|About to start our adventure. Excited!
The weeks leading up to my first 50-mile race did nothing to bolster my confidence that I'd be able to have a decent race or even finish. Months of strange medical problems such as hiatal hernia, gastritis and GERD started catching up to me and training was barely even enough for a marathon, much less a 50 miler, and being my first one I had NO idea what to expect with that kind of distance and time on my feet. A week before the race I finally got the diagnosis that I have a low functioning gallbladder and that I needed to have surgery. I think this is probably what triggered all of the other problems that I have going on. Instead of rushing off to the surgeon, I'm treating the gallbladder problem naturally with diet changes and herbs. But that's a whole 'nother post!
Back to the race! Nancy and I left early Friday morning for the 6 hour drive to Huntsville, TX. For once, I was not nervous at all about the race since I had NO expectations at all for myself. I very much doubted I'd even be able to finish, but thought if I could get in a lap or two and get to enjoy the beautiful pine trees there at Huntsville State Park for a few hours I'd be happy with that.
After checking into our hotel and checking out the state park, we decided to while away a few hours at the Texas Prison Museum. We had so much fun! We also learned a lot, especially that I NEVER want to go to prison. They had some handmade confiscated weapons on display that were downright scary!
|Fake guard waving from his fake watch tower :)
|Ol' Sparky. Real electric chair that has been put to use many times. Gave me the creeps!
|Giant Sam Houston
We headed over to the state park to pick up packets and listen to the pre-race briefing at about 4 pm. Our friend David Sooter was camping at the park and had a primo camping spot just a short little walk to the start/finish line so we parked there and headed to the lodge. After picking up packets, listening to the briefing and taking a few pictures we were headed back to town to grab a few things at the grocery store and settle in for the night. Instead of eating out, we each packed healthy meals and ate in the hotel room. We were actually in bed by I think 9 pm! A first!
Up bright and early at 4:30 am, we were on our way back to the park and to our easy parking spot at David's site. The line getting into the park wasn't as bad as we thought it might be and we had about an hour before the race started to visit the restroom, putter around with our packs and set out our drop bags. I went with one drop bag and a small cooler filled with date balls and fruit. The race had the drop bag area set up so conveniently with tarps set out and numbers on each tarp telling you which drop bags went where. The temps were great, low 40's for the start, but it would get warm later with highs in the mid 70's. The 50-mile was 3 loops of 16.67 miles each.
|Awards table. SO COOL! Nancy got herself a very cool "Rocky Donkey"
And just like that it was 7 am, and we were off! I started off with my friend Haley and we had a slow but steady pace going. The trails there are wide and it's a breeze to pass (and be passed) there. I had decided on no music the first loop. If I needed the boost, maybe on the second loop and probably definitely on the third loop.
|Me, Haley and Haley's friend before the race
|View of the lodge from the other side of the lake while running on the dam section
|One of the many cool bridges on the course
I made it a point to look around and enjoy the views of Lake Raven. About 99% was very runnable, soft pine needled trails. I hit my first rough spot only 14 miles into the race and couldn't help but think "UH OH." My mind started going to that dark place where I was thinking there was no way I'd be able to complete 50 miles if I was already feeling tired and sore at 14. Haley encouraged me to just keep moving and she went on ahead. I finished the first loop, grabbed a couple date balls from my cooler and headed back out. Haley caught back up (she spent some time at the start/finish aid station) about 3 miles into the second loop. I kept thinking that if I could just push myself through the second loop that I would give myself permission to crawl, walk or wog (walk/jog) the third loop, whatever it took to get through it. So that's what I did and I came through the second loop at about 7 hours. I kept up a steady stream of a date ball once an hour, pb&j squares and oranges at aid stations and water in my pack. Nutrition was working great so far so I didn't mess with it and kept it up the whole race. No bonks or nausea. Hot dog! I do believe I have found the nutrition that works best for me! The aid stations were WONDERFUL. Everything about this race was like a well-oiled machine. No hiccups at all.
Starting the third loop, I was on automatic pilot. I decided that I would NOT think, just grab new supplies and my headlight and get out of that start/finish. I didn't feel too horrible starting that loop (about 33 miles into the race) but after a mile or so totally and completely hit the wall. Even walking felt like a major undertaking! I kept thinking in my head that I needed to just keep chipping away at those remaining miles, no matter how slow and painful so that's what I did. When the rough spot started to get better (as they always do) I concentrated on power walking as fast as I could, and when that started to feel easier I started running again. Slowly running, but running. I stopped at DamNation aid station right as the sun was going down and got some hot potato soup and quesadilla. HEAVENLY! This perked me up tremendously. My IT band and knees hurt so much that I did everything I could do to distract myself. I listened to my favorite songs, talked to other runners and thought about home. About halfway into the last loop it started getting dark. I was looking forward to it since it would be something different, and it would get colder which usually gives me energy. What I discovered though is that running became a lot harder once it was completely dark because of all the little roots. My headlight just couldn't illuminate the trail enough that I was able to run without stumbling so my pace again became the fastest power walk I could manage. Every mile felt like 10 and time started running together in some weird time warp.
|Happy tears! Glad to be done.
I finally hit the last section that runs next to the park road and knew I was on the home stretch. I was so emotional, crying one minute and ecstatic the next. I called Dave when I was 1/2 mile from the finish line and sobbed to him that I was 1/2 mile away and was going to make it. He was so excited for me and so proud that it gave me some energy and after I hung up I managed to jog most of the way in to the finish. 13:42:31!! My first 50-miler and although slow, it was the best feeling in the world to have finished.
Nancy finished in an amazing time of 10:42:02 and got first in her age group! So proud of her. Haley finished in 12:38:35 and did great, and David Sooter finished in a smokin' fast 9:21:24.
This was one of the best experiences in my life and something no one can ever take away. I will never attempt this untrained again though! I'm already thinking about the next one... :)