I watched Ryan take off in the 10k, leading the pack (turns out he would stay in the lead too, coming in for the win! Woohoo!), and then trotted off to find a place at the starting line for the 50k. Who should I see but Amy?! Come down to cheer us on! That was a great surprise!! I lined up next to Blaine, and after a few words from the race director we were off into the woods. It was crowded at the start, the trails packed to capacity, and we jostled here and there for pace and comfortable position. I had been worried about my ankle all week, and how it was going to affect my race, but honestly, other than two small missteps in the first lap on rocks when I felt a twinge, it was a total non-issue! I stayed with Blaine throughout the first lap, and it was fun to catch up with him and made the miles fly by quickly. Our pace felt comfortable, and we came back through the starting area in 58:00ish. A little slower than last year's first lap, but it seemed reasonable and pretty close to what I was shooting for. Blaine stopped for a bathroom break, and I ran on past the crew, saying hello but continuing on without stopping.
At the start of lap 2, a guy caught up to me and commented, "Last year, you ran by me on that last hill on the last lap, light on your feet, happy and cheery. It was very inspirational, and at the same time, very demoralizing." Ha! We had fun chatting for a short while. Turns out he was only running the 1/2 marathon this year due to other obligations, but as he sped off, I told him I'd try to do the same on the last hill this year. Oh the foreshadowing! For the rest of the lap, I ended up running on and off with a woman named Shera - we had fun chatting, and leapfrogging along the trail. She was from Rhode Island, running her first ultra, and amazingly enough, she even knew about the Trail Monsters! The name has gained fame in the ultra community for sure, which is very cool!
I came back through the starting area in around 1:56 at the end of lap 2 feeling good. The day had warmed up by now and the sun was out in full force, but it was still comfortable in the shade of the woods. I dropped a bit of trash, found out that Ryan had won the 10k, grabbed a packet of Honeystinger Chews and was off. I'm a bit hazy on the details, but somewhere in the midst of lap 3, I started to feel some heaviness in my legs, and once again felt that familiar feeling in my stomach, like I just wasn't interested in the fuel I was carrying. My mouth was also very dry. But I continued on, thinking I could just power through. At some point, Nathan ran past, light on his feet, floating along as if he were just out for a jog in the woods, which I suppose, in training for a 100, a marathon might feel like :-) In any event, there was no question he was feeling and looking strong. I wish I could have stayed with him, but I knew right off that that was not to be and let him go. Right near the edge of the woods, I came up on Chandra, finishing her longest race ever, the half marathon! It was fun cheering her on during that last stretch! Way to go, Chandra! I had slowed down on this lap a bit, but was still feeling fairly positive as I headed through the start area. Ryan asked me if I had any trash, to which I waved my hand at my stomach. He understood and told me to keep eating. I grabbed a packed of Gu Chomps and took back off.
Lap 4 was the low point for sure. I started to feel a bit woozy out there, and could barely get any of my fuel down. I was drinking as much as I was able. I felt hot. I felt odd. I started to contemplate stopping. I was not in a very good place. And mostly, I was alone, trudging along through the woods, just putting one foot in front of each other. Around mile 22, my quads started to seize up. What the heck!? What was wrong with me!? At that point, I just let go of my goal time and put my head down. It was now just a question of getting through it. As I got back to the start area, Ryan was waiting at the edge the woods. I told him I wasn't feeling good. I was dizzy. My stomach hurt. My quads hurt. He suggested some Coke, which tasted wonderful! I dropped my hydration pack and picked up my handheld, filled with water. Ryan stuffed my shorts pockets with a few chips as I walked around the aid station, and then just like that, I was off once again. There was no question I would go out for the last lap. It was just a question of how long I would be out there :-) There was a bit of a boost knowing it was the last lap. The water tasted clean and refreshing. I managed to run the whole loop except for the one short little hill towards the beginning, but it was S-L-O-W going! The loop felt like it would never end. I was out there for much much longer than I would have liked to have been, or would have hoped. But I simply could do nothing more. Finally, when I hit the last stretch of road before the field, I willed my legs to GO! I pushed it as much as I could across the finish line, and then promptly told Ryan and Amy "that sucked!" :-) Ah, yes, and we're out here for the fun of it, right?!
Final push to the finish
In any event, I ended up finishing in 5:08 by my Garmin with a distance of 31.3 (which is longer than last year's race read by 0.75 miles, which is interesting), way off my hoped-for-goal of 4:45 and much slower than last year's time of 4:52. It was just not my day. I'm not even quite sure why. It seemed as if the heat got to me, as did my fueling yet again. I was covered in salt when I finished, yet managed to polish off the whole 40+ oz. of Nuun in my hydration pack plus 12 oz. of water in my handheld while I was out there. I didn't eat much, just 1 packet of Honeystinger Chews, 1 Gu and 2 packets of Gatorade Chews, plus 2 or 3 chips. I was very surprised at how much my quads hurt by the time I was done. I don't think I've ever had that happen before in an ultra. Was it dehydration? Salt imbalance? Repetitive use of the muscle based on the relatively flat course? Who knows... In any event, I'm proud I toughed it out and I did end up coming in 4th woman, so I guess I can't complain too much. I simply wished that my time reflected my training, and what I felt I could accomplish, a bit more accurately. But, as Valerie, says, running long is always an adventure. You just never quite know what you're going to get :-)
In all of this, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the Trail Animals, as usual, put on a great race. The trail was well-marked, the volunteers were helpful, the atmosphere was fun and lively. Definitely a good race to run. And of course, awesome job to all the Trail Monsters racing on Saturday! There were some great results - very impressive. And thank you especially to Ryan and Amy for being a great cheering and support crew! I really appreciate it :-) Trail Monsters rock!
Official time - 5:06:58