My body aches and I move funny. I’ve been nauseous in the past 36 hours and extra emotional. I want to eat everything but I also want to sleep all day. No, I’m not pregnant. I just finished my first ultramarathon!
FYI: I will have more photos on my facebook page.
The 2012 High Desert 50k Ultra, aka Ridgecrest 50k, was last Sunday (Dec. 2nd). According to the race website: 228 of the 235 starters finished the 50k ultra! You’re reading about finisher # 179! The results show that I finished in 7:17:28. This was the first time that I’ve ran in an event where they ran out of medals by the time I got there. I’m not whining. I actually find it funny and fitting, because as I’ve said before (at the VERY end of this post), I don’t run for medals anymore anyway.
J and I stayed the night in Ridgecrest before the race. This gave us a chance to talk with other runners at packet pick up. We ate the spaghetti and meatball dinner while chatting with Steve Harvey and other seasoned runners like Wayne. Wayne reminds me of someone J and I know and so we found him very amusing. He’s done this event more than a handful of times and spoke of the 40 degree starts and that one year “when it felt like we were running into headwinds the entire race”. Well, if I had to choose a frigid start or a wind fight…I would’ve chosen the opposite of what we got the next morning….
The pre-race dinner left J and I hungry for more. Literally. So we grabbed some KFC and beer and headed back to our hotel to watch several episodes of reality tattoo tv, aka Ink Master. It’s a good thing I only had one beer, otherwise I would’ve been making plans to tattoo ULTRARUNNER across my back.
NOTE: For those of my family who may read this, let me assure you that when I say I ran an ultramarathon, I do NOT mean that I ran the entire thing. I DID NOT RUN FOR 31 MILES STRAIGHT. Oh, and 50 kilometers = 31 miles. There was hiking and walking and a lot of it. While this particular course is actually runnable in it’s entirety (by stronger runners), a good many of us did not run straight through it. But yes, we still say we “ran an ultra”. Just wanted to clarify.
THE EASY PART: THE START
There is no large start banner to run under. No anthem, no gunshot. A minute before 7:00 am, the race director tells the crowd to move to one side of a white pedestrian line in the parking lot of a community college. This will be our start line. I move toward the middle-ish of the crowd of 300 or so.
The temp was pleasant. Probably around 60 degrees. It was a tad windy but I think nothing of it. I get a hug from Kate Martini Freeman, hoping some of her speediness would rub off. (Nope. She kept it to herself, which is good because she ended up winning! Did I mention she was my first Team in Training coach that got us ready for our first marathon? I love that she won my first ultra.)
With some unmemorable exclamation, the race director says go and we go. Very little fanfare but I appreciate that. I’m in a very matter-of-fact mood – I’m starting a long journey. For a brief moment I see Shacky before we hit the trails and we exchange expectations for the day. Neither of us really had any. (Unfortunately, two aid stations later, I’d see him hanging around waiting for a ride back. Today wasn’t his day.)
LOTS OF RUNNING
Mile 5. Mile 8. The scenery is cool with mountains in the distance and a huge sky. My pace is nice and relaxed. I take breaks to walk if I feel the need. No sense is tiring myself out with 22 miles still to come.
Saddle Turn-Off aid station – I ask the mileage and check my phone. Mile 11. My time is pretty good! I head out and figure I’m on schedule to see J at Wagon Wheel (mile 17). The course was well marked and when I saw a sign that said “50k to HWY” I started making plans about what supplies I wanted to get from J.
Nearing the highway, I see a man off to the side of the trail. He is taking photos. Of me? He has a dog. No. Two dogs. I know those dogs…. OH! It’s Mighty Matt!!! Happy day!
I see J with our Flip and camera in hand. Unfortunately, he tells me this was only the mile 13 aid station. Hmmm…. He tells me I have to cross the HWY, head south for 3 miles, then cross again at Wagon Wheel. Bummer. Not what I had thought. Oh well.
A WIND FIGHT
I cross the highway and turn south for a slight uphill for 2 miles. I would’ve considered this a very joggable uphill if it weren’t for the wind barreling down hill and pushing us back. From this point on, no matter which direction we turned, there was always a headwind. I think of Wayne and the story he told the night before of “that one year”.
I see a tall man walking – Emmett of Ultra Tall Ultra Runner. He is ridiculously tall and he sings to himself as he goes! I love it. We walk purposefully into the wind and eventually head back toward the HWY.
Mile 17. About 3.5 hours in. Seeing Matt and J again at Wagon Wheel aid station, I tell them how rough the wind is. Matt tells me something important. (You know those truths that, when said out loud, sound so obvious that you almost think it’s something you already knew and then take for granted that the information is important to you RIGHT NOW….) He said that, with the wind, “You’re dehydrating a lot faster than you think, so, don’t forget that.”
(Now, I had been sipping my Nuun because, of the 3 tubes that I brought, two were empty. Doh! How does that even happen?! Lesson learned: Check your Nuun tubes.)
Mile 18. Mile 19. My hip flexers ache. Really? I don’t remember this from my training runs. Also, I should’ve taken a last-second pee before the race started but instead I’ve spent the first 19 miles wondering if I should go behind THIS rock or…no, maybe THAT rock…or wait until I pass some larger/closer-to-the-trail rocks.
Mile 20. My stomach gets a sinking feeling…and makes a threatening move. I quickly find a rock that is good enough to provide adequate cover. (At that point, any rock would’ve been good enough.) I feel very sorry for that rock.
THE WORK BEGINS
Mile 22. Mile 23. My too-little too-late hydration and fuel intake is catching up with me. I feel sluggish, but at least my IT band isn’t complaining! Positive thoughts! These aid stations feel like they come up quick! That’s really nice, actually.
Mile 24. DANG, this wind has REALLY picked up! I have to lean forward or sideways to counter the wind. I know I joked before about a desert monster trying to stop me from finishing, but I hadn’t thought of a desert monster manifesting itself as WIND! Again, I think of Wayne.
I looked it up later: 26 mph winds!
Mile 26. I’m alternately walking and shuffling. This is it. Beyond a marathon. This is where the tiredness and the pain make me work for it and test my attitude. Am I going to hate this or embrace it? Am I going to whine to the finish or remain undeterred, even as I slow down and walk more?
“This is what you’ve been waiting for,” I think. My leg muscles are tight, my hip flexers so, SO sore, my feet ache. I keep moving forward. “This is when it takes more effort than you’ve given before. So if you’re going to walk, walk like a grandma in a tracksuit – with gusto!”
ALL A BLUR
Counting down the last 5 miles, my spirits are high. My legs feel good and are loose again. Everything seems good. Except one thing. The world is out of focus. Must have smudged my sunglasses? Nope. My eyes aren’t focusing properly! What madness is this? Blinking isn’t helping. Staring at rocks in the distance isn’t helping. Is this common after 6 hours of bouncing through the desert?
Mile 27. Mile 28. The blurry world is making me feel sick to my stomach. Pressure builds in my chest. Salivation. Ick feeling. Is that a burp coming up or something more? Should I stop and walk or risk throwing up? Uhm…walk.
I hear a friendly voice from behind. Wayne. He walks with me and encourages me. I tell him how I’m feeling and he says that’s about the worst thing that can happen, aside from breaking a leg. Sweet. But we’re close now. Keep it up. He jogs on and I can’t kick the unsettling nausea.
Mile 29. Mile 30. I text J that I’m approaching the last aid station. When I get there, I meet Shane. He’s injured and has been walking since mile 16. Sad day for Shane! He’s just having fun finishing. We joke a bit about this being his worst 50k race and my best (because it’s my first). We walk toward the finish, the community college is in sight.
THE BEST FEELING IN THE WORLD
Mile 31. Shane tells me, “If you want to give it all you’ve got left, now’s the time to do it.” I do my best to suppress the ick feeling and dial my movement up to a slow run. MY LEGS RESPOND! They’re still with me! They’re ready to go! I just love how my legs can still move. Oh, thank you legs!
I see J and Matt up ahead! I hear claps and cheers from clumps of people hanging around until the bitter end. I love those people. I don’t know who they’re waiting for but I’m so glad they cheer for all the runners.
I cross the finish line. J is taking pictures. Matt has our Flip. Wayne comes over to congratulate me. Shacky and Vanessa too. Even Kate was still there with her award in-hand. What marvelous people to help me celebrate the finish! And I didn’t even barf!
There you have it. Pretty straightforward. Of course, there are many things I left out, many pictures I didn’t take. Those are my memories to treasure. Besides, I’m not a race tourist coming to an ultra for a souvenir with no plans to return. I’m a new ultrarunner moving into town.