It rained, thundered, and there was wind during the night. I did not sleep very well, but managed to get a few hours. Once again, a little water got in my tent. My alarm went off at 4 am and I shut if off and fell back asleep. I woke up at 4:40 am and heard signs of life. Even with the race starting at 6 am, I was the first person to turn in my drop bags at 5 am. Since the course was out and back we could access our bags 4 times. The course which varies from each year had to be changed last week due to too many downed trees on part of the trail.
I was surprised to be walking. I had taken 2 Ibuprofen before bed and 2 when I got up. My left ankle hurt just slightly but once I walked around everything felt good. I did not even notice any muscle soreness. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started running. I ate the same breakfast as the day before and then dressed for the race. It was 48F but humid so again opted for just a short sleeved shirt.
After a very important pre-race briefing so we would know what trails to follow, we were off in the dark at with our headlamps. We were to follow the trail with the blue blazes and also some different multicolored tape each day. By the time we reached the first aid station at 9.5 miles, it would be light and we could leave our headlamps. The first mile was excruciatingly painful. I decided to start with Ashley since that worked out well the first day. We went up hill for at least a mile and I really wondered if I was going to feel this awful for the entire 50 miles. Once that mile was over I started to feel better, but more of the same kind of hills came sooner rather than later. I realized at some point that I had forgotten to wear my right ankle compression support that I wore the day before. Too late so I hoped everything would be okay.
My GPS only worked for 6 miles. At 6 miles were running right next to rocky cliffs so no way to get a signal. Splits up to this point were M1 – 13:48, M2 – 11:36, M3 – 11:21, M4 – 14:45, M5 – 11:04, M6 – 11:07. I was pretty much staying with Andy P. and Ashley and feeling okay. There were a lot of downed trees on this section and it became very tiring climbing over or going around these trees every few yards in some cases. At mile 9.5 we dropped off our lights and then it started to rain, but stopped in about 15 min. I ran with Ashley and Andy until about mile 22 and then started falling behind. I must have been losing it at this point since I don’t remember a lot of details.
I do remember at some aid station they told us there would be a code word at the 25 mi turn-around. I also noticed I had only drunk one of my small bottles since the last aid station which wasn’t enough water. I started feeling worse and walking up more hills. I remember Ashley yelling back if I was okay and I said I was okay. At this point we were looking for white blazes on trees and it didn’t even look like a trail to me. It looked like someone had dumped rocks in the woods and I had to keep looking for the next tree with the white blaze to figure out which direction to go. I was really not looking forward to more than 25 miles to go and likely going them alone. I was craving sugar and took an Accelerade Gel and almost immediately felt better. I had been using several kinds (Hammer, Power Shots, and Power Shot Blocks).
I see Andy P. and Ashley heading back so know I am close to the turn around. Within 10 minutes I am there and head back at 5 hrs 15 min. I drank all of my water on the way back to the aid station. Nicole had volunteered for the 50 miler and she was at this aid station. She filled my bottles and I just kept eating handful after handful of M&Ms and I think a few Gold Fish and drinking several cups of water. I continue on and am thinking if I don’t see Jeff and Allan in the next 20 min, they aren’t going to make the cut off. I see a few people and don’t really remember much of what we said.
At about 6+ hrs?, I get to a tree with a white blaze and am looking around wondering which way to go next. I turn around and Jeff is there. I ask him if he had already turned around which I should have known he hadn’t. I then realize he is coming from the way I need to go. I am also thinking he is going to be close to making the cut off. After this, the M&Ms must have kicked in soon since mentally I am feeling better. Physically, I am having a hard time making myself run especially up any hills. I am feeling like I will be able to finish but it isn’t going to be pretty. I am also peeing a lot and it is now clear.
At 6 hrs, 50 min, I see Allan. The cutoff at the turn around is 7 hrs. I knew there was no way he would make it and asked him what happened. He had missed the pre-race briefing, made a wrong turn, went 4 miles back to the start to look at the map so was behind 8 miles or he would have easily made it. He figured they would pull him off the course. I continued on wondering how long it would take me to finish. Thinking, can I do this in 11 hrs? I keep reminding myself to run when I can. I’m even having a hard time making myself run down hills and had to walk up hills. I hear one of my water bottles drop one, look for it, and can’t find it so I move on.
I make it to the 31.5 aid station and pick up some more of my gels and refill my 3 bottles. The next station is at 40.5 miles. I keep thinking in my head how long it will take. I ran the first half at 12:36/mi so I am thinking if I can keep at least a 15 min pace, I would be at 40.5 in 2 hrs 20 min. It takes me a little over 2.5 hrs to go 9 miles. Knowing 11 hrs isn’t going to happen I think 12 hrs might be possible. I then realize 12.5 hrs would be more realistic since I keep falling behind.
The volunteer at 40.5 mi tells me that everyone is saying this is the hardest 50 miler they have ever done. I told her it was my first one and I ran the 50K yesterday. I told her how far I had fallen behind since the turn around but they tell me I am doing great. She had my water bottle I dropped earlier. My bottles have my name on them and someone had given it to an aid station in between. Nicole was there and figured it was mine and they had it for me at this aid station. I didn’t expect I would see it again. They keep offering me all kinds of food. I think the only thing I ate was M&Ms. I verify that I know the course and move on.
At some point I see the photographer and in some rocks and wonder how he got there. I can’t wait to see some of these pictures. Mentally, I’m feeling good but just not able to push my pace. I have reached the section of trail again where there were more fallen trees than usual and now could barely pull myself over or duck myself under them. At about 45 miles, I hear a runner behind me. He says something like he is surprised to see me. It is Pat, a runner from Kansas City. I remembered him from the Berryman Trail last year.
I let him around and then notice myself running again. I notice I am keeping up and things are starting to click. He is talking to me and saying he feels good to be running with a 3 hr marathoner. I am running down hill again, and managing the technical parts quite well. My legs are going over trees again. I’m feeling more like I did for the first 22 miles of the race. He asks if I want to pass him and I told him I needed to stay behind. I needed the motivation. Eventually, the trail starts descending down hill so we know we are getting close to the end. He bangs his knee on one of trees we have to climb over and stops in pain. I wait and we continue on.
We see someone on the hill down and they tell us we are almost there. He says we will finish together and once again I find myself finishing with another runner. I’m sure I would have taken 15 min longer if he hadn’t pulled me along to the finish. We finish in 12:17:20. So after running a fairly decent first half in 12:36 pace, I run the second half in 16:54 pace and as slow as that sounds I was running more than 70% of the time. Average pace was 14:45. I was happy to just have finished my first 50 miler alive after running 30 miles the day before. The course was treacherous and difficult, but overall enjoyable even if not the pace I wanted. And I didn’t get lost on my own for most of the time.
I’m starving and immediately go get some rice, beans, and sausage. I then sat down on the ground and eat near the finish area. I seriously wondered if I could get up, but managed to get up and get another bowl of food. Allan had been pulled off the course but seemed to be doing well. It is getting dark and I decide to forgo the creek and shower, thinking Jeff should finish about the time I get back.
After I get back, he had already finished. He finished a little earlier than I expected and had picked up some time on the second half. He ran it in about 6.5 hrs and it took me 7 hrs after I run the first half in 5:15. He finished before 8 pm so had made the cut off. We are both thinking we are going to be walking the 20K the next day with 6 hrs to finish.
I quickly prepared my stuff after Jeff, Andy, and Nicole went to their cabin. Nicole decided to stay an extra day so she could see us finish. I prepared my stuff for the 20K and went to bed at 9 pm and slept very soundly for 10 hrs and there were no storms during the night.