I didn't have a place to stay at Gnawbone, mainly because I couldn't bring myself to pay for a hotel room that I knew I wouldn't get much sleep in. I would have camped, but I don't have a tent, nor do I know how to set up a tent, because every time someone has tried to teach me I end up not paying attention while they do it for me. So, I slept in my car. And it was awesome. I got the best sleep that I've ever gotten before a race. I have an SUV, so folding down the back seat and making a bed out of pillows and blankets was no problem. The race director welcomed me to park my car by the start/finish (despite the "NO CAMPING HERE" rule) for the night.
I lined up in the front of the pack I'm not really sure why, as I knew I wouldn't stay up there. The 50k and 50 mile people started together, so it was a pretty big group. The race started and not five seconds after I hit "start" on my watch, I went out chasing boys. I have no idea why I do this, and I really should make an effort to stop. Perhaps it's because I run with a lot of boys and I'm used to having to keep up with them, but it's more so likely that I have incredible race adrenaline and instantly want to go, go, go. The first 18 minutes was an uphill climb. Not only is it naturally muddy, but it had rained all night before. Someone behind me lost their shoe due to the deep, sinking mud. I stupidly ran this entire uphill. It was a waste of energy that I should have been conserving, but I was having a blast, so it didn't really matter. As my eyes constantly scanned for higher, harder ground, I thought of Jesse's blog and had a little laugh to myself (the name of his blog is 'In Search of Solid Ground'). I clocked in the first 10 miles pretty fast, meeting a very kind woman named Nancy who was running the 50k. Nancy thought it was absurd that I was driving back to Michigan after the race, and insisted that I stay in a cabin with her and all of her friends because they had an extra bed. Nancy also has a tendency to go the opposite way of the pink flags and miss turns, so when I let her go I was a bit concerned for her.
After the 10 mile aid station I knew I had to reel it in if I was going to run this race effectively. I slowed up and met up with three other women, one of them named Steph who is awesome. The other two were older women from Lansing, and we were all 50M. Steph was wearing the 1010s and I was in the 110s so we started talking about shoes, and I found out her and her husband own a running store in Bloomington, not far from the race. Around 3.5 hours in, I fell. Not surprising, I know, as I'm known for taking tumbles on the trails. However, I've never fallen like this before. Every time I've fallen I've never gotten hurt, despite the cuts and bruises, but this time was different. My left toe caught a root and I fell, and a stump found its way to the inside of my right knee, shoving itself between my knee cap and that other huge bone (I have no idea what it's called). This hurt so fucking bad. Tears instantly sprung into my eyes and I'm not sure if it's because of the actual pain, or the thought that I would have to drop from the race and take a DNF. Steph helped me up and the other two women kept running (whores), and she helped me walk. It felt a little better after a few steps, and I began to jog it out. After about a half mile the pain was gone. We caught the two women that we were with and passed them. Somehow they kept getting ahead of us, as we kept passing them more throughout the race. Steph and I ran together for 25 miles, but more like 27, as we missed a turn and went about a mile off course. At one point this guy (I think his name was Greg? I can't remember) came up behind us and told me he recognized me from the ultra in Hell, which I thought was pretty cool (the tattoo on the back of my neck makes it easy for people to recognize me, I think). He was a lot of fun, and he was with us for about an hour I think, until he turned off to go finish the 50k and we kept going. I hope I see him again, he was really nice. Steph started to pull ahead around 35 and I let her go. This is where I threw on the music. I know what you're thinking, "But Kels! You don't run with music, you always say that's not what running is about for you." And that's true. But it got damn lonely out there all by myself, and I was prepared for that, which is why I had my adorable little ipod shuffle ready. I can handle being alone with my thoughts and footsteps, that's one of my main joys I get from running, but sometimes it gets boring after 5 hours.
At the aid station for mile 40, the volunteers told me I was in second. I was a little shocked. I knew Steph and I were towards the front but I didn't think we were actually in the front. I confirmed that Steph was the one in front of me, just to make sure she hadn't gotten lost (again). On Thursday morning I ran with Erin, and we had discussed 50M strategies. She had told me to hold it all in until 10 miles to go, and she said "Drop the hammer at mile 40. You can hurt for 10 miles. You can hurt really, really bad for 10 miles, you've done it before." So I did. I was on my merry way. It felt like my legs were quivering waiting to let loose, and I let it happen. And it was awesome. I flew over the next 5 miles and when I came to the next aid station, with 5 miles left to go, they said "Hey, your friend is just a few minutes ahead of you!"
--The 50M people ran the first 25 with the 50k people, and then split off from them and ran most of the first loop again, but with some moderations. So, a few of the aid stations had already seen Steph and I together the first time through, and assumed we were already friends as we were talking and laughing and keeping pace with each other.
I didn't catch Steph, and I kind of didn't want to. I thought she deserved to win. I did keep pushing, though, and I was amazed at all that I had left to give. I was absolutely amazed at myself. I by no means and trying to gloat or sound egotistical, it is just refreshing to know that all of this training is paying off the way I want it to. At the start of the last mile, you come out on top of a ridge that overlooks the valley where the start/finish is. I stopped here and just took this in for a moment. It was absolutely beautiful. The entire course was beautiful. I couldn't believe that this place was in Indiana, because I felt like I was in the mountains in Tennessee or something.
[EDIT: I ended up taking third in this race. The results were disputed, and apparently someone was ahead of us but didn't check in to the last two aid stations. How DWD allowed this I'm not sure. But, not complaining.]
--The elevation of this course is exactly half of the Black Hills 100. With half the distance and half of the elevation, it was the perfect training run. (Just to give you an idea of the "hills" I was running)
I then went straight down from the ridge. I started to run and ended up sliding down on my left side for a good portion of the way. I thought it was mud, but once I fell in it I realized it was clay. No complaints.
After getting down, it was a relatively flat jog to the river, where we had to wade upstream for about a quarter mile. The water was up to my waist and pretty fucking cold. It helped wash the mud off of all my scrapes and cuts, but what I really noticed was that it felt really good on my knee. Shit.
Out of the river the finish was about 2 tenths (if that) of a mile away. I finished with a 10:25. Considering last year's winner was over 11 hours, I was pretty happy with this time.
I was mainly happy because I felt amazing. I had no mental low and no physical low (besides maybe my fall) the entire race. My upper body felt completely solid and never fatigued (which has always lead to my downfall in the past). My legs, though tired after the hard climbs (duh), were in superb shape. I never got the dead-legs-heavier-than-shit feeling. I'm attributing this to weight training and diet. Weight training has helped me immensely, and I can't thank Lauren (my trainer) enough. Ultra training, for me, is more than logging in the miles. I get them in, obviously, but the muscle building that weight training is where most of my strength has come from. I started lifting to supplement my running, and it has actually become just as important as the miles. The diet that she introduced me to and helped me tweak has also been a major factor. Yes, it sucks not being able to eat like I used to, or like most people do. Yes, it sucks not being able to drink (I'd kill someone for a double IPA most days). But the payoff is worth it. Feeling that amazing after a 50 miler, and having that confidence booster for the 100... ugh. There's nothing like it. And I needed it. I needed to know that it's okay to trust my training, and that I'm doing it right. This 50 mile put me at 98 miles in 6 days, which is the highest that my mileage has EVER been by quite a bit. And to feel great after that kind of a week... is awesome (for me).
My knee is in a lot of pain and still very swollen, despite the Aleve and icing. However, I don't think it's a real injury, I think it's just inflammation or whatever. I'm not worried about it, and I'm sure it will be fine by tomorrow. The drive home sucked, as sitting in a car for 5 hours was the last thing I wanted to do. What was even worse, though, was the shower. I didn't chafe or anything (usually never do), but the scrapes/cuts/gashes burned like a motherfucker. I think I cried a little, actually.
But, ya know, it's not a trail race if you don't finish bloody, muddy and giggling.
At least it's not for me. :)
Sunday: 26.2 Kalamazoo Marathon
Monday: 3 mile shakeout
Tuesday: 6 miles with Lauren (Maran) at Al Sabo
Wednesday: 3 in the morning, 4 at Urban Herd
Thursday: 6 with Erin
Total weekly mileage: 98 (.2)
I'd go out today but this fucking knee is really handicapping me. I feel great. I feel healthy. I feel strong.