Sometimes, I feel like certain ultras shouldn't even be called whatever distances. As Rick the RD said himself, "You are NOT running a 50k. It's more like 33 or 34 miles." So let's just accept the fact that yesterday I ran for a while at Watchung Reservation.
The day was only slightly chilly at the start - I think 38 degrees or so. We gathered in by the start/finish/aid station/drop bag area. I had never seen so many people at one of NJ Trail Series races - good! I also saw a lot of familiar faces, which was great fun.
I started off enjoying the day, though to be honest, I had a cold, though over the course of the day, I felt heaps better. (I guess I spit/blew all that phlegm out?) The first loop, I ran with a few different people, by myself.
The course was mostly single track. I ran this race twice - in 2009, there was a blizzard which made following the white blazes that marked the trail difficult. In 2010, it was horribly cold and there was snow everywhere. This year, no snow, mild temperatures, and I could see the trail.
And the trail, well, you might not want to see it. TONS of rocks, rocks, rocks everywhere, with some roots thrown in here and there, just for fun. Hills, but nothing too perilous. Well, for an ultra anyway.
You run maybe four miles that take forever, including a steep climb. Then you hit an unmanned aid station and fill up on water, just water. And then you run another 3, 4 miles, including through an abandoned village, and next to a pretty lake. And then you get to an awesome aid station with pop tarts and Oreo cookies and pretzels. And yeah, water. And then you get to the main aid station with more pop tarts and blueberries and pretzels. And the course is up and down but full of quiet NJ winter woods and it's a nice day for running, of course.
Except I had a wicked asthma attack the day before. The kind of asthma attack I don't get often, that left me flailing and Wayne freaking, trying to put my inhaler in my mouth. The kind of inhaler that left me shaky for hours. And I obviously wasn't recovered, because every hill I hit left me breathless. I had to walk most hills, even hills I could normally run, because if I didn't, my breathing would go crazy. And my goal was to finish without an asthma attack. I know from experience - the more attacks I get, the more I get, and it's a cycle. And if I can prevent it, I should. Four puffs of my inhaler and moderation where necessary kept me good.
My cold left me feeling crappy and at one point, the thought hit me. My boyfriend had the same cold (though he was further along in the journey) and, rightfully so, he was doing what one should do when they had a cold - drinking lots of hot tea, sleeping lots, resting. What was I doing? Running an ultramarathon.
Or psycho, anyway.
My second loops was quiet, I mostly ran by myself. I stupidly forgot gaiters and probably stopped 8-10 times to empty out my shoes. I also threw up a little in my mouth so I drank some water, walked up a hill, and began running slowly.
Ah, the fun of ultramarathoning.
The third loop was much easier. I got through the first and the second. I could do this. I thought of the finish, I ignored the pain in my hip the best I could, I ignored the pain in my shin the best I could, I pushed on.
The water - delicious! And I pushed. "Are you running a race?" "Yeah." "How far?" "50k." "Huh?!" But I was gone.
At the second to last aid station, I enjoyed a cinnamon pop tart. Delicious. Do they serve these in gourmet restaurants?
Two guys and I started together. One faded. The one guy, a French transplant living in NJ and I talked about life, about vacation, about quality of life, about work-life balance, about change, about love. Those things that you suddenly discover four miles from a finish of an ultra. It all comes out in a beautiful conversation.
And we pushed forward. There was cheering of "DADDY" (not for me) as we surged forward.
And we finished, with mud on our feet, aches in our muscles, and smiles on our faces.
Just a little run in the woods...