Over this past weekend, I ran my third ultramarathon of 2013: The NJ Trail Series One Day event. This race was a very last minute addition to my races for this year. I had trained over the summer and fall to pick up a late fall marathon, but had no idea which one would wind up working best, especially in light of the fact that I will be starting a new job across the country shortly. Choices included the Harrisburg Marathon, the Philly Marathon, NJ One Day, and hauling out to the Seattle Marathon. Ultimately this race was chosen for a few reasons: the course is a 1 mile loop (which meant if I wanted to bail on the distance I could), one can camp on the course, I’ve done two races with this organization before, and it was going to be a bit more low key than the big city marathons. With about 36 hours to go before the race, the trigger was pulled on running this one. I also liked that I would be running my third ultra of the year with the same organization.
I ran this race with a friend, so I obtained directions (and my favorite pre-race snacks: gummy colas and jelly beans), my friend obtained a tent, and we set off in the dark of Friday night for the Sussex County fairgrounds. Pro-tip: Google map instructions are pretty horrible in the country in the dark when you’re scanning unlit street signs to make the correct turn. Needless to say, we did a little backtracking in order to get there. Having had done 3 Days at the Fair this past spring, I expected to see several campers on Friday night, but we only saw two other tents, one of which we set up shop next to. I’m not even going to attempt to sugar coat this: the first night was awful. After a cold, windy, and full of the buzzing noise of the transistor next to us evening, I woke up in not the happiest mood ever for running. Here’s a pic:
The tent was pretty frosty:
Went to Dunkin Donuts to thaw out and I ate some of my usual Vanilla Almond Special K. The cold temps and potential for warmth made dressing for this race fairly complicated. Also complicating matters was the fact that my shoes were FLAT. Saucony discontinued them recently and the new version is awful, so I had not had time to find a new shoe and this meant I would be running 31 miles on shoes that had nothing left to give.
Mindset plays a HUGE part in ultras, especially races that are on a looped course. I had gone in with not the greatest mindset, feeling cold and worried about my shoes and some leg pain (which was probably phantom pain from taper). Race started fine and I tried to stay upbeat, but my wheels came off during the fourth mile and I started to cry about all of that (whatever, I’m comfortable enough with myself to admit this). Stopped long enough for my friend to catch up and to chat about how I was feeling. We decided to run the rest of the race together and jogged a few laps. At one point, I decided to run some laps (which meant we ran some laps) and then we switched to a run 4 laps, walk one lap strategy. This worked well until around mile 20, when we developed a run/walk pattern. Run this small part of the course, walk this next little section, run this following section, etc. Helped get a lot of the early to late 20s laps out of the way in a way that let us converse and bang out laps. We talked about food and work and ridiculous internet memes. I munched on orange slices for energy, had a PB sandwich quarter a few times, and ate my Gus every five miles. By Gu #3 or #4, I was over eating Jet Blackberry Gu, but what is a girl to do?
Many of you who have known me since I started running know that I HATE running with other people and I HATE talking while I am running in an event. However, this race was different for a lot of reasons. It was a last minute addition, I had gone to do it to spend time with my friend, and I wanted to enjoy being outside and in NJ before moving. It was hard for me to move from a “competition” mindset to a “just having fun” mindset, but I think it was what allowed me to finish. However, a certain person decided that they need to finish first, which I am still on a low-simmer irritation about.
Finishing time for this 50K was 6:11:26, my second fastest of the year (better than NJ Ultra Fest, slower than 3 Days).
Swag was pretty sweet:
After the race, it was freezing! We went off to forage for food, driving around and looking at fast food restaurants until we decided to see if this diner-esque place we passed might have some soup. We were rewarded with some chili and fries. After heading back to the tent, we decided to go back out again and wander around Kohl’s and (the shadiest, creepiest) Wal-Mart to keep warm. There are showers at the fairgrounds, and I decided to take one to wash off my salt layer. While the water never got super warm, it was nice to be able to feel a little bit more human (and to know that the loops were over!). Crawled into the tent and listened to podcasts until my ipod died (this is my standard post-Ultra thing, I can never sleep, so I chill out to podcasts).
The next morning, I obtained my only race pancake (my biggest disappointment with the race was the lack of pancakes on Saturday), had a Dunkin Donuts wake-up wrap (oh, how I will miss these), and then we visited Fairway Markets (where I got truffle cheese and chia seed products-stayed tuned for a post on chia seeds!!!). By far, my favorite parts of the post race drive back day were delicious breakfast sandwiches from my favorite place and a stop in the Delaware Water Gap for a short hike.
I’m stoked to have capped off my major race year with some acts of hardcoreness: camping in the cold, running an ultra, and being able to hike the next day.
My next big race is going to be the Badger Mountain 50K in March 2014, my first foray into mountainy 50Ks.