Training? For an ultra? Who does that? The ultra IS the training. I didn’t spend any physical or mental energy preparing for the Deer Grove 50k event this year. And that’s exactly what I loved about it. No stress. No anxiety. Just show up and run.
It was my ultra anniversary, one year from my first ultra. I did attempt Horseriders in April, but completed *only* 22 of the 27 miles. I was struggling with IT band issues and knee pain and I didn’t want to push it. I was disappointed but I was proud of myself for making the right choice. I probably should have written about it but I guess I was still embarrassed of my first “DNF,” even if it wasn’t an official race.
Anyway, this year’s Fat Ass event felt like a great success. I look back and think about the stomach issues I had for the first 15 miles, the tightness in my soleus (lower calf) and headaches in loop 2 and 4, not to mention fatigue for miles 22-28. I knew 20 would be alright. Even though my running had slowed a lot since the marathon in mid-September (ages ago if measured by my ultra friends who like to do back to back ultra weekends), I’d been keeping run ready. The golden moment for me was when I realized I was choosing to go beyond that. Even before I knew how I would feel, I was going to push through those last 12 miles. That was why I was there. To go beyond what I knew would be comfortable. To challenge my body and my mind. That, to me, was a victory. I overcame all of those “annoyances.” I pushed through and did more than I thought I could, more comfortably than I thought I would. I actually felt my best on those last 5 miles.
I was really fatigued for the 5th loop. I was with my friend Brandi and others who were keeping me entertained through conversation, as they shared their expertise and their experience and life stories (although nothing top’s listening to Jennifer’s Irish accent, too bad we couldn’t keep up with her ;). We all took turns calling out hills and walking by this point. And we started out on the last loop together. But the walking was getting to me. I was stiffening up and it was getting harder and harder to get going again. So, the next time somebody called hill, I just kept on running. I figured I would burn out and walk and eventually they’d catch me … but I just kept running. I was enjoying the movement and the solitude. I debated putting on my ipod, which I had carried the entire run but never listened to. Nah, it’s just me and the surreal afternoon light casting a fantastical glow in the trees. I was loving every minute of it.
My favorite part of the loop was toward the end, where the single track bends and turns and the ground is rooty. I knew once I hit that stretch I was home sweet home. Unfortunately, I got a bit cocky apparently because I tripped. I was in mid-air long enough to think to my self “whoa, no, don’t fall on your hands, you’ll break a wrist … oh wait, not your knees!” before I landed on all fours. Thankfully, nothing was damaged (though one knee was tender for a few days). So, I collected my self, wiped off the mud (oh, who am I kidding, I really didn’t bother) and finished strong.
I ended up finishing 32.6 miles in 6 hours, 21 minutes, more than 40 minutes faster than my first attempt last year. It was awesome. I couldn’t have asked for better weather (though it tried to rain, it only sprinkled here and there and was never too cold for it). We even saw two deer (we never see deer at Deer Grove)! I had a fun time with my friend Brandi who makes everything mores fun, and of course lots of other New Leafers. I was thankful for the washing machine loops, to see more people and change it up (I actually think I like the other direction better). I even ran most of the hills. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone, I might lose my ultra runner status.
Recovered well and no blisters, yay! I also learned that ginger really does help stomach issues and the Nuun tablets kept the headaches from being debilitating. Though I did have chafing for the first time, boo. Why is it when we think we get everything figured out, something new comes up? Well, wouldn’t life be boring if we had it all figured out?