I did it! After lots of indecision brought on by an injury, I ran the AR50 yesterday, April 4, 2009.
It was a great experience, one that I will never forget. I am so glad I went. In fact, my leg didn’t give me any trouble, except once when I slipped.
Here is my story.
The first 20 miles were pretty easy. It was basically like running Coyote Creek Trail here in Morgan Hill. I religiously stuck to a 25-minute run, 5-minute walk schedule. I followed all the guidelines for first timers, such as “start slow and go slower.” My first hour I ran a 10-minute pace. My second hour I ran another 10-minute pace. I ran the first 50K (31 miles for my non-running readers) in 5:50 and the last 19 miles in 5:10.
I also stuck to the nutritional guidelines my doctor running pal gave me, and they worked really well. I took a GU at 25-past the hour, every hour. I ate a quarter of PB&J and two potato quarters at each aid station (basically once an hour).
For miles 20-25, I chatted with various runners and just enjoyed myself. I was feeling fine and continued my conservative pace. Compared to PCTR trail runs, this race was pretty flat. I can see why it is a great “first 50”.
Mile 26.2 was marked by a huge balloon tower, denoting we had just accomplished a marathon. It made me smile big!
At mile 27 you hit a fabulous part called “Beal’s Point” which has tons of volunteers and your drop bag. In fact, at AR50 they take volunteering to a new level. They really made me feel like a professional athlete. The woman at Beal’s Point, oddly dressed in a grass skirt, said to me, “My job is to think for you. I will get your drop bag while you go get food at the aid station.” With my new angel’s help, I switched into my trail shoes, changed my socks, and refilled my liquids. It was at this point I noticed my toes were starting to blister. I asked for a band-aid, but there were none to be found. (This will be important later.)
I lagged for the next 3 miles, at one point even swerving as I ran. So I decided to find some other runners for motivation and company. I hung with a train for awhile and then found a veteran AR50’er. I stuck with him for the next 5 miles, which really helped. It was probably my best 5 miles of the race. He took off and I couldn’t keep up, but I ended up running the next 15 miles off and on with a lovely gal. We ultimately crossed the finish line together and she ended up using my cell phone to call her friend. I love the togetherness of trail and endurance runs. You pull perfect strangers along and they return the favor.
Between miles 35-40 there are a lot of rocks. I was getting tired at this point and kept stubbing my toes. I tripped once and slipped twice. I never fell, but in trying to catch myself I strained my psoas again. Not good! I limped for a little while. Luckily I had brought Advil, which really helped.
I didn’t really start to feel hammered until about mile 42/43. I knew mile 47 was uphill and a running club friend had told me, “everyone walks it.” I found myself longing for the big hill so that I could have an excuse to walk. When I got there, walk I did, for awhile. Then I noticed all the psychos around me who were running off-and-on. “Oh all right,” I muttered to myself, and I started picking up the pace. I knew I was close to the 11 hour mark and I really wanted to beat it.
Then a funny thing happened, with a half mile to go a runner I had met the night before appeared from nowhere. We were staying in the same hotel and I had literally talked to him and his friends for two minutes. He said, “My goal is to break 11 hours so I can qualify for Western States. What’s your goal?” I said, “First goal, to not die. Second goal, to finish. And sure, I’ll throw in beating 11 hours.” I didn’t see him again until that last half mile! He came from behind me and I heard a, “You’re here! Let’s run and make it. We are cutting it really close to eleven.” Sure enough, we crossed one after the other.
When I crossed, my husband and boys were right there, and I was delirious with joy. A volunteer grabbed my arm and said, “Wait, you need your jacket.” My jacket! The coveted AR50 jacket! You bet I do. With my jacket on, my family and I climbed into the car. I said, “I think I have blisters.” Holy macaroni, do I! I have never seen blisters this big. I am stunned I ran with my feet in this shape. I would have attached photos, but I didn’t want to gross everyone out.
We all went back to the hotel for a ton of room service and a movie. I was sound asleep before the room service even arrived, and then I woke up at 4:00AM STARVING. I have to admit I woke up all night longs with aches and pains. This morning I stretched a ton, got in the hot tub, walked a lot, and I am feeling fairly decent.
It was a great day! I never would have done this had I not joined the South Valley Running Club here in Morgan Hill. I am extremely appreciative of the advice and encouragement of especially Craig, Kevin and Lynn. At one point they each told me something to the effect of, “Of course you can do it. You won’t have any problem.” My friend Lynn simply said, “You are tough as nails.” It stuck. I believed them. And they were right. I did it!