Up until this point, somewhere around 35-36 miles had been my longest run (because I got lost at a 56k-my first ultra). While four extra miles doesn't seem like much, it was. Had it been flat, it'd probably have been no problem, but damn. The hills. Hills, small mountains, inclines, what have you. There was about over 4k of elevation gain total that day.
We prepared our wardrobes for the next day...I had 4. Over prepare much?
5:30am came fast and we were up and ready to hit the road a little after 6. We dropped our bags, got our numbers, slathered up with sunscreen and prepared for the task at hand after some pre-race instructions.
I'm not even sure I had time to let the fact that I was running forty miles sink in. I waited a minute or two and let the rest of the 40 milers and marathoners to head out so I could have some space and off I went. Dave, the race director, who is an amazingly outstanding at what he does, ran me out with some detailed instructions about which way NOT to go. I seriously appreciated that! Thanks Dave!
The first few miles of the trail were nice. I kept up a nice 11-12 min/mile pace, knowing that I needed to knock out a really good first loop in order to keep time and avoid the cut offs later in the day. The sun had started to rise by now, but it stayed fairly cool for the first hour or so.
|It was a *really* beautiful sunrise!|
The Rusty Crown, as it was aptly coined, is a series of about 18 steep climbs and descents. Usually you can almost count on making up time on downhills on the trails, except here. The descents were nearly as dicey as the inclines and the Rusty Crown portion of the race started with a terrifying downhill slide.
|This. Way, Terrifying.|
I used to compare every hill to the ones I ran in San Francisco a few years ago. Now I will compare them to this. A seemingly vertical wall of doom lovingly coined "the soul crusher", "bend over and take it" and a few other nice words. It was beastly. Towards the top, the only way to make progress was to literally climb using your hands. It seemed to take forever. Not only was this not the last hill of the back end of the rusty crown, it was the middle, with several more tedious climbs and descents that followed. Finally, hope was in sight. The aide station that was just a little under than 3 miles from the staging area. I took a little extra time there this time, knowing I was right on my schedule that I had set for myself. I ate a little, chatted and felt refreshed.
|Some pretty trail on the way back to the staging area.|
Before I started the day, I thought about what I wanted my goals to be for the day.
I knew that I didn't want to miss the time cut-off. I didn't want to fall. I only wanted to finish.
I knew I'd make time if I spent 3.5 hours on the first loop, 4.5 on the second and 5.5 on the last. The course closed after 13.5 hours. This had been a goal race of mine for over a year and this would be the last year that this would be part of the EBA adventures. It would be my only chance at it.
I changed my shoes and socks before I started my second loop. Chatted with my trail angel/friend Aimee, who helped me get my things in order. She had completed her 10k portion strong. I was so proud of her. She has been at all of the EBA races as well this year and will collect her bell in December too!
I headed out for my second loop a little more conservatively than my first. It helped knowing where all of the difficult parts were, but at the same time, I knew where all of the difficult parts were. By this time, a couple of tiny little blisters that I had gotten from an unfortunate shoe choice the day before were starting to cause some problems on my left foot. The band-aide I had applied to my little toe just wasn't cutting it. I spent a little more time than I wanted at the first aide station on the course tending to my foot. New band-aides, a little nutrition, and a little rest felt good.
|My feet really hurt, but at least I was still smiling.|
|At the top of a random hill. One of a seemingly 100 hills.|
|This was a sign. A tiny purple pineapple.|
Just as I headed out on my last, and final, lap. That promising rain? It came. It started out as a drizzle and picked up quickly. What looked good earlier, was now becoming a pain in the a$$. It was creating a mud pit of a course and I was back in the same place where I had ended the last loop, with wet shoes and socks. By now, the bottoms of my feet were on fire. All I kept thinking was, just keep moving forward. I walked most of the last loop, but I did it quickly. In the flattish parts, I was walking probably faster than I would have been running, around 14:30-15min/miles, with the exception of the steep climbs. I got to the first aide station, the one where I'd told them I was quitting, and they all laughed and told me they knew I'd be back. I only stayed a couple of minutes, but wanted to stay longer to get out of the rain, because I knew I had to keep pressing on in order to not get cut off. Somewhere before the second aide station, I was greeted by the sweeper. I was a little confused at first, worried that I hadn't made time and was getting cut off. Instead, it was a sweeper who made sure that the last runner would make it in safely. Relieved.
We chatted for awhile, but honestly, all I wanted to do was stay in my own head. Sometimes having someone to talk to is helpful, it takes your mind off the task at hand, but this was kind of the opposite. I needed to stay present and get this thing done. The conversation became kind of strange, so I quickly started my audible book that I had been listening to, 'A Walk in the Woods' (appropriate, right?) and tried to immerse myself into that. By the time I got to the second aide station, I wanted to rip off my feet, they hurt so badly. Luckily, they had some athletic tape that I wrapped my feet in, which helped. What should be the EBA volunteer of the year, the race director of another local trail race, Cross Timbers, mentioned that she had an extra pair of socks in her truck and insisted that I take them (they were clean, btw). This woman had no idea how she saved my day. Those socks felt like heaven. I had a little extra spring in my step now and was hell bent on getting to the finish line. I changed my book to music and forged on. I knew I had a mile or two of semi-flatness, the second half of the rusty crown, unfortunately the most difficult part, and then 2.8 miles into the finish. My all of my calculations at this point, I had about 45 minutes of cushion to get to the finish, although the sweeper kept reminding me otherwise (incorrectly). The sweeper had lots of energy because he had only run about 9 miles up until this point. I had run 36. Our exertion levels were a little different. While this was starting to play with my mind, I knew I had to stay positive.
|The sun setting was pretty too!|
I got through the steep climbs, I got through the aide station (which I almost burst into tears when I saw it). I was on my way in. I picked up my pace as much as I could without actually running and with a big ol' smile on my face crossed the finish line of the Rough Creek 40 miler. My time?
12:44:46. 45 minutes to spare.
I was amazed at the number of people who had stuck around to see the last person (me) cross the finish. I was cheered in just like the first place finished probably was (except maybe a few less people).
One of my goals that I made for myself was to never be last. I was last. Yet I didn't look at it that way. In a field of 38 runners, 11 were pulled from the course because of time cut offs or because they didn't/couldn't continue. I was not one of those people.
Interestingly enough, this was a race where you are rewarded for being last. I was honored. I won.
I quickly changed my clothes and Aimee and I headed home. It was a long ride (probably longer for her) as I got sick several times on the way home. I was sunburned, dehydrated, sore and just plain tired. I rested my eyes for a bit and that really helped.
What was recovery like? Surprisingly not bad at all! I felt pretty good the next day with the exception of my feet. They were a hot mess. I had a really sore toenail, which I will probably end up losing and blisters all over the bottoms of my feet (I've never gotten blisters in all of the years I have been running). I went out running 2 days later and was back to piling on the miles by the end of the week.
Where did I go wrong with my nutrition and hydration? Easy. Not enough. I didn't take in nearly the calories I'd needed for 12+ hours of pretty strenuous activity, despite that fact that the aide stations are like carb/salt buffets. I took in a few chips and sometimes a cookie at the aide station and always a glass or two of coke (which is what I think made me sick). I took Endurolytes at every aide station, plenty of water and then salt stick tabs every couple of hours, but because of the heat, it just wasn't enough. I need to work on this for my next race. It's scaring me.
I am almost relieved that this was the last year of the Rough Creek adventure. It was really cool and such an amazing race, but I'd be so tempted to go back and try to get revenge on that course if I had the opportunity.
Ultra #3, a distance PR, was in the books.
Next up....Palo Duro Canyon 50k!