It was fantastic. I can’t wait to go again. End of recap.
Seriously, that does pretty much sum it up but, since I do a fair bit of race research/selection via reading recaps on blogs, I want to make sure I put a worthy account together. I really should have written this up the day after when it was all fresh so pardon the spastic nature of it. Also, I did actually write up a whole post on this a few days ago and then somehow lost it when I hit “Publish”. Can you say rage? Because I certainly can. So if this recap seems bland, let me just assure you that the one I lost? It was probably my best work ever and I’m just too heartbroken to try to recreate it. Yeah. That’s it.
On Friday afternoon before the race, a running friend (Nicole) posted on Facebook that she was debating between Golden Oreos and Nutter Butters for race fuel. I mentally stumbled. I’d packed chips (for salt), apples and bananas(for the appearance of health) and Diet Coke (for because) but I didn’t have cookies. I’d never even heard of a Golden Oreo but I knew instantly that I could not go on without them. I texted Carrie that we might look like freshman if we didn’t show up with cookies. I didn’t want to end up shoved in a locker, or into the canal I guess, so we procured cookies at once.
Saturday morning I loaded up an insane amount of stuff: a cooler, a bag of food, and a bag of extra clothes for a fashion show that just never did happen in addition to my standard running gear bag. I also loaded up my husband, Jeff, as I had offered him up to the race director as a volunteer for the day. Took about 40 minutes to get to the Landsford Canal State Park. It’s a really pretty little park on a gorgeous stretch of the Catawba River in South Carolina. We parked, grabbed our race packets, containing handmade finisher plaques and tshirts, and got ready to run.
Right about 8am race director Claude Sinclair appeared before us to give the pre-race talk. I have no idea what he said because it was at this moment that I realized I had forgotten my headband and went darting back to the car. I got back to the start just back in time to see Claude bring out the infamous starting gun. A person less flighty than me could tell you more detail about the gun but all I recall is that it’s an antique, it’s quite large and it’s very loud. I had read blogs mentioning the loud gun before so I stuffed my fingers into my ears as soon as I saw it. So Claude fires the gun and we all start running across the parking lot. At the edge of the parking lot we come to a hill and BAM everybody’s walking. Like 50 feet into the race. Walking. I look at Carrie, she looks at me and says, “Everybody who looks like they know what they are doing is walking. We’re walking”. Done deal, yo. I love ultras already.
The course was a 4.25 mile* loop, 2.75 miles of it paved road and 1.5 miles of trail along the canal and river. There were 3 small hills and the rest was pretty much flat. The trail portion was almost entirely smooth and very pleasant running. As the day went on, different parts of the road portion would be sunny or shady but never too hot luckily. The trail was all shade and so delightfully cool. We got really lucky with the weather that day.
We just naturally fell into a happy little pattern right from the start. We’d walk the 3 hills (and later in the day that first hill definitely got steeper). We’d come through the aid station, call out our numbers and belly up to the snack table. Grab a little PB&J, refill some water and hit the potty if need be. Scamper to the parking lot and stop at the cars. Grab a sip of diet coke, every other lap grab some accelerade or take a salt pill, spray down with sunscreen and grab some cookies to eat on the walk up that first hill. We kept up a comfortable, conversational pace while running. I know it was a conversational pace because Carrie and I made conversation for something like 7 hours straight.
Carrie was firm from way before race day that she was going to do 8 laps and call it a day no matter how good she felt. At the end of the 8th lap she was strong and happy and stuck to her guns. I had told Jeff I would take him out for two laps so he could get in his scheduled long run that day too. He jumped in when Carrie headed home. He and I had a great time running laps 9 and 10 but as we took off on lap 9 he had the nerve to say, “I’m beginning to think this whole thing is just an excuse to eat a lot of cookies and chips”. And if I hadn’t been busy shoving three Golden Oreos into my face at once I would have given him the what for. The nerve.
At the end of lap 10 I was still feeling really strong. I was soooooo tempted to keep going towards the 50 mile mark. I feel 98% certain I would have gotten there. I chose to quit on a high note though. I never had any discomfort or pain. I was never exhausted or dragging myself through any portion of the run. I didn’t want to chance that lap 11 or 12 might bring any of that on. I figure it was my first ultra and it was nice to have it all be relatively easy and comfortable. I know we had such an easy go of it because we maintained such an easy pace, walked hills and stayed ahead on fuel and hydration. This was a great test of our training and we both know we’ll be more than ready to take the next leap when we decide to. Having said all that and even believing it, I still woke up Sunday with a teensy bit of “Damn it why didn’t I just push on and see what might happen?” but I also wasn’t sore or dead tired on Sunday so I know it was the smart choice this time around.
I finished 10 laps in 9 hours. I stopped for anywhere from, I’m guessing, 5-10 minutes every single lap to putz around since we weren’t at all focused on time. I didn’t wear a Garmin so I have no idea how my “running time” vs “dicking around at the aid station time” shakes out. I’m actually kind of glad I don’t know. I’m sure when we decide to try for a longer distance at a 24 hour or go for a longer distance race we’ll have to get more efficient with our aid station dilly dallying but for this day it just didn’t matter and that was really fun. It made it more of a runner’s playdate than a race.
The people at this event were beyond cool. We chattered with so many runners in passing. They’d ask about our goal and, upon finding out that we were rookies, they’d just light up with enthusiasm and support. Throughout the day we got to hear all sorts of different “why I run” stories from people and just get little peeks into the lives of the other weirdos. I get a lot of “WTFingF” looks when people hear I want run marathons much less ultras. Landsford showed me that there are least 45 other people just as weird as me just in this general region. I find this truly comforting. Sweaty, group hug to all y’all weirdos.
When I got home I was wired for a while so I unloaded all the gear and started laundry immediately. After a quick shower I encountered a pizza and a bottle of champagne that needed dealing with. Sat out on the back porch and made quick work of both, all by myself.
Partook of an impromptu driveway party with the neighbors and then got into bed by 10. I woke up at 11ish and I was STARVING. I debated for an hour before relenting and getting up to eat some more. Next time I’ll just get up immediately and eat so I can get some sleep! Or maybe take the Oreos to bed with me…genius.
So, like I said, it was fantastic. I can’t wait to go again. End of recap. **
*Or it was an allegedly 4.25 mile loop. I ran 10 laps which should have been 42.5 miles. The results show me at 41.5 miles. When I mentioned it to Jeff he said something like, “Um yeah, remember when you came through the aid station that time and I said the course was not 4.25 miles but that it was 4 miles and blah blah blah feet and that that meant it was blah blah blah of a mile?” To which I said, “Oh I do remember Carrie and I being confused about why you were trying to do math with us when we were like 25 miles into a 40 mile run. Remember how we just nodded and kept running?” Either way, I don’t really care because we hit the goals we were looking for. It just makes my finish picture look awkward.
I know what you are thinking. That picture looks awkward all on its own. Yeah. Anybody good with photoshop wanna remove one of my fingers and fix it? And fix my hair while you’re at it. Make it into a beehive or one of those waterfall braids. That would be rad.
**And, as luck would have it, the Landsford Canal 50K just got calendared for July 28th. 31.1 miles in the scorching Carolina summer heat? With Claude and his gun and all the cool weirdos? Um, letmethinkforasecond, IN.
All pictures are from Jeff’s phone because I’m a lazy blogger and didn’t take my phone out on the run with me. I’ll get better. Speaking of bloggers, I met a blogger! Well actually what I did was awkwardly call out to him, “Hey I read your blog. Its good!” and then kept walking. I’ve got the social skills of an engineer. No offense, Jeff.