Mike and I broke our trip to Maine up over a few days, it is a long drive from Rochester and with Bernie in tow it is better to stop multiple times. We ended up boarding Bernie during the race, since no dogs are allowed on the property other than those participating in the Canicross race on Saturday.
We woke up at 5:50am on Saturday (from Mike's parents' house) so we could get to Maine in time to drop Bernie off at boarding, go to packet pick-up and then figure out what else we were going to do for the day.
When we got to packet pick-up, we met up with Isaac who would be running the entire 50K with me. Mike wanted to run, and of course Isaac was game to join him, and I needed to do a shakeout run. Mike and Isaac ended up running about a 10K and I ran 2 miles.
After some lunch with Isaac, we parted ways until the morning. Mike and I just relaxed at the hotel, went to dinner and then I got ready for the next day.
All packed and ready to go!
We again woke up around 5:50am and I started to get ready for my first 50K. The entire time leading up to the race, I wasn't nervous (I was more nervous about how Bernie would handle being boarded somewhere new, luckily he loved it there!) I still wasn't nervous in the morning, so I hoped that meant it was a good sign.
Hoping he would bring me good luck
We arrived at Pineland Farms and we found our friends. Some other friends were also racing, ranging from the 50 miler to the 25K. We found Isaac, Andy, Danielle, an internet friend Monica and some others and started to get ready for the race. Before the race started Sara, who raced the 25K, showed up and it was nice to be able to chat with her for a little bit.
50K runners (minus Isaac)!
Waiting for the start
Then the announcer told all of the 50K runners to start making their way to the start line. Isaac and I made our way over and went somewhere in the middle of the pack. At the start of the farm bell, we were off!
Here we go!
I told Isaac I wanted to start around 11 minute pace, but I knew that the pack of runners and the net elevation loss in the beginning would make that hard to do for the first few miles. Mike surprised us and he walked from the start area over to two sections where you could see runners during the first mile. I wasn't expecting him to be there! Isaac's friend, Wes, was also out there cheering us on and it was nice to have friendly faces greeting us as the miles went on.
Not expecting to see Mike here
The 50K course consists of two loops of the 25K course. The 25K course has two smaller loops, one was about 10 miles and the other was about 5 miles, so we were able to go by the start/finish area a few times.
About 2K in to the race
The race started at 8am, and the temperature was already in the upper 50s, so I knew that it was going to get hot out there. The terrain of the course is primarily cross country roads, some grassy fields and there was a small section with pavement (though I ended up running in the grass next to it both times).
Isaac and I did start out a bit too fast, but we were able to get our pace under control during the later miles. The first 25K went really well for me, except for my calves feeling really tight the first 5 miles or so and my feet going numb on the first section of the grassy field. I also didn't really like the grassy fields (luckily, they were dry!) because of how hot it got on them, the pitched terrain and the holes throughout. I was much happier when we would go back in the woods, and my pace would improve.
Coming up on mile 10
I didn't walk the first few hills, but later on my strategy was to walk up the hills and run everything else. Isaac was brilliant and tied my hydration vest so it would stop moving around and chafing my neck around mile 9. As we got to the aid station near the start/finish area we saw Mike and Wes again and then got back into the woods.
Coming through the start/finish area
The way back to the start/finish line from that aid station was longer on the way back than on the way out. Pretty soon we saw Mike and Wes in the distance and I gave Mike a high-five as Isaac and I started the smaller loop of the course. The 25K runners were just about to start their race as we went through.
I really enjoyed the smaller loop of the course. Even though there were some grassy sections, the trails were really runnable for the most part. One time these two runners passed us and asked where we were from, after we told them one guy started listing everywhere that people had told him. He even told Isaac that he may have been the first person from Maine!
The rooster overseeing us using the misting tent
When we came through the start/finish area, I asked Mike to BodyGlide my neck (to help prevent any more chafing), Isaac and I went into the misting tent and then we were on our way to start loop #2! We came through the 25K mark at about 2:55 and I told Isaac that I didn't think that the second loop would be as fast as the first. He told me I might surprise myself, and I even let myself think for a second that a sub-6 hour 50K might be possible.
Isaac's commentary during the video is pretty funny!
We saw Wes and Mike at their usual spots and I finished eating a pureed fruit packet that I took at the halfway point. I didn't have the aid station refill my bottle with water in it (I had water and Gatorade in two bottles in my vest and I didn't use the bladder since the aid stations were every 2.5 miles or so) - this turned out to be a big mistake.
As soon as we left the aid station, I was starting to not feel that great. The pureed fruit I had eaten wasn't sitting well in my stomach and I had to walk a bit more than I was the first time around the loop. It was also getting HOT out there. The high for the day was around 78 degrees.
I have to admit, I felt like my dark miles on the course lasted for about 5 miles, but looking back at things it was probably only about 2-3 miles. The grassy field was difficult with the sun and I was running out of water. I even told Isaac that I shouldn't feel the way I did at 18 miles and I was worrying that I wouldn't make it. He was amazing and told me that I could do it and that I just needed to get to the aid station to refill my water.
I tried to take in more of my energy chews (that I had been taking in every 2 miles) and I spit them out immediately. They weren't going to go down. I kept drinking Gatorade and then FINALLY we were at the aid station!
I had them refill my water, Gatorade and I started dumping water on my head. I ate some watermelon, drank some Coke and then Isaac and I were on our way again. This was one of our slower miles, but the time spent at the aid station was well worth it. We had to keep going around some grassy fields, but then we were back in the woods again. I did start to feel better and by the time we got back to the same aid station (we hit that same area about three times each loop), I knew I would finish.
I was still walking a bit more than I had been the first loop, but I was also running a lot. A lot of the miles have blurred together a bit, but as the time went on the more confident I got that I was going to finish. While we were approaching the aid station near the start/finish area, I said that when we got to the start/finish we would be at about a marathon distance and then I would be running in new distance territory.
I was still really hot at this point
Another misting tent, ahh.
Mike and Wes greeted us near the aid station and Mike took my water bottle to be refilled. I had asked him to have another fruit puree packet but I told him I didn't want it. I said that I was eating watermelon and oranges, as well as, drinking water, Coke and Gatorade. After restocking our stuff, eating a bit and going through the misting tent we went back into the woods. Luckily, some clouds came out and started to cool everything off!
5-6 more miles to go!
I couldn't believe that I almost had 5 more miles left of my first 50K. The last part of the race FLEW by. It was crazy. We went through the start/finish area and saw Mike and Wes one last time before the finish. As we were rounding the corner toward where you get to the smaller 5 mile loop, we saw our friends Andy and Eric running toward us (and in my delirious mind and their too similar twin-look, I confused who was who, ha). I high-fived each of them and then ran into the woods.
The last part of the race, Isaac kept saying only a 9K left, only an 8K left.. My mind couldn't grasp that I was really that close to the finish line.
Soon we were at a 5K left. A 5K. Like Isaac said, a 5K is how this all started for me. The Couch-to-5K brought me to this moment. The moment of almost being an ultramarathoner. I still couldn't grasp it, I thought the signs were lying about the distance. I thought I had so much more to go, but after the aid station in the woods it was only 2.something miles to go.
Then we only had 2K left. As we climbed out of the woods, the final aid station greeted us. I dumped water on myself, ate a final piece of watermelon and then kept going.
We only had .9 miles to go.
I didn't even hate the grassy fields anymore, I knew that as I made my way around the field that I was almost done with my first 50K.
We crossed the road and there on the sidelines was Andy! I was so happy to see a familiar face. He did tell me that they moved the finish line 2 miles away (mean joke, Andy) but I just laughed. I could see the finish line!
So close I could almost touch the finish line!
We did it!
I saw Mike cheering me on and Isaac and I put our hands up in the air and crossed the finish line!
I was an ultramarathoner. I had done it!
I finished in 6:38:11, and accomplished the only two goals I set for this race: to finish and to come in under 7 hours.
I still can't even believe that I ran 50K. 31 miles. It doesn't feel real. I still feel like the signs were wrong and I have more miles to make up out there, ha. Maybe someday it will feel real to me.
We didn't even plan to match
I would never have been able to do this if it weren't for Isaac. He ran with me the entire time, helped calm me down when I thought that all was lost, tied my vest so my neck didn't get even more chafed than it already is, made me laugh and ran with a GoPro the entire time so that my first 50K experience could be filmed (if you are curious you can go watch it, here). Then, he went out and ran more miles with one of our friends who ran (and finished) her first 50 miler. He is truly an amazing friend and I can never repay him for what he did. I am very lucky to have him in my life.
All of our other friends, new and old, who came to cheer, high-five, stayed for the finish even after racing their own race and who filled up my water bottle after the race - you are amazing. I wish we lived closer to you because you are our friends for life.
This guy <3
And Mike, my constant supporter. My training partner in life and triathlon. You are the main reason that I made it to the start line of this race. You pushed me to keep going, through a seemingly impossible winter, and you always believe in me. Seeing you out there, taking photos, updating our friends and family on how I was doing and being genuinely happy to see me cross the finish line are just some of the reasons why you are the right person for me. I can't wait until your own 50K victory lap!