Marathon racing has always carried a bit of an unknown element. Stories of marathoners with cramping, massive blisters, gastrointestinal issues, bonking and similar unforeseen circumstances always made me cautious and question that I might have a similar experience. Compared to an “extreme” ultra race, I now realize how predictable the marathon really is in comparison.
This was the setting at the start 8:30pm Friday night before the Dances with Dirt Gnaw Bone races. It goes without saying that the course was a bit wet and muddy. My husband’s shoe actually suctioned off his foot within the first mile of his 10k race!
I recovered well from the Mini Marathon last weekend and went into the race feeling well prepared. Friday, I dined on carbohydrate-rich meals such as half a turkey sandwich and baked potato lunch. Lean ground turkey and vegetable topped quinoa and brown rice with a sweet potato roll worked well for my pre-race dinner meal. Since the race was so early I dined earlier than usual throughout the day and finished my evening with half of a PowerBar Performance Bar as a night cap at the State Park Lodge. I didn’t want to go to bed feeling heavy and full, lacking sufficient time to properly digest a late heavy meal before the early 6:15 am race start.
Race morning I woke with a cup of yerbe mate tea, a couple slices of raisin bread, a banana, the other half of the Performance Bar, a little Gatorade, and plenty of water.
Part of the reason I wanted to run the 50k race was to experience the style of aid station I often counsel ultra athletes in navigating. I packed a couple drop bags with extra supplies and shoe changes that were available out on the course in the event I needed them. With as much as 5 miles between aid stations I needed to carry fuel on me to support a successful race. I carried a water bottle in hand and loaded up on easy to carry gels in setting off for a fun event.
Race start was unlike any I’ve ever had. I arrived at the start at about 5:50 before the 6:15 start. No pre-race warm up. I basically hit the bathroom and headed to the start. I knew a 31 mile race allowed plenty of time to ease into the race. If anything I was slightly nervous about starting the race just as the sun was rising without a headlamp. It was light enough to see, but not light enough to truly know what I was stepping through.
Within the first mile my shoes were completely saturated with wet mud as I found myself sliding all over the course in search of good footing. At 2 miles my watch announced my split of 18:44. It was my first true realization that this was going to make for quite a morning. My pre-race goal was to find a couple guys running a similar pace and lock in. Unfortunately a group of guys took off at a clip that I was fearful I would exhaust myself during the initial muddy miles and be tanked by the end. I decided early to run my own race, even if that meant a lonely race.
The course continued in true ultra marathon fashion. There were awesome rolling mountain bike trails, water filled and shoe soaking creeks, many off trail trees to hurdle, and knee eating climbs. I can’t leave out the mud sliding finish with a grand finale through as much as waist high water before the final finishing kick.
How cool is it that my husband jumped into the waist high water with me to pass me the shirt off his back to clean my blood covered face from a nose bleed I battled the last couple miles? This is after his awesome 4th place finish in the “world’s toughest” 10k. I was also pleasantly surprised to see my coach and his family rooting me on through the wet finish. I’m one lucky girl
The race went fantastic. I felt great the entire time and fueling went very well. I finished as the first female and second overall. There were moments the road racing girl inside me thought of cursing at the momentum killing mud, stretches of repetitious thigh high trees to hurdle, and skin tearing thorn covered shrubs. I was reminded of the consistent rhythm the road offers. At the same rate, I loved the unknown adventure and beauty of the magnificent State Park.
I definitely learned a lot throughout my first trail race and feel there is room for improvement. I know I wasted a good amount of time in the mud with inappropriate road shoes. I even stopped to re-tie my shoes 3 times as they felt loose from the heavy mud. I had my water bottle open and ready for filling as I hit each aid station, but I was a bit lax at times and enjoyed brief chats with the friendly volunteers. In learning how to follow the pink flag system marking the route, I stopped several times because I felt unsure if I was following the course or somehow got off track. Oh, and I learned not to pick up just any drink at a trail race aid station because Mountain Dew looks a lot like Gatorade
A very sore left quad is all I really am working through post-race. I slightly strained the quad a few weeks ago trying to catch myself on a near fall on the trails. The race apparently worked that quad nicely. Other than that I feel great and look forward to a second 50k attempt in August near Seattle, WA.
Dances With Dirt Gnaw Bone made for a great first trail run and ultra marathon experience!