Sunday, April 20, 2008

Words of Wisdom from the Ultra Runner

Yesterday was the worst run of my life. Think of the hardest hike/backpacking trip you have ever done. Now think of it being 50 miles long. Sounds fun, doesn't it? Now try running as much of it as physically possible. That's what I put myself through yesterday, all in the hopes of becoming an ultra marathon runner.
Here is the link to the race website, in case you may be interested.
Before the race started, I was talking to a few people who had run this race before. I was already terrified, and these people were telling me what a difficult race this was and that I shouldn't even attempt to run it under 9 hours due to the elevation. Needless to say, this did not help to assuage me.


It all started out pretty well. I completed the first half of the race with the leaders, somewhere in the top 5 women runners. It didn't feel so bad, even though there were some good climbs. I was able to run the whole way, though I took regular walking breaks to conserve energy.


By aid station #3 (mile 20.3) I was at about 3 hrs, which would have me around a 3:45 marathon pace, and I still felt pretty good. Then came a 4 mile mountain. It was steep even by hiking standards. About 1 mile into the hill, my body decided that it had taken enough abuse and would never run again. I even called Steve to tell him that I would walk to the finish. Being the wonderful husband that he is, he convinced me to keep going and at least finish.

It was at this point that I decided I didn't care any more. I gave up trying to get a good time, and decided that ultra marathons were not for me. I would much rather enjoy myself than to feel this way. So I hiked up this hill as best I could, and ran down the other side, whenever my body
would allow me to, despite my upset stomach and some lung pain under my collarbone. At aid station #5 (mile 28.0) I was able to see Steve and eat some potatoes and soup for energy and sodium loss. I felt better after food, but knew that I still had 22 (yes 22!) miles left to go, so I continued my journey, albeit very slowly
After I left Steve and aid station #5, began the worst part of the race. This was a 1200 foot climb in 4 miles. It not only left my body depleted of energy, but it helped the bursitis (swelling and fluid under the joints) in my hips come back due to my crooked right leg. I made it (barely) up the mountain to aid station #6, where I was greeted by "Welcome to Hawaii". It certainly felt like I had run there. The volunteers were all dressed up in grass skirts an leis, in an attempt to motivate us to finish. The people at this aid station were very accommodation for my current condition, and about a mile later, I felt well enough to run again. I was able to run most of the way until the turnaround at mile 35.5 (#7), and even back to Aid Station #6 (which was now #8), and even make up for some lost time.

After that, I attempted to run back down that beast of a trail. Unfortunately, it was so steep and such a skinny trail, that I had to walk a lot of it for fear of losing my footing (I had a couple of close calls). I was able to make my way slowly back to Steve at aid station #9 (42.6). I got some more food and Gatorade and continued back up another peak to the last station #10 (46.1). I had to walk most of the way from #9 to #10 because of how awful I felt. At #10, I got some pizza (it was about 3 pm and I was starving) and called Steven to let him know I was close to finishing. He told me there was a short hill (.5 miles) and then it would be downhill from there. This "short" hill lasted about 2-2.5 miles, but luckily wasn't very steep and I was able to run some of it. Once I got to the downhill portion, I ran with a woman who had done 50 mile races each of the last 3 weekends. Wow. She was nice to talk to, as much of the rest of the journey had been solitary. We ran downhill the last leg of our race. As soon as I saw the town in view, I was able to scrape up some energy and run to the finish line, beating her by a few minutes at 10h32m35s. I was finally finished!!!
Now that I could finally sit down, I took inventory of my condition. You should see my feet!!!

We came home so I could take an ice bath (brr!) and eat dinner. Due to my exhaustion, I was unable to eat AND get enough oxygen at the same time. Eating dinner made me out of breath, and as I tried to breath more deeply, I felt pain in my lungs and nearly hyperventilated. It was kind of scary until we realized that my body was just so tired that it was having a hard time with everything. After dinner, we watched Jaws (which now has me not ever wanting to go back to the beach). I was amazingly able to stay awake during the movie, but when it became time to get off the couch and go to bed, I found it almost impossible to move, though despite the ice bath, my muscles severely tightened up to the point where I could no longer bend the muscles without intense pain. But after a month without dessert, at least I got brownies again!!!
After last night's sleep, it was even worse. I feel crippled. I tried to get out of bed this morning and couldn't bend my legs. Trying to take the dogs out was painful as could be. I ate breakfast and haven't moved from the couch, mostly because I don't think I would be able to anyway.
Overall, it was an interesting experience, but one that I do not think I will attempt in the future because of what it did to me this weekend. I wouldn't say that it was fun, but it was perhaps worth it just this once, even if just for the training and bragging rights.
To help you on your path of knowledge, I have compiled a "Top Ten Things I Learned by Running a 50-mile Race", in hopes that you do not have to actually run one to benefit from the experience.

10. Running 50 miles at one time is harder than it sounds and nothing can completely prepare you for the pain you feel during a race this long.
9. My iPod lasts longer than I do (10h32m35s).
8. Even if it doesn't seem bad on an elevation chart, 9000 ft of gain means wicked steep slopes.
7. Running on steep downhill can be almost as bad as going up.
6. There are better ways to lose a few pounds in one day than by running 50 miles.
5. I would never wish this experience, not even on my worst enemy.
4. No matter how worn out I feel, I always have a kick at the end.
3. The muscle soreness that sets in after sitting down for a few hours is purely paralysing.
2. Ultra marathoners are ultra masochistic.
1. I will never EVER do that to myself again


betsey said...

Wow! Just Wow!!! April, this is coo-coo CRAZY!!!! You are amazing and I am really impressed (and slightly scared) with you! 50 miles is amazing!!! It is a great bragging right and I think that you should mention it whenever possible!!! GREAT JOB!!!

Welfymom said...

Oh my heavens! What an amazing feat. Speaking of feet, I hope yours feel better now. It was great seeing you last night. I stopped by the blog to check out what you didn't have time to tell us. Take care and I hope we see you again soon. Julianne

Tyler and Karisa said...

I have no idea how I found this post on your blog exactly (I found your blog via Andrea's though), but I have to say HOLY CRAP!!! I am not going to lie. I've thought about doing one and secretly wish I could get the courage to. I still have to do a FULL marathon. I'm a chicken. Please be my running idol. Okay, done.