Well, I guess not “just like that,” but rather 14 hours and 9 minutes later, it’s over.
Participating (competing?) in a 50 mile challenge was everything I expected, and a lot of “whodda thunk.” I expected the hills but thought there’d be a more severe grade to the ascents; instead the climbs just stretched on for what seemed like miles. I expected great views (I mean, c’mon, views from mountain tops are usually pretty good), but I had no idea how simply beautiful this entire region is. I was expecting the typical trail runner camaraderie, but was blown away when the RD congratulated my running partner and I by name when giving us our medals.
In a nutshell? I loved this race. I loved that the terrain was “run-able” and not frustrating. I loved that for each incredibly long long climb, there was some amazing payoff at the end–either an awe-inspiring view, or fantastic volunteer-staffed aid station. I loved that the preserve was open to the public, and other day trippers, hikers, rock climbers, and cyclists were so enthusiastic and supportive.
That’s not to say there weren’t some very, very difficult patches. I knew my right shin was my achilles heel, and sure enough, it started bothering me about mile 15. By mile 16, I knew I needed some ibuprofen and took an 800mg pill. About mile 35, it was still bothersome, so I doubled up with 1600mg. That was a mistake. By mile 39 I was so nauseated, and at mile 40, our support crew had us both sit down for some ginger ale (for my partner) and gatorade and pretzels (for me). We still had one big hill to climb (at mile 45-46) before a 3+ mile coast to the end. I caught a second wind just before the hill and plowed through that, but the last three miles were agony. Lucky for us, all our support crew met us with under a mile left, and coached us in, just before darkness fell.
Finishing was surreal. You are exhausted, yet elated. And in my case, sick to your stomach. We cleaned up, gathered our drop bags, and left. My Mister and Thing 3 came to cheer for me, so we headed off to a local pub. I thought my stomach had settled a bit, so I ordered chocolate milk for myself while we were waiting for our food. My second big mistake of the day. Two sips later, I was frantically looking for the bathroom, judged the front door to be closer and bolted outside. I threw my medal over my shoulder and basically lost every single sweet potato and PB&J sandwich I’ve eaten since December. A young and heavily tattooed young man was right behind me and said (clearly having seen the medal on my bent over back), “Hey, did you just do that crazy 50 mile race?” I nodded. “Whoa, badass!” he acknowledged while my stomach heaved again. Badass, indeed.
So maybe that’s not the finish I envisioned. But overall the entire experience was close to 100% positive. What I loved most? Proving to myself I had the strength to not only commit to five months of training, but to get to the finish line. Becoming good friends with the wonderful woman who first encouraged me to join her. How she had the foresight to figure out that we would compliment each other so nicely, I’ll never know, but I’m so glad she did. I’m also so incredibly appreciative of the many, many folks who helped me with my training, offered words of encouragement throughout my training, during the challenge, and then afterwards. It’s so meaningful when people go out of their way to send good vibes, and it just makes you realize how lucky you are to have such sincere friends, colleagues, and even general acquaintances.
Will there be more? Who knows. Fifty miles was tough–not just the training, but the time it takes from family and other obligations; 50ks are a bit more plausible. But, as I’m sure we all know, never say never.