A couple of months ago, after I had successfully run my very first marathon, I got the crazy idea that maybe I could do something special for my upcoming 50th birthday. Like run a 50K. So I searched the internet for a race. I had several criteria. It had to be on or within a day or two of my birthday, it couldn't have any monster hills, and it had to have a very generous cutoff time. The answer to my search was the Jack Bristol Lake Waramaug Ultra. I waited a couple of weeks to make sure this still sounded like a good idea after the euphoria of my first marathon wore off and then sent in my application.
Arrival in Connecticut
Fast forward to this weekend. I arrived in Connecticut on Saturday and spent the night in Danbury. It seemed like I was surrounded by runner karma. From the shuttle van driver who was contemplating signing up for his first 3K race to my waiter who was going to run a relay from Harvard to Yale in a couple of weeks. I managed to tell just about everyone I had contact with that I was turning 50 tomorrow and that I was celebrating it by running a 50K. I got to the hotel around 2 pm, so I drove the 25 miles or so to the race course. The countryside was beautiful and the road around the lake that I would be running on didn't seem too hilly. After my carbo load dinner, I settled in on my computer to see if I could Google any race reports. I ran across UltraBrit's blog and saw that she would be volunteering at the race. I left her a comment and then tried to get some sleep.
I got a fairly good night's sleep and woke up about 30 minutes before my alarm went off. I took a shower, ate some oatmeal, and checked the weather report online. Still forecast to be in the 80's. I also saw that Dane and Blaine of the Biggest Loser had run the Nashville Country Music Marathon in a time of 5:47. I got out my calculator and figured out that I would have to run a 6:50 to run at the same pace they ran the marathon in. I know, I know, I had promised myself that I had absolutely no time goals, but this time got stuck in my mind the morning of my 50K. (Side note, check out Absolut(ly) Fit's blog, she got to run the whole marathon with these guys!) I also checked my blog and saw that UltraBrit would be working the aid station with the monkey, cool, I would have a friendly face to look for! Now time was running short, so I packed my stuff, covered my body with Glide, and drove to Lake Waramaug.
As soon as I got out of the car, I was swarmed with bugs. They weren't biting or stinging bugs, but they sure were annoying. I thought, "oh great, not only do I have to contend with heat, now I'm also going to have bugs chasing me for 31 miles". I made my way to the registration area/start line/finish line/aid station and picked up my race packet. I also checked out the aid station goodies. Besides water and gatorade that you find at a marathon, they also had salty, sugary, and chocolately goodies. Also first aid supplies like vaseline, S-caps, Ibuprophen, and one that puzzled me, Tums. I then went back to my car to put on Julie Berg's magic Foot Potion and slather myself with sunscreen. By now it was time for race director Carl Hunt's safety briefing. He described the course, told us that it was going to be hot and to stay hydrated, and mentioned that all the aid station workers were either ultra runners themselves or were related to ultra runners, and that they were well trained in lying and telling runners that they were looking good even though they weren't. I didn't look at my watch, but I figured I had enough time to use the real flush toilets about 100 yards up the hill before the start.
Oops, I guess I didn't have enough time to use the flush toilets. Apparently while I was in the bathroom, they started the race. I walked out and saw a herd of runners heading down the road. No worries, it was going to be a long day, so I walked down the hill to the start, asked if the race had already started (it had), and was on my way. Ok, now the worries start. Within a hundred yards, I felt pain in my left shin. Now, this is not an unusual pain for me, if I haven't run in two or more days, my shins almost always hurt for about 5-10 minutes and then feel fine. So, I figured that was what this was. However, only one shin hurt, and it hurt a lot more than usual. I toughed it out for about a quarter of a mile, and then slowed to a walk. I started swearing to myself. For the next mile or so I alternated walking for 2-3 minutes, jogging for a couple of dozen yards, and swearing at myself. Then I thought about DavidRay's picture of the back of his hand after an ultra. It said HTFU. You can google the definition. So, I had the following internal dialogue with myself. "Hey, its your birthday, you came here to have fun. Quit your bitching. You have 12 hours to cover 31 miles. Its a beautiful day for a walk around the lake. Quit your bitching and enjoy yourself. Appreciate the lovely day and quit your bitching!" After that I mentally turned a corner. My shin still hurt and I still could only run a couple of dozen yards at a time, but I stopped swearing at myself and started to enjoy the day. At about this time, the lead runners had reached the 2.2 mile turn around point and started running by me in the opposite direction. All offered encouraging words to this sorry looking person at the very back (remember, I started two minutes late, plus I was doing a lot of walking, so I wasn't even close to the back of the pack). I waved at all of them, and told them they were doing great, and kept on going. I reached the aid station/turn around point, refilled my water bottle, and kept doing my run/mostly walking thing. Then something amazing happened. Somewhere around the 3 mile point, as I was doing my couple of dozen yard run, I realized that my shin no longer hurt. I guess it realized that I was serious about doing this 50K thing and that trying to sabotage me wasn't doing any good. So I kept right on running. I had planned on alternating running 10 minutes with walking one minute, so I continued running for 10 minutes, then walked for a minute. I arrived at the start/stop line aid station, topped off my water bottle and was on my way. As I left, I heard someone remark to someone else "she's looking strong". I'm guessing some of the people who had seen me the first two miles had expressed some concern to the people running this aid station. Hearing that remark made me smile and feel great.
After the out and back, we ran the 7.6 miles around the lake three times. There were 4 aid stations, so we were never more than 2.2 miles from aid. At each aid station, I looked for a monkey so I could say hi to UltraBrit, but I didn't see a monkey during my first loop. The volunteers were wonderful, everytime I came to a station they asked me, "what do you need?" Since this was my first ultra, the first couple of times I just kind of stood there as they then asked me, "do you need water, do you need ice, do you need gatorade, do you need food?" By about the third or fourth stop, I had things pretty much figured out, though. I was carrying a water bottle, and in 2 miles I would drink about 1/3 to 1/2 of it, so I just had them fill it up with ice. At the start/stop aid station, I would have them fill my fuel belt bottles with ice, and then I'd go to my drop bag and fill those up with Powerade. My favorite foods were Swedish Fish and the wonderful popsicles that were at the halfway around the lake aid station. While I was running my loops around the lake, I gradually started catching up with some people and also got lapped by people. When I caught up with someone on a walk break, I usually slowed to a walk also and chatted for a few minutes. One hard core gal had run a trail race the day before and had fallen and was sporting some pretty impressive scrapes. Although there were no rock and roll bands or scream tunnels, there was plenty of random encouragement. This loop appears to be a popular one for walkers, runners, bicyclists, and motorcyclists. Although I was running alone for the majority of the time, I got dozens of thumbs up and smiles from people enjoying the day. The second time around the lake, I asked at each aid station if Ultrabrit was working there (I still hadn't seen a monkey) and I finally got to meet her briefly and say hi. Thanks for the great work! (btw, I finally did see the monkey the 4th time through the aid station). As promised, all the aid station workers were accomplished liars, and I appreciated every single one of them.
After the three loops, the 50K runners had to do 1.8 miles out and then back to finish up. During the last loop, I had spent several minutes thinking how I wanted my finish line photo to look. (My marathon photo looked like I was raising my arms in surrender.) I had decided I would have five outstretched fingers for my right hand and a clenched fist for my left hand, so that when you looked at me from the front, you would see a five and a zero for 50 years old and 50K. My stomach was feeling very slightly queasy and I decided to have a couple of those Tums that had puzzled me six hours earlier. I dropped off my handheld water bottle (so I could do my finish line pose) and hit the porta-potty. After I exited, I went back to the start/stop line and told them I would be back in 45-60 minutes and that they had to sing "Happy Birthday" when I crossed the finish line. (Yes, I know, shameless.) By now I was walking a lot more, but I still felt great and my heart rate was staying below 160. I hadn't looked at my splits at all since I had told myself to HTFU in the first two miles. I only looked at my Garmin to keep a watch on my heart rate and to keep me on schedule with S-caps and walk breaks. I passed 4-5 runners in the last 4 miles and was feeling good. I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face, and my five-oh sign flashing. Everyone was saying "Happy Birthday!" and I felt fantastic. These small races are great. The race director shakes your hand, thanks you for running the race, and then personally hands you your medal. I grabbed a diet coke (at which point another runner said "Diet! you don't need a DIET coke!") and grabbed a seat at a picnic table. I changed my shoes and socks (ZERO blisters thanks to drymax socks and magic Foot Potion) and watched and cheered more runners finishing the 50K or continuing on the 50 mile or 100K options.
After Thoughts and Numbers
I finished in 6:38 and actually beat my non-goal time goal. I really think that my sore shin helped me out. It forced me to start slow and not worry about time. In fact, according to Garmin, my last two miles were both faster than my second mile. In total, I spent 16 minutes stopped (at the two porta-potty stops and aid stations), 5 miles walking, and 26 miles jogging. I was able to derive this information using a program called SportTracks that downloads your information from your GPS device and then allows you to analyze that data in various ways. For example, besides the normal 1 mile splits, I could also have the program give me my 5 mile splits, 10K splits, or customizeable splits. It will also break down your time into stop, walk, jog, and run segments. Plus a lot more that I haven't gotten around to playing with yet.
Will I run another 50K? Absolutely! Do I see myself running a 50 mile or further race? Not this year!
All in all, this was about the best way I could have celebrated my birthday. Thanks Carl Hunt for putting on an awesome race, and thanks all you volunteers! And thank you readers for reading this far!
I've been reading several race reports of runners who ran Boston on Monday. Very inspirational. Right now I'm 58 minutes from running a qualifying time, so I have to get my Boston fix vicariously. Everyone whose blog I've read had a triumphant race. Some set a PR, some battled injury, some battled the conditions, but everyone won. Some of the blogs had me crying and some had me laughing and I enjoyed every single one. Which brings me to my Boston plan. Awhile ago I read about a study that found that runners, no matter what age they start running, will continue to improve for about 10 years. With that in mind, I only have to improve my time by about 3 minutes a year for the next 10 years. The BQ time for 60 year old women is 4:30, so that is my 10 year goal. (How many runners have a 10 year goal?)
Now on to the weather. Last week when I was checking the weather for my 50K, they were calling for temps in the low 40s for the start, and in the 50s for the finish, with lots of rain. I liked the temperatures, but was a little dismayed at the rain in the forecast. The latest reports are calling for no rain (yay!), but high temperatures in the low 80s (boo!). Good thing I don't have any goal times in mind, because this will be a slow hot one. I'm glad I bought S-caps several weeks ago and used them while running a couple of times. I also bought a hand-held water bottle that I will be carrying with me, as well as wearing a fuel belt with sports drink in it. My plans will be flexible, and I'll be ready to start taking my walk breaks earlier than my original plan. Today I ran my taper run during the hottest part of the day, and I'll do that the next two days in an attempt to semi-acclimatize myself.
I'm not at all as nervous as I was before my first marathon. I'm guessing the biggest reason for this is that unlike the marathon, I don't have a time goal. I only want to cover 50K and have fun doing it.
I really don't like the pre race taper. I know a lot of people enjoy the shorter runs and the extra time you have on your hands, but I just feel like I should be doing something more. My mind understands the logic of the taper, but my body wants the same endorphin rush its been getting the last several months.
My long run yesterday went very well, especially considering that two weeks ago I couldn't even run for 30 seconds without pain. I had no cramps (tried S-Caps and they seemed to work well), no blisters (the Foot Potion and Drymax socks once again worked their magic) and no other issues to complain about. I had to do this on the treadmill because it was raining and there was a good chance of thunderstorms. I also ate during my run, and I'm sure several people at the gym were wondering what that strange person was doing eating pretzels and Swedish Fish while working out. I went into the run hoping to get 20 but happy to get 15, and I did the full 20 miles. I went with my race plan of walking 1 minute out of every 15 for the first 2 hours, 1 minute out of every 10 for the second 2 hours, and completed the 20 miles right at 4 hours.
Twelve more days, and if everything goes according to plan I'll be an Ultra runner on my 50th birthday!
Today I totally chicked two guys on bicycles. Ok, it was in Destin, FL, it's spring break, and they looked college age, so there's a 95% probability that they were more than a little hung over.....but I'm still counting it!
Well it appears that my injury was only a slight muscle strain or pull. After six days of no running, I'm back on my feet again. On Sunday, I did 5 minutes of slow jogging along with 55 minutes of alternative cardio. Yesterday, in place of a planned 15 mile long run, I alternated 20 minutes of bike, 20 minutes of treadmill (5 minutes walk, 10 minutes slow jog, 5 minutes walk), and 20 minutes of elliptical, and repeated that 3 times for three hour cardio workout. Today my hamstring felt good, so I did 5 miles on the treadmill. Tomorrow I will attempt 10 miles outside. My original training schedule had me doing 24 miles or so next Monday, but I think I'll plan on 20 but be happy with 15 if I hit any glitches. I'm much happier than I was last week at this time when I was thinking I'd have to walk the entire 50K (no way was I thinking of not doing it!).
Now on to a totally different topic. I watch two reality shows, the first one is Biggest Loser and the second one is Dancing with the Stars. I have to tell you, I am in lust with Gilles. For those of you who don't know, he was Samantha's nekkid shower taking neighbor in Sex and the City. I really enjoyed him shaking his booty in the samba two weeks ago, but last night's Paso Doble had me wiping the drool off my chin. In case you missed it.....enjoy! (the actual dance is in the middle)
I think the cramps I experienced during my 20 miler last week were something else. The lower hamstring area of my left leg still hurts a lot when I try to run on it. The good news is that it doesn't hurt when I walk on it, and I'm able to use the elliptical trainer and bike at the gym with no problems. Right now I'm trying to figure out if its a slight muscle pull or maybe an incipient stress fracture. When I had a stress fracture of the femoral neck (I know, a totally unusual place for a stress fracture) several years ago, it felt like what I imagined a groin pull would feel like. Of course I tried to run through the pain until I couldn't walk any more and ended up on crutches for eight weeks. That was one long summer, but by the end I knew which motorized carts at the grocery store were the fastest! I'm going to continue to sort of take things easy by getting my cardio at the gym, alternating the bike and eliptical. They aren't as effective as running; I just can't get my heart rate up on the bike, and although I can get a good heart rate on the elliptical, my feet fall asleep after about 30 minutes. Perhaps I need to participate in a couple of spin classes, having someone yell at me usually gets me working harder.