One year ago I started this blog to document one of the greatest running events I’ve ever been a part of. I was venturing into the unknown, pushing my limits another 24 miles past what I knew I could achieve. It was magic. On Saturday I competed in the same event for a second time, and it was… anticlimactic. Don’t get me wrong. This was an amazing experience and I was smiling ear to ear for almost all of the nine hours I was moving. Everything went off without a hitch. No nutrition drama. No major falls or injury. I didn’t even get stung by wasps like many others did. The women’s field was so competitive that I had no shot at even placing top 20. And that’s okay. Not every race has to be an epic fight to the finish or record breaker. My body and mind allowed me to cover 50 of the most beautiful miles in all of the world. I got to share my backyard with some of the best ultra runners in the country. I experienced one of the most vibrant sunrises I’ve ever seen. All while doing something I love passionately.
So this won’t be the typical mile-by-mile race report. Think of it more like a post mortem. What worked. What didn’t. What I’d do differently. Why I can’t wait to try this distance again.
This was the year I got help. I hired a coach in January to guide me through my marathons and ultras. Last year when I trained for the fifty on my own, I did too much. The proof? I got hurt. Two weeks before the race my foot freaked out and I had to take a week off to let it heal. This year I ran less mileage, did less speed work, and competed in less races. But I ran better. Sometimes it was hard for me to trust in the process. I wanted to run more! I saw what others were doing on Strava and wanted to copy their training and huge miles. Maybe I could have sustained my pace better over the end miles if I had done a few more 20+ milers. But maybe I would have burned out or got hurt. It’s easy to second guess training but the results speak for themselves. As McMillan says, you don’t want to be the fittest spectator at your race.
I hired a sports nutritionist to come up with a race plan for me because my fueling has been an issue all year. In Boston I bonked hard. During the 50k I puked. I couldn’t figure out what to do on my own. Meredith listened to all my issues and crafted a smart outline. Diluted Tailwind, more salt and less gels. It was that simple. I didn’t try to force down calories on a rigid schedule and I was able to maintain steady energy almost all nine hours. That’s huge! This was a total success for me.
My support team was flawless. Pon, Jack, and my mom (who flew out from Boston to experience this!) were on point every time I saw them. My bottles and fuel were laid out and ready to go, despite snarky comments by an elite’s wife about them over-preparing for their slow runner. Rude. Sorry we can’t all be sponsored. Anyway, they, along with every single volunteer, made this race so drama-free for me. THANK YOU. And thank you to every person who sent me songs for my playlist and who wished me luck and reminded me that I am stronger than I believe. Those words carried me.
And speaking of my playlist, one thing I would have done differently is utilize that music more. I popped in my headphones just once, around mile 15. I felt strong and was moving well, but I knew that particular section of trail, from Heather Cutoff up Coastal to Cardiac, kicked my butt every time. And you know what? The music worked so well that Strava later told me I PRed on that section. Woah!
I’m not sure what else I would have done differently. I trained hard and nailed all my big workouts. I was pretty consistent with my strength training and recovery. There’s always a way to work harder, but is it the smartest way? Maybe not. The more I analyze this race, the happier I am with the outcome. I did everything I could and got beat by incredibly talented runners fair and square.
This distance is hard on the body, but my mind is already planning the next race. I know if I ever want to get really good at ultras I’ll have to give up my road marathons. Spending a year or more focusing solely on trails would make me so much stronger, but I’m not ready to do that yet. I’ve got some big goals ahead of me (*ahem* Boston sub-3). But after April, I’m toying with the idea of going even longer. 100K. Or dare I say it… even 100 miles? There’s no limit to how far my body can go. It’s just about convincing my mind to go along. But for now, I’m enjoying this week off and looking forward to my mini off-season before I hit the pavement. It’ll be here before I know it.