We ran by the river most of the time but got some spectacular views of waterfalls, a few lakes, and even through a neat path on a lava rock field. That was the only paved portion and while we got the full pumice stone experience later on, it was nice to not have to conquer that at the very beginning!
This wasn't a mountain 50k and was much, much easier on me physically. Mentally I already felt much better about this distance but I wouldn't have taken the open spot last minute for this race if it were a mountain course. We had a net downhill and the course was pretty much all runnable. Most people would say it was all runnable, but unless you want to faceplant on jagged rocks, that part is not runnable. Many of the fast people coasted on by me between miles 14 - 20, though the front runners passed us as early as mile 8 (and I had an hour head start because I took the early start). Wow!
99% of the other runners were wonderful. I met a group of people that I chatted with for half the race. Unfortunately there were two sour grapes I encountered later in the race when I was running solo: a guy who told me he was passing on the left down a steep trail (when we were almost at the bottom) that caused me to stumble, he couldn't wait for 4 seconds?? but the person that takes the cake was this blonde girl who jumped onto a shaky bridge (halved logs with a railing on one side) and decided to bum rush me to the end causing me to feel sick/dizzy. She couldn't have passed me on the bridge anyway. It was inconsiderate of her and she got a few select words from me. People, if you run trails most everyone will stop and let you go by, but if you're on a sketchy section it's okay to express that you'd like to pass someone, but also express "when it's okay/safe".
It was nice to be able to run almost the whole time - though I faded around mile 26 for a couple miles and walked a little bit more. I kept most of my aid stops brief (except for the one drop bag location). I didn't take in enough calories and didn't drink as much Tailwind or water as I am used to, but I supplemented with salt tablets and felt just fine. My middle finger got stung (not a big deal) but I did roll my ankle 3 times right after we passed over the most technical spot with lava rocks and were back on soft smooth trail. Of course, right?! I rolled it 3 times in that mile and let myself walk most of the way to the mile 17 something aid station. I continued on after that at a steady pace and almost all of the trail was soft and much easier to run on, so I was only in minor pain. I was concerned I'd have to drop on the third roll, but after a few minutes of walking it felt okay enough to finish.
My garmin reported close to 1,800 feet of gain. I would have guessed maybe a little more because it was a rolling trail but I have horrible judgement. My GPS did drop out twice and there was actually a couple hundred foot spike the first time, so it may have been closer to 1,600. Either way, elevation is not the only tricky factor in a race (but ultimately, yes this was gentler). I enjoy running downhill! It's a bit harder with a sore ankle though...
I'm pretty proud of this performance (a little over 56 minutes faster than my first 50k) as about half of this course was much more technical and that certainly slows you down too! After last week's 34 miles, I had no idea how this would go down :-)
I got to meet one of my daily mile buddies, Maureen and her friend who was running her first 50k - awesome! I wish I could have run with them a little longer as they were in high spirits, but I was just a little bit faster and determined to try and hit my 7 hour goal. My pace didn't drop off much. Miles 6-11 were strong and consistent, and 21 & 22 were my fastest (in the 10:30 range). I don't really hit big walls, I just have stronger and weaker spots of races but for the most part the weaker spots are becoming much shorter. I think my shift in attitude has drastically changed how I perform. I also think feeling confident about tackling longer runs helps too. I am usually just really happy being out in the forest and enjoying myself rather than being focused on numbers. I don't look at my watch often at all, I just run on feel. As I get stronger, I run faster.
There were a lot of people on the trail that I chatted with and ran with for awhile - they all seemed to want to pace off of me, which was fine because they were chatty (and not like creepy dude). I find it funny that people see me as a good pacer, but I do run consistently. For the first 10 miles we had about 5 people, lost 2 then gained 2 more. After mile 22 or so, they slowed down a bit and I didn't see them again. I'm sure they all finished though! *edit* I checked the results and all of them did! Hooray!
The two people I was staying with and the guy who was hanging out with us were super fast. 5:30, 5:40, 5:50. That's just really impressive to me, maybe someday, eh? It worked out okay though because I did the early start and they only had to wait 12 minutes for me at the finish. Afterwards we were able to go get some post race food at a church (?) and even take a shower, which was great! It was nice to carpool down with someone too and get to know another fellow runner. She was easy going and I have to admit, geeking out over other ultra course is a lot of fun, since I'm usually talking to myself about this stuff. Ha ha!
I didn't take any pictures from this race and the 3 times I spotted a race photographer were awful timing. The first time I tried to jump but he didn't catch me, the second time was right after I rolled my ankle and I couldn't muster up a run, and the last time I had just taken a bathroom break and was trying to put my pack back on. To say that my race photos will be sucky for this one will be an understatement. Hah!
I'm super excited I got to run this race and had a fantastic time!! I'm already crossing my fingers that I get into the lottery next year. I'd recommend this race to anyone, even though it's already a popular event. The volunteers were some of the best that I've come across (on par with Rainshadow running volunteers) and the energy and excitement at this race was incredible. Taking an early start was actually a lot of fun because I finished in the middle with a lot of other people and it's nice to come into fully stocked aid stations! Though I think after 25 years the RD's have a pretty good idea of what to expect and plan accordingly.
Three days post race I am feeling like I'm recovering well. I vowed not to run until at least Wednesday this week, and my ankle is happy with that decision. Thankfully the rolling caused minimal damage. It was very tender Sunday but it's much better today. I'm still going to get a brace or at least wrap it for a little bit since this has always been my weak ankle. After the past two weekends it's important for me to take my recovery seriously to keep any debilitating injuries at bay. So far, so good! I realized I ran 75 trail miles in 8 days -- that's a lot for me! I feel like I'm coming back much stronger and am really looking forward to my races in November and December. My goal is to have a happy & healthy 2014 and continue to become a better (and a little faster) trail runner. Cheers!