Thursday, December 24, 2015

CHASING ULTRA



Chasing ultra and finding my run grit. I have wanted to step into the world of ultra running since 2011. Usually each year since, after Ironman is over though, I have pulled back on distances and just stayed fit throughout the winter and not chased this goal. This time so far is different. 

My pal Jess calls me up the day after Ironman, actually on our way home from Kentucky and asked if I would be interested in doing an Ultra Marathon with her in Charleston 5 weeks from then. I laughed when she popped the question, again just one day after finishing IMLOU.  I couldn't even fathom more running this year. I told her I would think about it and kind of laughed it off. Once I got home though, I started to think about it more and more. Endurance sport is pretty much a lifestyle, not just a fad. I live it and love it and this seemed to be calling to me. Like I said, I had always wanted to try and Ultra. Most of you that know me, know that I am a trail kinda gal. I love being off road! Give me trails over road any day, so I knew that this would be right up my ally. I hit the register butting and then gulped!!

 Given the 10 months of Ironman training, Rich said that I really didn't need to do much leading up to the race. I already had the fitness plus, I am not out to push anything this winter because I don't want to compromise my tri training plans for next season. So I was good with that. I hit the trails. I did a couple of 15 milers and stuck to around 6-8 for the rest of them. Still swam twice weekly no more than 2k sets and cycled twice weekly around 90 minters for each ride. I ran four times weekly. 
I felt fit, happy and healthy. No fatigue, no burn out ( like I had this summer) really nothing but excitement. Fast forward to race weekend-- We headed to Charleston on Friday. A pretty easy trip (no kids in tow this time.) We all had a nice dinner and then it was off to bed. Once we arrived to the race site on Sat morning, I felt like I was in unknown territory. This is so so much different than the tri world that I know. The ultra running world is so very much different. The people are different. In a good way. It was very comfortable, easy going atmosphere, I didn't really see any egos which as a nice surprise.  Everyone looked ready to run and have a good time. I was as calm as a cucumber. Weird. That doesn't usually happen to me in run races!! Usually I have a tummy full of butterflies but not today.

The race started and we were off.  I had no idea what to expect around each turn, but I figured it would be a nice packed path and the run should be pretty easy. The first mile was certainly good and I really had to pull back my pace. I always get carried away in the beginning. It was somewhere after mile one that we came across the first of the mud and the first wasn't really that bad. Then there was the second mud crossing, then the third. As we kept going the mud got worse and worse. I was not really not expecting the mud. The deep, thick mud!! I love off road, but don't usually run through this stuff, so knew it would make for an interesting day. The first loop, I tried to go around it, but there really was no going around. It was only go through it! I knew that this would be really bad for my poor feet. I try to keep my feet dry because they blister so badly, so with this I knew my feet were going to end up in pretty bad shape quickly. The only time I have ever run in mud like this was in Yorkshire England and it was for only eight miles. Not 50k!!!
MUD MUD AND MORE MUD
 Anyway, something I've come to understand in the community of ultra running is that the harder the trail/run/obstacle....the more it's preferred. I can tell you this, I definitely do NOT want a smooth little trail with no obstacles, no challenges, no changes. Where's the fun and adventure in that? I actually began to appreciate the mud and all the obstacles that came along as a result of it. It made the race tough. Sure 50k is not an easy thing by any means, but I have decided the harder the better. I would certainly not do a 50k going forward unless there were obstacles. I want the true adventure of it! The kind of obstacles that make you grit your teeth and make you question just what the *&#! you are doing there. That's what makes these so awesome!

I won't bore you with the actual details of the race because after about 25 miles....my mind went a little numb ;) These things are really about pushing your mental grit. Sure it's physical, but this race proved to me that perhaps these are more about having more mental grit than physical. Also, it's so ultra important to have a team of support for these. I couldn't have done this without our entourage. So thankful to Lindsey, Amanda, and Autumn for filling me up on each lap and for the encouragement. Proud of those girls too for running some of their longest mileage ever and finish the day strong in the relay! 

Anyway, as I left the woods on the last lap to run across the field to the finish, I saw Jess and Autumn starting their last lap. It was nice to see them and have some shout outs for each other.  I was so happy to see that finish line coming up! I ran as hard as I could to it. Well, I thought I was running hard. I have no idea, my legs were kind of numb so it actually may have looked a little like....

I certainly was not expecting to finish 3rd overall female in my first ultra. I could have gone harder and knew the points along the way where my mind got weak. The mud halfway through really got to me. The blisters on my feet that started at mile 6 got to me. The mounds of mud on the insides of my shoes got to me. The mosquitos ( and damn there were a lot) got to me. I overcame it all though and found my grit. I did it. It was so great to see Jess and Autumn finish as well. So proud of those girls and especially proud of Jessica. What a great time and a great experience and I got to share it with some really great people.


We had loads of fun in Charleston that night. Ate lots and laughed lots. The ending to a wonderful weekend with the gals. Next up is Warrior Creek. It's only a half but a pretty tough trail race so should be interesting. I am looking forward to it and to adding a few more races here and there. I have been scouting out some pretty amazing run races and one is in the Rockies. The mountains are calling! We shall see...


Love these girls!

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