Never heard of the Kashi Classic 50-miler? Well, for good reason…it’s a race I made up! I had been wanting to run an ultra for some years and this winter things finally lined up to train for one. I knew I needed a spring race, a relatively flat course and not too much in the way of trails, since I don’t often run on them (ditto for hills, save the bridges). When no races met my criteria, I just decided to make up my own! This was mainly to make the big day feel more like an event and less like a lonely long training run. This was successful beyond my wildest dreams and the race report tells the tale. Or, rather, race reports. It has taken me almost as long to write the report as it did to run it so I am breaking it up into manageable parts (classic endurance running trick)!
GD and I packed up everything I needed (which was a LOT!) and headed out. I packed a few different bags for the crew to help keep them organized – one for extra clothes, one for food (see list at end of report for food list), and one for gear. We also got a cooler with ice for beverages (water, Gatorade and Nuun tablets). We stopped at Heislerville to watch shorebirds, which was incredibly peaceful and helped calm my mind. The week had been very busy at work and I did not feel like I got to rest as much as I thought I needed. The hour or so we spent here really helped me feel more centered than I had all week. We headed to the Fairfield Suites in Millville and were checked in by 7pm. I could not find any restaurants nearby that I thought I would like (I know, try to contain your surprise!), so opted to pack my own dinner (after I confirmed they had a fridge and microwave). I had a huge salad and large bowl of pasta with Morningstar sausage links and broccoli. GD went out and grabbed some Taco Bell for himself. I ate it all by 830 or so and had just the fullness I was looking for – more than normal but not so much I tipped towards a sick feeling. We turned out the lights by 10 and I slept really well. I woke often (every few hrs) to pee and drink more water, but was able to fall right back to sleep. The hotel curtains did not allow us to block out the bright lights from parking lot and I thought that would be an issue, but it was not.
Alarm went off at 6 and I popped up with no trouble. I was nervous enough that using the bathroom was no problem and I felt confident that my belly was clear. I hopped in the shower to calm my nerves (this did not work but at least I was clean!) and went downstairs to toast the cinnamon-raisin bagel I had brought from home (which had come from Brooklyn, yay!). I added honey to it and ate it up. I also had three handfuls of cereal, as that has been my ritual for 6 months of long runs. I came back up to the room by 7:15 and had a little freak out. Lots of people were texting me good luck messages and it suddenly hit me that I was actually going to attempt this and that a lot of people whose opinion mattered to me would know if I failed. GD gave me a hug and did a silly dance to distract me. As if often the case when he does silly dances in his underwear, it worked. We packed up the car and were on our way by 730. The weather felt just wonderful – no nip in the air, but not yet hot. I knew I might feel hot later, but was happy with the temp! It also confirmed that weather would not be an excuse today – I could not DNF b/c it was too hot, too rainy, too windy. If I did not make it, blame would not fall at the hands of the weather!
We made our way to the post office in Newport, where we met with some of the absolutely, insanely awesome crew I had – Mom, Dad, Laur, Lizzy and Scott. We hugged hello and Scott started taking pics (as he would continue to do – boy, is it ever a gift to have a prof photographer as a friend). My nerves were def calmer by this point because it almost felt like it already started.
We drove the mile to the spot I designated as the “start” line. GD and Scott dealt with a cranky local who apparently was not a fan of 3 cars parked on the side of a public road (whatever, dude, imagine if this were a real race!). I ignored all that and got Laur set up with all my gear so she knew where everything was. I also nerded out and gave her a clipboard to record everything I ate and drank. I did not think I would be able to keep close enough tabs in my mind to recall it later and I thought it would also be good for her to be able to monitor if/when I needed more calories/sodium/water (I put a little guide on the bottom of the sheet for her to follow).
We all hugged once again and then it was time to start! I got Garmy set and asked GD to keep a timer going on his iPhone for the whole time, since I planned on stopping Garmy every time I stopped so that it only recorded running time but I wanted a total time as well. Laur pulled out the first sign (there were many many great ones all day long) that said “You’re almost there!” lol. My mom was set to do the first leg with me, so we “lined up”, someone said “go!” and I took off with the familiar Garmy “beep” signaling the beginning of this surreal day.
Mom and I started off and I kept it really easy. We chatted about what a great morning it was and took in all the beautiful sights (Cumberland County is so, so pretty). We thanked the universe for living in the time and place we do and took a moment to reflect on what a gift this was – to be able to spend a day running instead of being poor and spending the day trying to get fresh water and food. Scott and GD were going to shoot for 100 birds today (always staying on the course) so they shot ahead and Laur and Liz went ahead to get ready for the 5 mile stop (my plan was to see them every 5 miles early and then maybe every 3 later on). Dad, however, kept us in his view the entire time. He had been nervous about this from the get-go and deep down maybe less than thrilled that I was taking on this challenge. But he was verbally very supportive and I really appreciated that. This did not stop him from asking “how are you doing? Ok?” almost every time I saw him, which was often. He and mom had to catch a flight to Florida later in the day, and this worked out well because I don’t think he would have enjoyed seeing me later in the day.
Mom’s tendonitis started acting up around Mile 2 but she was too stubborn to stop, despite me telling her that she was not being a smart runner. Eventually, she had to stop (although she did hop out and run with me for one more half mile because she is stubborn like that, ie a true runner) and they went ahead to the Mile 5 pit stop. I peed in the woods around Mile 3 and also remember thinking “what is the point of even looking at Garmy yet ? it is still so far to go”! I started noticing the smell of honeysuckle, which continued with me all day and it’s now a smell I will forever associate with running 50 miles, joining an earlier memory of a childhood spent on Tiverstock Drive. I got to that stop and made a decision to start rolling my glutes every 5 miles – this turned out to be an amazing idea!!! Best idea of whole day – I literally had no tightness in my butt muscles all day, which is unprecedented in the last 3 or so yrs. I also took a GU and 11 ounces of water to go. Mom and Dad said good bye shortly after this and I chugged on.
I spent miles 5-7 in a unique situation – alone. It turns out these were the only two miles I had all alone for the rest of the day (no more Franksters lurking,lol). I turned on a podcast and immediately just felt like I was on a long training run. This was the only time I felt this way all day – the company before and after this always made me feel like I was doing something out of the ordinary. At around 7.5 I saw the crew ahead – GD had a “Y”-shaped stick and a nut from a tulip tree and was shouting “why not?” and had me cracking up. Every time I saw them, my sprints were instantly raised. By this time, Kat had joined them and she was going to run with me for 5 or so miles. We started running and immediately chatting! I knew that I should conserve energy and not talk too much but that was definitely much easier said than done (at this point and for the rest of the day – I simply cannot keep this trap shut!!). The conversation touched on many topics, among them men, her future marathon plans and our love for lil sis. My favorite part of the conversation, though, was when she talked about her career changing plans. I siphoned strength from her tales of career changes and the bravery she showed in making that leap. Weeks later, I would come back to this feeling of admiration as I plotted my own plans for Cape Island Runners. At Mile 10, I laughed at the crews signs, took another GU and rolled those hammies, which were feeling remarkably good, as was the rest of me!
Kat was having a good day running, so she chose to forge on with me, which I was quite grateful for. The miles were clicking off, the scenery was beautiful and the conversation heady. I finally began to feel that the run was truly underway. GD and Scott had stopped to give us directions (it seems crazy to me that I did not more fully memorize the route, but this particular area had many turns and I just did not take the time to commit them to memory). We got to one particular intersection where I was not sure whether to turn right or go straight. I hemmed and hawed for a moment, paralyzed by indecision and the fear that the wrong turn would lead me to run either further or not far enough (true to my particular nature, a run of less than 50 miles simply would not do). We decided to make the turn and see what happened. About a quarter mile down, it was still unclear whether we had made the right choice. We decided to test out Cumberland County hospitality and knocked on a door to use their phone and call the crew. An impeccably dressed man answered the door and it was clear that he had a vision problem as his eyes did not focus on me. But what he lacked in eye contact, he made up for with warmth. He graciously allowed me to use his phone, drip sweat all over it and erase my fear that we went the wrong way when GD confirmed from the other end of the line that we were on track. I thanked “formally-dressed-for-a-Sunday-morning-oh-but-maybe-he-just-got-back-from-church” man profusely and we were on our way! Mile 15 brought a stern looking lil sis wielding a clipboard and telling me I was way behind on calories and must inhale these perfectly doled out Swedish fish and animal crackers. I happily chowed down on some (Swedish fish did not sit in my stomach as well as I thought they would but the animal crackers were DELISH, as always. They were my go-to on Mile 15 in training runs and did not disappoint) while trying to convince the food Nazi that I was fine. She had forgotten that I had a GU at Mile 10, and marked it down as “sneaky GU” despite the fact she was the one that gave it to me, lol. Kat decided to keep on going and we made a plan to hit the Wawa in 2 miles so that I could pee again.
To be continued… nothing like a cliffhanger about peeing to bring you back for more!