I Lived to Tell the Tale
Every once in a while I do something stupid. Actually I do things all the time that could be classified as stupid but I have a habit of doing this one particular stupid thing: I attempt to perform some ridiculous athletic feat without training for it.
My list of idiocy includes an 18 hour Adventure Race before which I only trained somewhat sporadically. That was stupid. I did my first 100 mile bike ride with one 50 mile ride as my longest ride. Ever. That was stupid.
I’m not always an idiot, I trained for 4 months following the recommended training schedule for my first half marathon. I’m not much of a swimmer so when I thought I wanted to attempt a triathlon I spent several mornings a week at the pool swimming laps and even went for an open water test swim to make sure I was prepared. Then I had a panic attack in the water. Maybe that burned me on preparation.
This weekend I returned to my idiotic ways and decided to rely on my base fitness to do a 25K trail run without training. At all. I knew from a lot of other regular participants in the ultra running community that many people speed hike or walk these events so I figured I could and would slow down and hike if I needed to. I mean I can “walk” all day long. Right.
The Full mOOn 50k/25K Trail Run would be on forest service roads in the Ouachita National Forest beginning and ending at Lake Sylvia. I started toward the back of the pack of about 150 runners. Since there was a 50K option as well, there were close to 50 who started at the 7:00 pm early start option while the rest of us started at 8.
I’d gotten some advice from friends who are experienced ultra runners: walk the hills, especially in the first half to conserve energy so you have something to give at the end. This was great advice and I tried to follow it. Sort of. I had the company of another woman who was also running her first ultra trail run. We kept each other company and she probably encouraged me to walk more than I would have on my own.
We kept a good 10 minute plus average pace, easily talking and enjoying the sunset. Within an hour we were turning on our headlamps as the light faded and then disappeared. It was called the Full mOOn Run but the full moon had already passed and on this night, what moon there was hid behind a heavy blanket of clouds. I thought I was drinking enough to keep me hydrated and about mile four I ate a Gu. At the halfway turnaround of the out and back course, I felt really good. I mean really good. So after a sip of ginger ale, an orange quarter, and a mini snickers bar, I left my running company at the aid station and headed back. It didn’t take long before I realized how much running with a partner helped not only pass the time, but helped me keep a decent pace and stride. By mile 10 I had started walking a lot. My knees hurt. The roads were loose gravel and were banked pretty hard. It was tough to find a level route. Especially in the dark. My pace dropped off and I was only able to “run” for a minute or two at a time. I knew it was my knees that were holding me back, my energy level was good and other than the knees, my legs even felt good. But just in case it would help I thought I’d try a new energy fuel, PocketFuel Natural nut butters. I don’t know if it helped but oh my goodness it tasted great. I had the smaller 1.8oz package of Chocolate Haze, a hazlenut almond butter blend that pretty much tasted like squirting nutella in my mouth. I don’t think I ran any more or any faster after that but I felt great other than the knee pain. I finished in 3 hours and 14 minutes or something close to it. I had my RunKeeper going but I forgot to stop it until after I had gotten a drink and 2 pieces of watermelon.
15 miles, 3 and a quarter hours, and 2090 feet of elevation change and probably one of the best group of racers, volunteers and organizers I’ve ever had the pleasure of spending an extended period of time with. I think I’m going to try this again. But I’m going to train first.