Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Frozen Sasquatch 50k- my first ultra

Well, I survived! I made it!! I completed my first ultra marathon! While my performance was somewhat lack luster, I am so extremely proud of myself for merely finishing this race.

The entire week I was worried because the forecast for Charleston was the temps in the teens, snow, and wind chill in the single digits. I just tried to go over my gear several times attempting to have the right combination of layers. I ended up taking a bunch of gear and my drop bag was what I consider substantial because I really had no idea what to expect.  I was venturing into the UNKNOWN.
I had never ran past 26.2. I knew how much pain was involved with running a marathon would surpassing that mark and going another 5.4 miles--- I was sure it would hurt.
So the day before the race, Brock and I drove to Charleston  in the pouring snow, and I was awash in mixed emotions. I was really excited to run the race I had been training for, but also scared to death. I definitely had this sense of impending dread because I knew I was going to be running in extremely cold conditions, and wasn't looking forward to that in the least.

So i pretty much stayed awake all night listening to the downtown traffic and nightlife of Charleston. My mind aflutter. By 5 that morning I just got up and fixed my traditional breakfast of Oatmeal, cliff bar and coffee.  I had made up my mind ( from watching Everest: beyond the limit) that if one of the climbers this lady in her 50's named Billie could climb the south side ( which is more technical in many ways than the north) and make it, then I could go run frozen sasquatch. SO that became the running joke that morning between Brock and I.
The gear I chose was: for tops: I layered a patagonia capiline tank/sports bra, a capilene 3 base layer and a patagonia fleece half zip with thumb holes.
for bottoms: I wore a pair of new balance tights and a mtn hardware skort ( for added protection from the cold for my thighs and butt-- my hamstrings tend to get really tight in cold weather)
socks and shoes: I wore 2 pairs of smart wool socks( with blister shield in them) with Inov-8 gaiters and my brooks cascadias..
 I wore OR mittens with hand warmers on my hands.. and TRIED to carry my nathan hydration pack.
Because it was snowing and the icy conditions-- not to mention my lack of familiarity with the Charleston area; Brock was kind enough to get up with me and drive me to Rick and Tammy Gray's Hotel across town that was close to the entrance of the park. They were kind enough to let me ride to the start with them- thus enabling brock to go back to the room to sleep more and then be at the finish.

Of course really just being around Rick and Tammy ( who are great friends and trail running compadres)  really quelled the majority of my fears. They are so upbeat and happy, and I knew everything would be okay.
Eric Grossman( who keeps it very real :oP) also stayed at the same hotel as rick and tammy and rode with them to the start. So that was cool to have a little conglomerate of NETN and SWVA trail runners going to FS 50k.
 So we all piled in the car with all our gear. I still was getting very nervous. I was chatty I know the ride down.. probably too chatty( imagine that) it was dark still and snowy and I was scared.. of what?? the cold?? knowing I was probably going to be running for a very long time in the cold??  of hurting?? of pain?? of being extremely tired?  I really can't pinpoint that. but I do know I was TERRIFIED of failing. I did not want to DNF. I didn't want to set myself up for failure. I knew that if I DNFed ( not by being sick or injured but from mere weakness-- I would never forgive myself)
I went into the concession area and got my race packet, went to the bathroom to change my into some of my gear, and then went back to the car to wait for the meeting and start.
 I was getting ready to put my goose down coat down in my gear duffle bag when my cell phone vibrated I had gotten a text. It was from Brock. Aw. It said "If billie can do it, so can you. Be strong. love you."

Once the race started things went by fairly quickly, especially the first loop. Sure it was cold, but it really wasn't that much different than being outside skiing. The course was two 15.8 mile loops. It was a mixture of mostly single track with some sections of gravel service roads, and one small section of pavement.  12 minutes into the race, the hose on my hydration pack froze. RATS!!! I didn't want to carry a handheld because of my mittens, but I REALLY didn't think my hydration pack would freeze that quickly.  I tried to get the hose and thread it down my shirt hoping the warmth of my skin and heat from my layers would thaw it out. --- NOPE. So by the second aid station, I just left it to get rid of the extra weight. I was annoyed because I usually drink every 2 or 3 min when I trail run. NOW I  could only drink every 5 miles at the aid stations.  I did discover that I love HEED! ( heed slushies rock) and I really only used 2 of my gels during the race. I found myself just eating the food at the aid stations.. chips, pretzels.. I was craving salt as always.
I was moving slow.. about 12 min pace 10 min pace in some places..  I just felt 1. I had to be patient.. if I tried to run fast as I could and RACE.. I would just end up either bonking or falling and hurting myself.  I really never got used to the icy trails..  and slow, and cautious ruled my stride. I wasn't confident in my running the entire day. by the end of the first loop, I was already really tired. I knew many people who were running the 50k were just going in to get a 25k finish because it was so cold and the last section Tea Berry Rock trail was TREACHEROUS! it was one solid sheet of ice. I pretty much slid sideways down that whole mtn side ( by the end of the second loop-- I was sliding down on my butt it was SOO bad-- one guy broke his ankle on that section)  I tried to not even LOOK at the finish line when I was at Aid Station 4. I was cold, very cold.. instead I busied myself with my drop bag. I took 2 motrin because my feet were hurting ( the 2 socks  layering wasn't such a great idea it made things REALLY tight in my shoes), took a hammer gel, drank water and heed, and ate a frozen banana.

Off I went my significantly slower second loop. by then I knew I wasn't in contention for ANYTHING. it was really just a battle within myself to finish the distance not give up. I really didn't see many other runners and just ran alone mostly and listened to my ipod. The workers at the aidstations checked me off the list as I came through.. they told me many people quit at 25k and were quitting now.. did I want to stop too? No-- I WANT TO RUN-- to the point I can't imagine anything BUT running down these snowy, icy, leaf strewn trails-- chasing the blue tape hung on branches fluttering in the wind.. I can make the cut off easily I think.
 I thought about my children, my  family, my friends, my brother who had passed away 2 years ago.. I really thought alot about Todd-- I kept thinking how I knew he was encouraging me to keep on and be tough... my mind flashed back to my childhood playing  in the yard with my 3 big brothers. I fell in the yard chasing them playing football.. grass stains on my knees-- I was sure my knee was bleeding. I wanted to go inside to Mom. Todd told me to get up and quit crying.  Which made me cry harder.  he told me that I  was a tough girl, not a crybaby. Being a girl didn't make it okay for me to be a wuss. Be a big girl-- I got up and stood beside him ready to run I could feel the small trickle of blood running down my shin-- what a handicap it must be to have me for a teammate to play against my two brothers ( the other team) .. next play "HUT!"
I looked out over the ridge the sun was peaking through the clouds, the snowflakes looked like glitter/ice crystals falling from the sky... twinkling in the sunlight... I looked at my watch 27 miles. I had surpassed the marathon distance without even noticing.
I arrived at the last aid station bonking hard. I scarfed down some Gorp that for some reason was labeled " indulgent trail mix" on the bag and began my descent down middle ridge trail and the icy Tea Berry Ridge Trail.
I came upon a woman and her dog. She was just standing on the side of the trail, shivering. Was she a hiker? no she had on a race number.  as I got closer I saw she was crying. I asked her what was wrong and she told me she had pulled a hamstring going over a downed tree and she couldn't even walk.. she felt like it was torn. I tried to get her to hobble to the service road with me assisting her and she said she couldn't move. So i told her I was 2 miles away.. just don't move away from this section and I'd tell the RD exactly where she was and they could come get her.  I ran faster... I felt so sorry for her, I knew she was upset and scared. it wasn't 5 minutes later I came across a race volunteer walking up the trail. I told him the situation. and he had a cell phone with service. He called down to the RD and told them the situation and then hiked up the trail to be with the runner until help got to her.
 I was now SO close to finishing.  I could look through the trees and see brock standing outside the car looking at the mtn waiting for me to come out..  I knew he was worried. I was finishing WAY slower than I ever thought I would.  I came out of the woods and there was Rick, Tammy and Eric!! I had figured they would of been LONG gone on the trip back to abingdon/Johnson City. I gave them each a hug and ran to the finish..( that was just the ULTIMATE to have them share my little triumph. There were so many times I wondered myself if I could even finish.. and I just kept saying "jenny doesn't quit" over and over with each cadence of my stride.  Brock was there at the finish camera in hand and he took GREAT pictures!! I was so thankful to have brock there with me, supporting what I was doing. Getting in a warm car WAS AWESOME. Taking a hot shower post run before the trip back to VA was BLISS. :o)

about mile 28.. I was telling myself, I would NEVER do this to myself again...  I have 2 marathons in february.. myrtle beach marathon  feb 13th and Black mtn marathon on feb 27th.  Still trying to figure out where to go run my next 50k? belmonte? promised land? guess I'll look on ultrasignup.com and decide... :o)

cheers yall!! :o)


The Sean said...

Alright!!! An amazing achievement. 50k in that kind of weather is something you'll always remember- and next time you think it's a breeze!! Congrats!!

Rick Gray said...

Jenny, You just rocked! I knew you could do this. I knew you were too tough to let some tough weather and trail conditions keep you from your goal. The first one is never easy, but then again some of your future ultras will not be easy either. You are over the hurdle of your first one and now you can begin to look towards your next one. Be patient with yourself and you will recover very nicely. February is going to be exciting for you, but January 2010 you will never forget. See you soon, Rick

Some guy named John said...

Lemme tell ya: I'm WAY impressed! Well done on an amazing accomplishment!

jenn said...

thanks you guys!! ((HUG))

Triple F said...

WOW!!! That was a tough one! Sean is right . . . can't wait to hear how you do when the race course isn't frozen and the temps are reasonable! You're one tough "chick!" Congratulations on your arrival on the "dark" side (ultras!)

jenn said...

thanks frank! here is the results and more pictures from the race for anyone who is interested!!


I can't wait to run an ultra in somewhat "normal" conditions. :o) that one I think really helped make me mentally stronger though.. :o)

Whistle Pig Bistro said...

Hi Jenn! Glad you enjoyed the WhistlePig! We're trying to build a web presence; Would you mind to link to us the next time you stop by? Thanks!


Amy (wattsup) said...

Way to go sugar! So super proud of you :)

Casseday said...

Congrats on a great finish of your first ultra! Rick is right, you'll never forget Jan '10...the first one is certainly special.

jenn said...

thanks adam! You ran very well at FS 50k! congratulations!! :o)
I think I will ALWAYS ALWAYS remember this race for the rest of my life! I really can't wait for my next 50k! haha I think I can improve my PR time significantly! so it's just onward and upward from here! :o)
90% chance I'll run it again next year:o)

Triple F said...

Loved those pictures!


annette bednosky said...

what a great race report! I am just so sorry it has taken me this long to get to reading it! Many congrats to you tough girl! I loved the part when you talked about playing with your brothers when you were little! Sounds like an essay for the newbie cronicles of UltraRunning! Again-way to go!

jenn said...

thanks annette!! It was definitely a learning experience for sure!!! I can't wait to run my next 50k!! :o) cheers!!! :o) hope your recovery from your 100k is going well!! ((HUG)) hope to get to run some trails with you soon! :o)

saschasdad said...

Well, I'm a bit late here, but I just randomly stumbled upon your blog through somewhere in blogworld.

That said...congratulations on running and finishing your first ultra! When I read the title of the post and saw the date of it, I thought "huh, first 50k in Jan. in freezing temps and snow. that's tough!" Which means - you're tough!

Great race report. It seems like you really enjoyed the journey, too. I appreciated reading the flash back to the football game with your brothers. And you already proved in your first ultra that you are 100% an ultrarunner by selflessly stopping and helping the woman with the pulled hamstring. You're made for this silly sport of ours.

jenn said...

wow!! thanks so much, Sean! wild! and small world!! I looked at your blog just today! great job on your 50k this past weekend! "The matty hart" has been my coach for about a month. 1. I don't think he even knows I have a blog and 2. I'm sure he doesn't know I call him Matty:o) So what is going on with the little competition you guys are doing?? so if you beat him back-- he gets the pink vest? What races are you running in the upcoming months?

I really just have fallen in love with trail running and ultra running. :O) I am running Black mtn marathon ( it runs with mt mitchell challenge 40 mi-- I couldn't get in the 40 because it was full:o( ) on feb 27th and then I'm running Clark Zealand's 50k Terrapin Mtn on march 27th ( My 2nd 50k YAY!! can't wait)
If you ever come out East ( Southwest Va or Western North Carolina) you are more than welcome to come run with me and my friends! There is a nice little conglomeration of trail and ultra runners in my area. :o)