I am really, really thrilled to be posting this right now. After having a great time pacing Kristen to finish her first 50 miler (in an entirely robotic, super-human 9:04?!!?!!??!?!) she did me an even bigger favor and wrote an amazing, inspiring race report! I am going to write a short post about how much fun it was to be a pacer, and how much it reminded me of how much I love trail running, but this is way better!
I ran 50 miles. It is still unbelievable to me. In order to really grasp that it happened, I wrote it all down…here is a slightly shorter version of my experience.
My alarm went off and I immediately was struck with a nervous and anxious feeling unlike anything I have ever felt before. I always get super nervous before races, but this was way worse. I lately have had numerous doubts about myself and I was afraid that 50 miles just was not going to be possible for me. My nerves calmed a bit when I picked up Harry. This was going to be a great day to be outside, doing what we love to do.
When we picked up our bibs, I was happy to get the number 114. I have a silly superstition that I have to somehow make all of my bib numbers significant. This one was easy—14 is my sister’s favorite number. She would be with me throughout the whole race like this.
The sun rose just in time for the race to start. When we started the race, I just focused on running, not going to hard, and keeping my heart rate steady. Everyone was pretty quiet on the first lap. I think we were all trying to digest what we were in for for the next several hours. Harry was just behind me the whole first lap. At first it made me nervous to be setting the pace, but I refocused to only worry about how I felt at that pace. We finished the first lap way too fast, 2:04. I didn’t stop at any of the aid stations and pretty much ran up every hill which I knew was stupid. I vowed to stop at all of the aid stations from this point forward. I set it in my mind to finish the 2nd loop in 2:10-2:15.
I expected the first and second laps to be easy, the third to be hard, and the fourth Matt would get me through. I was surprised when the 2nd lap wasn’t all that easy. I was super hungry after the first lap (I only had one Huma gel so far), but I didn’t know what to eat since they didn’t have potatoes. My stomach grumbled all the way to the first aid station and I got scared that I screwed myself over for the rest of the race. I settled on a quarter of a pb & j sandwich (duh. peanut butter). After eating, I felt much better and pushed my way through the second lap. I walked a lot of uphills over the 2nd lap and thought wow how did I not walk up these on the 1st lap! I broke up the laps and thought of just getting aid station to aid station and that got me through it. I just kept thinking that I wanted to get started on my 3rd lap since it was going to be super hard. I finished the 2nd lap in 2:12, just like I had hoped for and aimed to finish the 3rd lap in less than 2:25.
As I went into the 3rd lap, I got another wind. I focused on getting to each aid station and looked forward to drinking
Gatorade and interacting with people at each. The course got a bit lonely, especially since the marathoners were mostly finished other than the slower people or people who were really struggling. It made me feel good to say “great job,” and “push forward you’re almost finished” to the marathoners having a tough time near the end. They made me feel good when they saw I was a 50 miler and said I was amazing. It made me laugh when a man asked me “are you doing the half or the full?”, as if the marathon was a half. My legs were getting crampy but my heart and lungs felt strong. What got me through that lap was knowing I’d have Matt for the last lap to talk to and distract me. I finished the lap sooner than I thought, in about 2:17 and I was so happy to see Molly. Apparently they weren’t expecting me to finish that lap that quickly either, and Matt was nowhere in sight!. I said to Molly “I’m not waiting for him, he will have to catch up” and kept running. It was 6:34 on the clock when I finished my lap and saw that if I ran 2:25 I could get 9 hours, which seemed doable. It would be cutting it really close, but it could be possible.
Luckily Matt caught up with me after the 1st mile or so and it was great to have someone to chat with. Shortly after, I started to feel pretty bad. I can’t describe it because it was unlike anything I ever felt before in a race. I just felt meh. Whenever we reached a hill I had to walk and even some flats I had a hard time getting myself to go. Even with Matt doing a fantastic job of distracting me, the first aid station seemed so so far away. With a mile or so to go until the 1st station, Matt took the lead to try to carry me through to the station, he said I just needed food. When we finally got there I filled my water, had a Gatorade, and grabbed a ¼ pb & j. After that I felt like a MILLION times better. I called that my miracle sandwich. In all reality it was just a pb & j on stale white bread, but in that moment it was the best thing on earth. We continued onto the next aid station which still felt farther than usual, but we talked and laughed and it was manageable. We saw that with 4 miles to go, I would have to run in less than 40 minutes to break 9 hours. I knew that that was likely not possible since the last few miles had some pretty decent hills, but Matt had me “stab it in the heart” (we still were trying to figure out what exactly that meant) and dig deep to keep up my pace so I had a shot at 9 hours. With him, I ran up some hills that I previously would have walked up. It was tough to not walk these, but whenever I kept running Matt acknowledged my effort and that kept me to pushing. With about 2 miles left, we hit my favorite part of the course—single track with rolling hills that was just so much fun that I got into the groove. Then we were struck with the hill with 1 mile left to go. I looked at my watch and re-evaluated my goal. I could do it in 9:05. During the last mile with Matt pushing me and the end it sight I passed at least 4 people. My watch said 9:03 when we reached the field, I could see the finish line and sprinted (or in this case a sprint was probably like 9-10 min/mile). I passed one last guy and finished in 9:04:30. I did it. I couldn’t believe it. I ran 50 miles.
Matt did all of the things I could have hoped for as a pacer, he distracted me, pushed me, took notice when I was having a tough time and got me through it, had me focus on the exhilaration of passing people, and made me feel awesome when I finished. That last lap would have gone totally different without him and I hope to be able to return the favor in the future whenever he runs his first 100 miler. As the sun was about to set, we saw Harry and Molly cruising in from across the field. Harry pushed to the finish before the sun set. We did it. We finished our first 50 milers, something I never imagined I would ever do.
The race was indescribable. It was a mix of emotions, ups and downs, good times and not so good times, worry and optimism. It was the collaborative effort of not only the thousands of miles and hundreds of hours that I ran this year, but the support of friends who kept me going and instilled in me that I was capable of doing this. Not only friends who came to support me at the race, but friends who wished me good luck, wrote words of encouragement, and liked my photos. Who told me I was strong and beautiful and amazing. Thank you. This won’t be my last. 50 miles, 09:04:36, 5th place female, 24th overall. Boom.