Monday, December 19, 2011

Frozen Trail Run Fest 50K (and Jingle Bell Hell Virtual Race)

Saturday, I participated in (notice I didn't say "raced") the Frozen Trail Run Fest 50K.  My first attempt at an ultramarathon and I've since been told, a pretty tough pick for a first one.  Heather was friend enough (and perhaps just crazy enough) to join me on my adventure.  She has since told me that any race I suggest she's game for so maybe I should be more selective in my suggestions.  Anyway, pre race actually began Friday night when, as I was getting things ready to go I realized I couldn't find the charger for my Garmin anywhere.  Finally after looking until 11:30pm with no luck, I gave up.  How long will a Garmin last with 3 bars... can it make it 31 miles... 6+ hours?  I was hoping.

Saturday morning I woke up and got ready, took a picture of my pretty toes (because I figured they wouldn't be so pretty at the end)
and ate what I could of a Clif Bar, the nerves were really setting in at that point.  As soon as the clock turned to 7:10am (Heather was picking me up at 7:15am) the reality of the situation really set it.  I was about to go and run 31 miles oh and at 16 1/2 weeks pregnant too (no, really... surprise!... more on that later).  Yikes!!!

We got to Mt. Pisgah without trouble.  Picked up our packets, where I was given bib #17 which made my day.  For one thing it's an odd number, which I love but mostly because out of all the trails we would be running on, #17 was my favorite... I figured it was a good sign.
Heather and me.
Looking a little hesitant and my ear warmer headband is totally on sideways... I can't believe I ran 31 miles that way! Note to self... look in the mirror next time!  
Without much more ado we headed down to the start line 
and were given a little bit of instruction, "Do base loop 1, then base loop 2, then base loop 1 again, then the summit loop... you're welcome." In case you don't remember from my previous post, here is a glance at the course elevation profile:
 Then we were off.
Base loop 1. 8.2 miles total.  Elevation gain 889 feet.  For the most part loop 1 was pretty uneventful.  Heather and I settled into a nice pace.  We checked in at the aid stations but didn't stop, walked a bit up the bigger inclines, passed a few people, were passed by a few people, passed a few people again and overall, dare I say, enjoyed ourselves.  I had a Razz Clif Shot at mile 5.  Before I knew it, we were up and over my least favorite trail, #7 and headed down #17 towards the start/finish for loop #2.

"Should we do it again?"  "Let's do it again."

Base loop 2.  8.2 miles.  889 feet elevation gain.  Although the stats for base loop 2 are identical to base loop 1, that increase in elevation comes at a much more rapid pace... I really think Summit loop 2 would be more fitting.  Anyway...  I had some Margarita Clif Bloks at mile 10 and stopped to use the facilities at the 12 mile aid station.  After stopping, it took me a loooooooong time to catch back up to Heather but I finally did and we ran together for the remainder of loop 2.  Once we were on the back side of the mountain on our second loop the trail began getting pretty sloppy.  I had a Strawberry Clif Shot at 15 and welcomed the caffeine... I think it was a nice boost.  We stopped for water at 16.6 (which by the way was manned by a very very nice and encouraging man) then headed up #7 again to #17 and back by the start/finish. For loop #3.

"Hey, let's run it again"  "Okay"

Base loop 1 (2nd time) 8.2 miles.  889 foot gain. (spoiler alert... this was my least favorite loop.) I was starting to feel it at that point.  We were 16.6 miles in when we passed the start/finish.  We began being passed by runners doing the shorter distances (they had started racing at 10am).  It was good to be running with Heather, she kept me going.  Somewhere along there, I had a handful of Jelly Bellies and also quite a few PowerBar Energy Blasts... which I looooove.  At the 19.6 mile aid station I stopped and ate a chocolate chip cookie (at the time it was the best chocolate chip cookie I had ever had... it tasted sooooooo good, even though it more resembled cardboard) and had two glasses of water.  Heather stayed behind to use the Honey Bucket but caught back up to me in no time.  We also had quite a few other people catch up to us over the next little bit.  I slowed considerably as we began up the hills and pretty soon everyone was gone.  I lost Heather and also another lady that I consider my running nemesis (she's my kids' music teacher and we've battled a few other times... here specifically).  I tried not to lose hope at that point but I knew there wasn't going to be much chance of catching back up with them.  My pace dropped even more and as I slopped up the hills I stopped several times to stretch out.  My right hamstring from my groin to my knee was on the verge of cramping up and my lower back was killing me.  As I was coming around the other side of the mountain I decided to try and enjoy myself a little bit more and stopped to take a few pictures of the muddy mess that we were running sliding through.

As I was headed towards the aid station at 23.8, my tummy was grumbling.  About that time, I remembered that I had cut up a Clif Bar and stashed it in my hydration belt.  It was just what I needed.  It stopped my stomach from grumbling and tasted so good.  I chatted with the nice aid station man for a bit and had 2 more glasses of water.  I did not however fill up my water bottles... bad move.  I then ran over #7 for the third time, then onto #17 and to the start/finish.

Summit Loop. 6.4 miles.  1023' elevation gain. (Also, my contribution to the Jingle Bell Hell Virtual Race put on by XLMIC)   (It should also be noted that as tribute to the Jingle Bell Hell race, I had composed a song in my head during the first loop that went to the tune of Jingle Bell Rock (my least favorite Christmas song of all time).  The song was completely lame* and made it so I had the tune of Jingle Bell Rock in my head for 31 miles... not a good thing.)

As I came by the start/finish to begin my final loop of the course the officials stopped me.  I was secretly hoping they were going to tell me that I wasn't going to be able to complete the race but apparently someone had merely removed one of the summit signs and they didn't want me to get lost.  Whew... I could keep running.  :S  Shortly after leaving the start/finish I realized I was basically out of water except for a few drops.  Ugh... this was going to be hellish.  It took me a bit to decide what to do.  I knew I didn't want to return to the start to fill up... it wasn't quite 4 miles to the aid station at the summit, I could survive that long without water.  I had planned to have a Chocoalte Cherry Clif Shot but wasn't sure that was the best idea without anything to chase it with.  Ultimately I decided to take it... I really needed that double shot of caffeine.  About that same time, my Garmin gave the beep of death and I was completely alone.  No pace. No other runners.  No water.  Just me.

It wasn't long before I was heading up the summit.  Here's another reminder of the elevation in case you were wondering.

Yes... it doesn't get more hellish than that.  Not having my Garmin to tell me how slow I was going was nice I guess, but it also couldn't tell me how far I had gone, which meant I had no idea how long until I was to the top.  Just when I thought I was getting closer I came to a sign.  ".6 miles to Summit."  Are you kidding me?!  I still had over 1/2 a mile to go!!!  I admit, I cried a bit at that point.  I tried to laugh (as was requisite in the Jingle Bell Hell rules) but it just wasn't happening.  Shortly after passing the sign I heard this huffing, puffing and clicking coming up behind me.  It sounded like some old person with a walker... Great, I was about to be passed by a handicapped person on a hill.  Nope, turns out it was actually another racer with trekking poles... but yes, he passed me quite easily.

Finally though, the clouds parted, literally, and I reached the summit.  Maybe it's because I was already out of breath, but it was the most breathtaking thing I have ever seen.  It looked like you could just walk out onto the clouds... so cool.

 It was absolutely gorgeous on top.  I was so glad that I had my phone and could capture it on camera.  At that point I had run right around 28 miles and the view completely made it worth it.  After catching my breath and taking a self portrait (for proof that I really was doing this) I said out loud, "Alright Laurie, let's finish this thing."
Yep, still have that crooked headband... what a dork! 
I knew that the next aid station was just down from the summit and I was quite anxious for some water.  When I stopped at the aid station though, ha ha, joke was on me, she was out of water!!!  What?!!!  I will admit, I did actually laugh at that point as in, you've got to be kidding me, you're out of water?!  I did notice a nice bag of potato chips... think that would quench my thirst?!  The volunteer was of course quite apologetic and assured me that the next station was only 1.6 miles away, which isn't too bad... unless of course you've just run over 4 miles without anything to drink except a sticky clif shot!  Anyway, I survived.  I actually was feeling pretty good.  I think being less than 3 miles from the finish helped lift my spirits.  I stopped again to take a picture of the mud... which at that point was just a mess.  Then I laughed when I could barley lift my foot because I kept it still in the mud too long.
 Finally, I was to the last aid station, where the super nice man helped me to a couple glasses of water and some very encouraging words.  After a high five, I was on my way and headed towards the finish.  Up and over trail #7 for the last time... that felt good... and there it was, trail #17 and my path to the finish!!!
 I was so happy to see the finish line and Heather there cheering for me. I knew that I was no where near 6 hours and well over 6 1/2 but was very pleased to have come in under 7.

Final stats:
31.07 miles
6:49:37 pace 13:12
20th finisher overall out of 27... at least I wasn't dead last, I had my concerns for a bit
6th out of 9 for the women
2nd of 3 in my age group

Aaaaaaand, my toes came out okay... just a little bit of mud and only one small blister.
Heather absolutely rocked it!!  She finished 3rd woman overall with a time of  6:29:18 and did manage to beat my running nemesis for me... so there is some consolation in that.  I felt really bad that she had to wait around so long for me to finish though.  They had heaters but it was soooooo cold... she was shaking and her lips were seriously purple.  There was a pretty decent spread of post race treats.  I had some potato chips, a bagel with peanut butter, several orange slices, a couple cookies also covered in peanutbutter, and two glasses of hot chocolate.  There was also some sort of hot vegetable soup and chili but I wasn't having any part of that.

All in all I'm really glad I did this race.  I went into it knowing it wasn't going to be the best race for me.  It was hard, but I told myself that no matter what I would be happy with just finishing it... I didn't intend to try and race it.  I have a hard time "not racing things" and it's still disappointing to me to see my name so close to the bottom of the results but I really am happy with my effort.  I definitely want to do it again... maybe sometime when I'm not pregnant.  I've definitely caught the ultrarunning bug and can't wait to try some longer events... although I will wait, quite a while.  :)

*Jingle Bell Hell (to the tune of Jingle Bell Rock)
jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell hell
we've run three loops and we've run them well
now onto the summit we go
we won't run too fast, nope we'll run real slow, ooohh
jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell hell...

Disclaimer:  for anyone that is concerned... I did consult with my doctor before running this event and was given permission.  I feel that I did a good job listening to my body and doing what was smart for me.


JazznJenna said...

Laurie, you ROCK. Congratulations on completing such a crazy tough run! I enjoyed reading your account, I can't believe how hard that was. And most of all, congratulations on your pregnancy!! How exciting for you and your family. I wish you a great next few months : )!

pepperland67 said...

Wow, congrats on the new baby!! I have 2 and can't imagine taking on a 3rd, let alone a 5th. My oldest was born in May, and I remember how I felt in December, and it was nowhere near good enough for an ultra. Way to go running in that muck. I live in OH and am not a good cold weather runner, so I mostly live vicariously through other runners in the cold months. Really like your blog, glad I stumbled upon it one day.

Elizabeth said...

WHAT, Wait a minute... another Higgins Baby? Congrats. I'm totally surprised and had no idea - not that I would here in Colorado. I had to read the blog several times, check dates (not April 1st, yes 2011...) Wow - again, Congrats. And great job running that long of a race. YOU ROCK!

runninglawyer said...

Congrats on both fronts!!! You are such an awesome mom, I look forward to hearing your adventures with the new baby!!!!

And 50k???? 16 weeks? You are wonderwoman! I guess I have no good excuses now if you did it!

Katrina said...

Wow, wow, and wow! You are superwoman, seriously. I mean, I thought you were superwoman before, and I don't really know what super hero beats super woman, but I guess that's you. Congratulations on both fronts! You rock!

Callie. said...

Laurie, you are just awesome. Congrats on doing what you just did. are pregnant?? Congrats!! I am so thrilled for you. I guess you will get your 5 after all. :).

Heather said...

So what's next??? Sign me up!!! I've been perusing race calendars to see what could tempt us next. :) Seriously though, you DID ROCK that race. Forget eating for two--you were ultramarathoning for two--and NOTHING is more impressive than that!!! And I think the camera was crooked, not the ear warmer--it looked great (along with your super cool new shirt that I am still coveting). Way to go! Thanks for a great race and an achievement I'm not sure I'd ever have been able to put my name on if you hadn't encouraged me.

(Just) Trying is for Little Girls said...

You, my friend, are bada$$. What a great race report, I love reading about events I will

Congrats on #5! How exciting.

Joleane said...

Are you serious!?! You're really pregnant?
Well, congratulations!!!
Sounds like you're doing very well though. Take care of yourself. Let me know if you guys ever need anything!

Beth said...

That looks crazy and BEAUTIFUL! Congrats on the ultra!

Raina said...

Well done, Laurie. Your time is really very good, not even considering that you were in your second trimester! I love how you waited to spill the beans until after your race. Ha! I did that with my first half marathon :) Hubby didn't know either.
I know you'd like your time to be better, but I stalked a few other local runners and looked at the time comparisons for paces. You held your own VERY well. Awesome Job Laurie!! I hope the RD has more water there next year when you are 3 months post-partum :)

Raina said...

Bad math ...make that 6-7 months post partum (I think) :)

D.R. Jewelry Design said...

Oh my GOSH! You are the most awesome women I've ever known! Congratulations on your race and on your new baby!

Catey said...

Yay!!! I have been waiting to hear this race report. That is one heck of a course to jump into the ultra world!! I've been scoping them out and must say I'm not nearly as brave, my first will be much more tame. :)
And totally cracking up that this is where you announced. lol I'm still bracing for being berated when people figure out that I was pg for the marathon a couple of months ago...didn't enjoy dealing with the few that I already have. :/ And wait till they find out I still plan on Spring races, that will go over well I'm sure.

Amanda@runninghood said...

Oh my oh my oh my you are amazing. I am sooo far behind with blogs but you're prego?????? What?? Must atch up here. What??? How exciting!!!
And your feet are beautiful even with the blood.

runnerchick said...

Congrats on your first ultra!!! You rock!!!

Fruit Fly said...

I pretty much feel worn out just reading that. What a crazy hard course you ran - over and over and over! Congratulations!!