to have a blast, no pressure at all. In fact, I’d signed up for this race at the last minute to celebrate my friend Becky’s birthday, which was the day of the race. So this was a have-fun run all the way.

In the past I would always have some kind of caffeinated foo-foo Starbucks drink (one of my favorite things to drink!) before a run. I have noticed, however, an odd feeling of… not right, when I do that, and sometimes a messed up run. So on this day I had a non-caffeinated foo-foo drink, plus a breakfast sandwich, plus a scone (a girl’s gotta eat). My buddies, Matt and Kathi, rolled in. We had this picture taken with our rockin’ socks, while we were still clean.

Starbucks: Pre-Race

We arrived at the start line just after the 50 mile racers took off. Going to check in, I was happy to see my friend Michelle volunteering at registration! She handed us our bibs, and then we just hung out with friends until it was race time. The morning was chilly (for me and my hot-weather self), but I decided to go sans sleeves. I figured the running would warm me up, plus the day might get warm, and I didn’t want to be carrying them. A few minutes before the gun (horn), Jamil, the RD, announced it was time to line up.

Friends Ready to Run!

So here’s where the story really starts. I started out WAY too far forward in the chute. I knew this, but decided, “Eh.” Countdown… Go! And I was running WAY too fast. I knew this, but again decided, “Eh.” I knew I was going to blow up, and, you guessed it, “Eh.” Running at a 9:30-ish per mile pace for the first 5.5 miles, I felt great. I was having fun, the course was easy, and I just rolled with it. Since I was out to have fun, I really didn’t care about blowing up later, I knew I’d finish somehow, it just might not be pretty. Oh! I never saw my friend Kathi after the horn went off (Matt and I stuck together for a while though). She was GONE. TOTAL ROCKSTAR. I found out later that she took third for the women, and this was her very first 50K!

I started to slow myself down a little about a mile outside of the Escondido aid station, the first aid station. I think I grabbed something really quickly to snarf down, but it was too soon to really need much of anything at that point. Walking out of the aid station, Matt and I stayed to the side so people could pass us. We were now on the Pemberton Trail. I do not like this trail. It’s wide and fairly uninteresting, and the direction we were going was a constant, steady climb, but not steep. However, I’ve run this trail enough that I am familiar with it and knew where I was and how much climbing there was, so I held a fairly steady pace up, stopping to walk once in a while. I felt great and was having fun!

We hit the Granite aid station, aid station number two, with little fanfare. I knew the next aid station was about 11 miles away, so a volunteer was kind enough to refill my pack for me. We ran into our friend Ila at this aid station and talked for a little bit. It was nice to see her friendly face. At this aid station I ate a little more. I walked out of the station carrying fistfuls of food: bean burrito bites, a potato with salt, and Pringles potato chips (I told you, a girls got to eat, don’t judge). While I stuffed my face, Matt and I walked some new trail. As I stepped over knobby sections of plant, I wondered if Jamil had just bushwhacked a trail through the desert. However, after about a quarter of mile, we actually came to a signed intersection, showing we had been on an actual trail. Jamil told us later that he thought that section of the trail was maybe just a few months old.

This next section of trail? Priceless. Having completed putting food in my stomach, I was ready to run again, and this part of the trail was GREAT. It was single track, with cool scenery, and rollers (rollers are gentle rolling mounds, not hills) and twists for fun. The rock formations dotting the landscape were epic; some were covered with moss, or with lichen. They stacked up and around each other like giants had been playing dodgeball. Unfortunately, Matt wasn’t really able to enjoy this section because he started to have a really hard time with his ankle (he has suggested, on numerous times, that he should just chop it off). In fact, he hadn’t run the entire week leading up to the race because of his ankle. He told me he needed to stretch for a bit and that I should just go, so I did.

I laughed quite a few times at the sheer joy of running through here, especially as I rounded corners to then tear down a hill! Eventually, the trail hit Pemberton Trail, and then I was about half way done with the race.

The town of Fountain Hills, which is just south of the McDowell Mountain Regional Park where this race was held, has a huge fountain, spraying about 560 feet up, that goes off every hour for about fifteen minutes. This fountain can be seen for miles around, and is easily viewed from the park. The first time I saw it during the race I went to turn around to point it out to Matt, forgetting he wasn’t with me. That sucked.

I don’t mind running the backside of the Pemberton Trail too much. It’s at the base of the McDowell Mountains, and relatively flat with just a few rollers, so I picked up the pace a little. It was here that I started to catch a few people. I think I caught one or two on Pemberton itself. After a few miles, we turned off of Pemberton again onto Coachwhip Trail, and I caught a few more people who slowed down on some climbs. I was once again in new territory. On Coachwhip and onto Windmill towards Windgate Pass we rolled along on some slightly rougher terrain as we made our way towards the mountains. I caught my friend Brad here, and we chatted for a bit.

The course elevation profile showed that we had one big climb. I wasn’t quite sure where it was, but figured I’d know it when I hit it, which I did! I practiced my “ultra-walk” up Bell Pass. I kept looking out behind me because the view out over the valley was beautiful. It’s interesting to me how soft the landscape can look from up high. We know the desert is covered with things that want to poke, scratch, bite, or otherwise maim us, but from up above it is like a painting.

At the top of Bell Pass I began to feel my blow up from going too fast at the start. Coming down Bell Pass would normally have been my “jam”: my thing. It’s a steep, fun downhill section with all kinds of rocks to hop over. Unfortunately, this is where my dear friend Schnebly (my side stitch) decided to make his presence known, and I began to feel fatigue running down my legs. So I went down the hill like a normal person instead of crazy person with an apparent death wish (for clarification, I don’t have a death wish, I just really, really like running really, really fast down hills). Also through here, I began to feel… off. I had now been running with a solid effort for a little over 4 hours and knew that I had better eat something at the next aid station if I expected to finish this race.

At the Dixie Mine aid station, a volunteer once again refilled my pack. I don’t remember what all I ate there, a bunch of things. They had little peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and of course, the requisite potatoes and salt. I know I ate those things because I walked out of the aid station with them. I desperately did not want to eat. Both foods were just “blech” in my mouth, but I forced myself to swallow them. I was glad I did because after a few minutes, I felt immensely better. I allowed the food to settle as I walked to the top of the hill out of Dixie Mine, where I started running again. The blow up was becoming, well, more. Thankfully Schnebly had bid me adieu, but now the fatigue in my legs was quite defined, and every now and again, I had to walk as one leg would attempt a bit of a buckle underneath me. But somehow, I was still in great spirits! I was seriously having such a good time, even with all the fatigue and cramping, and whatever it was going on in my legs. I just slowed my pace and kept a running motion as much as I could. Through here, I chatted with a nice man who was from Calgary, Alberta. He told me he’d been warm that day, which amused me. I knew instantly that he wasn’t from Arizona, since most Arizonans would have been cool! He told me about past times he’d run this race, and one of those times getting lost in the desert. It was nice talking with him.

I continued my running motion to the Gate aid station, which was the fourth and final aid station. I grabbed a bite, probably a potato, and left. Just out of there, my friend Brett caught me. He was running the 50 mile race and looking strong! By now my running motion had many hitches in it, but that was okay. I knew I had only about a 5K (just over 3 miles) left to finish. The trailed rolled and I rolled with it. Crossing through a giant culvert, I knew I was getting close because I’d gone through that culvert in races past. I climbed up one last steep hill and at the crest I could see the finish line about half a mile down below me. I did my best to run, crossing that last half mile as fast as I could. I crossed the finish line in 6 hours, 22 minutes, and 44 seconds and had gone just over 31 miles. This was not my fastest 50K time, but I felt really good about it.

Throughout the race I compared how I was feeling then with how I felt on my first 50K, the Pemberton 50K, from two years earlier. It was incredible how different everything was. At that first race, I wanted to die for the entire second half of the race. My legs felt like lead, and the only thing that kept me going was watching the feet of my friend Dawn in front of me. What a difference 2 years and countless mountains and trails has made. I actually had FUN at this race! This difference is exciting, and has me incredibly excited for my next 50K at Black Canyon.

After the race, I changed out of my stank clothes, ate an amazingly delicious pizza that absolutely hit the spot from Freak Brothers Pizza, and hung out with friends. We discussed our race and how it went, what we thought, how we felt, what we saw. As I mentioned earlier, Kathi placed in this, her first 50K! Matt finished strong on his bum ankle. Brad finished strong after getting through stomach issues. This was my new friend Jon’s first 50K and he absolutely killed it! Ila finished strong, ready for her next race, (which was the next day). Brett got second place in the 50 mile! Erin had a solid, good race. Miguel set an incredibly epic PR! He later had a brilliant idea to start a campfire, so we collected wood. I was informed that my wood-gathering skills are “legit”. It’s nice to have your skills be recognized.

At the end of the day, Matt and I started tearing down. I’m afraid I was useless. I don’t know why Jamil keeps allowing me back to volunteer. By the time it was dark, I was down to a turtle-paced hobble. I had no strength left in my upper arms to lift anything. My back and shoulders were done. However, I still had a great time tearing down- I’d never done that before and it’s amazing to see how much work goes into putting on a race! I give serious props to all RD’s everywhere. I also had the joy of watching the last 50 mile racers come across the finish line, all going strong, all with big smiles on tired faces.

I can’t wait to run this race again. It was a great day, with great views, and great friends!

* As usual, the pictures aren’t mine.

On the McDowell Mountain Frenzy Course

On the McDowell Mountain Frenzy Course

Finish Line!

Finish Line!

Solemates Cool Your Ass 6 Hour Inaugural Race

I had a race this past weekend, a six hour race. I wasn’t sure what to expect from it because up until that point, I had only ever run races that were a set amount of distance to cover as quickly as possible. This was exactly the reverse; cover as much distance as possible in the set amount of time.

The six hour event that I ran began at 2pm. There were two course options and a number of other race options, including two other six hour races, two 12 hours events, a 24 hour event, and a 100 mile event. My course was on the Brownlow Trail of Pioneer Park in Prescott, AZ. The Brownlow is a 3.15 mile loop. For this race, the idea was to run this entire loop as many times as possible in the given amount of time. All of the spectators congregated at the start line, and this is also where the main aid station was. There was one more aid station with just water that was about half way through the Brownlow loop.

The name of the event, “Cool Your Ass” (put on by Solemates Ultra Running Events) shows the expectation that the temperatures in Prescott (‘Preskitt’) are cooler than in the Phoenix valley. And while this is generally true, the temperatures on this day were still fairly brutal. On the drive from the valley, Matt and I watched the temperature gauge drop about 10 degrees to land in the high 90’s. When we opened our car doors, the heat was stifling. We found a spot to set up our chairs and cooler, and then tried to hide in the shade, knowing that we would soon be running in this heat, completely exposed to the sun. There were some clouds in the distance, and we hoped that they would quickly head our way.

Our friend Dawn came through the aid station as we were waiting to start and we chatted with her for a bit. She was running the 12 hour race that started at 7 that morning. She said she was struggling. The heat was getting to her and she was dealing with some nausea. She said the course was just gentle rolling hills, but when you’re seeing those hills for the ninth time, they don’t seem so gentle anymore. With a smile and a wave, she pressed on again before it was time for us to start.

The race director, Mark, gave the three of us who were running this race (me, one other girl, and my friend Matt) a brief rundown of the course. He then counted down and we were off!

Matt & I at the start

Matt & I at the start (Photo Credit: Dan Munsell)

As with any race, I started a little bit faster than I cared to, but in this instance, I wasn’t too far off. My main thought was to settle into a steady pace and just keep moving. I would walk any hills that were big, but otherwise keep running. The first lap was exploratory, of course. I got to know the course and its climbs, and I enjoyed the smells of the pines. I believe that there must have been rain recently because the dust on the trail was extremely minimal. The sun was beating down on me, but I could feel my mid-day heat training runs of the past few months doing their job. I was warm, but not bothered by the heat. To give myself a little bit of an edge, I’d actually loaded my sports bra with ice and this helped to cool me further (an upside to being a girl!). After that first lap, I settled into a comfortable pace.

Things went really well and I have nothing interesting to discuss until lap 5. During that lap I experienced some nausea. I have never had nausea during a run before. I’m guessing it was the heat. By the time I felt it, I was about 14 miles in and the temperature was probably still in the 90’s. Thankfully the nausea was very minimal, just a hint. I backed off on my pace a bit and made sure I was drinking. This helped and it went away. Unfortunately, this was also the lap where I lost Matt. A couple of weeks prior he suffered a major sprained ankle. It was moving pretty well, but, likely due to some compensation, some of his other muscles started having issues. He told me to go and he’d catch me, but I didn’t get to run with him again.

Trucking along

Trucking along (Photo Credit: Dan Munsell)

When I finished my fifth lap, I saw that I was two minutes ahead of the time I wanted to be at, so I stopped at the aid station and took a quick break, hoping to see Matt. When my two minutes were up, I took off again.

Lap 6 was good and it was somewhere around this lap that the clouds finally made their way over, providing some shade and a few raindrops. On lap 7 I started to feel the beginnings of fatigue, especially in my quads. However, I was still moving pretty well and feeling okay. Periodically I felt the hint of nausea and continued to manage it as before, without any major issues. Upon completing lap 8, I saw Matt at the aid station. He said he couldn’t go anymore and was done. I took off for lap 9 and I struggled, fully understanding what Dawn meant about the rolling hills on the ninth lap. I felt like I was moving as fast as I could, but I was very tired, and I didn’t want to see the loop anymore. My hope was to get back to the start line no later than 7:25 because that would give me a chance to finish one more loop, for a total of 10 loops, in the allotted time. When I came back in it was 7:30 and I knew I was done.

This was supposed to be a jump...

This was supposed to be a jump… (Photo Credit: Dan Munsell)

I sat down and Matt grabbed a coke for me to guzzle (mmmm… coke). I was disappointed I hadn’t made 10 loops, but I felt good about my effort and knew I’d done my best. Plus, and most importantly, I’d enjoyed myself!

As I rested for a bit before getting ready to leave, I enjoyed getting to watch some other runners come through, including Rich, who ended up winning the 100 mile race. He’d already been running for 12 hours when he came in through the aid station looking strong.

My total distance was 28.3 miles in about 5 ½ hours. As I thought back to my last race of this magnitude, I could see some major differences. I felt so much better this time than that time, and I think a huge part of that is that this time I knew how to pace myself better. During the race, I knew what fatigue to expect and how to mentally deal with it. I understood the value of walking the major up-hills, and speed walking periodically as needed. I also stayed on top of my fluid and food intake.

Running long distance is, of course, not easy and because of that, it is not something that I can do all by myself. During training, I know myself well enough to understand that it is highly unlikely that I will go out for a long run by myself. I NEED people who are willing to push with me. During those training runs I learn little bits about myself and my physical needs, and I learn from the experiences of others. I think the person I have learned the most from is Dawn. Dawn is an amazing runner. She has been running her whole adult life, has finished innumerable ultras, and is a wealth of practical running knowledge. Quite often on long runs and races I think of her and her steady pace. She begins a race at a good pace for her, and then she just keeps going. Whether she feels great or miserable doesn’t matter, there is always a smile on her face and a kind word of encouragement. She also knows when her body has had enough and it’s time to quit. For my first ultra-race, I ran with Dawn. Staring at the back of her heels was what kept me going. For this race, I just kept thinking of her and again, though she wasn’t physically with me, the wisdom she has imparted to me kept me going. Thank you Dawn.

I also need to say thank you to the spectators and resting runners at the start line. Every time a runner came around the corner to cross the lap line, they cheered. Somewhere along the way they found a cowbell and rang that as well. Having people cheering and encouraging you when you are running (and especially if you’re feeling crappy) is wonderful! They buoyed my spirits every time I came through.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this race! This was an inaugural race, but it was very well done. The aid station had plenty of food and drinks to choose from. The race directors were exceedingly kind and helpful as were the volunteers. There were small glitches here and there, but nothing that was a big deal, and glitches happen even at races that have been around for years. The people and the atmosphere were fun, and everyone was so happy for each other’s accomplishments. I think a great thing about a race that is hour based rather than distance based is that it gives anyone, regardless of their fitness level, a chance to go out and see what they can do. I look forward to running this race and other Solemates races in the future!

On a side note…

Solemate CYA 1st Place Female (Little Donkey refers to the loop I ran)

Solemate CYA 1st Place Female (Little Donkey refers to the loop I ran) -By Me

I’d say I did okay!