Ever since I was reborn as a runner 4 years ago I've been on a mission to improve and better myself. The distances raced, the volume of miles, etc. have all gradually increased. I'm even racing with a greater frequency. Some would call me crazy, but I love it. After a string of 6 marathons in 6 months spanning October to March I decided the next challenge would need to happen and that was an ultra.
I chose to run the DPRT 50 Mile event since I had some familiarity with the trails and the timing was pretty good for spacing my races out and likelihood of good weather. I fielded a lot of questions about why I jumped straight into a 50 miler rather than stepping up to a 50K first. I just thought why not? I put in a enough mileage this summer to not be too worried about finishing. I just had to deal with still recovering from being sick.
The race was to take place on Saturday, October 17th. I briefly contemplated going to the office on that Friday and then staying at the host hotel since that would be super convenient. Instead I opted to do my usual work from home and would just get up early to head up to Vernon Hills. I'm glad I did this since I know I would of forgotten something vital had I not. Although to be fair I barely used anything I brought with me, more on that later.
-Under Armour shorts
-Roadrunner arm warmers
-Nike sprint gloves
-Mizuno Inspire 11 shoes
-Nathan HPL 20 hydration vest
-Accel Gel (chocolate flavored)
-Simply Balanced Fruit Strips
I was up at 4AM and got myself together and then drove to Half Day Forest Preserve. Luckily the 50 mile runners were permitted to park near the start of the race while the other distances had to take a shuttle from a remote lot. It was cold out, just about 33 degrees. I had all my layers on as I made my way over to check in and pick up my packet. I used the facilities and then headed back to the car to stay warm and prep for the next 30 minutes. About 15 minutes before the start I headed back to the start area. All the runners were huddled around several fire pits and we received our instructions for the race. The race started in 3 waves a couple minutes apart to help keep the trail from clogging.
I was off in the 2nd wave. The early going was trying to find an appropriate pace. Eventually another marathon maniac came up beside me and we chatted a bit as we did an out and back south for the first 3.2 miles. These early miles felt easy, but I knew not to over do it. The one thing I didn't do was drink enough. With as cold as it was I definitely wasn't perspiring as much, but didn't realize the rigors that lay ahead. I finally parted ways with the other Maniac at an aid station 7 or 8 miles in. The aid stations were spaced pretty far apart, but were well stocked compared to most races. I kept doing shots of M&Ms since they would portion them out in little cups. There would also be things like pretzels, chips, trail mix, oreos, coke, mt dew, water, gatorade, pb&j, grilled cheese, and pickles. I was definitely overwhelmed and didn't know what to really do at my first few aid stops.
I continued to churn out miles at a pace I thought I could maintain. It was slower than what I had trained at all summer so I thought I was good to go. I didn't factor in the fatigue from the marathon 2 weeks prior, or the lingering illness in my system. As the miles ticked off I soon began to get excited for the prospect of Mo joining me around mile 15. I was sad when I came to the aid station around mile 15 and hadn't seen her. I checked my phone for messages and had none. I trekked on. Eventually I did find Mo waiting for me just past mile 16 and she was ready to jump in. The boost of energy and morale support was definitely welcome.
The miles kept climbing and Mo kept talking. We kept on pace and I was feeling good through the supposed first wall at mile 18. It wasn't until around mile 23 that I felt the first signs of fatigue. The other error I had made was a lack of walking intervals to keep the legs fresh. They were now being added albeit a little too late. I also started to feel the effects of not hydrating as well as I should have. Starting with 22 I began to wonder when we'd start seeing the lead runners heading the other way. We didn't wind up seeing them until much later. At the turnaround we realized I was probably in the top 20 given the lack of runners we saw going the other way. I took my time at the turnaround, using the facilities, fueling, and trying to hydrate. I re-joined Mo and we walked for a bit so that my stomach could try and absorb all it had taken in.
We walked about 1.5 miles and had a number of people pass us. Mo was a real trooper. It was supposed to be her long run and here she was walking with me instead. We finally got to the point where I was feeling a bit better and we did intervals of jogging and running. The pace was much slower this time around. By the time I hit the 50K mark I told Mo that my legs felt the same as they typically do the day after a marathon. This wasn't going to be easy to finish. We kept going at this while walking any incline and then enjoying any little downhill. Finally we were back to where Mo parked and I was on my own again. Not long after I got a low battery warning from my watch. I was at mile 37.5 so I turned my GPS off so I could at least have a watch for the rest of the race. I'd have to gauge distance by the aid stations and memory.
I actually picked up the pace for a bit. I was getting a 2nd wind and feeling strong again. The grilled cheese and pickle that I ate most definitely helped. This lasted for a couple miles until my hydration pack ran dry. I had an offer to get it filled at the previous aid station, but had not realized how low it was so I passed. Here I was without knowing how far the next aid station was and bone dry. I chose to start walking to prevent any problems. I started to panic as the aid station seemed further than it should have been. I eventually figured out that the sign marking that the station was a mile away was missing. I refilled my hydration pack and definitely downed some additional water and coke. The station actually had some hidden beer that another runner asked for, but didn't seem all that appealing at the moment. I walked and sipped for awhile more. We now had single digit miles remaining until the finish line.
A lot of the last 10 miles were a bit of a blur. I remember a guy passing me and then seeing a skunk run across the trail right in front of him and about 20 yards from me. I kept trading places with the guy for awhile before passing him for good with 1.5 miles to go. I did some jogging, but most the last 6 miles were closer to power walking with what little I had left in my legs. I must have drank more than enough to re-hydrate because I started to have to pee like every 10 minutes. I'd duck off to the side of the trail when no one was around and go. I was almost caught once, but was quickly able to play it off like I was using a tree to stretch. Another stop I heard some rustling in the trees near me. I look up and I'm staring eye to eye with a deer. It's eyes were completely fixed on me. Oddest moment peeing ever. A bit later I saw a rabbit darting through the woods so either I was turning into Alice or the Bambi trifecta was now complete.
I could sense the end getting close. I could even smell the cookout happening and hear some of the music and cheers as runners came in. I was highly encouraged to finish strong and somehow found what I had left and jogged into the finish. I crossed in 10:09:27 which was much higher than my optimistic 8-9 hour goal, but it didn't matter anymore. I got a handshake and a belt buckle.
The rest of this week has been spent recovering. I don't think I've ever felt this beat up and sore, but I did bounce back pretty quickly. I was running pretty normally again by Wednesday, albeit still much slower than normal. I still have another week to recover before my next marathon at the Milwaukee Running Festival on 11/1.