|I had a bunch of vanilla gel in my mouth! (Awesome photo by Hillcrest Photography)|
It's been almost a week since I ventured into ultra territory at the NJ Trail Series Ultra Festival. Race directors Rick and Jen McNulty did another AWESOME job providing one of the best trail race experiences in the state.
So what was it that inspired me to sign up for this nutty thing that I have finished? Hmmm....Maybe it was those overly-chipper-hyper-energetic runner types who asked "So are you doing the 50k next year?" as if that were the next logical step after having done a few marathons. "Um, yeah, I guess?" Because WHY would I want to repeat doing wimpy marathons?
Actually, the distance had dangled like a piece of toffee nut crunch before my sweets-deprived eyes. "C'mon, it's only 5 more miles. You can do it." So like a trusting fool I listened to the crazies in my brain and signed up, albeit late, for my first ultra. I knew exactly what the course would be. I knew what other crazy people would be there. I knew that I could coax my mom into venturing out into the cold of Northern Jersey to do what she does best (and that is to be the BEST, SUPPORTIVE MOMMY IN THE WORLD). Now that I'm done sounding like a five-year old, I'll take you, willing reader and future ultra-marathoner, through the course.
The great thing about doing a loop course is that you can take the race loop by loop, 5, 10, or even 15 miles at at time, so the thought of running 31 miles is tolerable for at least the first few minutes. The terrible thing about a loop course is that it's comprised of loops that you have to do over and over and over again. This particular course is a combination of out and back, lollipop, and amoeba-like configurations.
The course takes you around the Sussex County Fairgrounds, home of the NJ State Fair. For those of you who don't currently reside in or know anything about New Jersey, this is NOT the home of any of those whiny characters from that horrid reality show depicting the shenanigans of a couple of stupid twenty-somethings wasting the prime of their lives. But I digress...
|This is true...|
|It was quite the task getting these off my feet.|
|You won't believe how many people actually obeyed the sign, myself included.|
Let's talk a little about the second out and back, but more importantly the turn-around point and how friggin' far it was from the rest of the world. Well, four miles from the finish isn't exactly an ultra (no pun intended, wink wink) but it is one, especially when you've been running and walking and crawling and tripping for what seems like hours. In my case it was hours. Those last miles were endless, what with those silent, light-footed Navy guys in their yellow Navy singlets, giving you that serious Navy encouragement and trained Navy eye-contact (which you try to avoid, because that Navy intensity bores through you and reads your non-Navy self-doubting mind), and then leaving you in their Navy-dust. Not intimidating at all.
|This is also true.|
Some new things I learned out on the trail this day:
- Gels are only tolerable for about 20 or so miles, and then you're nauseous.
- Chicken broth (which I normally think is DISGUSTING) is AMAZING at mile 20.
- HEED is always gross, no matter what mile. But you drink it anyway.
- I can have really interesting conversations with myself for like, hours. No need for iPods, or Pandora, or other people, even.
- My legs and feet could probably have done another loop or two after , but my mind would probably not have it.
- Mud is funner when it's at least 50 degrees out.
- Ultra running is very much like childbirth. Right afterwards you think "I'm never doing this shit AGAIN." And then a day or two after the surprisingly tolerable soreness has subsided you're looking in Trail Runner Mag for the next 50K since you can like, do those now.
- Trail running really is a disease that is most likely incurable.
- Homemade motivational signs work. Especially the ones that say "Not dead? Keep running."
It took me almost 10 hours to complete this task. I had been hoping for a time under 9 hours, but I will give myself a break since this was my first. Hey, I finished! A few years back, the idea of running more than a half was scary and unimaginable. Now I have been afflicted by the disease that everybody else out there on the trails has. I'll take it.
|Not dead yet.|