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Sunday, October 8, 2017

First Ultra Marathon Recap

I am the kind of person who enjoys pushing limits. I have slowly through the years set goals and completed them only to turn around and set another bigger goal. This year my goal was to finish an ultra. For those of you who don't know an ultra marathon is any race past the 26.2 mile marathon distance. I have been training and trying since January to complete this goal. It has been a tough year physically and mentally for me and running. After being pulled and getting a big fat DNF in Iceland, I went into my 40 miler this weekend completely terrified. I didn't know if I could do it, I didn't know if I was ready and I was so afraid  I would fail again. The mental monsters that invade after not finishing something you work so hard for are hard to explain to anyone who hasn't been there. To sum it up, I put a lot of pressure on myself.

My training for this race has honestly not been the best, life got in the way big time. I missed far too many long runs and even some weekly miles and I was sweating it come taper time. I went 30 miles at one point during the training. I didn't know if that was too much or not enough.  I had just happened to piece a training plan together based off a 50K plan and tweaked some things here. I was clueless if the miles were even going to be enough. Come race day though, I just showed up and hoped for the best.

Here is my recap:

4:00 AM- Alarm clock goes off. Oatmeal and half a cup of coffee goes down; poop comes out. Thank goodness. Clothes on, race number pinned and running shoes laced up ready to go. I kiss all the important people in my life and hit the door toward the race.



6:00 AM- Race begins in the dark. My third time running with a headlamp in complete darkness, it made the beginning of the race even more exhilarating. The race is 3 loops around a 13.1ish mile trail. The trail cuts in and out of Barkcamp State Park and it is by far one of my most favorite places in the world. It's where I started my trail running fun and where I always look forward to running. First loop I kept myself slow and easy, felt good. I drank my water, ate my clif shots, drank my Gatorade and enjoyed 60 degree temps. Since there was around 16 runners who were running the ultra I enjoyed solitude for a good portion of the entire race.

9:00 AMish- Loop 1, done. Start lap 2 of 3 around the course. I knew I had to stay pretty steady as I had to be finished by 1 with the second loop, to be able to continue. I still felt good, I was eating and drinking. The ascents were starting to hurt, the temps were starting to climb but I kicked on my audible to keep myself mentally in the game. I lost myself for a while listening to the book and just trudging a long. The end of this loop got hard. I mentally struggled to keep going. I battled with myself because my head kept making excuses of why I should quit when I reach the end of this loop.  But, I made it to 26.2 within the time constraint. I got to the bag drop. I changed my shoes. I ate a pb&j and set off, giving my head a big giant eff you in the process.

1:00 PMish- Oh god it started out hard. I immediately regretted changing shoes. I went from Hoka's that are like little pillows on your feet to a neutral shoe; stupid mistake. My feet ached and they didn't the rest of the race. At the start of this loop, it was hot out. I was sweating and losing salt at an insanely fast rate. I drank my Gatorade I had packed in my drop bag somewhere around mile 29. I kept taking Endurolyte's every 40 minutes to keep myself from bonking out from dehydration. I think they helped tremendously. I was in new territory. I had never ran this long or this far so I honestly had no clue what to expect. I hurt like I had never hurt before. I'm not going to lie, I cried a time or two and I came super close to shitting myself around mile 32. Good lord I was in pain. I stopped listening to my audiobook somewhere around mile 35 because I was in a bad way. My head couldn't process the book and I was having a hard time focusing. I think at this point in the race I was down to a walk and a little shuffle run where my feet barely left the ground. My legs were done and my head had quit hours ago. I got to the last aid station and the guy told me 3 miles left. Now on any given day that's easy peasy but I honestly cried when he said that. I didn't think I could make it the last 3. Thank god my wife text me at the right time. She talked me through mile 37 and 38. I was at the verge of quitting. I just wanted to lay down on the trail and wait to be found. Then around mile 39 or 40 (my watch had died somewhere around the start of loop 3, so I had no clue where I was) I heard my name being called and my phone rang, it was the race di
rector Rod. Seeing him and Cindy (the other race director) and then my son and mom in the middle of the woods was fantastic. They kept me going that last mile.

5:00 PMish- 11 hours later, I finished! Coming around the corner to see the finish line was instant tears. Scratch that, I sobbed. The emotions that hit me at that moment is the reason I do this crazy stuff. I felt complete elation and accomplishment. I have worked so hard all year. I have sacrificed so much time and energy and to see the finish line makes me tear up just talking about it. Words cannot describe. Waiting at the finish line were members of the trail group I run with, handing out high fives and hugs. Solidifying the fact that runners are the best and most genuine people you will ever met. I never knew how awesome a sweaty finish line hug could be until spending 11 hours running around the woods in 85 degree weather. Even though it was hard, I am so glad I did it. My first ultra completed and I am so freaking proud of myself. I am glad I didn't listen to the crap in my head, I'm glad I didn't give up when my mind was screaming for me to. I'm glad I stuck it out. I'm glad I completed my first ultra with the barkcamp crew.

Thank you Rod and Cindy for an unforgettable experience and for being there with me through that last mile. You two put your heart and soul into that race and it shows. Thank you to the runners who I have trained with or talked to and who were waiting at the finish line with arms open, without the advice from you guys I would still be running on the road and missing out on the trails.

Lastly, thank you to my amazing wife who I could never do this without. I put so much time into training and she is there with me encouraging me every single mile. She has ran training runs with me and sacrificed time just to be there for me. I hope she knows what her support means to me. She listens to all of my complaints and pulled me out of the dark place my mind was the last few miles of the race. She is always there and takes amazing care of me when I am barely able to walk after a race. I know not many people have someone like her in their lives, who will spend hours in a running shoe store or who will run in the middle of the night in the woods because you have 5 more miles to fit in. She is amazing and I am nothing without her.

Now, it is time to recover and rest this body and reflect back on an incredible experience.