Monday, December 17, 2012

Pigtails 50k Race Recap

I am now an official ultra-marathoner!

I'm not going to say this race was easy, and most of it wasn't even fun. Both of which kind of go against my love of running. But I finished! Let's start at the beginning.

As I mentioned before, I had been having some hip pain since I ran the Seattle Marathon. Friday afternoon, I went to my Crossfit gym, just to see if one of the trainers, Scott, could help me loosen it up a bit. From what he deduced, my TFL (tensor fasciae leatae) muscle in my thigh was causing the hip pain. Apparently, my hip flexors were overworked and my TFL was taking over, which it was apparently very angry about!

Once we figured out the problem, I basically tried to give it some relief by finding a trigger point, moving my leg where it didn't hurt anymore, and then trying to relax it for 30 seconds to a minute.

It seemed to work well! Although I still had a little pain when I left, I was feeling much more confident that I was going to get through 31 miles the next day.

By  Saturday morning, the pain had gone away, but my thigh was aching a little bit. That made me a little worried, but figured that trying to release it the previous evening would leave some residual strain.

I met my favorite running girls bright and early at 6:30am and we headed out to Maple Valley to the Cedar River Trail.

Jess, Me and Beth. Different day. Same awesome friends!
For Beth and I, this race would be a new PDR (personal distance record). Beth was running her first marathon and I was running my first 50k. Ready to run hard and take names!

Ready. To. Go! And also cold. Brrr.
Of course, Ultramarathoner Jess has done too many of these races to count, so she was just looking to get a good 50k in the books.

The race itself was small. After going through numerous races with the New York Road Runners in NYC, I will forever be amazed when I am not in a corral with a billion other runners. There were probably around 100 or 200 participants, and the fun part was, most of them new each other! Apparently the trail running community in Washington is a small and tight-knit group!

We started off with a short mile out and back before hitting the main Cedar River Trail.

After we started down the main trail, it started snowing!!! If you know me in real life, you know I am like a little kid when it comes to snow. I get overly EXCITED!!! Seriously, I'm like Buddy the Elf. SNOW!

I started out with four (!) layers on. Even during my coldest race ever (in Central Park, 14 degrees F), I only had two layers on. Haha. I guess I was cold. I finally felt warm enough by mile 6 to shed my outer fleece so I was in 3 layers for most of the race. Beth flew on ahead because she is a speedy little demon runner! Jess and I had talked about sticking together for the race, both stipulating that the other could run ahead if they ever wanted to.

Photo courtesy of Takao Suzuki.
The first 8 miles flew by, I was loving the snow and just enjoying Jess's company and the other runners around us.

I started getting a dull aching pain on the right side of my stomach around mile 10, and I was hoping it would go away. News flash of the day: it didn't.

From then on, I was in a fierce battle with my stomach. It was complete war. Since the race was so small, there weren't any bathrooms along the course. I was on my own.

Around mile 13 I saw a gas station across the highway, so I told Jess I was going to go do some business and she was welcome to take off. Bless her heart, she said she would walk it out so I could catch up.

Catching up to Jess.
Photo courtesy of Takao Suzuki.
I was able to relieve some of the cramps and unsettling, and felt a bit better by the time I caught back up to her.

We hit the turn-around just before mile 14, and I was happy to be heading back.

The next few miles, I was able to ignore my stomach and enjoy myself. The snow had turned to a rain/sleet mix, which was a little less fun, but I was having fun cheering on the runners going in the opposite direction. Slowly but surely, my stomach decided to cramp back up.

By mile 17, I was not having fun anymore. My usual thought process when it comes to running and racing is: if it's not fun, it's not worth it. Usually I'm having lots of fun, but not this day.

I finally had to stop and walk. I told Jess she would not hurt my feelings if she kept going. But she wasn't having it. She told me we were in it together. Be still my heart =)

Frozen faces.
Every time I started running again, my stomach would cramp up and start bouncing around (best way I can describe it). By the second time we had to walk, I told Jess that I thought I may just have to drop down and just do the marathon instead of the 50k. This was probably around mile 20, and I could hardly fathom 6 more miles of this nonsense, let alone another 10. Jess said just what I needed to hear: that we had all the time in the world, and that we just had a short few miles to the aid station, a short 2.5 mile out and back and then another 4 miles and it would be over. I would be in the car again before I knew it. She knew that I could hit this mileage. Just knowing that and the fact that she was supporting me helped a great deal. I made up my mind to plow on.

Frustratingly enough, my body felt pretty good! My hip was fine, and despite some neuroma pain, I was good to go! Minus that darn stomach.

I tried so hard to keep myself out of a negative mindset, but I have never walked so much in a race before. While that was disappointing, I kept trying to tell myself that there were many more races in my future, and this was just a blip along the line.

We turned up a side road to tack on the extra 5ish miles from the marathoners. We were still alternating between walking and running and I was literally hanging on with everything I had. Everytime we walked and had to start running again, it was so painful. At this point in a race, if I am hurting, I try not to walk because starting up again makes it that much worse. My stomach just couldn't take it this day. All I could think about was getting back to the car and passing out.

I was able to get in a good 2.5 mile stretch of running as we headed back to the main trail, where I knew there was only about 5 miles left.

Same trail, different day.
At this point, both Jess and I were pretty quite, and I was so grateful to have my friend there. Every time I made us stop to walk, she would try to brighten my spirits. I was literally just putting one foot in front of the other. I started giving myself goals: walk for .25 miles, run for 1 mile, etc. We finally took off again about .8 miles from the finish and I just put my head down, tried to ignore the cramping and got the job done.

We finished 31.1 miles in 5:09:55. I think our "official" time was somewhere around 5:18.

The finish line. 
After we finished, I got warm clothes on, and we got on the road back home, I was able to reflect a little bit.
I have to say I am very proud of myself. It would have been easy to have thrown in the towel. I have another 50k planned in January, and I wasn't particularly attached or trained for this race. I wasn't having fun and certainly could have bowed out. But I didn't. I totally credit Jess with this, but I stuck with it and finished my first 50k. I didn't crush it, I wasn't anyone's hero, but I did what I said I was going to do despite some severe setbacks. May this be a lesson for the rest of my life =)

In case you are wondering about Beth, she finished her first marathon with flying colors!!

Trying to get warm. Love this girl!
I am looking forward to many more marathons, 50k's and the like in the future, but for this race, I seriously can't thank my friends enough. Knowing Beth was running her first marathon, and with Jess by my side, I was given a boost of support and inspiration I couldn't have gotten anywhere else.

My running loves. Always up for shenanigans, and spirit-perking!
Aaaaaannnnddddddddd on to the next!

*As a side note, I feel like I need to mention the tragedy in Newton that occurred on Friday. My heart is full of sadness and I am keeping that community in my thoughts and prayers. Senseless killing is never an easy thing to comprehend and I am still processing and trying to wrap my brain around what happened.