Last weekend I did something not many people would think was fun: a little race called Another Dam 50k. No, I am not crazy. (Ok, that’s debatable, but we don’t need to talk about that right now.) And yes, I loved every single minute of it.
This ultra (an ultra is a distance anything over and above the standard marathon distance of 26.2 miles) was at Englewood MetroPark, about a 20 minute drive from my home. I signed up for it a few months ago because the thought of doing something like that scared me shitless. Made perfect sense at the time.
Race day dawned sunny and beautiful with the temps in the low 60s, which gave way to temps in the 80s later. The course consists of 4 loops for a total of 31+ miles. It is mostly shaded except while running across the infernal dam,…which is required twice on each loop. Good times. Most of the race was on the trails, some of it was on pavement. And of course there were hills, including Big Bertha, who makes her salty appearance within the first mile of each loop. She is a bitch.
The race started at 8 a.m., so I got my happy ass up at 6:30 to finish packing my provisions: a couple of PB&J sandwiches, cut into fours (makes it easier to stuff in the face on the go, multi-tasking at its finest), potato chips, water bottle, extra change of clothes, extra shoes and a care package supplied to me by one of my BFFs. (The normal stuff like Vaseline, candy bars, lotion, powder, etc. Things one needs during and after the race, obviously.) And in true Lisa fashion, I forgot my Powerade. I knew Gatorade would be supplied on the course but it doesn’t always agree with me. Enough said. I have better things to do than to get into a discourse on my intestinal issues. Okay, I really don't but I'll leave well enough alone. This time.
Just before the race started, the race director called the 100 or so participants to the start line and gave us a low-key pep talk. He also warned us not to fuck up the trails – no littering and if you have to be a bear in the woods and can’t get to one of the porta-potties make sure to get far enough off the trail that other runners don’t have to witness it. After those words of wisdom, he turned us loose.
During the first loop I fell into an easy pace. I knew my pacers wouldn’t be joining me until loop 3 or 4, and I was fine with that. As I was running, a few people struck up a conversation – it was all very laid back and relaxing. At one point I started running with a guy who had crewed/paced at the Leadville 100. Seriously, how fucking cool is that? He also had done IronMan 70.3, an event on my agenda for next year. Turns out, he and I had a ton of mutual friends. We chatted and paced each other for 10-15 miles and had a grand old time. Thank you, Doug, for your awesomeness.
By the time I started loop 3, I was on my own again. But my first pacer, Sheila, made her appearance with impeccable timing as I was heading through an aid station. We took off, and I sincerely believe that she made that loop bearable. We talked sometimes, but there were also times of silence. She was an excellent pacer and those miles seemed to fly by.
At the start of loop 4, Tracey (she of the two time Boston qualifier fame) made her appearance and the three of us set out. If you’ll recall the last time the 3 of us ran together, I puked. There was no puking this time. They told me it wasn’t allowed as it would give them a complex. This loop was the hardest. I was tired. My body hurt. And then I got a weird side cramp. I also felt like I was getting a blister on the bottom of my left foot. My hips hurt. My knees hurt. I didn’t like my sunglasses on top of my head but I didn’t want to wear them, either. My Garmin quit. The birds were too loud. I think I ate a bug. But I felt as if I couldn’t stop smiling. There’s no other way to describe it: I felt free. Free of the shackles of grief that have plagued me since my sister died last month. Free of the constant stress of budget woes, worrying about my children, fretting that I’m not a good enough mother, daughter, friend, person, …I could go on. I opened up and let the trails just be my therapy.
As we neared the end of loop 4, I felt like crying. I was beat the hell up but not ready for it to be over. I marveled at every mile covered and felt incredibly lucky to have fulfilled my goal. I crossed the finish with a time of 6:10:31. That includes all the stops at aid stations. I was 3rd in my age group for females and 11th female overall. Not bad for my first ultra. And I can’t wait to do it again.
Thank you again to my wonderful friends and pacers, Sheila and Tracey. (And to fellow Team Grace members – congrats Brett Bogan!). And thank you to TerriAnn, who sent me wickedly funny and inspiring texts all the way from Utah, as well as Steve who texted me to get moving and stop drinking wine in the shade. For the record, no wine was consumed until hours after that race. I stayed hydrated with water and Gatorade. Also, I want it known that I did not make up any new obscenities during this race. That alone is a major accomplishment, thank you very much.
Until next time….
An ultra runner.