Sunday, November 15, 2009

My first 50k!

nfec It's been three weeks since I ran the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k in Wisconsin, but it definitely was an experience to write about -- better late than never! This year has definitely been a different year for me in terms of my training. Training for the TransRockies Run pushed my weekly mileage higher than it has ever been. I really feel that it made me a stronger runner, both physically and mentally. Until this year I wasn't really interested in running farther than the marathon distance. I felt like I needed to be faster at the marathon before I ran farther than that. My marathon PR is 4:17, and my wish is to run sub-4:00 someday! 

But...I have started to really fall in love with trail running and the laid-back nature of trail races. After a couple years of crewing and pacing Brian at trail ultras (Miwok was so amazing!) and becoming more involved with the newly-formed Chicago Ultrarunners Group (CHUG) this year, I had a change of heart. While I was planning my post-TransRockies race schedule, I decided to run the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k. It was held two weeks after the Chicago Marathon, which I ended up running at a relatively easy pace in preparation for the 50k. The marathon was a fun experience, and now I was looking forward to an equally fun but totally different experience at North Face.

Brian and I drove up to Wisconsin the day before, picked up race stuff, and then met up with fellow CHUGs at a nearby Italian restaurant that served some killer giant soaked-in-butter garlic bread. Yum! It was great to chat with everyone and it helped calm my building nerves a little bit. Afterwards, we headed off to the hotel with Paige (who was running the 50 mile) and Geof to start getting stuff ready for the next morning.

After a pretty decent night of sleep, we got up around 6am to get ready for the 8am start. By then Paige and Geof had already left as the 50 mile race started at 6am. It was lightly raining and the temps were in the 30's. Brrr! Luckily the rain did stop while on our way to the race start. We got there around 7am and milled around for a while as other CHUGs showed up -- Deanna was also running the 50k. Several others were there to cheer us on -- Karen, Torey, Jim, Ian. I was freezing and really nervous, but also ready to get going!

Brelly before the start

Me and my awesome cheerleader

A few minutes before the start I turned on my GPS watch which immediately turned back off due to low battery. It must have been on in my bag or something because I had fully charged it the day before. Oops! I put my sports watch back on so that I had a little bit of an idea of elapsed time. This was going to be quite the change from knowing every mile split like I do in road marathons. It's probably good I didn't have it anyway so I didn't run as a "slave to the watch" and instead just run based on how I feel and enjoy the day. My goal was to come in within the 8 hour time cutoff and avoid coming in last. :-) I didn't really have a concept of what I could do, so I didn't want to put too much pressure on myself -- it was my first 50k after all! Crossing the finish line was the main goal.

It was almost time to start and I made the decision to wear my jacket because I was still freezing. I figured that if I didn't want it, I could tie it around my waist and then drop it off with Brian at the first aid station at 6.6 miles. I lined up at the back of the pack and then it was time to go!

Just starting
Time to run 50k!

The first part of the course is about a mile on roads leading to the path. My legs felt good and I took it easy as we entered the trail. Ahhh, the trees were at varying stages of fall colors, so beautiful, and I was glad to be out there. This part of the trail was fairly flat, with some rolling hills here and there. To my surprise, Brian and the rest of the CHUGs were cheering just before mile 2. I was already getting warm with my jacket (as I kinda expected), so I took it off and gave it to Brian.

Here ya go
Here ya go! I don't need no stinkin' jacket! ;-)

Then it was time to run among the beautiful pine trees in the Scuppernong trails. At lot of this part was pretty flat and runnable, and I took it easy and just went with the flow. The trail is wide so I just ran my own pace, not dictated by those ahead or behind me. 

At the first aid station at mile 6.6, I waved hi to Brian, Torey, and Jim again, spent just a few seconds at the aid station, and off I went again. My goal was to avoid spending too much time at the aid stations. I had most of what I needed with me anyway.

IMG_2483
At the first aid station, mile 6.6

The miles went by pretty well, I was walking up the hills which were more plentiful in this section, and I was taking it easy. I saw Brian again approaching the next aid station at mile 11.1, he is a great cheerleader. :-)

Past the aid station was a really nice winding single-track trail, some ups and downs here, and I was loving it! Being towards the back of the pack, there wasn't anyone around me, but I didn't mind. It was quite the change from two weeks earlier being in the thick of the crowds at the Chicago Marathon. Then came the prairie section of the course, which was exposed to the brisk wind but luckily offset by the sun that finally decided to come out. I tried to run as much as possible during this part as it was pretty flat. Another reason to keep it up was that I could hear several gun shots and saw a few hunters hunting in this area. I didn't want to be a potential target. At least I wasn't wearing my deer costume, hehe. ;-) Actually, I found out later that they were bird hunting. This was also where some of the trail was pretty wet from recent rains. I was hoping to keep my feet dry as I was able to skirt by some flooded parts of the trail, but my efforts turned out to be futile as there was a larger marsh-like area I couldn't avoid. Ahhh, nice cold water submersion. Luckily after a few minutes my feet warmed up again and any concern about it was gone.

IMG_2490
Approaching Wilton aid station, mile 16.4

Ever the loyal spectator, Brian was at the next aid station (16.4). I was over halfway there! I still felt great and a smile was still planted on my face. I didn't know how fast or slow I was going but at this point I knew I would be finishing well within 8 hours. After some more prairie running the course went back into the woods for more horse trails. I think I was slowing down a little and might have had a little low point physically, but knew it would pass. I didn't want to let it affect me otherwise. Then I saw Brian along the course -- he had walked towards me from the aid station, and then we ran together for about a mile or so.

We approached the aid station at mile 21.9, I made a pit stop, and got my hydration pack filled. This was the longest break at the aid station, a couple of minutes. My legs were definitely feeling the mileage but I was still enjoying myself out there. I was past my "low" and ready to take on the last 10 miles. Piece 'o cake! :-) After I left the aid station I had passed the Vibram girl, said hi, nice job, and went on my way until I came upon a junction and wasn't sure where to go. I waited for Vibram girl just so that we could figure it out together. The course was really well marked so I was a little surprised that this part wasn't. Luckily we picked the correct route -- not that it matter as a little bit later we saw that both trails lead back into the main trail. Ah well! 

I saw more people on this part of the trail as some of the 50 milers were starting to pass me. It was fun to give and receive encouragement from them. Then I heard fellow CHUG Tony yell my name, who was doing the 50 mile. It was great to see him doing so well! Then we both saw Brian who was parked at a road the trail crossed. After snapping a picture, Tony ran ahead and I got another kiss from Brian. Those kisses provide a pretty good energy boost during races! :-)

IMG_2498
Yep, still smiling with about 8 miles to go

I continued on and had a nice conversation with another runner, Jody, from Kansas. It was her first 50k as well. She was starting to slow a little (or maybe I was speeding up), so we parted ways after saying good luck to each other. In spite of some decent hilly sections, I was doing pretty well and saw from my watch unless something  crazy happened I would be finishing under 7 hours.

Approaching the last aid station
Runnin' to the hug! (mile 27.2)

Pretty soon I spotted the last aid station and ran down the hill to see Brian's open arms (run to the hug!). Mile 27.2! Longest run ever! Feeling great, less than 4 miles to go! I passed through the aid station quickly and was on my way again to the finish. After a couple miles I knew I was on the trail that we started out on, on the way back to the finish. I passed by a couple of people and then once we got back onto the road I picked it up even more. My legs, though tired, still felt strong. I took the final turn into the park area, saw the finish line, took a couple of turns and then arms outstretched, crossed that finish line in 6:39!A new milestone, I am an ultramarathoner! 

IMG_2510
Winner of the dorkiest finish line picture EVER... :-)

I received my medal, and then my hug and kiss from Brian, then more hugs from the CHUGs who were cheering everyone in. What a great experience! I love this sport.

After getting some warm clothes on, we cheered on the rest of the CHUG runners. I ate some post-race food and then after that more food was eaten with Geof, Paige, and Tony in town. Then it was time for Brian and me to head home, stopping for DQ on the way (yum!), and then finally, home. A wonderful day, my first 50k finish, sharing it with Brian and the rest of the amazing group of CHUGs. This is the life! :-)

View my 50k photos

7 comments:

Geoffrey 11/16/2009 8:00 AM  

Awesome Job Kelly! What a fun weekend! Here's to many more just like it!

Paige 11/16/2009 10:46 AM  

Great report, Kelly! Congratulations on a fine finish and keeping that smile on the whole time :) Ultras suit you well! That finish line photo is awesome :)

RunnerGirl 11/16/2009 4:16 PM  

Awesome Kelly! It's been a great year. Keep on running and lovin' life!

Anonymous 11/18/2009 6:10 PM  

Good for you!! Congratulations and welcome to Ultra running!!

Lynnor Matheney
Houston

Kelly Roe 11/19/2009 8:13 AM  

Thanks for the congrats, Geof, Paige, RG, and Lynnor! I suspect this 50k will be the first of many. They make me smile. :-)

LOL Paige, the finish line photo...I think I was trying to make sure I didn't trip over the chip mat which is why I'm looking down. I (fruitlessly!) try to look cool and valiant crossing the line. Ah well, all in good fun!

vegannut 11/24/2009 10:14 AM  

Way to go Kelly, my friend and I are training for our first 50k in March of 2010 - Way Too Cool! We are taking inspiration from your blog.

Great race report.

Stay dirty!

Kelly Roe 11/24/2009 4:28 PM  

Thanks for the kind words, vegannut! Best of luck to you and your friend with your training for WTC. :-)

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