I began my second year of ultras on March 8, 2003. Some of you may remember that I decided last year to run a number of races that were the same distance as my age, but I still feel I have not quite mastered the challenge, so I decided to sign up for the Way Too Cool 50K.
The first challenge I had to master was how quickly I had to decide to run the race. Iím not talking about pace, but rather about getting into the race. Last year, registrations were available December 15th, and filled on December 17th. This year, they had online registrations and I was a little worried how fast it would fill. I woke up early and applied. I got in! Later, I learned that the 500 spaces available filled in 2 hours! Since most people like to sign up a couple of weeks before, this was totally amazing!
My training this time also seemed a little different. The first time I was totally unsure about how far or fast I should train; this time I donít think I really trained at all. In fact, come February, I was a little worried that I had not trained over 6 miles! This is why I ran the Mardi Gras Marathon (though I didnít train for that, either!). I would not recommend this type of training for a marathon. A 50K Ultra is a little different, because it has more to do with endurance and fortitude. Unless I get so injured I canít move, I will still finish! (Come to think of it, that is a good mantra for any distance!)
So, now I come to the day of the race. As I am driving up in the car with my friends, Bob and Kristin, we were reminiscing about the course the previous year. If you read my article, it was basically one big mud pit. A consultation with Bob indicated that it hadnít rained in two weeks!
We arrived in Cool without too much problem, though Kristin was starting to get sick on the curves leading into town. We rushed over to get our Coolmax shirt, sweatshirt and goodie bag, and found that it wasnít cold out (last year 30, this year 50), or at least, it wasnít miserably cold! Still, I waited in the car (parked right at the starting line) until about 5 minutes before the start.
The race director made a few announcements and the race started right on time. It was hard to tell any differences in the first mile, because it is on a paved road, which doesnít get soggy in the rain. As we turned onto the trails just after mile 1, I could see the difference Ė NO MUD! (well, a little, but it wasnít like cross-country skiing, and half of the streams had dried up)
I felt really good, following a walk up hills, run easily everywhere else regimen, and reached the 10K point in 56 minutes. Then, the longest part of the course began. This course has 5 aid stations (6.2M, 14M, 20M, 25.7M, 29.2M), so the longest wait between aid is almost 8 miles.
When I reached the second aid station, I felt great and was about 10 minutes ahead of my time from the year before, but I knew the worst was in a few miles Ė Ball Bearing Hill.
Last year, I reached this hill with severe cramps. If I took larger than 2 foot steps, I would get shooting cramps to my waist, and I would stoop and wait for them to pass. Also, this hill (which has 700 ft. elevation gain in 7/10 of a mile) was basically climbing up a muddy, wet waterfall. However, this year, I didnít have cramps, the weather was pleasantly overcast, and there was no water to be seen. I told myself that all I wanted to do was better my time of 43 minutes (yes, for 7/10 of a mile!). I reached the top in 23 minutes, and over 20 minutes ahead of my pace from last year. I felt ecstatic, because I was probably going to break 6 hours.
The return trail is a slightly shortened version of the 8 mile, no aid out trail. On the way back, the clouds cleared, and the temperature shot up to 70 and I basically ran out of water, my quads cramped, and the terrain was uneven dried mud. My pace went slower and slower. I covered about 9 miles in 1:55, and was in danger of not improving my 2002 time!
With the cramps, I was past the point where I could run, so I just walked really fast. As I made the final turn for the finish line, I could see the clock was already over my time, and I finished 4 minutes slower (8 seconds per mile) than last year.
I was disappointed with my time, but I have always realized that running is fun and keeps me healthy. Whether youíre out there walking a few miles, running middle distance, or one of those wack jobs doing 100 milers, just keep enjoying what youíre doing, no matter the circumstance. Iím going to keep trying the ultras, and as my friends lovingly reminded me after the race, Iím 32 years old now, so I gotta go and run that last extra mile!