Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Ultra Ultimate 50 Miler Trail Run: North Country Trail Run 2013

My world in motion as taken by my 5 year old right after 50 miles. No it isn't glamorous, but it's real.
My heart went boom, Boom, BOOM…

It's probably going to take me several attempts to write about this 50 Mile Ultra experience. Forgive me of my sappiness, but I don't think I will ever think of a race event the same way or measure one up to the standards of where my heart and mind met on the course of 50 miles.

If you had told 4 years ago when I started running, that I would run a marathon, I would have thought you were out of your mind. Each step changed me day by day. If you would have also told me that one day I would run a 50mile Trail Ultra, I would have thought you needed a good psychiatrist immediately.

I started training 9 months ago and had been waiting for the day to hit that trail race and touch down on my dream. While many people just thought it was nuts and had negative opinions and stated questions of, "Who would want to do that?!" or "How are YOU going to do that in under 14 hours?", I grew more and more in love with the coming adventure with each hard workout, long run, and with each review of ultra runner blogs, videos and interviews. The build up was huge, and it delivered everything and more than I imagined. I am fortunate to have a kindred spirit in my run buddy that shares my passion. Definitely divine intervention there.

That's a lot of gear! Drop box ready and everything else I carried.
I ended up not needing my box
I prepped my gear a week ahead, I didn't really feel that nervous. I just wanted this day to come. The major tapering was awkward. The night before the race I could not sleep. For the first time ever, I had insomnia. I slept 1 hour. I wish I was kidding. I decided that this lack of sleep thing should be ignored. Being a mother, wife and business owner, I have ran many great runs on 3-4 hours sleep. What's a couple less?

Come hell or high-water, I am an Ultra Runner. And my tunes were ready to go—one ear in and one ear listening to the trail and other runners.

As we set off on our first loop of a two loop course, we kept tight with mid-back of the pack runners. Nothing would be sillier than going out too fast before that second half of the loop with the steep hills. I followed everything that I had been told and read about ultra running. Walk the hills—every hill. Walk it with purpose. I was walking up smaller hills while others were running at the same speed. Yeah! That worked!

I took advantage of the down hill runs.We just wanted to finish under the 14 hour mark before the course was swept. Yes, were were worried about that since the book Relentlessly Forward Progress predicted a 50 mile trail time of 13+ hours. That isn't much wiggle room for aid station and any issue on this course with hills, roots, rocks and a narrow path. The down hill was crucial in gaining time. I found myself exhilerated on the down hill and digging into the uphill with ease. All those hill repeats and core training were empowering me this day. I went into these hills waiting for the pain and expecting it to rise up and rip me. My run buddy asked me about any pain about mile 20. I had nothing but typical aches. Injury pain in the past had made any aches feel like nothing. It just may have felt that way since we were on trail and not pavement—a bonus I accepted.

Aid stations were stocked with sandwiches (PB&J and grilled cheese), GU, fresh fruit, noodle soup and drinks. I even had coke for the first time in maybe years. Delicious. Literally running from one buffet to the next keeps the mind and palette happy. My buddy's parents and sister were at more that half of the aid stations to cheer and assist us. Really, an amazing crew. I didn't know about the rewards of a cold shammy on my neck until then—see still learning things.

I was talking with several lady runners and had to let them go to wait for my run buddy. They were going for 10:30 time and I thought that was out of reach for me anyways. I let the same people go by a couple times while I waited for my run buddy. I even tried to take a few photos and should have taken more. We were making pretty good time regardless and I just wanted to enjoy the forest and the run.

The view at mile 24.
It felt like we were heading into different fairylands worlds with the trees, bushes, color and lighting completely changing as we went. One area even looked like a hazy fog. The beautiful moments assisted in letting the time and miles tick by. I also used my run to pray gratitude for the moment, journey and faith. At mile 24 there was a steep sandy climb for a breathtaking view. Photo time—we asked one of the Marathon runners to snap some photos of us. That's right, she was not in a hurry and I had been talking to her on some of the trail. Thank you kind runner.

First loop done at about 5:40. Shazam! We are in this and just needed to bring it home on the second loop.

My buddy had a pacer step in at mile 26 and I found myself still pulling ahead. My quads started to ache a lot more about mile 27. I knew what may be coming so I kept them moving and pulled away further and then I didn't see them anymore. The pain hurt less as long as I kept swiftly moving and biting into it one step at a time—well, it felt more swift in my world at that moment. I didn't just stand at any more aid stations to prevent my legs from freezing up. I ate and kept moving my legs. I probably looked like I was doing a pee pee dance.

"Faith over fear, faith over fear." echoed in my thoughts. I had to have faith that I could keep this pace and ignore the quad banging pain. I thought of an Another Mother Runner podcast that they read part of the book by Katherine Switzer, where she said this statement before crushing the marathon course when women were deamed as being too WEAK to run marathons. She said, "I am going to run the HELL out of this race," and she did. My game changed and I decided to see what I could do in this race on this day—what faith could do. Just keep eating and drinking to avoid a real wall and run the hell out of 20 plus miles.

I was surprised that some people didn't even carry a water bottle. I can not imagine doing that. One young man was struggling getting station to station to hydrate. I filled my Camelbak three times and drank the cups of liquid joy at each aid station.

I didn't see many people on the trail on this second loop, but when I did I either respectfully paced behind them a bit or swiftly passed if they just were not moving the same speed. Most often we would look at each other and say "good job."People wer dragging limbs a little more and looking like they were doing the ultra-shuffle. I told two struggling woman on the half course that they were doing awesome, because I ran that course last year and it's a beast.

I started passing people I had seen earlier in the day and even the same two ladies I had been talking to with the 10:30 goal. That was a surprise. I guess keeping it cool that first loop paid-off, and I honestly don't know what came over me to just keep moving. Interestingly, my breathing changed. I am a mouth breather and I have asthma, but switched to breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth. OMG! It was the Scott Jurek 's Breath of Fire. I have never been able to do this but is was working efficiently and naturally.

In the last three miles I stopped at the aid station for some fruit and more coke, and gave the volunteer a "hallelujah!" when he told me there were three more miles. I finally caught up to two 30 something year old guys that I hadn't seen since mile 10. They were surprised to see me and the stunned looks on their faces … priceless. To keep my mojo going I took off again in front of them while they were still eating. Beat the boys was on my mind. I just couldn't help myself. Yep, that girl was here today.

On the steep hill before the last aid station (one mile to go), I took my one and only flying dirt nap. My time had come! It was like sliding down hill into home plate. I scooped black dirt into my bra and shirt and the dirt was stuck to my entire sweaty body like a mud mask. It hurt, but I had no time to assess the damage or even notice the big gouge in my finger from my wedding ring. My right hand throbbed, but it wasn't like a broken finger was going to stop me now. I jumped backed up because I could not let the boys pass me. I kept hearing their voices in the woods. Or maybe I was hearing things. HA!

Last mile: On the last hill incline to the viewing area I heard the two boys coming behind me as I reach the top of the hill. No time for photos now. It was on, and all I had to do was execute the last long hill down and get to the finish line. No falling, go hard, and do it one more time so there was no way they could catch me.  I ran as fast as I could down and around the corner and then down again to the flat area with all the speed I had. I passed one more guy casually coming in. I had joy the entire way and the crowd screaming (what was left at this point) just made me go faster. My husband and the crew jumped up as I was running by. Later my husband said he didn't think it was me coming because I was running too fast and I don't run that fast. Humph. Kind of funny, because race day is the only day I put it all out there and quite honestly... I don't know why I could run that fast at the end of 50 miles either. A group of college kids were at the finish line to hoot, holler, and high-five the runners in. I leaped threw the finish like there were flames. Touch down on an Ultra dream! Not the X jump I had wanted but I never really practiced that either.

I finished my first 50 Ultra in 11:17. 5th in my age and only separated by 11 minutes from the second place runner. That's close for a 50 miler in my opinion and I couldn't be more pleased.

A little later in the food line one of those male runners I had past in the last three miles told me that they had seen me throughout the day, and when I past it kind of ticked him off. Then he justified it by saying it was his first Ultra. Well, me too buddy and it took me 22 miles to catch you. I earned it! I was actually a little caught off guard by his statement. I would have liked to have said something like, "You got chiced by a 40 year old mama," but I will save that for a shirt.

Right after Evie Ultra finishes.
I finished almost a full hour ahead of my buddy who also slaughtered the time cut-off by an hour and a half. I was there to see her come through the finish line and own her dream. What an honor and it was an emotional moment for both of us.

It was surreal that I never hit a mental low point. This was the day I was waiting for and trained for with anticipation—with a celebration run and completely focused. It was just my day to drive. YES!

Finished with Heart just like the medal states.
And every day we train with heart as well. Blessed am I.

My Ultra loves.


  1. I can't wait to talk to you about this race in person. Amazing!! I really hope to do an ultra some day. See you soon!

    1. Hey Nicole...guess what! Schuyler is joining me next year at this race. Think about it!


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