On Saturday, I was supposed to take photos at a tiny first-year ultra, starting at 4am. I only got 2 hours of sleep, figuring I could sleep in between taking photos of racers near aid stations. I even brought a chair and some school work to do, figuring there would be a lot of downtime between 4am and the expected last finisher after 8pm.
While taking photos uphill from the mile 20 aid station, news came in that some runners were lost, having run an extra few miles up and down a mountain. When the final runner came in, I paced her to the aid station, figuring that would be my prescribed 3mi shakeout for the day. Mentally, she said she was in rough shape (tacking 4+ miles to a 55+ mile run might do that), but improving. I could tell she was physically strong, so that wouldn’t be an issue. Once she left the aid station, I kept checking in with her throughout the day, and ended up pacing her from mile 40 to 46. Unfortunately, I’d not had any food since a bowl of cereal at 2am and a small bag of chips at noon, so I was pretty hungry!
Arriving at the base of Mt. Monadnock, which the course goes up and over, I found out there was another runner who’d gotten lost to the tune of 5-6 extra miles, and the volunteers were hoping someone would accompany him over the mountain. Having expected to do only a 3 mi shakeout run, I had no supplies but a windbreaker, but I grabbed my phone and a regular disposable water bottle and volunteered.
Unfortunately for my quads he was cruising pretty well for having run 55+ mi already! I was actually feeling that climb just a bit. After accompanying him over the summit and seeing he was headed down safely, I went back as another runner we’d passed was slowing down a bit, and I wanted to make sure he was alright. After spending a few freezing minutes on the summit I backtracked looking for him, and found him almost to the summit and out of water.
He’d called down to the RD, who was hiking up (in flip-flops) with a backpack of water. I gave him what little was left in my bottle and we ran up and over the summit and down to meet the RD with water. The RD and I then hiked back up to find the last place woman that I’d paced earlier. She had just reached the summit after being revitalized by some jelly beans after a bonk. We accompanied her down with several others, finally getting off the mountain at 10:15pm.
It was all about survival and making sure everyone lived to tell the tale. It really was a changing experience, with the small town feel… it was what running should be, at least for me. Sure the big races with elite competition are cool, but this was basically a group of friends, some racing, some volunteering, doing everything they can for 18 hours to try to get everyone 55+ miles up and over a rocky, desolate mountain and down again.
My totals for the day were about 8 hours of “moving time” covering 20 miles and 4000ft of elevation gain, mostly on pavement and rocky terrain.
I got home at midnight, ate four meals, went to bed at 1:30 and got up the next day at 7:30 for a race. I definitely should have packed food and a handheld!
This race was my first trail/mountain race last year, after a year of running, so I was excited to see some improvement on the course! I was feeling okay, but definitely quite fatigued from the pavement and elevation the day before. I carpooled up with some teammates, and arrived about 45minutes before the start.
I jogged around a little and did my PT exercises before lining up at the start.
When the race went off, I fell back pretty quickly. Usually I start fast and end up getting passed later in the race, but my quads took awhile to get fully warmed up.
The first loop went pretty uneventfully. Thankfully I’d run the course before, and knew I could push hard on the climb, then recover on the downhills without slowing too much. I caught a handful of guys, and was passed by Todd Callaghan during the first loop.
At the start of the ascent of the second loop, my quads were feeling good and warmed up––and then they were toast. I maybe got 100m of uphill feeling good before they were just shot. This was a tough climb–the toughest of the three–over 500ft in less than a mile. I was toast by the top, but there was someone pretty close behind me, so I flew down the downhill into the finish area to head out for loop three.
The third loop started with a fairly steep climb, but blissfully pretty short. As I neared the top, Chris Dunn said that top 10 was very close ahead. I was already deep into the pain cave, but I forged ahead, deeper. I’m pretty sure I saw stars. Or perhaps the lactic acid had made it’s way to my brain and was oozing out my eyeballs; I’m not sure. A moment later, I heard cowbell, and Gianina Lindsey forever immortalized my pain on her camera sensor.
Finally having reached the top of the climb, I descended as fast as I could without stressing my injury, but couldn’t see anyone close ahead of me.
I climbed the last few meters and kicked it in to finish in 45:07.
Last year’s edition of this race was my first trail race. Having only run for a year at that point, I didn’t pace well, but ended up running it at a pretty solid effort level. This year’s race however, might have been my hardest effort yet. Nationals at Loon last year would probably be a close second, but only because I didn’t know the course well enough to really hammer it. Regardless, this race hurt. I was happy to cut off so much time off my finish last year (5.5 minutes). I was expecting to finish in the 46-47 minute range even without the long day on Saturday, so I am satisfied. I think digging into that pain will help me in future races this year. Apparently the quality of the field was pretty high, according to Level Renner. I don’t know enough of “the scene” to know that, other than the handful of frequent guys I recognize.