Results: 5 hours, 39 minutes; 33 miles, 4800′ elevation gain; 39th out of 108th overall, 7th girl out of 36th
Last Saturday I woke up at 6am in a hotel room in Vermont, momentarily disoriented. I had a foggy notion that there was something important I had to do that day, but my waking mind could not grasp it… and then I remembered with some dread… “The Runamuck 50K!”
My last ultra had been the Vermont 100 in July 2015, and it was a doozy. In the months since, I have begun to question… why do ultramarathons? I’ve finished 20+ races marathon distance or more (including 100 miles!), so I’ve got nothing to prove. Been there, done that. I could remain in decent physical shape running shorter distances, and reduce the number of injurious niggles that I must tend to, plus spend more time with my family, and get more sleep, and refocus on graduate school, and possibly even take up other hobbies. Why ultra??
Still, I persist. I signed up for Runamuck 50K as a training run for other, more arduous ultras, plus it’s the third time I’d be running this race (making me one of the very few who has run it every year since its inception; the previous two years, it was called the Twin State 50 and attracted far less people). But I did feel some dread. Running 50K on the hills of Vermont is just hard.
Mr. P and Little Boy came with me. We made a weekend out of it, with Mr. P excited to get his own miles on the Vermont hills. They dropped me off at the start at 8am and I reluctantly let them leave, with instructions to pick me up in “five or six hours.” Compared to the first two years, with about 40-50 entrants, it was quite a large crowd.
As I stood at the very casual starting line, surrounded by ultra jocks and ultra wannabes, I reminded myself that my goals for the race has little to do with speed, and all to do with the distance. I would not push until mile 25. I would preserve my quads and knees by taking it easy on the downhills.
By mile 4, I was reminded that I do ultras not because they are easy, but because they are hard (to paraphrase JFK). And to paraphrase some obscure ultra runner in the recent Barkley Marathons documentary… “Most people could benefit from having more pain in their lives.” Which sounds (at best) cavalier and (probably) horrible to people with actual, non-self-inflicted pain.
I seriously hate this picture but it’s the only one the course photographer captured of me. I’m the agonized looking lady with the light blue hydration pack and gray/black ensemble between the three runners in the foreground. I was still being cautious at this point.
I plugged along. As usual, I passed people on the uphills, and they passed me on the downhills. Only to be re-passed by me on the uphills. I got serious uphill endurance. I passed people, but slowly.
Disaster struck at mile 15, right around that halfway milestone that should give a serious mental boost. I was leapfrogging with 3 excitable Quebecois as they scorched past me on the downhills and I plowed past them on the uphills. Coming off a long downhill, I came to an intersection and saw them hiking up a hill to the right side of the fork. Not even checking the course markings, I blindly followed them up the road.
About a mile later, we encountered runners coming the other way. Anguish all around: we took a wrong turn.
The bright side is the camaraderie. I started talking with two guys who I leap-frogged with the rest of the race. In ultras, the camaraderie is key.
The down side was, of course, two extra miles. Fortunately my energy was good, my quads were holding up… and hey. Bonus miles and elevation!
Yes, I was amazed my quads were in good shape! I knew the downhills were relentless and I wanted to preserve them, but then again, these quads have seen these hills before. I began pushing my pace at mile 26, then started to rip down the last miles of the course. I think I passed around 10 people, including my two “lost boys.” My endurance was tip top.
I finished in 5 hours, 39 minutes. I am sure if I hadn’t taken that unfortunate detour I could have done at least 5 hours, 20 minutes. Who knows? I blame myself for blindly following other runners. In any case, I am pleased with the race and my recovery; I think the road marathon training as well as my weight training has been hugely beneficial.
Mr. P and Little Boy also had a great weekend. Little Boy spent much time in our hotel’s racquetball court, and he ain’t half bad! Mr. P got two longish runs in, so everyone was happy.