50k = 31 miles
today ellen, her boyfriend mike and their friend guss and i woke at 5am (not together) and traveled to granite falls, washington. team mergeo.com adventure racer roger michal is the race director of the Ron Herzog 50k ultra.
ellen who is super fast and just did her first ultra (with some proding from krissy and i) just over a month ago (and did awesome), was keen on racing another. she talked her boyfriend and bad ass mountain guide mike into into giving it a go. previous to today the most he ran at once was 8 miles! i was a bit concerned, but he’s an adult and as we found out this guy is super fit, even if he’s not a runner… yet. guss has some road experience but this was also his first ultra. me, although i’ve paced krissy here and there, and am always running ultra distance for adv race training, have not actually done an ultra race since i tore my meniscus two years ago. after the surgery the dr. told me that 15 miles was the most i should run in a week… and never all at once. let’s be honest dr.’s don’t know everything.
because of the massive amounts of rain we’ve gotten here in wa we didn’t find out until late friday night that the race was still on. roger had to do some recon to see if this particular section called the “tank traps” was in good enough condition to run. it was, however he said it was as wetter than ever last year, and it was even more wet this year. there was talk of a river crossing so high that volunteers would have to assist you across. about 40 hearty pacific northwest ultra runners lined up for the 8am start (a handful of runners did the early start).
i had seen some fast names on the rd’s mass email so when he said “go” i was supprised to be in front. then i figured they were just hanging out and would put the hammer on me later. within a mile or so eric clifton and myself found ourselves all alone running the 10 miles of uphill dirt road in the rain. he had bright colored tights on so he was hard to miss. “where had i seen him before?” i wondered. “did i meet you at cle elum?” he asked me. bingo – i had volunteered at the cle elum 50k. krissy had told me this guy was an old school bad ass. course records all over the place. “this was going to be fun” i thought.
i led at first, then eric picked up the pace. i stayed focused on my heart rate as he started to get further away from me. i reeled him in then let my heart rate settle a couple of times. on the flats he was running 6 minute miles! i didn’t wanna blow up. i hadn’t raced an ultra run in a while and although my heartrate said i could run his pace and i felt like i could.. i dropped it back to about a 6:30 min/mile. around every corner during the climb he slowly got further and further away. before the tank traps we passed some early starters, and steven wort told me he was 2:30 up on me.
i headed into the woods toward the tank traps. now this was my environment!! for those out there that adventure race, i’d call this light bushwhacking. i was flying, and within about 2 miles passed eric. that was the last time i saw anyone. the 6 miles of tank traps was soooo cold. i had mtn biking gloves on because i envisioned pulling myself up by trees and a much knarlier bushwhack that never materialized. it haled and snowed on me.. nasty wet snow. i trouncing through freezing river after freezing river, dunking shoes in the cold water. the trail had a slushy covering to it.
i hit 1/2 way point at mile 16 where the one aid station was located. i knew i didn’t have time to spare with a runner like eric behind me. plus i was on track to run close to the course record…. hello, goodbye. i grabbed my bottles and was out. i then spent the next 30 minutes trying to get my gloves back on frozen fingers that wouldn’t respond to my minds requests to move. this is when i noticed myself moaning a lot because of the pain in my hands. “you are such a wus” i thought. they still hurt as i type this. down a bit, up a bit, and one trail dump later… i was at mile 28.5 and had done about 5,000 feet of elevation gain when i hit the road. “Ah just 2.5 miles to the finish” i thought. i hate road running, and i’ll be honest – it sucked. however i finished 1st in 4:16:02, so i was stoked on that. ellen had a great time of 5:24:16, and mike.. shit, mike was right behind her and ran a 5:24:41!! unreal. guss also had a great time of 5:42:02. an all around great day at the races.
my advice – get out there and run an ultra!! you have to give yourself oportunities to do what you thought was impossible.