First off, my apologies for being so silent for the past few weeks. You know it’s time to post when you get “umm, are you alive?” emails from readers! Things have been nuts at work and I’ve been going out almost every night (thank you taper and recovery!) so my “free time” is filled with things like showering. But alas, I have a race report to give you!
Two weekends ago I headed up to Maine to run my first ultra since January of 2011—the Big Brad 50 miler. I picked out this race specifically as a good jumpstart to my HURT100 training: the elevation gain was about as much as you could find for a race in this area this time of year. Although it was a little earlier in the season than I preferred, it was really inexpensive and 3 hours from my house, so it quickly got bumped up to the top of my racing list!
The day before the race (Saturday) I hit the road after dropping Kaipo off with a friend. On the way up, I stopped to have lunch with my lovely Rev3 teammate Jen. We stuffed our faces and gossiped and did the obligatory selfie:
At one point she asked me to hold Lola. I think Jen forgot I no longer had my swimming muscles:
After lunch I headed up to Freeport, Maine and had some time to kill before I checked into my hotel. I wandered around the outlets (I may have bought an amazing pair of JCrew slacks on sale!) and then stocked up on food at a local natural foods market. After my shopping, I headed over to the high-roller Super8 to check in. I walked up to the counter and told the attendant I had a reservation. He asked “would it be under another name?” At this point my heart dropped. I quickly pulled up my reservation online, only to realize I had mistakenly booked a room in Freeport….Idaho. Right as I was about to panic, he told me they still had rooms available and I switched over my reservation. Crisis averted.
Once I got settled into my room I pulled out my booty from the Natural Food store and assembled a dinner. Here’s the “complete” meal I was able to come up with from the slim pickings at the store (Broccoli, Thai Tofu Curry, potato chips, a can of tuna, and two brown ales):
After dinner I put on some bad reality TV, tried to relax, and focus on the race. The week at work had been so hectic that I was definitely not in the “I’m running 50 miles tomorrow” mindset, so I tried to get into the groove by scouring the race maps and thinking “HOLY CRAP I’M RUNNING 50 MILES TOMORROW!” After debating what to wear in the 50-60 degree temps, I settled on my race outfit (I ended up shedding the arm warmers before the race and going with a lightweight shell jacket):
A couple of beers and several “Catfish” episodes later, it was time for bed. I slept pretty soundly and was jarred awake by my 4am alarm. Time to get to business! I had my typical pre-race breakfast of 4 cups of coffee and a giant bowl of peanut butter and banana oatmeal. I dressed in layers and headed to registration. I knew that only 30 people or so had signed up for the 50 miler (there was a 50k option that started later in the day too) so wasn’t surprised to see a very chill registration. We gathered in the Elementary School gym. I made small talk with some of the other participants, then we had our pre-race meeting. Once everyone got checked in we headed over to the start line in the darkness. With headlamps ablaze we lined up under the finish banner. The race director counted down….and we were off!
The race begins with everyone doing a 3.5 mile loop of Bradbury Mountain. From the very beginning we go straight up. Like eager bunnies, we all took off with a flourish. In the darkness we carefully navigated the rocks and roots. I saw a few people take a nose dive, and everyone was twisting ankles (myself included). I had no awareness of where I was; I simply just followed the feet in front of me.
Once we finished the first 3.5 mile loop, we had enough ambient light to ditch our headlamps and head back out for the “real” part of the course: 3, 15.5 mile loops. I headed out on the first loop with two other men. We spent the whole loop chatting and ended up going way faster than we should have (we made the rookie mistake of going out way too fast). We basically ran every part of the loop, including the uphills. The course was really technical, so I was turning my ankle a lot and in general beating up my feet. We finished the first loop–19 miles (including the 3.5 mile section) in 3 1/2 hours. I knew we had been moving way too fast. Since my feet were so battered I decided to switch out of my first pair of shoes and into my “moon shoes” (very glad I made that decision). I grabbed some pringles, a pb&j and booked it back out on the trail.
Once we started the second loop, I quickly pulled back from the guys. I knew they were moving way faster than I should be. I decided to go at my own pace, which meant power walking the uphills and blasting the downhills. The first part of the loop I felt really good, but a few miles later I started feeling woozy. I started to mentally calculate calories consumed and realized I was likely in a caloric hole (by now we were over 4 hours into the race). I also realized I could probably take in some electrolytes. I popped some electrolyte tabs and then walked for a few minutes to try to feel better. I was feeling pretty low at this point: I just wanted to walk everything and had a bad mental attitude. At around the marathon mark I remember thinking “oh my GOD I have to do a whole other marathon?!?” and was not in my happy place. . At mile 28 I ran into two men who were having a much worse day than I was, so I tried to put it all in perspective. I came through the next aid station. Not wanting to eat anything, I started taking in coke and mountain dew at aid stations—this saved me. At mile 30 I was completely ready to pull out of the race (“it shouldn’t hurt this bad” is how I reasoned it) but 2 miles later (after 4 cups of mountain dew) I was a whole new woman and was tiggering through the forest.
I knew that I needed to get in and out of the “home base” aid station as quickly as possible in order to ignore the voices in my head screaming for me to stop. I came in the checkpoint, grabbed a cup of mountain dew and a baby pickle, then dashed back up the hill into the woods. Just 15.5 miles left to go–15.5 of the hardest miles yet! Although my legs were dead, I managed to continue my strategy of power walking the uphills and doing a slow jog on the flats and downhills. At this point it just turned into a “just go through the motions” strategy. I made sure to take in a few cups of mountain dew at each aid station, plus whatever else felt good at the time. I alternated between pringles and swedish fish. The miles slowly ticked by.
Before I knew it, I was in the final 5k of the race. With no other racers in sight (and no headphones/music aloud) I was doing the best I could to entertain myself. I remember vividly (and during other parts of the race) to look down at my legs and yell “SHUT UUUUUUP!” I remember one time thinking I was alone and let out the loudest, longest fart only to hear “hey, I’ve caught up to you again” from the racer behind me (we both got a good laugh out of that one). I remember pain moving from my hip flexors to my calves to my quads and then back to my hip flexors again. I remember some aid station volunteer declaring me “Ms. Cranky Pants.” It’s funny how a whole day can just blur together when you’re out on the trails.
Needless to say, I was very, very happy to make the final turn towards home. I looked at my watch and thought “if I run this downhill as fast as I can I might break 10:45. So I FLEW down that hill with every ounce of speed in my body. I was totally out of control, and well aware of the fact that with one false step I could crack my head open on rock, but once I get a goal in my head I’m unstoppable. I screamed down the hill and crossed the finish. 10:45:25.
And the icing on the cake? I got 2nd female! (Okay, so I later found out I actually finished DFL and only 3 females started, but whatever…I earned that!) Here was my awesome trophy:
I didn’t have time to celebrate because I had to hit the road to drive myself 3 hours back home less than 30 minutes after I finished. You can imagine how that went…not good whatsoever. My legs were seizing every few minutes and it was STUPIDLY dangerous, but I just wanted to get home and sleep in my own bed. My legs actually felt pretty decent the days after the race (likely due to all the strength training I’ve done!) with one exception: my Achilles. It was tight for a few days after the race and I didn’t really think much of it, but over the past few days it’s been getting worse and worse and last night I came home and noticed it was doing creaking (technical term crepitus) when I moved it—all signs of Achilles tendinopathy.
To say I’m bummed would be an understatement. I haven’t had any issues with my Achilles since college, and remember it was a LONG recovery. I’m starting to wonder if it’s stupid to consider continuing training for the HURT100—I basically only have 2 months of solid training left. Additionally, I’m going straight from HURT to this whirlwind tour of SE Asia by bike, so if I seriously injured myself during HURT it would cause major problems.
Not wanting to admit it was a tendon issue, I’ve been running and training through it, but after last night I’m on solid rest. I’m trying to get an appointment with my PT/massage therapist to try to see what he thinks. I’ve read about the assisted calf raises and will do them. I’m already stretching, rolling, icing, Compexing…I honestly don’t know what else I can do. I woke up this morning thinking I’d dreamt I injured myself, then took my first step and realized it wasn’t a dream. What do you think? Do you think I’m jumping the gun by thinking about bailing on HURT?