I have wanted to run an ultra-marathon for a very long time. I first started talking about it on the blog at the beginning of 2010, but it was probably in my head way before that. I really thought I would run one that spring, but nothing worked out with my schedule so it didn’t happen. Then 2011 came and went again with no ultra.
I always knew I could run one if I wanted, but I wanted to train right and choose one that I was really excited about. Plus I kept getting distracted by marathons and didn’t want to mess up my training with a 50k.
Then I decided to run AR50, a 50 miler no less, having never run a 50k. I figured I would love the training and planned to throw in a 50k or two during my training cycle as training runs. But still, to be training for a big ultra-marathon without ever having run one, has definitely played some mental games along the way and I was excited to finally break through that barrier.
Saturday March 10th was the day. Way Too Cool 50k is a race I have had my eyes on for years, but again hadn’t ever done. I was so excited to finally get to run a real ultra, but was a little nervous since my legs were rather cranky all week from all the miles I have been pounding out for AR50 training. Jojo and I drove up to Auburn the night before the race where we ordered pizza, iced and rolled our tired legs, watched Unbreakable and tried to get some rest before the big day.
Saturday morning came quickly and we got up and moving right on time. We were checked out of our hotel and in the car before 6:15 to make the drive over to Cool, CA where the race would start. We got there at a great time but still missed the parking lot by one car! We started the parking that lines the street and actually still ended up with a prime time spot.
We went and picked up our packets and shirts and hit up the bathrooms for the first time, then went back to my car to keep warm. My stomach was full of butterflies and I was definitely getting nervous, in a good way.
The time passed quickly and pretty soon we were heading back to the bathrooms one last time. We were putting our packs on at my car with 20 seconds to the start and hurried over right as the gun went off. It was time to run!
The course does an 8 mile loop that comes back to the start, then another 23 mile loop. The first mile or 2 were on roads, and after that it was all trails… most of the trails were single track too! I was SO happy to be running on trails after missing them very much last weekend. The dirt felt so soft on my feet and the new scenery around us made the miles fly by.
The first 8 mile loop was pretty crowded, but it was good. We were running a good, conservative place and the people around us kept us in check. We cruised along through a couple of stream crossings and chatted along. I started taking my Shot Bloks right on schedule at mile 2 and eat a couple every couple miles for the remainder of the race. I was feeling good and very excited to be out there.
We were back at the start in no time and I took a PB&J square at that aid station, then we were off for the big loop!
Can you spot us?
The weather was perfect and I was very happy in my tank top and shorts. I had been nervous that it would get hot out there, but there always seemed to be a breeze that would show up anytime I got warm.
We made our way along the trails, having fun, chatting and enjoying the run and the miles just kept flying by. Before I knew it, we were crossing Highway 49 into and at another aid station.
One thing I love about ultras and trail races is that the aid stations are usually every 4-5 miles and are great ways to mentally break up the race. I didn’t take much to eat at this one and just kept running along. I was so impressed by every single aid station and all of the volunteers. One thing I have really worked at since becoming a trail runner is being very thankful of the volunteers and I try to never leave a station without thanking them. They are SO amazing for being out there.
I wore my new Hydrapak Elite Vest to test out on a longer run and in a race. I knew since it holds less water than my bigger pack I would have to refill it a couple times so I wanted to test out the logistics of that during a race. I refilled it at mile 15 to be safe since I was running low and it worked out perfectly!
The miles were just blending together at this point and passing so fast. I felt really good told Jojo that I felt SO much better than I did when we were half way through our tough 28 miler a few weeks back. Along with running great, we were having some great conversations and even planned out my race plan for AR50! It was a productive race.
We continued to run really strong and got back onto single track trails that were a little crowded. We were able to maneuver our way around most people when we wanted and used them to help hold our pace a little bit too. I could tell Jojo was having a lower point, so I just continued to run ahead and knew she would feel better soon. When you run enough long runs with people, you really start to know their habits and can tell without saying anything how the other is feeling.
It was getting a little warmer, but there was a lot of shade that helped. We hit some pretty crowded spots on the Western States Trail (yes a good part of the course was on the Western States Trail!!) but were able to get around most people.
At this point I was feeling really good and I felt like you could tell that Jojo and I have been training for a 50 because we were running really strong in the late miles. We had big smiles on our faces, were charging up some hills and still talking the whole time.
Neither one of us really knew what to expect from the course. We hadn’t studied the map and didn’t really know much about it. The course had been pretty much runnable for us the whole time at this point, with a couple hills we would hike up to conserve energy. We had heard people talking about “goat hill” and weren’t sure where it was, but it showed up during mile 25. It wasn’t that long but it was super steep and we both powered up to the top.
Once you made it to the top you were at the 26.5 aid station which we used as our last big fuel up. I had been eating boiled potatoes in salt and drinking a cup of soda at most stops and continued that here. Soda on trail runs is my new favorite thing! I felt like my fueling was right on target and was very happy with it. We got sponged down by some little kids too which felt great. We ran out of there feeling really strong and ready to tackle the last few miles.
At one point, we came out into this open space and I gasped out loud from the view of the mountains and everything around us. It was so beautiful and I felt so happy and lucky to be running out there this day.
Around mile 27 I looked at my watch and did some quick calculations and told Jojo that we had X amount of time to run X miles to come in under 6 hours, which was very feasible where we were at. She had just thought the same thing, but didn’t want to jinx it, but we both knew we now had a little goal and we kept on holding strong.
We passed mile 28 and I was now into my longest run ever! I was definitely feeling tired at this point and not quite as talkative but I still felt pretty strong. We ran through the last aid station and had 1.4 miles to go!
There was another tough hill in that last 1.4 mile section that we made our way up passing people left and right. Even when I wasn’t running, I was hiking hard and feeling good. We made it up to the top of the hill and knew we were almost done. We were talking and smiling and I told her how happy I was with this day and this run. I felt like I could keep going if I had to and had by far exceeded my expectations for the day.
We rounded the corner together and the finish line was straight ahead. I was now an official ultra-marathoner!
50km (31.05 miles)/5:50:52/11:18 avg pace
We both felt great after and walked around chatting with friends, and of course stopped to eat pizza and the famous frog cupcake to celebrate.
We hung out for a while and helped take a bunch of stuff down as the race was coming to a close. The trail running community is so great and it’s so fun to get further involved with it. At most of these races I recognize a lot of people now and have a bunch of friends at, it’s so fun! It was a long, but amazing day and I am still smiling thinking about it. I just feel so happy and so proud of myself for feeling so strong the whole time.
I may have also signed up for their new inaugural all women’s trail race at the finish area, She Rocks the Trails, this summer. You know how it works, finish your first 50k, sign up for another one! All the bay area women need to sign up!
On the drive home I was talking to Jojo about how great I feel right now and how many great feelings I have towards that race that I can’t fully express here.
NorCal Ultras also puts on AR50, so I am so excited to have been able to experience one of their races before the big one. They really are first class events with great organization, swag, volunteers and courses and I am so excited to get to be a part of another one soon.
I have all these happy, confident, strong feelings in Auburn now, and left them there Saturday. The finish line for AR50 is also in Auburn so it is such a mental confidence booster to have all these positive feelings there and know I will be back to get them in 4 weeks!