Thursday, April 20, 2017


Headed out with my husband and my 2 yr old who was very ready for nap time in the back seat. I was pretty nervous. I hadn't run a 50 mile in over 3 years, my husband with my 2 yr old and his Mom and Dad were all coming to the race. This was so exciting, I almost never have family support for my runs, and it's been a challenge working my running into my son's life and routine.

We made it to VA in enough time to drop my son off with Grandma and Granddad at the hotel for a swim and my husband and I hurried to Hemlock Regional Park to check-in​. I got to catch up with Quatro for the first time in a long time and lots of other smiling runner faces making checking in as fun as ever. 

We were pushing on dinner time and I hate eating late before a race. But... Traffic!!! So, sadly, I was car sick by the time we got back to the hotel, managed some bread and chicken and went to bed ASAP.

That night, my head just kept on throbbing and my nausea was terrible. I got sick and took my stash of 400mg Motrin I'd brought to have out on the course (just in case)and crawled back into bed wondering if I'd even be able to start the race.

I woke up feeling just fine, no headache, hungry and just a little tired. I worried a bit about losing some of last night's calories but figured I'd be alright. We headed out for the race. It was pretty chilly but set up to be a beautiful day. Once my husband dropped me off I walked to the bag drop and proceeded to remove my warm layers. I opened my "hot hands", got my gloves on, my watch on and I had everything else I should need on me. I was carrying 2 x Bobo bar, 1x health warrior bar, 3 gu, my gq6 intra workout energy and my water bottle was filled with double concentrate gq6 flooid. I Felt good, ready. 

Lining up at the start, I listened intently to instructions, my carefree nature of thinking I'd just follow others​ has caused many little mishaps but not today. Today I was going to break 8hrs. That was the goal, that's what I'd worked for. 

We all did the little loop around the lot and then took off down the trail, I felt cold and realized I'd forgotten my inhaler. My chest was tight and the taste of metal filled my mouth, a common sensation for me when it's under 40 degrees and I forget to use the inhaler. I worried that this along with not having as much caffeine as usual would hurt my efforts but I pushed on getting through the warm up stage and things seemed fine.

I tried to count the climbs as some blogs described this 16 mile section of the course as easy and presumably mostly flat and others described it as quad crushing. I felt it was closer to the latter. There were 4, maybe 5 solid hills in the 7.2 miles out that came with some great downhill but certainly doing the job and letting you push too hard too early if you weren't careful.
Today, there was lots of mud too, not too bad as I bounced along the outer edges of the trail, but I took note that the way back might look quite different after 250 other people go running through it.  The rocky sections were as promised short but very rocky. You can bounce a bit but the risk of injury so early slows you down to a bouncy hike through these sections, again watching for slick rocks from the mud.

Three water crossings with the concrete cylinders, also as I'd read, deeper than it sounded like they'd been other years. By about 5 miles my shoes were damp, somewhere in that area of time I managed to slip on some mud and landed on my butt. It was somewhat comical but no one was around to see it. My entire left glove was coated in thick mud, as was my right butt cheek of my shorts. I immediately started running again as I tried to scrape off the larger chunks.

At the Aid Station (AS) at Centerville Rd. I actually stopped to remove the mud chunks and then ran right back out to get the last 1 mile out and back of the detoured course. This section was sloppy, wet, slick mud. I found myself dodging the center and sticking with the edges or totally going off the trail to keep my balance, especially once you had people going both directions.

Back at the Centerville AS I got stuck behind runners walking up the steps, I really didn't want to be a jerk though so I waited but looked for little openings and got back out of there without much time wasted. The run back to Hemlock I knew I should be eating something, but my stomach already felt off. I hadn't started to drink yet, so I took small sips, I wasn't feeling thirsty but the calories in my drink were already needed. I couldn't stop/ slow yet though, I felt like I was moving so well. I counted the climbs and ran everything, because I'd trained to do just that.

Back at hemlock, I knew I was digging a hole. My stomach was upset. I handed off my gloves, and although it was still chilly I gave my compression sleeves to the volunteer too as I knew it'd be heating up soon enough. She was so kind, saved me from going to my bag.  I just made sure to take some food out of my belt before I started running again.

Seeing the clock 2:34, I was going slower than I'd hoped and that section was 2 ish miles shorter this year, due to course changes from all the rain. Feeling I was moving well but my time was but showing it, well,  I began to emotionally bonk...Already!!

I'd not done my pre race right, I wasn't eating enough, now what I was eating wasn't settling, I was too slow already. I was already giving myself all the excuses I'd need to explain why I'd failed.
I came with one real goal though, to build "grit". I used to have it, but as a Mom I really let it go (You can't be destroyed when you get home, you need to be ready to play and well, be Mom). I wanted that, "push through anything feeling back." The goal was time, but in an ultra there's always things that make time irrelevant... What really mattered to me was that I didn't quit on myself. That I didn't give in to the excuses. So what if your stomach hurts, you can run, you can walk, you can crawl.... You surely can finish.

So, onward I struggled. Each aid station was an epic waste of time. Something I'm usually great at is moving through ASs quickly but I stood there as early as mile 20 just staring at the assortment trying to imagine any of it not making me more nauseated. I ate 2 bites of sweet potatoes​ and a cup of coke and headed back out. 

My legs were still working great, the mental struggle continued but because my legs were strong and I could use my gait metrics to focus on staying light and keeping my cadence up, I was able to keep pushing. Another runner and I kept pushing off each other, he was a great motivator for me just trying to keep him in sight.

The next AS, I had 3 Fritos, more Coke and again wasted a couple minutes. I moved on quickly and got myself excited to see my son at mile 28ish. I was desperatly in need of the emotional lift in seeing him, so much so that I tripped and fell coming into the AS. I was so focused on looking for my kiddo that I wasn't even phased, I got up and made it to the tables where I must have looked absurd searching for my little man, but nothing, they- my family, weren't there (also commonly happens in ultras as it's tough to guesstimate timing). I had 2 potatoes, and the volunteers helped shove me right back out onto the trail, my eyes still searching frantically, but then I was off. Eleven miles and he'd be there when I got back I told myself. You never let a little bit of bad timing take you down.
I was still moving well, just feeling tired and well, like I was hurting for calories, because I was. When I arrived at the Do Loop, the AS ladies told me not to worry that I couldn't figure out what to eat, but I expressed my concerns that I really wasn't taking in enough to keep pushing, they suggested watermelon and it wasn't too repulsive to my tummy so I grabbed a slice and headed into the loop.
The do loop was gorgeous, other than the blue bells, this was the best part of the course. I was really trying to enjoy the roller coaster that the second mile of the loop brings you through, featuring 3 or 4 really steep ups and downs just long enough up and down to make it fun, but the downhills were killing my stomach. I could feel it bobbing inside me. 

Back at the AS on the way out, the volunteers convinced me to take 5. They got me some noodles, some ginger mints and plenty of fluids. I left that AS feeling revived.
Within a mile I felt I was improving. Within​ 30 min, I felt better than I had since Mile 12 or so. To feel better around 36 miles seemed bizarre but exciting. I really wasn't sure if I should go with it or take it easy. I decided to stay in the middle, I wasn't flying, but I was moving at a strong pace, I guessed holding around 9 min miles on the flat sections. I maintained all the way back to Fountainhead AS and there was my family! A sign cheering me on with my in-laws holding it up and my two boys, husband and son waiting for me. I must have kissed that little boy 50 times and carried him with me to the table. 

My husband asked me how I felt and although I was doing great for 37 miles in, I needed to keep eating and despite feeling no nausea, I was still not interested in anything. I ate 2 olives, kissed my 2 yr old son about 25 more times and said (not knowing how this would go, preparing myself for heartbreak if it went poorly) "Mommy has to go run some more, but she'll see in a little while"... And this kid, without any hesitation, replied, "Okay Mom, have, good run." Best feeling, to know he was happy! And I was off!!

The next chunk of miles went by almost too easily, I could have sworn there was more downhill on the way out that I was sure I  should have been climbing up but the miles just passed. The heat was on now I could feel my body temp as the day's temperature peaked.
At the Marina AS, once I climbed the steps I was feeling a little tired, some tightness in my left hip and piriformis and I was hoping not to waste much time here, but alas the stomach game. After wasting another 3 min staring at the table a volunteer suggested grape leaves, I hesitated and decided to go for it. Yum, one of my favorites, first time in a race and went pretty okay, I felt the same but no worse and I'd got done calories in, Score!!

About 5 more miles and at about half a mile past the AS the mile markers started, as promised. I really enjoyed this section, I felt very well for being at the end of the race, there were bluebells everywhere the trail was surprisingly flat, the sun was shining, so many people out and about. Then as quickly or as slowly as 4 ish miles go at the end of a run, I saw mile 11 marker, starting to head up a pretty good sized hill I asked a few people how far the finish was and they said definitely less than a mile, so I figured it was still a good ways out, I hiked some of the climb and started to jog slowly, as I curved around the top I was amazed to find that I was only about a quarter mile from the finish! I did my best to pick it up and got to have the perfect Mom finish, picking up my son and running through the finish line with him for a 7:47 finish, first female, eleventh overall.

We enjoyed the goodies from the post race picnic and we took turns running around with my son who I was so happy was 1. Tolerating the day much better than expected and 2. Enjoying the woods, finally!! I was so grateful to run Bull Run this year and even more so to have my family present.
I was proud to have reached my goals, from the silent ones you keep to yourself to the goal of just running my own race and running well. 

I am eternally grateful to the volunteers and now have some new ideas for nutrition to test in training before my next races. Always more to learn and more ways to better prepare your body and your mind for the challenges of ultra running.