Sunday, November 6, 2016

Silver Falls 50k 2016 ~ Does Life Really Begin at Forty?

Silver Falls 50k 2016 was the race I picked to celebrate
turning 40. This race was two days before my "big day."  I thought it would make turning 40 a little fun.  I am NOT looking forward to turning 40 tomorrow, but that's how life goes!

Why run a 50k and why at Silver Falls?

When I started running as an adult in 2008, I just wanted to run a half marathon.  That quickly changed into running a full marathon. A few years later, I dreamed of sometime qualifying for Boston Marathon.

Thru running, my husband and I meet this "Ultra guy" from Dallas named Chris. We quickly became friends and did lots of training together. Jerry and I decided to go cheer him on for his Ultra race about 1.5 years ago. I thought the idea of an Ultra was ridiculous and didn't have any desire to torture myself past the marathon distance.  At Chris's race, Jerry and I both were very inspired as we watched the runners and ran some of the miles with Chris.  We both left thinking, "maybe one day we will run an Ultra."  The idea was still scary to me and I gave myself some rules. First, my middle child needed to graduate. Then deciding if I should wait until after I qualify for Boston or not in 2016.

My son graduated and I didn't qualify for Boston like I wanted in 2016 so the decision was made not to wait until after Boston! Run either Autumn Leaves 50k or Silver Falls 50k.  Both were just before I would turn 40. Jerry was on board with running a 50k for sure now too. Autumn Leaves was recommended by several running friends. A nice FLAT course and close to home.  This one I could even try and run a little competitively if training went well.  Silver Falls is a place I LOVE to go. It's beautiful.  Five years ago I ran Silver Falls Marathon to raise awareness for Childhood Cancer and to bring some joy into a family's life who had a child with cancer.  It was my first Run Wild race and it was extremely difficult. It was a race I walked away from never to go back too.  It would be forever be for Lincoln and his family #runningforlincoln.  It was Lincoln's marathon!

The next year I did go back, but it was for fun,  Still to this day, I will never do the marathon their again.  I did the half marathon distance and loved it.  Then went back the last two years for the 7 miler race.  It's so fun and enjoyable.  Very hard, but I run trails slow to avoid injury and to enjoy the scenery. They are very different than the road races I like to "race."  

 As Jerry and I discussed what 50k to run, he decided on Silver Falls.  He loves to run on the trails.  We also found out some running friends, Chris (different Chris than "Ultra Chris") and Stacie McGraw both were going to sign up for Silver Falls 50k and it would be their first 50k too.  I still was torn on what race I wanted to do, but decided to go with Silver Falls.  I love to run there, and it was the only distance offered that weekend I hadn't run yet. We had friends to "train" with and it was right before I would turn 40!

Training for a 50k wasn't too hard to figure out.  I did a little research and talked to two friends who had both run 50ks.  I always like to get advice from people more experienced than me.  I was helping with Dallas HS cross country too and thought that would be a great way to keep on track.
Everything was looking good, I ran Hood to Coast the end of August and then went right into "Ultra" training. Because I wasn't going to be "racing." I wasn't concerned about doing lots of speedwork or tempo runs.  I just wanted to get in some good mileage and hills.  I also wanted to go train on some trails. My goals were to finish, have fun with no injuries on the mountain! Trails can be tricky!

1.5 weeks into training I was running an "easy pace" run with the High School girls.  I turned around for a second to check on one of the girls and something in my foot started hurting.  I didn't think much of it cause I didn't do anything.  Just wondered why it was feeling so tender.  I finished the last mile-and-a-half with the girls and stopped.  Then I limped to my car and limped at work for the next week or so.  Finally I went to the doctor because something didn't make sense.  I couldn't run at all, and I was limping everywhere.  After talking with the doctor we both agreed I didn't need x-rays, it wasn't broken, but it was hurt.  I was sent to a rehab appointment. They determined I had sprained my ankle. They gave me some things to do to help the healing process and told me not to run until I can get through my work-day without pain.

I was glad I didn't pick Autumn Leaves.  It was a week sooner than Silver Falls and I was certain I wouldn't be able to run fast, if at all.

A few weeks went by.  I finally stopped limping through work and could tell it was healing, but still couldn't run.  It was very frustrating. Weeks past and I could finally run 1-3 slow miles at a time.  My youngest son was on the Middle School cross country team.  Jerry and I were asked to help with them.  I could no longer run with the High School girls, but I could run a few miles with some of the Middle Schoolers.  I would go out with the slowest group and it was so fun.  I was glad just to be able to run a couple times a week at this point.  I would still have days where by foot would flare up and swell and cause me pain, but I also would have some good days.

Cross country ended and I had signed up for the Runaway Pumpkin Half on October 15th many months ago.  This had been worked into my 50k training as a controlled pace run.  I was worried about the distance and if my foot would hold out.  I decided to give it a try.  I ran with my friend Tonya and we ended up having a blast.  We ran a great controlled paced race. My foot gave me minimal problems, things were looking up, but I still had some issues running any inclines.

The next weekend (10/29) I decided I need to test my foot for more distance and ran 20 miles.  I made it but still hadn't trained at all on trails or hills.  I wasn't sure if I should run November 5th. But, what if I did make it????  I was signed up and was going anyway to be with my husband while he ran!  So, I decided, "why not?"  I'm gonna do it!


Race day!

Right before the 50k started
Race day came and I set my alarm wrong for the first time ever on a race day!  Jerry and I had 20 short minutes to load up and leave Saturday morning.  We made it up the mountain in time to use the bathroom, get our race bib and find our friends. There wasn't any time to think!  Chris was running with us, and Stacie was working as a volunteer.

Stacie's training didn't happen due to a freak thing!  She had a stroke and has been recovering for several months.  She is doing well today, but still, no trail running at this time.  I thought it was really cool that she came to help at the race and support her husband, Jerry and I.

It was still slightly dark at 7:00 am when we started the 50k.  Because I hadn't got much training in, I didn't experience the extreme nervous stuff my body does to me.  I was pretty calm and excited.  The weather was so perfect.  About 51 or 52 degrees with no wind or rain.  This was the best weather in five years of running at Silver Falls.  Off we went together.

Jerry, me and a random guy who ran Runaway Pumpkin Half
Chris, Jerry and I ran together for several miles.  We started on grass, then went to the parking lot, then into some flatter trails for the first bit. We all were doing good and talking and laughing together.  A few other runners joined our conversations and made it even funner.  As the trails started to get a little harder I told the boys to go ahead.  They ran with me for a long time.  It was really nice.

Just before one of our aid stations, I made a new friend named Sharon.  We came to the aid station and there was Jerry and Chris and another running friend named Bo.  Stacie was there too making sure everyone was ok!  We turned to our right and went up our first mountain.

This was the first time it started to feel hard. We were at mile five or six.  Everyone around me started slowing down.  It was part of the mountain and you had to bend over to get up.  It was not paved.  It was pretty wide and slightly muddy.  It was just starting to rain, but the rain felt good.

Jerry and Chris had ran up ahead now and I started to slow down a little after making my way up the first mountain climb with my new friend Sharon from Portland.  As the tail evened out she ended up keeping pace and so soon she disappeared. I wasn't keeping pace after the mountain.  I had slowed down a little.  I never did catch back up to her.

I ran on, and the trail got very narrow, It was still a nice trail to run on.  Not too many sticks and rocks.  I knew the creek crossing was coming soon.  The marathon runners have to cross the creek too. I didn't like the creek crossing during the marathon five years ago at all!

Chris crossing the creek!
About mile 12, there it was!  The creek was nice and clear but going fast.  I ran right into the water then stopped!!!!!  I realized if I didn't slow it down, I was going down!  The water was going very fast and I had to watch my stepping. It took a few minutes to walk across.  At first the cold water felt really good on my feet.  It numbed my ankle and that was great because it had been aching just a little.   The creek also seemed a little lower than I remembered it from the marathon.  As I took my last four or five steps, the water got too cold!  Burrrrrrr!  I got across and started running down the trail again.

I was so glad to see Stacie and eat my bread

The water made my feet feel very heavy.
About this time I got really really hungry.  Before the race I ate one piece of bread with peanut butter, my allergy medicine, headache medicine and some caffeine pills. That's about all my stomach can take before a race.  I can't take gu or gel's during races or my stomach gets angry.  I had packed more bread with peanut butter and gave to Stacie.  I couldn't wait to get to the next aid station! I knew she would be there with my food.

Stacie, enjoying the waterfall as she waited for us

As I rounded the corner (in the photo) there was Stacie and aid station/mile 14.
She took a photo, told me the boys were doing good and gave me my bread.  I filled my bottle back up with water and took some medicine I had packed with my sandwich and off I went.  I was feeling good but even better after eating my bread/peanut butter.

The start of the very muddy mountain.
After I finished up my bread, took my pills/water I got myself in gear and took off running again.  After about a mile or two I came to another mountain I had to climb.  I knew it was coming but still, ugh! It was very steep.  I had to walk most of it bending over!  It was now raining really hard and the mud was deep.  In spots the mud would try to suction your shoe right off your foot.  The trail was now full of sticks, rocks and lots of uneven terrain.  We were really out in the woods and it was really beautiful.  It was hard to look up and enjoy the scenery because of constantly watching your footing. I had slowed down even more and the rain got even worse.  I was starting to feel really cold.  I had a jacket back with Stacie, but wouldn't see her again until mile 24.  Bummer!

The photos show the start of the muddy mountain.  It got a lot worse, but then my hands were too cold to take more photos.  These were taken just before bad things happened!

Bad things!

I put my phone/camera back and started off again.  As I had climbed the mountain my heart was pumping really hard, which is totally normal.  What wasn't normal is my heart was palpitating. Several months back I had to go to a heart doctor because of this happening when I wasn't running (just normal day stuff).  I had an embarrassing diagnosis of "too much caffeine."

I had cut back and the palpitations stopped.  I had slowed down even more because I was kinda scared to keep running with this happening. I realized I had taken caffeine pills before the race and my headache meds (has caffeine) too.  I took a second dose at mile 14 when I saw Stacie.  That second dose, oh no!!!!! It was too much for my body.  I hadn't even thought about it, we were in such a rush that morning.  A lot of runners take caffeine in some form before running a race or long run.  It really helps.  I don't drink much coffee, so I sometime take a pill.  I hadn't taken one since I had gone to the doctor, until today!

I started only walking.  I thought maybe that would help get my heart beating "normal" again.  It continued along with the feeling of wanting to throw up.  I think going up that second mountain affected my stomach a little.  I now was freezing cold.  I had a tank on and I walked along that muddle trail in the lonely woods with my own arms wrapped around myself.  Occasionally a runner would come up behind me to pass.  Normally in this situation, a runner will go by and we'll exchange, "good job" and leave it at that.  Now people would pass and say, "are you ok?"  "Do you need anything?"  I would say, "I'm fine, Just walking for a minute."  Well, this continued for a couple miles.  Twice I remember just stopping.  I didn't know what to do.  I just stood there, in the woods, so cold, in the pouring down rain, unable to run to warm back up.  I was feeling sick and a little scared. I didn't know what to do.

I finally decided it's time to quit. I cannot run the whole 31 miles.  I knew I had at least one more mountain to climb and then the canyon to climb out of close to the end.  It would be a bad idea to continue.  I really needed shelter and to get warmed back up. I looked around and thought about curling up under a tree.  I seriously wanted to do that so bad.  I didn't have cell service so I knew that would be stupid.   More and more people went by, and said, "are you ok?" I now told them I wasn't doing well and was trying to get to the next aid station to quit.  Most people asked if I needed water and or gu and then went on.  One couple must of saw how cold I was and took an extra shirt they had wrapped around their waist and said, "would this help?"  It was a really nice long sleeved Brooks shirt with a hood and little thumb holes.  They said, "it may be wet" and I said, "that's ok" and stopped to put it on.  The arms were wet so it was hard to get on.  It was also an extra small.  I don't wear an xs.  It was hard, but I got that tiny awesome shirt on, and it even covered my hands and head.  It had a hood!!!!

I now felt like I was in a tunnel with the rain pouring and the hood up over my head.  It made it hard to hear much of anything.  I was still very cold but didn't have to walk hugging myself anymore.

Sitting in the truck with my tiny shirt on
along with the extra coat.
I knew the next aid station was between one and two miles away.  I continued to walk thru the mud.  After a bit, I heard someone yell off in the distance "STOP."  This was weird, I didn't know if she was talking to me or not.  I looked back at her then looked forward again.  There was nobody but me and her around.  She swung her arms and again yelled, "STOP."  Then I stopped!  She ran up to me and stayed with me for a while.  She explained that a huge cougar had just crossed the path right in front of her (in between the two of us).  She was so scared, she asked me what I knew about cougars.  She seemed to calm down a little and thanked me for being there.  She said she needed another human.  She was scared.  I knew if the cougar wanted us we wouldn't be still here.  The cougar must of crossed the path hunting something else.  She then ran on, leaving me alone in the woods.  For the first time ever that day, I felt slightly spooked.  I had been alone a lot and been fine with my thoughts but that lady had got in my head.  Now I couldn't just walk along looking at my feet.  I now would take a few steps, look to the side, turn around and look back.  Then I took the hood off! I needed to be able to hear!

Really, there is a huge buck standing in the woods.
I walked another half mile or so and finally came to the aid station.  I told them I needed to go back to the start/finish area, I was quitting.  They told me to I could wait in the truck, they had to wait until all the runners went through to take me back.  I felt like telling them, seriously??? You really think there are more people out there???  I just walked over three miles, maybe four!  They gave me a dry coat to put on over my dripping wet body and clothes.  I sat in the truck for 30 minutes shivering. Teeth chattering, but glad to have shelter.  There were still runners out.  After the "sweeper" came through, the aid station team got packed up and started down the mountain in no time.  It was a very bumpy ride down.  We almost lost the table out of the back of the truck.  We saw a beautiful buck.  We stop to get photos and he just stood there, he looked like a statute but he was blinking, so I know he was real.  He didn't move the whole time we were looking at him.  I got a photo but when I went to show someone, I realized my photo was blurry.  My hands were still very cold.

The drive back down to the park took a good ten minutes or so.  I gave them the coat back and headed right to the area where food was.  I didn't want food, I wanted to be by the fire I knew they had one going.  There were people crowded in that area.  I didn't care, I wedged myself through all the people and got right up close to the fire.  I just stood there worried that my friends were wondering where I was.  About a half hour later I saw Jerry, he had just finished.  I left the fire and went to talk to him.  He had the key to the van with all our dry warm clothes too.  He had finished and had done great.  Chris was still out there and we didn't see Stacie so we went to get into dry clothes.

Jerry and Chris did it! So proud of them!
Still no sign of Chris and Stacie.  I thought maybe Chris had finished and they were cold and went home.  I didn't want to leave without knowing if he was still out there so we went to the result tent.  His name wasn't up yet, then we wondered if he had to quit too????  Then Jerry saw my name on the results as a finisher. 6:43, I'll take it!!!  Ha!  I think when I walked passed the finish line to change my clothes it picked up my chip because I hadn't ever finished.  I was going to just leave my time there, I knew I didn't win anything so what did it matter!?  I almost left, but then I told them what happened and to take my name off.  I didn't go get a medal, I just didn't feel I deserved one at all.  We turned around and there was Chris and Stacie.  Chris did indeed finish.  He struggled at the end, but he did it!  Jerry and Chris were now Ultra runners.

All four of us drove to Salem and got burgers and fries. It was really good, then we went home.  I took a long warm shower and fell asleep for a few hours.

Today I am not an Ultra runner.  I am 39 for one more day! I am sore so I feel old, lol!
I will not be an Ultra runner before I turn 40 but I did have an adventure at Silver Falls.  I don't feel like less of a runner for not finishing yesterday.  I didn't feel it was safe for me at the time to continue. Of course I am disappointed! I wanted to run an Ultra and I couldn't do it!  Stacie couldn't even run and she still came! She was a huge part of the race.  I got to go be with some great people and meet some great people and that's really fantastic.

I left Silver Falls glad I got out of there with no permanent damage.  I left with a desire to go back and try again next year.  Although I'm not sure the guys are in agreement with me.  I left knowing if I do go back for the 50k, I will make sure I train for it and will not take caffeine pills.  I left sad because I missed my favorite part of the race.  The canyon with all the waterfalls. I left excited to find out how the 7 miler when for a bunch of my running buddies.  I left glad to be alive and thankful for friends and family!

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  1. Great job taking us through your race! I was right there with you the whole time I read this. My heart felt the palpitations, I felt the shipping Erin cold and the fear around the cougar. I also have tears in my eyes because I felt your dissapointment in not meeting completing this goal before the big 40! I totally understand. But, I promise you life really does get better after 40. You are going to do AMAZING things in this age bracket and I'm not looking forward to competing with you! Lol!

    I read this out loud to my hits after dinner and we all agree you deserve a medal! Love you Julie Mullins!

    1. Love you too Olivia. I'm so glad to have you in my life!!!! ��

  2. Great job taking us through your race! I was right there with you the whole time I read this. My heart felt the palpitations, I felt the shipping Erin cold and the fear around the cougar. I also have tears in my eyes because I felt your dissapointment in not meeting completing this goal before the big 40! I totally understand. But, I promise you life really does get better after 40. You are going to do AMAZING things in this age bracket and I'm not looking forward to competing with you! Lol!

    I read this out loud to my hits after dinner and we all agree you deserve a medal! Love you Julie Mullins!