01 August 2007
my first ultramarathon!
i finished my first ultramarathon--the jay challenge. it was only 7 miles beyond a marathon, but it was a million times harder. the day felt so long and so hurt and so crammed, yet it was (for me), only 8 hours and 39 minutes of running fun.
running it (see photo, from left to right) was cara, me, erin, rich, dennis, and mark! fun fun FUN!
the race began by running up a steep incline and a rush into the woods. cara warned me that you had to go out FAST or you'd get stuck behind slow people once things went single file. we ran fast up, and then got to a part where you had to pull yourself up with a rope. it went steep up and really steep down, on windy trails with bad footing. i was running at a decent pace, including through muddy, muddy trails. my shoe ended up getting sucked up by the mud early on and my sock got muddy and then i put my socked foot back into my shoe and it was quite gross. still, it was kind of fun. people were backing off, but i knew i would be muddy--and thrived. "yay!" my leg kept sinking into the mud, and i quickly had mud above my knees.
then the brook section. we ran in brooks for a total of around 3-4 miles--and it was SO hard. i can't even say that i ran in the brook. i stumbled through them, grabbing onto rocks and sliding around. i smacked my legs and knees, cursing the slipperiness of the rocks and the rapidness of the water at points and the steepness of waterfalls--yet i welcomed and thoroughly enjoyed the coolness of the water, which, as cara and rich had promised, soothed my aching calves. i was exhausted quickly, and the brook twisted and turned and if i had seen where we exited the brook it would have been SO demoralizing--it was that far. i got passed by SO many people, it was hard for me to bear it.
as i exited the street, i told myself, "you are not strong in the brook; that's okay. you are strong at running. you're not exceptional at uphills and find downhills challenging; run as hard as you can wherever it's flat." and so i did--that was my strategy. my main goal was to finish uninjured and i was fearful of an injury if i went out too hard in an area where i wasn't full comfortable with racing--like sprinting through the brook.
i changed my socks at aid station number two, and chomped on some pretzels and gummybears. i began running uphill, as long as i could, until i began walking when it got too steep. i ended up chatting with different runners, as we huffed and puffed (while walking!) up the steep mountain. it was SO difficult and at times, i struggled just to keep walking. everyone was walking, even the guy that won (not that i necessarily saw him as he was so far in front of me!).
at the top of jay peak (which is a place where people usually ski, not run), t met me and filled my water bottles. i drank some gatorade, ate some shot blocs and salty pretzels and oranges, and gave a kiss and began running/stumbling downhill. i'm a bit fearful of downhills, so i ran/stumbled/walked rather conservatively, and enjoyed the solitude. cara told me it was a spiritual experience for her to run this race, and it truly was. i enjoyed running alone and felt so amazing.
at the bottom, it was more running through the woods, stream running, and i was utterly exhausted. at one point, i had to scramble up a steep dirt incline and smashed my knee against a tree root and my knee started bleeding. another runner, seeing me in pain, helped me up the hill--"here, hold this tree, and hold my hand." i thank him, whoever he is, again. the runners at this race were beautiful, beautiful people.
the brook running continued, being hard. the trails were narrow, muddy, and often i was bushwacking. i still have the scratches all over to prove it. two sections of brook running later, we ran more, swam across a stream, and came to a river with a rope. i refused the rope and backstroked across the river, laughing, panting. it was the hardest thing i've done, but SO fun!!!! i also ran through a beaver section where the ground was mucky mud below my feet and the grass was chin-high. ugh!
at the next aid station, i changed my socks and shoes, ate some lots of blueberries (yum!!), took electrolyte pills (thanks mark!), refilled the water, and knew that the last was the easiest (besides the sand dune!). i ran uphill for what seemed like forever, chatting with a guy from AZ who arranged his family vacation around his ultramarathons! yay!
t met me again at one of the final aid stations where i gorged myself on salty potatoes and gatorade. next time, i'll try heed. less than five miles...
the five miles were fairly easy. muddy, windy trails and i kept going. and going. i was passing all these people who were walking--we were almost there! i had a chance of being under 9 hours! i was going to finish! i was beyond thrilled!
i passed the race director--he told me it was had taken him 32 minutes to walk to where i was running--which meant i would def beat 9 hours! i was so happy!
it began raining and lightning and thundering. "i am finishing this thing!" i ran as fast as i could, though i was exhausted.
when i came towards the finish line, i began to get a little emotional, and tears filled my throat. i raised my arms, running slowish down the hill (the grass was slippery from the rain and it was a downhill and the last thing i wanted to do was slide on my ass down the hill to the finish!) to my friends cheering! i did it! i survived the jay challenge in 8 hours 39 minutes!
...and i'll be back next year!