My First Ultra recap! Huh, this is a difficult one to write about. But here is my attempt.
I registered for the Lake Young Nuts Trail 50K race shortly after I came back from the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in Florida. I thought, if I can do the Dopey Challenge…what’s a 50K race?!
To my dismay, it was a whole new territory. I arrived on Saturday and my husband drove me to where the race start would be on Sunday. There was a hiker sitting on a picnic table there, getting ready for his walk. So, out of curiosity we asked him how the trails were like. He went into great detail about how there are a number of trail races held each year, and the same trail holds a 100 & 200 miles race in the summer. He said, “I don’t quite understand how these guys can go around the trails for hours and hours, and the 200 milers – they would camp overnight and carry on running the next day. I was so intrigued by what he told me. He said some neighbors would watch the racers run past their houses, and they would offer them food and the occasional cheer to each passing runner. My husband went on to ask him how steep the trails were and the answer was “quite steep, but pretty”. Okay, so the beauty part calmed my nerves, however, as we went for a short walk up the trails, the hills were definitely steep! Well…too late! Couldn’t turn back at this point. The race was taking place the next day!
The next morning, I showed up at the start at about 5:30 a.m. I opted for an early start, as it was my first 50K. The weather was cool and it was a very foggy morning. Somehow, arriving at the venue was very calm & peaceful. Checked in with the Race Director, got my bib, and lined up for washroom (outhouse). I swear to God I could have fallen into the toilet. So freaking dark and misty in there!
With the Race Director calling out the start…. 1 minute to go, I was filled with so much excitement. Every early starter had a head-lamp. And as we all ran off into the darkness of the trail, all we saw was a few lights bouncing off from the headlamps onto the trails. It was very peaceful; a feeling I never get from running road races/marathons! Very early on, less than a km in, we had already approached this big hill! But, at this point, there were still a couple of runners ahead, so I wasn’t feeling alone. However, as the distance grew longer, it very much became a solo race. We ran for about 45 minutes before the natural light peeked through the heavy fog, which meant time to turn off the headlamp.
For the first loop of the race, we were told to run counter-clockwise (I don’t know why). It was really hilly (for an ultra marathon rookie!). And yet…I plowed along, soon realizing that 2 hours had gone by and I had already made it back to the start. For each loop we completed, we had to check in with the volunteers and the Race Director to allow them to record your time. On the table were lots of goodies: cookies, gummy bears, donuts, ginger ale, coke, water, pretzels, and chips. So…full of abundant energy, I grabbed a bunch of cookies and off I went to start my second loop. We had a choice of going clockwise or the same way for the 2nd loop – I chose to run the same way (counter-clockwise). The second loop didn’t feel that hard either. I completed it in almost the exact time as my first loop. At this point, since I was an early starter, I saw a few elite runners pass me by. They literally whipped by me and disappeared into the trails ahead. I also saw some runners going the other direction. Everyone was very friendly!
I arrived at the volunteer station one minute faster than my first loop. I felt great! This time I grabbed myself a cup of water and some cookies, and off I went for the third loop. The first half hour was okay, but then it dawned on me that I’ve never really raced this distance before. I kept checking the distance on my watch, 22 miles, 23 miles…and soon I came upon the 26th mile.
I don’t know how I managed the last 5 miles. It seemed eternal. For the completion of the 3rd loop (each loop being 9.2 miles), we had to check in. With about 3 miles to go, the real pain and TORTURE began. Nevertheless, I was eager to finish my first 50k under 6.5 hours. Well… I came close. My finishing time was 6:34.
Attached you will see a picture of the last bit of climb we had to do (which was the final mile). I almost fell backwards, the hill was so steep! Had I not walked the last little bit, I would have made my finishing time goal. But, heck, everyone was walking…except the elites!
But the glory of finishing an ultra, my first ultra, was really priceless! Without pain, there is no glory. My kudos to all ultra-marathoners out there. It really is a test of your own faith and will-power.
Now that I have joined the ranks of an ultra-marathoner, it has brought me so much pride and joy! I will, in the near future, step into the ultra-world of running again! Until then…