I am an Ultra Runner! AAR Stone Cat 50k 11/2/19

The desolate view in main picture is what the finish line looks like when you are fourth from last.  This is the view from the back of the pack.  I still have an ego and I have to say this hurt.  There was no joy, not even relief having it over.  It was just done.  A few cheers and support when I finished but it’s nothing like a marathon with crowds cheering you much of the way.  This is a long slog alone with yourself.  No man sang to me like in the Spartan Ultra.  Old Joe, who I ran with the first two loops and who did ~4 dirt dives with pretty good rolls, had gone out in front of me.  I was passed by a few folks the last 5 miles but I couldn’t keep up with them to maintain company.  Just me and me.  All that said, it thoughts never once crossed my mind like “why was I here?” etc… it was just about finishing.

There was no way I wasn’t going to finish.  I had to redeem myself after “Daring Greatly” at the Spartan Ultra earning 25.6 miles but not finishing.  My coach was also running the NYC marathon and said my finishing would be a boost for him – another great reason – and there is no way I will ever quit at anything I do.  At 25.6 miles in Stone Cat, I knew every step was a PR and after 26.2 miles, I was happy as I was then an official ultra runner.  But mostly I was crying maybe from just being tired with a hurt ego being almost last.  I was hurting for about 15 miles of this race with really sore hips and having trouble breathing/coughing from the cold.  This one was finished with the heart, not the legs.  The logic around most people don’t dare to do this didn’t really work to boost me at the end or after (yet).

So I’ll write out the accomplishments this year although I’m not emotionally feeling them at this moment:

  • Longest I’ve ever run by 17 miles, that half marathon happened 35 years ago when I was in high school
  • I’ve learned an incredible amount about training techniques, biking, running nutrition, hydration vests, trail running, shoes, etc learning more each week.  Each run truly is an adventure and learning opportunity – another data point to file away.
  • I will always remember I couldn’t make it up the stairs at Wachuset Dam early spring and was blown away thinking I had to do 6000′ at spartan Ultra (good thing I didn’t know the true elevation was 15,000′).  Then doing 12,200′ without difficulty.  And now after listening to these ultra dudes, thinking about races that have 70,000’…. the bar is raised.
  • I’ve learned a ton especially on Nashoba about how some things are just hard no matter how often you do them.  That you can recover pretty quickly from a hard part of the race and be ready to do it again in a few minutes.  About total muscular failure (as I almost fell over that day about 20 yards from the end) and importance of pacing.  Of running vs. walking vs. whatever it is you want to call it when you just make steady, DETERMINED, forward progress
  • Gained some pretty awesome friends and have a community of people I can empathize with, learn from and share who understand what it’s like to do these types of endeavors
  • Learned importance of consistency and training periods building up, then a rest week – it works.

This was a 3x10mile loop with an extra mile or so in the beginning and an aid station in the middle of the 10 mile loop.  Pretty much an ideal split as the mental game goes like this:

  • Loop 1:  just do it as you’re not that tired maintaining target pace
  • Loop 2:  Should be hardest mentally – make the cutoff
  • Loop 3:  Surge to make cutoff at aid station.  Then you are basically done – just run last 5 miles in (although the last 5 miles in this case seemed like a marathon of its own)

Good news is it should be easy to beat this time:

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AAR Key lessons learned/strategies to implement to crush this time next time:

  • Don’t have a cold or at least bring meds with you for the trail.  I’ve been slugging cold medicine for two straight weeks and struggled greatly with not being able to breath and coughing during the last 2 loops.  I left my cold tab in the car and just did without for the afternoon which was a mistake.  My average HR was 147 (from garmin) which is absolutely crazy.  Need to turn off the “performance indicator” so I don’t get that warning that I’m below normal in the first few miles of a 30 mile race 🙂
  • Hip mobility.  Hip mobility.  Hip mobility.  If this was fixed, I could have absolutely done way better.  Starting at around mile 7 I was struggling with hip pain.  This amount of pain had never happened before – not during the Spartan Ultra or any of the long runs.  Maybe the reduced training time last 6 weeks really hurt me as I typically do more mobility and I had literally done almost zero the last two weeks before this race.  Goggins says mobility will change your life and allow you to run faster.  I am a believer.
  • I struggled with calf cramps second loop and the guy at aid station said to eat these baby potatoes coated in salt and this did help.  I also took extra electrolytes and drank a ton not knowing what was causing it.  No issues third loop.
  • Clothing: Race started out at 32F with no wind and per my history, I wore my light fleece.  This ended up being too hot to wear along with a pack.  I left fleece after first loop and need to have a lighter jacket WHEN THERE IS NO WIND.  These little factors have a lot to do with right clothing.  By end of race it was above 47F and just a lightweight rashguard long sleeved shirt was fine although hands were cold.  Ran with Altra Lone Peaks – awesome.

I can say now I know what the pain cave is – first time in it.  I probably dealt with it for a good 15 miles with my hips hurting.  Really struggled the last 5 miles of both loops 2 and 3 (see mile 20 and then miles 25-32).  I tried listening to music for a while – my standard 2019 “workout” playlist but turned it off.  Thought of snuggling with my husband and just putting one foot in front of the other.  Tried to veer off of the negative thoughts about being slow and last.  My lesson was I know I can feel bad like at mile 19 but know I can keep going for another 10 without it really getting worse – it just goes on.  Perhaps calf cramps get substituted with weird foot pains or hips but I know now you can go on.

Vs. Spartan Ultra:  This was a totally different race.  The plan was that this should be an easy 30 miles vs. the spartan ultra with ~10,000 LESS elevation gain, no obstacles, and should have been a nice finish.  But it was about 4x harder with the hip pain and cold.

  • After the Spartan ultra I felt basically pretty good the next day although getting to sleep was tough and everything hurt.  After this race I could barely get into the car, was crippled not being able to even walk, the weight of the covers flexed my foot enough to really hurt while lying in bed and here I am the next day barely able to walk. The only muscle soreness I have today is in lower outer quads which are pretty tender and a little at top of calves.
  • I felt so very strong going into the Spartan ultra with a good taper and this race pre-training was not good as I had spent 2 weeks resting after the Spartan race, did two weeks of partial training and then was out 2 weeks before doing nothing with the cold.  I did all the long runs but missed a bunch of little ones. I also traveled from Boston to CA to London for 10 days.  Definitely a strange period between the two races.
  • I was overall tired in the Spartan Ultra but it was a general body fatigue, not a debilitating hip soreness.
  • In the Spartan Ultra, at 17 miles, I had been on my feet for 7 hours with tons of elevation gain and in this race I was pretty much almost done with 30 miles in the same time. I definitely felt better in the spartan transition area than I did at the end of this race.

A few pics pre-race….used my spartan bucket (yellow lid below) and the race directors wife played bagpipes which was pretty cool!

 

Here’s to my first Ultra race, the Stone Cat 50k.  May my subsequent ones be easier!!

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