Wow! What an experience, all around. I want to start by saying THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart. One of the things that was so awe-inspiring about this entire experience was the fundraising. So many people came forward and donated. Some simply helped us to spread the word and that was equally as appreciated. Thanks to everyone who got involved, John and I raised OVER $7,000 for children in inpatient pediatric oncology units for the holidays here. The funds were donated to 17 hospitals by Team Continuum. A special thanks to Gallery 57 Dental and Dr Andy Koenigsberg for their super generous matching donation days. That really helped put us over the top. As a thank you to Andy, I plan to beat him up every climb on the bike at SLB this year so that he will be challenged to get even stronger. He is my favorite training buddy, after all.
There was a certain magic that happened in my training and race day for the NJ Trail Series Watchung 50k. The magic was in knowing that I wasn’t doing it just for me. This was different because I was motivated by something outside of myself and something greater than me. When I wanted to quit I thought of the kids we were raising money for. They can’t quit. When I thought about not training I thought of all the people who rose to the occasion to support my fundraising. If I didn’t try my best, I would be letting everyone down. This was another level of motivation and I plan to do it again next year. And with social media, fundraising wasn’t nearly as difficult as I once thought it was. This was just plain awesome.
For this race, I was lucky to have the course close enough to train on. I did 4 long runs right at Watchung and my final long run was a true “dress rehearsal” for the event. I also decided to use the training for this event to test a new nutrition product that I’m really excited about. Base is a newer endurance nutrition company that you’ve likely heard of, and if not, you’ll see them soon. They are making a huge splash in a short amount of time, for good reason. They’ve figured out the best and most effective hydration and electrolyte system that I’ve seen. It’s completely innovative. The idea is that the electrolytes (Base Salt) are taken as a salt by licking the salt off of your finger as needed. This is far better than taking salt/electrolyte capsules. Why? Because salt is absorbed through your mouth/tongue and doesn’t absorb as efficiently in your stomach. It’s immediate delivery and its a welcome taste alternative and break from all the sickeningly sweet fuel. I didn’t have it yet for my first long run on the course (30k) and I had a rough time. I had it for the following long runs and felt great. Also, I never considered myself to be someone who loses much salt while I train and race, but it still made a huge difference. I didn’t fade. Now I won’t train or race without it. I’m excited to see what else this new company comes out with. I am excited to try their aminos and would be even more stoked if they make a sports drink.
Okay, back to the 50k report… You may know that I’ve been battling a nasty injury with my foot. Rupturing my plantar fascia ended my season early in August last year. I’ve been playing with finding a balance of training volume and healing and have struggled with deciphering between further injury pain or stiffness and inflexibility from being in a walking boot. Luckily I got through the 50k with only medium discomfort.
On race morning, we arrived with an hour to spare. It was 27 degrees at the start and I went to use the bathroom one last time. I tried to take a sip of water from my hydration pack while I stood in line and I’m glad I did! The bladder was empty! It must have been leaking the entire car ride there and thankfully I discovered it before I needed to hydrate while racing! I refilled it and had to run from the bathroom to the start and got there as the gun went off, so just kept running.
This race start is especially tough because the race puts on a 10k, 20k, 30k, marathon and 50k race at the same time on the same loop. Everyone starts together. I normally like to line up in front so that when girls go ahead of me, I know exactly how many and I can pace myself accordingly. In this race, all distances start together so I have to focus on my pacing and keep in mind that girls flying ahead may be running the 10k and not the 50k. I won the marathon here last year and ran a lot of that race with the 50k winner, so I knew I had a chance. It’s really tough to be competitive and let girls go not knowing if I’m racing against them. Also, just being in the mix with people running the shorter distances threw off my perceived effort. I ran the first lap in 58 minutes, 3 minutes faster than my fastest speed focused loop in training. Well, crap. I also let 6 girls go ahead. And I dropped a gel flask with half my calories in it. You would think the race was off to a bad start but I was having a blast. I was running comfortably and I looked at my first fast lap as bought time for later, as long as I forced myself to chill out. I started the second loop at what felt like a snail pace.
A third of the way into the second loop I took a massive digger, my first one in all the times I’ve run this course! My hand and knee were bleeding and my hip flexor felt slightly strained and I was covered in dirt. Oh well! I kept going. Then I found my nutrition that I had dropped the lap before! What luck. I finished the second loop only about 6 minutes slower and slightly faster than my target pace. I still needed to slow down more.
During my third loop my hip really started to hurt and I had to focus on not letting it throw my gait off. That said, my previously injured foot felt okay, so I was thrilled about that. I wasn’t sure if my hip flexor hurt from the fall or because I’m an imbecile and climbed/hiked the biggest mountain I’ve ever been on only 2 days prior. What kind of stupid taper idea was that? I finished the third loop in about the same time as the second.
Beginning my 4th loop I was trying not to limp too much. I had passed a few girls but I was also starting to bonk from being behind on calories. I had fallen behind during the period that I didn’t have my gel flask. I was also low on hydration so I stopped at the aid station to fill my water and load up on more Base salt to help revive me. I needed a lot of calories but the bar I had with me was frozen solid! I still have so much to learn with ultra running. While I was dallying at the aid station I met a girl who was also doing the 50k and was also on her second to last lap. She had been behind me but she left the aid station before me and was looking super strong, running with a fast-looking guy. I knew my only chance of catching her and passing her would be if I got my nutrition squared away. This ended up being a scary tactical decision that worked. I walked swiftly as I tore into my frozen bar and it was exactly what I needed to give a Popeye eating spinach effect. I felt strong again and caught her by the end of the 4th loop. That said, my 4th loop was ridiculously slow and it took me about 15 minutes longer than I wanted it to.
I didn’t know if I was in the lead but I knew I had passed the other girl and that she was a strong runner so I pushed the pace. I was so sore but I focused on good form, and with nothing left to hold back for, I flew through the 5th loop. I was amazed I had so much in me.
It felt incredible to finish my first 50k and I was fully in love with this new distance as I approached and crossed the finish. The race director was right there as I crossed the line and said “Wow! 5:38! In case you don’t know, you won”. And it appears that I set a new course record since this course changed from the original loop a few years ago. How cool is that?! I already can’t wait for my next ultra.
Thank you again to everyone who supported my fundraising, to John for coaching me, to NJ Trail Series for putting on such awesome events, to FemMed Sleep for fixing my insomnia so I can train and race to my potential without feeling exhausted, and to Block Island Sport Shop and Jim Ortel for all of your love, support, and gear.