Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Seashore Nature Trail 50k

I just ran my first 50k.
@ the finish line, Seashore Nature Trail 50k
Three years ago, I had a brand new itty bitty baby who didn't sleep much. I had just been handed the most amazing gift and biggest challenge of my life. I was 50 pounds overweight. My only fitness goal was to somehow shed the pregnancy weight and maybe one day fit into my regular clothes again. If you'd told me then that I'd ever run a 50k (31.06 miles!), I would have laughed in your face.
For real.

September 2011. Fat, tired and happy.

It started with the jogging stroller. I didn't have a gym membership, so the most convenient way for me to get a sweat was to hit the pavement. I snagged a $25 stroller on Craigslist and made a goal: Run a 5k before her first birthday. I started pushing my new munchkin around the neighborhood in what I like to call the three-wheeled "Triangle of Pain." Running with the jogging stroller is one of the hardest athletic challenges I've experienced. Learning how to maneuver around turns and trying to adjust to the weight of the stroller (not to mention my own extra pounds), while watching out for traffic and making sure my kid hadn't pooped her pants somehow proved to be even harder than I had imagined. I started with walking, then jogging a little, then a little more. Within a few months, I was running 4 days a week with my new exercise buddy and finally starting to feel like myself again.

Eager to get back into the racing scene, I signed up for my first post-baby 5k when Lu was about 6 months old. That day, I was happy just to cross the finish line, exhausted and elated to be wearing a racing bib. Three years, 22 races 50 pounds later, I can't imagine a life without trail running and racing. Its my therapy, my quiet time, my drug of choice.

Last weekend I completed my longest distance to date at the Seashore Nature Trail 50k in Virginia Beach. In three years' time, an Ultra-Marathon has gone from a totally ridiculous, unreachable, unnecessary goal to one that I've actually conquered. Crazy.

What a great introduction to the world of Trail Ultra-Running this race is. The course is a double-lap out and back with a little 3-mile loop at the turnaround. There are 2 (very well-stocked) aid stations that runners pass multiple times, never going more than 4.5 miles between pit stops. Perfect course for an ultra-newbie like me. Check out the map HERE.

The race takes place at First Landing State Park, a spot I hadn't visited before. I'll definitely be heading back sometime; the park is packed with great trails, tons of wildlife and some nice sandy areas on the water. Just a 2-hour drive from RVA, it would be perfect for a day trip with the fam.

On the morning of the race, the weather looked perfect; chilly but not raining, cloudy but no thunderstorms on the radar. I woke up early in my hotel room, had some coffee, a banana and a giant bagel (my go-to race breakfast), gearing up for what would be an awesome day out on the trails.

I was lucky that one of my best girlfriends agreed to make the trip with me and be my chauffeur/cheerleader/dinner date. She woke up early, drove me to the start-line, gave me a hug and promised to be there at the finish. Thank God for good friends.

After a quick bathroom break and some last minute jitters, we were off and running. I settled in near the back of the pack. My goal was to finish and to finish strong; going out too fast would wreck everything very quickly. So, I went out slow, slow, slow. I found some new friends and chatted as the first few miles unfolded, noticing the wildlife and some of the weird beachy trees along the trail. I decided that since the race was a 2-lap out and back, I'd go the first half of the race sans music, then plug in my tunes around the mid-way point at mile 17 or so. Something to look forward to.

I stayed on top of my food/fuel situation better than I usually do, eating every hour whether I felt like it or not. I fueled with Gu Salted Caramel (YUM.), a few M&Ms and a slice of peanut butter sandwich near mile 20 or so. I drank mostly water and had a little Gatorade too, mostly because its delicious.

The course is almost ALL flat. Pancake flat. Beach flat. This actually proved to be more challenging for me than a hilly course because I'm accustomed to ups and downs; a variety of elevation changes engages more muscle groups and keeps things a little more interesting. Over a long, flat route, my legs tend to get a little cranky, but it was still a great course, especially for a beginner at that distance.

As we neared the mid-way point, about 3 hours into the race, I began to really look forward to turning my music on. Those nature sounds DO get a little boring after 3 hours....I plugged into my playlist and as Bruno Mars' new jam UPTown Funk came on, I couldn't help picking up my pace.

That's my JAM!

I played this song at least 3 times during the race....I. Love. Bruno.

As I sped up a little, I noticed that my legs still felt pretty fresh and was immediately glad that I'd kept it slow and steady for the first half of the race. I felt good enough to keep a slightly quicker pace throughout the second half, passing a few people and just having FUN.

As I passed the sign that marked the marathon distance, the realization hit that in just 5 miles, the race would be over. Right on cue, I felt a surge of endorphins; that amazing, whole body, runners-high magic. The good stuff.  I enjoyed an incredible burst of energy that carried me through the remainder of the race.

Before I knew it, I was rounding the corner to the finish line. I spotted Sarah and couldn't resist the urge to squeal, wave like a wild person and give her a giant, bouncy, sweaty hug. Yippee!!
50k Stats
Time: 5:40
Pace: 10:45min/mile
Age Group: 8/31
Overall: 94/234

This is what endorphins look like.