My first Ultra Marathon. Blues Cruise 50k.
So back in May, in a text conversation with my friend Emily, I decided that trying a trail race might suit my personality because I seriously hate road races. I love training but the nerves, the pressure and all of that wasn’t making me happy… so why was I doing it? I have no dreams of Boston. I’m not fond of shorter distances because I never seem warmed up in time. And I had started my heart rate training which you can read about here and loved running 3-4 hours.
As I’ve mentioned before, I started to train in my lower heart rate zones therefore allowing me to go greater distances without a turnaround. As a matter of fact, relatively no turnaround. I could run 22 or 24 today and do 8 or 10 the next day without being sore. I was sleeping better. I felt great. So Emily suggested an ultra. AN ULTRA MARATHON? Me? I hated doing my last marathon and this was 5 more miles. Who after running a marathon wants to run 5 more miles? Apparently, I did.
So over the past four months I’ve trained and trained a lot. Over 820+ miles. I’ve worked hard and trained on what I thought were trails in preparation. More like rails to trails which were rock covered trails that had no technicality at all. More on that shortly.
So this past week we experienced rain… a lot of it. I became concerned about the muddiness of the trails. I had never run real trails like this and had no idea how difficult the trail was without the rain and wet leaves. Dealing with cliffs. Gaping holes in the trail that the rain washed away. This race takes place on an old ski resort so obviously there was some great elevation.
I find tapering difficult, especially coming off weeks of running 69 miles. I tapered. I rested. I hydrated and carb loaded till my heart was content. I panicked one day on Thursday, when I thought it was Wednesday. The days were blending. We did have one race scare with the impending hurricane and winds coming our way. Thankfully that concern diminished quickly. I planned on wearing black Pro Compression socks to cover up the mud just in case I got covered.
Fast forward to Sunday morning. Now I haven’t shared this race with many. Emily knew, my family and probably two or three close friends but that was it. I wanted to fly under the radar, which is more of my personality. We got up at 4:45a. I had slept all night. I was fine. No worries. Not nervous. I was shockingly good. We packed up and I had some oatmeal and off we went.
We drove to Reading and the race set up was quite differently than what I’m used to. This was by far the smallest race I had ever done – only 400 participants. I got my bib, tech tee (which is so nice) and a hat. Sat in the warm car until it was time to go and off we went. My husband was riding his bike and planned on meeting me at some rest stops (which were incredible buffets) to check in.
I had no time goals. Trail running is entirely different than road running. And running on a muddy/wet leaf covered coarse is really different. The time cap stated was 8 hours but due to the conditions they were giving grace up to about 8:50 hours I heard. They were sweeping people not holding a 15.5 min pace by the sixth rest stop which was mile 24.
So we started and the field was tight with people. It’s a single foot path and you run basically in a train formation. Eventually on hills or wider areas allowed you can branch out a bit. I found navigating the wet rocks hard on my feet, praying not to roll my ankles. Tons of walnuts around which I was desperately trying to avoid stepping on. Your eyes cannot move off of the ground at all. We made it to rest stop 1 around mile 4 and I got to see Bill. Chatted for a minute and then continued on. I kept running with the same guys for most the beginning then by the 3rd stop – mile 13 or so, some seemed to linger on a bit. I headed out and remained with what turned out to be my running angel. Pete became my pain partner. We joked, talked about life, complained at what seemed to be endless hills and he made this journey tolerable.
Here was a view at the beginning of the course (mile 4).
We reached what was the worst of the mountains at the ski slope itself. It felt like I was walking straight up to heaven without a landing… my legs were on fire. I never wanted to quit so badly but Pete kept saying “one foot in front of the other”. That’s what we did. We had overall covered 4ooo+ feet of upness. Thanks Pete for your watch as my new Garmin seized up at mile 20 and rendered itself useless. The hills kept on coming. The race website does not address this at all! My quads and calves were simply on fire. Poor Pete had posterior pain that we seriously laughed over. When I wanted to quit… he pulled me through and vice versa. We ran the flats and walked the hills which is encouraged in trail running. The bad aspect were the downhills that were so slippery from the leaves that you couldn’t let loose and gain momentum plus tree roots/stumps/cliffs etc. were all posing threats.
From there the hills just seem to keep on coming one after another. At one point we stopped for Pete to change his socks – I know mine were quite muddy from stepping in puddles. I returned two text messages: one to Emily who told me to enjoy every mile. I will refrain from my response back to her as every single muscle in my body was screaming. And the other was to my friend Katey who was equally cheering me on.
Some beautiful sunflowers that I snapped along the way…
So I’ll spare you the rest of the gory details. We talked a lot. We laughed a lot. We complained a lot but we finished together and well under the 8 hour cap. We were sweaty, muddy and totally elated that we were now ultra marathoners! And as we approached the finish line Pete announced to everyone waiting at the finish line that his “A$$ was cramping.” Everyone burst out laughing (see us laughing in the photo below) and it was the perfect finish to the hardest accomplishment I’ve ever achieved. Pete if you’re reading this… I once again I will tell you – you were my running angel and I couldn’t have done it without you! You were the best!
Some things that helped me get through the day:
I used my Vega Energizer as my primary beverage and my recovery accelerator drink (as seen above).
My Pro Compression socks prevented my calf muscles from bursting out of my legs (actually they provided great support). Discount code on anything pink this month: PINK
Goat Head Sole Spikes – these screws can be put into the souls of any sneakers to help provide traction on slippery or icy roads/trails etc. These guys are so awesome that they overnighted me a pack so I had them in time for my race. I swear these kept me upright and free from slipping on any leaves or muddy areas. So many people had been falling around me. You can see the screws in my sneakers below.
Just a little muddy. So glad these were my new sneakers. Ha.
Due to my Garmin Fenix 3 freezing up – we used Pete’s information. 4063 feet of upend!
31.46 miles and 7 h 43 minutes. Phew. Just beat that cutoff.
I came home to vicious cramping all over my body. I downed 2 full glasses of pickle juice and about 6 glasses of water. I showered and climbed into bed. I managed to sleep about 2.5 hours till 10p and then I was up. I stayed up till 4:30 am and then went for a run with my husband sporting my new gear. Oh and in lieu of the finishers medal we received a sweet lime green 3/4 zip pullover which I love!
Only finishers received the pullover. LOVE it!
And today I sported the tech tee and hat I received when I picked up my bib. Also sporting my Pro Compression striped socks which I’ll be wearing all week long to help my legs recover.
In honor of marathon Monday… I partnered with ClassyBumper.com to offer a beautiful chrome bumper sticker to commemorate your half or full marathon that you’ve run. Way nicer than the magnets! They are offering Knead to Cook followers a 20% off coupon by using: Knead To Cook as the coupon code.
Sunday: 31.46 trail miles
Monday: 3.5 recovery miles
Hope your weekend was awesome!
— Knead to Cook
I love that 3/4 zip! I was just saying the other day how I hate race medals. What the heck am I going to do with this giant pile of medals?? A comfy extra running layer, though, will most certainly get used over and over and over. Love it. Congrats and you are AMAZING for getting back out there the next day, way to go and welcome to the trails!
Lauren, Exactly. My medals collect dust. I love this so much more plus got a technical shirt and a hat. I will admit, I may never take it off 😉 I had to run today. I miss my sanity and early morning dark runs. oxoxo
Loved reading about your first ultra – you continue to amaze me!!
Virginia, You are so kind! It was a humbling journey. Glad it’s over but now need to set my sights on something new 🙂 oxox
Solid work! I like how you were stealth and kept this race on the downlow. With all the miles comparable to mine, I was wondering what you were training for 😉 . Just awesome R!
I did want to fly under the radar only having Emily help me out. Trying to minimize extra pressure. I’m so excited for your race and know you are going to kill it. So proud of all the miles you’ve logged, as I completely understand the dedication. You are such an inspiration to me!
Loved reading this! You are so brave and ambitious honored to call you a friend! Enjoy the post race high. Well deserved!
Thanks Lottie! It was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. oxo
I am SOOOO happy for you….congratulations!!!!!
Trail ultras have such a special place in my heart. I just love them!!!
Jen thanks so much!!! It was a humbling process for me. I look forward to training more difficult trails and get more accustomed to this… maybe we can run one someday! A girl can dream!
Wow! I just stumbled upon your blog searching for any write ups on Blues Cruise! This was my first 50k this past Sunday also! What an amazing day it was, we really lucked out with the weather didn’t we?! It bit it once HARD between the second to last and last aid station, I thought I was going to loose teeth! Bravo to you for getting up and running on Monday, today was my first day back to running. Congrats on your finish and cheers to being an ULTRA RUNNER! — Katie
Thanks Katie! I certainly learned a lot of that trail!!! My legs are still rebelling but I’ve managed to run most of the week and look forward to my 90 minute massage tomorrow. Congrats on running it too! It definitely was a journey 🙂 oxox
Thanks Chris!! Now to get my butt to NYC to see you both!!! oxo
Robin, this recap is perfect! The finish photo captures the pain and laughter so well. I’m very happy to have met you and Bill this weekend, as anyone who promises to drag my body to the finish is alright by me 🙂 I couldn’t have completed the course without you both. I was convinced I’d bail out at the next aid station that had a decent supply of pumpkin bread.
You’ve gained two followers here, as well- Heather is GF, while I try to be. We both love to try out new recipes (although we freely admit our asparagus flan didn’t go so well).
Hope to see you on the trails again! We’ve already registered for a few more fall/ winter races, and I hope to run Blues Cruise 2016 with more speed and fewer a$$ cramps!
Pete!!!!!!!! I’m so happy you got on my blog. I’m still laughing at this crazy journey and have looked up a few more ultras – what is wrong with me? You need to email me the races you signed up for – firstname.lastname@example.org You made my day!!
I LOVED THIS!!! i absolutley despise road racing. it takes me 3 miles just to feel warmed up and i feel most at home on the trails. congrats on your experience!!! ❤️
Betsey, Thank you so much! It was definitely a journey and a humbling experience. I’m not a fan of short races as it takes me forever to warm up and find my groove. I can’t wait to do it again soon 🙂 oxo
Friend!!!! I can’t believe I’m just now reading this! You are amazing and totally made me want to move to a place with trails and run an ultra. I mean crazier things have happened right?! I’m so freaking proud of you and so proud to know you. And now I want to start zone training. See? you are totally inspiring. Love you!!
Kelly, Heart rate zone training has changed my life. When you give up the ideal of time etc. it makes it so much fun 🙂
Come visit and we can run an ultra together. Clearly I needed it! You already earned your running angel badge. I need you! oxo
I love trail races too and seem to do best with long distance on trail or road. I’m going to start tracking my heart rate as I have a feeling I must run this way naturally. I don’t run fast but can go for days, recover quickly and do back to back long runs. Thank you for all this running info as well as the fabulous recipes. They are easy, no complicated or long ingredient list and so tasty. Truly such a great blog. Thank you. Also as a celiac and chrohns person they never give me tummy trouble.
Heather thank you for such kind words. I agree, running for days is way better than fast. It’s given me a greater appreciation for sure. oxoxo Robin