Sunday, November 5, 2017

Autumn Leaves 50k 2017~ Why Ultra?

Why Ultra?  

I never dreamed of running any ultra distances until I went to help crew a friend about two years ago!  I ran some really good and really bad miles with him.  It's an interesting thing watching a friend race.  It's extremely inspiring!  I left that day, saying, "one day I'm gonna do that." 

 A couple years later, my husband Jerry and I found ourselves not only trying to get to our goals in the "marathon" distance, but enjoyed training for Ultras.  We both ran Silver Falls 50k in November 2016.  He finished, I did not.  A few months ago we both ran the 6 hour race "Angry Owl"  My goal for the 6 hours was simply to hit the 50k mark.  I really struggled with some stomach issues that day, but DID hit the 50k mark with about 7 minutes to spare!  

Right after Angry Owl our friends Stacie and Chris McGraw asked if we wanted to train for Autumn Leaves 50k with them.  We were up for the challenge.  We begin training, adding once a week runs in the McDonald forest to beat the heat of the summer. Chris ran Silver Falls 50k in 2016 with us.  Stacie would be running Autumn Leaves 50k as her first ultra "post stroke."  It was a big deal to our little group! We had some great summer runs, but as Fall came, it became harder and harder to all train toge
ther.  But we all came together October 28th to face the 50k! 

Autumn Leaves 50k!
It was a dark, cool, clear morning at Champoeg State Park.  The stars lite up the sky that morning.  My teeth chattered as I walked through the dark park.  I was glad it was cold.  It was great race weather.  Low 40s.  No wind.  No rain.  The forecast showed the sun would be out soon. I used the bathroom, several times! Then one last time before we had to line up.  It's just something that needs to be done when you's ok to laugh! 

Loop two (around mile 7)
We took off promptly at 7:00 am.  The park was still dark but sightly getting light.  Most people had headlamps.  I didn't, but I was ok with all the other runners around me.  I could see just fine.  We ran down a short dirt path, through a parking lot, then onto a paved trail.  The trail was in a clearing and you could see the sun rising on the horizon.  It was a beautiful morning!

  I felt amazing as I ran next to my friends Chris and Stacie.  Jerry had already taken off and was nowhere to be seen.  We were
amongst many runners at this time.  We talked a lot.  It felt more like a Saturday morning group run with more people joining us than usual. 

Chris, Stacie and me!
As we moved along the path at a very comfortable pace, the runners gradually thinned out. The route was a good one.  We would do five 10k loops.  Just a 5k out, and a 5k back.  This was easy on the brain and we had plenty of aid stations with the course set up like this. The loops weren't boring at all.  The course was  beautiful the entire way, from the paved path, to the leaves on the trail covered in leaves. 

I started the race in long sleeves, but as soon as loop one was done, I shed a layer.  It was time for a tank top!  The second loop was great.  I ran mostly alone for this six miles.  I was ok with that, I just enjoyed the scenery and ran.  I knew where I was going and what the course held for me now. I felt good.  I felt as if I could run forever!!! I started to see the front runners now.  The way the course was designed, runners got to see each other often and it got to be really fun.  Watching the fast ones fly by, watching those moving slower but steady.  We were all in this together and every single person would give a nod, or say "looking good", "keep it up" as we would pass each other back and forth on the out and back section.  Ultra runners are more encouraging than any other group

 I've found. They seem to all know the joy in suffering together to get to the finish line.  A finish line that makes you feel so alive and well!  It's an amazing feeling!

My Ultra runner friend had warned me loop four and five would be the hardest to go back out on.  I really hoped he was wrong.  The first three loops were very smooth and good.  As I came to the turn-a-round to head out for loop four, I struggled at the thought of two more loops!  I reminded myself I "only have 12.4 miles left."  I reminded myself I love to go out and run 10-15 miles all the time. I reminded myself, "just two more loops and you will be done!"  As I headed back out on that paved section of the trail, I started to feel the fatigue setting in. 

As I started watching the runners around me more. I could see others starting to struggle as well.  I shouldn't be surprised, but somehow I'm always in hopes that the fatigue will bypass me for the race I'm in that day! 

As I started down the 2nd path after the aid station (around mile 20), I tucked in behind two men running a pretty comfortable pace for me at the time.  After a couple minutes they told me to pass them.  I let them know I needed to stay put for now and that they were helping me to keep moving.  They seemed to like that idea that they were helping and shared why they were running that day.  We all moved forward together.  It was a father and son. I never got their names, but the son was quick to tell me 3 are stronger together 
Jerry running strong! 
than 1 alone! We stayed steady and I didn't have thoughts of stopping while with them.  We made it up the hill, to the turn-around and headed back.  As we got back to the aid station, the men stopped for fuel and I kept going.  They really helped me get past the worst few miles of the race that morning!  

Final Loop (around mile 26)
I ran on, walking a few times, still struggling but doing ok.  I ran through the trails and headed back to the next turn-a-round to head out for my final loop!  As I rounded the corner, there stood my friend Kristi, ready to step in and help me finish.  Autumn leaves allowed pacers to join the runners for the last two loops (really cool). I was really happy to see her.  She asked how I was doing?  I told her not well, and that I wasn't going to be good company and I was slow.  She didn't seem to care.  She was all happy and ran along with me, taking photos and enjoyed being out in the beautiful weather on fresh legs!

I really wish I could say this was an easy loop and I finished well.  In reality, this loop was very difficult.  I had great company, so it made it bearable, that's the only good thing about this loop.  My body hurt! Both my legs aches so bad.  My right leg had 3 spots that were tender. I wanted to take my shoes off because my feet were starting to throb.  I was worried about my friends Chris and Staci because I should of seen them again by now, and I couldn't find them!  
Jerry heading towards the trail to finish up his 50k

Around mile 27 we saw Jerry heading to the finish line with about two miles to go! From the looks of it, he was going to make his goal time so I was excited for him. 

We went on, across the bridge and by the aid station.  I had eaten half my RXBAR, a grape and some coke from an earlier aid station. Right now I just wanted to be done so I didn't stop. 

Kristi and I headed out the next section and I told her about some of the runners I had run with.  She helped keep my mind from dwelling on the pain.  She was so happy (she had never paced a friend like this's a really cool experience). I continued to be grumpy at this point but she didn't care!  We finally got to our last turn-a-round!!!!  We now were at mile 27.9.  Only 5k to go...Wish it was as simple as it sounds!!!! 

Chris and Staci, still going strong! 
Back down the hill we went, down the path full of Autumn leaves, runners still going, a few walkers staying consistent! Just about the time we got to the final aid-station, there was Chris and Stacie!  It was such a relief to see them still moving forward! 

We went back across the bridge (for the last time) and onto the trail covered in leaves.  This was the fun part of the course but also the harder part of the course.  It's small rolling hills on uneven ground.  My legs hurt worse on this section.  Kristi kept encouraging me, knowing that we were almost to the finish line. 

The last mile, I felt a tiny burst of energy.  I was really happy to have any energy!!!  I was able to pass a person just before heading
Only a mile or so left to go!!!! 
up through the parking lot into the finish line!  It was such a great feeling to see that finish line up ahead!  

I finished!  2nd place masters!
As I ran towards the finish line, I had Kristi with me, and Jerry and my Dad were standing there right as I crossed the line.  I was handed a finishers medal and a cool glass coffee cup.  I was told I was 2nd place female masters.  I started laughing.  I guess being 40 has some benefits!  This is my first time placing in masters!
Thanks for the loop Kristi!

I took a few minutes to calm down and then went and took advantage of the free massage.  It did wonders for my sore right leg.  I got to watch Chris and Stacie finish!  It was a sweet moment!  It was a good day! 

Check out Stacie's blog HERE!
19 minute PR from Angry Owl 3 months ago! 
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