This was my very first 50K! And I finished standing upright! This was supposed to be my last big hurrah before restarting the IVF process again. I am so happy I did this race and am so happy with my performance.
This was about as close to a perfect race as it comes. This never happens. It’s a once in a lifetime thing. I was surprised at how many things came easily during this race, but I think a lot of that comes from experience. I’ve experienced a lot of bad runs and terrible races, so I have ways to work around them when the time comes.
This 50K was a turnaround trip. We flew in on Friday evening, anticipating a race morning packet pickup. The plane ride was very short from Denver…I think maybe an hour? On the flight there, I decided to actually type out a race plan. I’d never done that before, because I typically just kind of wing things or rely on muscle memory. However, 31 miles is a long way to leave things up to chance. I figured that if I wanted to get more serious about these longer distances, I ought to take planning for them a bit more serious.
When we landed in Tulsa, we stopped by a grocery store and picked up all the items we’d need that weekend: instant ramen, a few gallons of water, snacks, iced coffee, dinner rolls, spaghetti, and pasta sauce. Per usual we cooked our spaghetti in the hotel microwave. Not glamorous, but it’s cheap, safe, predictable, and gets the job done. I was nervous but don’t remember having a tough time sleeping. I can definitely attribute my lack of pre-race jitters to the fact that I had written out my race plan on the plane:
- Run 30/30 intervals from the start. Sometimes I do silly things like running as far as I can and then switching to intervals after. I know that intervals are definitely the way to go, and THEY WORK when you start from the beginning. Again, I reminded myself that 31 miles is a long way, so I should not leave things up to chance.
- Alternate sweet and salty nutrition every 3.5-4 miles. My pace was going to linger around this anyway. I learned my lesson during the Honolulu Marathon and now I don’t rely on straight sugary fuel for 9 and a half hours. During Dopey training, towards the end I started alternating sweet and salty and my body was much happier for it.
- 4 tabs of nuun sport in 2L of water. (For races this long I think I will need to switch to one of their more calorically dense drink mixes)
- Brought a packet of nuun instant to drink 1/3 and 2/3 of the way around
- Use caffeinated chews at the 1/3 and 2/3 mark. (I ended up not doing this because I felt sick towards the end of the race)
On race morning, we drove over to River West Festival Park. It was VERY cold (somewhere in the 20s) and thankfully I was wearing enough layers. There was a bag drop at the beginner/finisher arch, and since this was a loop course I figured that I could always ditch things at the start or at mile 15.5. It turns out that I wanted to wear all the clothes I had on, so it didn’t matter too much. The park was very flat and had a great view of downtown. I did my warmup and before I knew it, we were all lined up to start. The first few minutes was really flat and well paved, but unfortunately there had been some construction going on in the park. It meant that we had to run through a rough patch that was very rocky. I thought that I’d be fine running through it, but I decided to slow down to a jog. I knew I should’ve stopped to walk but I thought I’d be fine. Not a few moments later I twisted my ankle! It was really sore and I thought to myself that it would have been so silly for me to have needed to pull out of the race for such an early, silly mistake. I thought about my Slacker Half Marathon experience where I should’ve pulled out but kept going. I decided to give myself a little bit of time before heading back. It ended up fine after awhile and I didn’t have issues with it after that.
I kept running along and eventually entered an area called Turkey Mountain. It was a little uphill but everything was paved leading up to it. There’s a pretty extensive trail system that connected to it at the top, but the race does not go there. When you start your ascent, there’s a spray painted turkey on one of the rock faces, so I’m guessing that’s where it gets its name. The hill isn’t too had on the first loop. On the second loop it felt a little worse, so I just ran in switchbacks (where you go back and forth across the incline to decrease its severity). This “mountain” also isn’t really that bad at all, especially if you’ve ran on varied terrain during training. Nothing to panic over. At the top, you are led to a flat parking area with a park bathroom. This is the bathroom to use on the course (which is at mile 6ish). It is warm, clean, has supplies, and is slightly heated. I stopped here to slather on vaseline and do some business. Unfortunately that would be the only reliable bathroom I would find for the rest of the race. Even the one at the start ran out of toilet paper and was full of people.
As you continue along the path, there are a few bridges you cross. It would be easy to get demoralized if you miscalculate the bridge you turn on. The bridge itself feels a little long, but that is because everything is so flat. You do a little loopy turn under the bridge for an out-and-back. It feels farther than it should be, but once you see it you’re on your way back up the other side of the river. The part of the park was more lively. Lots more folks out running and enjoying the day. Some cyclists zooming by. Towards the north end of the route, you start seeing homes and lots of businesses. On the first half of this course it wasn’t bad. On the second half, I ran into lots of late afternoon strollers who gawked on at this miserable runner, running with no other friends in sight. I even had one woman try to stop me to ask what race I was running. I was so tired and stunned that I forgot the name of the race. I finally blurted it out and ran on my way.
When I was on my last out-and-back, a race official walked up to me and told me I was 45 minutes behind the last runner. I said that there was still plenty of time but he kept asking me if I wanted to finish. Obviously I did since it was my first 50K. At the end of my first loop, they also tried handing me a 25K medal, but I pointed to my bib and said I had one more loop. The guy seemed befuddled, but I looked again and indeed I was wearing the 50K loop. It’s kind of annoying when I feel like I’m being asked to finish early, but I tried not to take it personally. After all, they are dealing with lots of runners and the logistics of a race is pretty complicated.
With these longer races and multiple marathons, I have started seeing my wall slide a bit. It used to hit at 16, then 18, then 21, then 23. This time it came around mile 24. I felt like if I kept running more marathons this year, I would probably do away with the wall entirely! But that endeavor will have to wait for another year. What’s interesting is how my body feels after 26.2 miles. It is typically overjoyed that the run is over. However, I still had a 4.8 mile victory lap to go. That last portion felt like a death march. I’m sure that with a little more practice and some more marathons under my belt, I could get it under control. I tried to reframe it though…only 4.8 miles left to go in this training/racing season before it was over. Only 4.8 miles to left before my race distance PR. Only 4.8 miles left to go before I finished my first 50K.
As I was turning on the Route 66 bridge one last time, I felt more panicked and motivated than ever to finish. The race course would close at 5pm. There was a strict 9 hour 30 min limit, so I really had to maintain my 30/30 intervals until the finish. 30 seconds is not a long time to do something. Repeating those same 30 seconds over and over was very taxing though. As I came back in view of the finisher’s chute I saw a few people still there. A few race coordinators and my husband clapped and cheered me in. Thankfully the arch and timing mats were still out. After a few cheers, we headed to the car and drove back to the hotel. I had a really bad stomachache, but it turned out that it was just because my leggings were so tight. They started off tight, of course, but over the long day I ended up puffing up a bit and the tights got even tighter. I’d never had that happen to me! Also, there were no burgers at the finish line for me, since I was too slow. Oh well. Erik and I were also really tired and ended up navigating to the wrong hotel. Note to self: next time stay closer to the race finish, no matter what the cost, especially for 50K and up races.
I hope to make it back to this race in the future. I had a good time. It was a great first 50K experience for sure.