Piney Woods TrailFest 50K review
Feb 9th, 2013 07:30
A 50K would be my 3rd longest run ever. I’ve run 26.2 – 30 miles at least a dozen times. I ran about 32 miles with Rob in our un-official Father’s Day 50K on June 16th, 2012. I also ran 35 miles of the Cactus Rose 50 Miler on October 28th, 2012, which was my first attempt at an official ultra-marathon. My body could have easily done the whole distance, but I was mentally defeated and decided to drop out. The next group race after Cactus Rose was the Bandera 50K on January 12th, but I was already signed up for the Houston Marathon which was the next day, so I had to let Rob and Jose go run it without me. I had been eagerly looking forward to the Houston Marathon for the 363 days since I ran it last year, and I wasn’t about to miss it.
Rob was signed up for the Piney Woods TrailFest 50K on February 9th so I decided to join him in the race. It was only 4 weeks after my marathon, but I felt good enough to run it, so I signed up. Jose decided to volunteer instead of running, and worked on one of the aid stations, which would be a huge help to me in the later stages of the race.
5:30am of the race day comes, and my alarm clock goes off so I jump out of bed. I get a text from Rob saying that he’s on his way and I finish getting ready. I make my way to the race site and get there about an hour before the start of the race. I get checked in, get my bib on, get my drop bag together, and start loosening up. I met up with Rob and Rachel and get ready for the race. The National Anthem gets played and we get under way.
We make a little 1 mile loop and then get on with the three 10 mile loops of the course. My game plan was to go out a little fast, get through the 2nd loop as fast as I could, and then see what I had left to finish the last loop. I started out in the very back of the 30 person pack and stay there for about a mile. I thought for about half of a second that I wanted to be a little conservative but that didn’t last long. I quickly passed up the 5 people that were right in front of me and then stuck with the guy in front of them. He is a Leadville finisher from a few years ago. We reach the 3 mile mark in about 29 minutes, even with a pee break at mile 2, and I was pleased with that. We reached Jose and Rachel the 2nd aid station, which was at about 6 miles in about an hour, which was cruising for me, but I was feeling really good. Jose refills my handheld with Gatorade, we chit chat for a few seconds, and then I take off. I finish the first lap at faster than my marathon pace.
I had skipped the 1st aid station, refilled my hand held at the 2nd one, and got just a sip at the 3rd stop at about mile 9, and the wheels started falling off as we were finishing up the 1st loop. I had eaten of bunch of fruit and drank a bunch of water during the week before, and it was only 53 degrees at the start of the race, but I was dehydrated something fierce, but didn’t quite realize it at the time.
I refill my handheld with more Gatorade and get started on the second loop but start to lose speed quickly. I lose my running partner and then 2 more people pass me up. I struggled to make it to the first aid station. That was a dark loop for me mentally. The miles were going very slow and I was running all by myself with no one in sight. My feet, back, hips, and shoulders started hurting quite a bit. I make it back to Jose and Rachel at the 2nd aid station at mile 16. I told Jose that I was hurting but that I was for sure going to keep on going. They were very encouraging but I was hurting pretty bad. I meet up with a runner struggling through the last loop of the 20 miler so we struggle to the end of the loop together. We make it to the 3rd aid station on the 2nd loop which was about mile 19. I took in a little bit of salt and some water, and felt a little better, but a lot of damaged had already been done.
We barely make it to the end of the 2nd loop but I wasn’t about to quit. I just need to start the final loop and somehow push my way to the finish. My feet were hurting bad so I swapped shoes, put on a dry hat, and started my last loop. The salt a little earlier helped so I planned on getting a bunch of water and salt at the 1st water stop but… there was no 1st water stop. Someone had told them that no one else was coming through so they packed up and left. Apparently several people that were in front of me and the couple that were behind me all quit and there was quite a gap between me and the people now in front of me. I refilled my Gatorade bottle at the start of the loop, but I had been chugging it because I realized that I was dehydrated. After 2 miles in, I was out of something to drink with no water stop for another 3 miles. Luckily I had grabbed my phone when I changed shoes and I called Jose at the next stop to tell them that I was coming and that I was out of something to drink, dehydrated, and now barely walking. He made a call to the race director and they sent someone out to me to bring me some Gatorade and water. Man was I glad to see him. I got a little pep in my step and continued on to see Jose and Rachel. Jose told me that he would pace me in if I needed him to and I really did.
I finally make it to their aid station and I get a bunch of salt and water in me and refill my Gatorade bottle. Rachel asked me when the last time I peed was, and it was at mile 2 which was way too many hours ago. I should have been peeing every hour, so I drink some more water. Jose offers to pace me in and I take him up on it. He keeps me laughing and moving forward. We talk about the race and finishing and everything else we could think of because it took me a while to finish that last 5 ½ miles. I finally pee again around mile 29, but those last 2 miles took forever. The course was marked with ribbons and Jose would make me run between every other ribbon, but as soon as we’d stop, I’d stop and hunch over in pain. My hips were super tight and my ribs were so sore that I couldn’t take deep breaths. My feet were in terrible pain and my back was cramping up. My shoulders and legs felt like they weighed a ton. I have never been in that much pain but Jose kept me moving forward. I would have finished without him… eventually, but he kept me moving. “We’re only so-and-so miles from the finish, let’s go” just sounded like gibberish to me, but I did what I could.
We finally get within ear shot of the finish line and I can hear Rob and Rachel yelling for me. Finally about ¼ mile from the finish I get the energy to start running again. I fake like I’m quitting right before the finish line, and start running towards the parking lot, but quickly quit that because I was ready to be done. I FINALLY cross the finish line and the race director puts the medal around my neck. Rachel directs me over to the picnic table where she already has me a BBQ plate and a cold beer waiting for me. I joke about never running again, we take a few pictures, I eat a small hand full of food, but definitely drink all of my beer. The race people are closing up shop, now that I’m finally in, and we get the heck out of there.
I finally got my first ultra-marathon finisher medal. I never once doubted that I was going to finish that race. After the first 11 miles I knew that I was going to be miserable, but I also knew that I had Rob, Rachel, and Jose in my corner. Rachel would keep me alive, Rob was my biggest supporter, and Jose kept me motivated every time I came through and kept me going at the end when I was too miserable to even walk. Rob joked that he imagined that I was probably a little better off and happier when I finished the Houston Marathon… Hell yes I was, but I’m glad that I struggled on Saturday, and had to work so hard, and that I didn’t quit, and got my finisher medal. Everything else will seem a little easier from now on.
I got in the car and just as I expected I had a gagillion Facebook posts and messages from people encouraging me. Life’s a lot easier, a lot better, and a lot more fun when you know that you have so many good people in your life. It might have been my legs, feet, heart, and lungs out there running on that course, but it was definitely a group effort. I’m the only one that’s keeping the finisher medal though. Thanks to everyone for their support and encouragement.
Jeremy Hanson, Ultra-marathoner