Nearly a month after my first 50k, I finally have time to write about it. ‘Finally have time’ is due to the fact that I’m lying in bed on a perfectly good Saturday because my immune system isn’t very happy with me, so maybe that will answer the non-burning question all two of you reading this will have: “Did you give yourself enough time to recover?” Evidently not, as it turns out. But more about that another day.
So, back to the exciting bit: I ran a 50K! AND I somehow WON that 50k. I could give you a full play-by-play, but I’ll just skip to the highlights of my experience at the Desert Rats Trail Running Festival in Fruita, CO.
1) The weather was predicted to be awful. It was not. It was overcast and chilly but no rain--perfect running weather, in other words. However, I left Denver early enough that I didn’t get stuck on I-70 like many less fortunate racers who spent upwards of 10-hours trying to get there. Rock on for sticking with it, friends.
2) Gemini Adventures puts on an awesome race. The communication, maps, aide stations, volunteers, etc...all amazing. I will race with them again, for sure.
3) I bit it, and I bit it hard. It wasn’t just a fall. It was a “Hey everyone behind me, I’d like to celebrate reaching mile four by showing off my Parkour skills” fall. Thank you, gymnastics, for giving me flexible noodles instead of tendons, because anyone else would have snapped something. Me? My Gumby legs just folded all over the place until I was able to hop back up and keep running. I have some gnarly scars as a result.
4) Those extra five miles beyond the marathon distance feel like an extra marathon. I know this now. I hit mile 26 and the aide station had flat coke as a beverage option. In spite of not drinking soda in about a decade, a tiny voice in my head told me it was a great idea…and it was. It helped me stagger up the next hill and eventually finish.
5) This course is bananas, in a beautiful way. I’m not great with heights, but in spite of the shelf I was running on for large portions of time, I felt great. I only had two moments of panic about running on a cliff edge. The first was when I saw a bunch of cows grazing, and I had the totally random thought of “If you charged me right now, I’d have to jump off this cliff, so don’t do that.” (In my defense one time a bull got a little frisky with me when I was running down a country road, so this particular neuroses has foundation in truth, unlike most of my other ones.) The second was towards the very end when the wind picked up and my legs were weak…and I resorted to an addition to my age-old Finding Nemo mantra of “Just keep runningdontlookdown…Just keep runningdontlookdown…”
6) My mind is tougher than I thought. It’s been a hectic 2016 with some big life changes and a move, and while I was able to cover the appropriate amount of distance to train for this race, I did not have enough time to do strength training, nor did I have enough time to run trails and hills as much as I needed to. Because of both of these things I was extremely apprehensive, but also really committed to finishing this race. I pulled it off, in large part, I think, because of my stubborn nature.
So there you have it. After I finished the race, I was certainly on a high, but I also felt a tremendous sense of loss. This race, and training for it, kept me sane and focused during a really challenging series of life events. The outcome of the race could not have been more jubilant for me given how much I was using the training as emotional refuge, but having to take a break from the safe space that is distance running during a time when I still needed it was harder than I expected. But, I did manage a full week off with lots of walks and hikes and happy dogs. Now the big question is…do I start training for a 50 miler this year, or wait until next year?!