November 17, 2012 was my first venture into the world of ultra running. My goal when I signed up for this race was simple: Finish a 50K sometime during the running period.
I managed to have two races this day. The first I could not miss. At 9:15 am, my student running club of 60+ runners ran in the Go Far 5k in High Point, NC. For many of them, this was their first race of any distance. They, along with 1400 others, ran an out and back course in Piedmont Parkway area of High Point. A slightly hilly course with ample opportunities to see other runners. All of my runners did a good job and I look forward to talking with them on Monday and seeing them run again in the Spring.
After wrapping up at the Go Far race, I packed the jeep and drove to Rocky Mount, VA, to take part in the Crooked Road 24hr Ultra (CR24). Part of the Woo Hoo Crew had been running for 3-4 hours already, along with other friends and runners from various places. My goal was to go as long as I could with the two nagging injuries I have had recently (basically ITB issues and swelling in my left foot). I figured an easy 10 miles (about 11 laps) would be good for a long run. The CR24 is a .96 mile loop on a gravel trail around a park with a nice hill (mountain?) on one section. I checked in, talked to Nathan, Melanie, and Katie, and started running at a slow pace. Sadly, this pace would not be slow enough if I were to attempt a longer run. My plan was to run 3 laps and walk 1 lap and see how it went (plus always, always walking the hill). I went through the first 11 laps in pretty good shape. Had great conversations with many people, some I’ve know for a while, others I met during the run. I took a short break at 11 laps and checked my situation. Food: Eat some and drink some coke and water. Body: Feeling good. Mental: Wow, I’m enjoying this. So I decided to keep going. I ran/ walked with a variety of people at a variety of paces and had a blast with all of them. I went through 22 laps (about 20 miles) with no major problems other than the normal aches and pains associated with 5 hours on your feel moving constantly. I ate some more, and had been drinking something almost every lap. I also changed into dry shirts and a headband because the sun was starting to go down. I was right around 28 laps (about a marathon) when the sun dipped down. My first marathon was in the books and I still had a few miles to go. I slowed down considerably when the sun went down and I started seeing my breathe as I ran. I passed the 50K mark (31 miles) at about 6 hours and 40 minutes of running and walking and finished my race with right at 31.4 miles.
I could not have done this race without the support of many friends and companions on the course. The staff and volunteers were some of the best I’ve ever seen at a race. There was always something to drink and eat, and warmth from fires when the sun went down. Would I do this again? Yes! And I would try to go further than I did this time. I also learned a couple of things to take into consideration next time I do it. 1. Whatever pace I’m going, go slower. 2. Take breaks early and ofter, even if only for 5-10 minutes. 3. Make sure friends are available to talk to as needed (this one was not a problem at this race).
All in all, I had a great time finishing my first Ultra (and first marathon) in the woods of VA.