Sooooo about a week or so ago I did a thing. I RAN MY FIRST ULTRA MARATHON! Whoop whoop!
From the top:
Saturday morning Jen met the beau and me in Troy at 6AM to hit the road. It was about a 2 hour drive to the start of our race (Sam’s Point), which gave us plenty of time to use a rest stop and settle into our surroundings before tackling the course. The bugs (the annoying flies that hover around your face) were fierce and the bathrooms weren’t open for a while, so we hung out in the car until it was time to get in line. I was really nervous going into this race for 3 reasons:
- I was slightly under-trained. 100% my fault but I knew I could walk 30 miles if it came down to it.
- My neck was stiff and only got worse leading up to the race.
- I had my period and I had it bad. Friday I was in bed all day because the cramping / flow was too.damn.much! I felt like I was 15 again. Completely ignoring the fact that I would have to worry about how heavy the flow was, having your period sucks all of your energy from you. Ugh, don’t get me wrong, I was happy to have it, just not on race day. #sorrynotsorry for sharing.
The more people showed up, the more I got nervous because they all looked like pros! Their tiny little packs and fit bods. Ha! I mentally said, “okay, no tomahawk for you today, it’s all about that A goal.”
A Goal: cross the finish line at 6PM (9 hours)
B Goal: cross the finish line at 7PM (10 hours and avoiding running in the dark)
C Goal: cross the damn finish line before midnight (15 hours)
While I was in the bathroom, the beau overheard that we were in the first wave. Awesome! We lined up where the race director (Ken) pointed to the gravel (very low key race) and waited for the count down. 30 seconds, 10 seconds, enjoy one of Earth’s last great places, 5 seconds, and see you at the finish line!
Start to checkpoint #4 (the first checkpoint for the 30 milers)
We all immediately started jogging up (UP) the gravel road until it got pretty steep and then we walked. Ha! It was steep! And I wasn’t about to get winded within the first mile, let’s be honest. I tried to move as fast as my legs would go and then started to jog as the ground evened out. Before I knew it, my watch beeped to signal a mile and then we were running on to the teal single-track trail. I remember one woman flying by me asking “oh, this is where we need to go?” and me thinking, giiiiiiiiiirl, I hope you have a map.
This section of the trail was narrow and the rocks were very sharp and shifty. We were on the ridge and because of a major fire a number of years ago, we were completely exposed in the sun. It was hot and humid! I had to stop every so often to let people pass me and to let Jen catch up, which was a little annoying but it did give me a breather. I don’t remember much other than having to stop to walk a lot because I didn’t want to trip/fall and that it was a lot more wet than I anticipated. In fact, we reached a waterfall within the first three miles or so.
There were some steep climbs that slowed us down and unfortunately this is where Jen rolled her ankle. She was already hiking with poles and decided to push forward to reach the first checkpoint (around mile 13). I gave her the race director’s phone number and the beau’s number just in case we got separated (we never did) and hiked on.
Somewhere between miles 5 and 6 Jen and I did find ourselves off of the trail. Ugh! But it was easy enough for us to find our way back (and gave me a quiet place to walk off course to use the bushes aka bathroom). This mistake cost us half a mile.
The terrain for this course changed dramatically a number of times throughout the race. We were on sharp rocks, we were on the most slippery slabs of rock, in the forest, crossing old planks, dodging roots – you name it. In the forest, on the ridge line. Up cliffs. Over boulders. We even hiked through the squeeze! It was at the squeeze that two women kinda (read: rudely) pushed us to the side because “they were concerned about their checkpoint times.” I mean, yes, I wanted to reach the checkpoints but I thought we were hours ahead of schedule. It was funny because when we had to hurl ourselves off a boulder, we finally caught up to them and I could see the uneasiness in their eyes. “Go ahead, you’re so concerned about your checkpoint times…” – as I hurled myself off the boulder on the other side ha ha
Competitive Jona was starting to kick in…
…but Jen wasn’t feeling it. Her ankle was a bother and she couldn’t run. At this point I called / texted the beau to let him know that he had to pick her up at the first checkpoint. When I had turned my phone on for the first time, I got an SOS text from a friend who was attempting the 50 mile race; she needed the race director’s number. I quickly sent her that contact and called to make sure she was okay – no answer. I turned my phone off.Eventually we made our way to the Rainbow Falls trail. The two ladies passed us and we caught up to a gentleman named Doug, who was filtering water in a stream. Jen stopped to filter a liter of water, we chatted then got our photographs taken near the waterfalls. After a short climb (about an hour later), I turned my phone back on and much to my surprise, nothing from the beau. I called and called and texted and texted: nothing. I started to worry, thinking he was in an accident. Your mind can surely drift when you’re miles into the woods…Jen connected with her fiance and I felt comfortable leaving her at the checkpoint once we finally arrived. I sat down to empty out my sneakers of pine needles and tiny pebbles and asked the volunteer if they had heard from my friend who sent the SOS text. Yes! She got lost! Like, 25 miles in the wrong direction lost! I felt horrible for her knowing she was pulled from the race, so I turned on my phone to send her a quick message. I said my quick goodbye to Jen and then took off running with Doug toward the next checkpoint – “only 3 or so miles away,” they said. No big deal I thought!
Checkpoint #4 to checkpoint #5
I don’t remember much between these checkpoints but I do remember passing the two women after crossing the road. Hell yes! I think I literally threw my fist up in the air and remember telling Doug that we were going to finish before them. He didn’t know why but Competitive Jona likes to set a goal to mentally get herself across the finish line. We chatted and walked when it was necessary (read: any incline) and thank goodness for him, he kept me on trail because I totally would have wandered off at one specific intersection. I have no clue how long I was with Doug but at one point he told me to keep going, he was going to pull back to lower his heart rate. I didn’t think I was moving too much faster than him, but I continued on and tried to run whenever I wasn’t walking up an incline. I did wander off trail but I caught myself pretty quickly and only added .1 on to my total mileage for the day.
I think the mileage in between the two checkpoints turned out to be more than 3 miles (it’s all a blur really), closer to 4+ and all I can remember is coming out at a little parking lot, seeing a little Ranger’s station and seeing the beau sitting at the front of his car. “WHOOP! WHOOP!” I hollered as I approached him, big smile on my face.
The volunteers at the checkpoint wrote down my bib number and gave me a small round of applause as I sat down on a log next to the beau. I wanted a few minutes to regroup and connect with the beau, as he didn’t have cell service and didn’t know my progress/what had happened up to that point (he had connected with Jen when he left the checkpoint because he was worried when he didn’t see us sooner). It was at this point that the ranger offered me water from a 5-gallon jug and I said no and showed him my full bladder.*
*So, a major rule for this race was that you COULD NOT take any support from anyone during this race. No water, no fuel, nothing. You couldn’t even drop items throughout the course for yourself. Carry in, carry out. Later on in the evening I had told the beau that I thought I was being tested at that checkpoint when I was offered water. Was I thirsty? Yes. Was I about to cheat? Hell no! It was at this time that I learned A LOT of runners stopped and took water from this ranger, RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE VOLUNTEERS! This is the ONLY complaint I have of the race: I wish those runners had a big fat DNF on their records. Heck, if I knew they weren’t going to take this rule seriously, I would have requested vegan pizza rolls from the beau…
I kid. But seriously, pisses me off.
Back to the race: I knew I had/was getting blisters so I didn’t dare take off my sneakers. I took a couple electrolyte pills, a couple honey stinger gummies and a few swigs of water and was up probably within five minutes. The volunteers said it would be about 5 miles until the next checkpoint, so I gave the beau a kiss and told him probably 2 hours until he’d see me next, as the volunteers said there were a couple big climbs ahead of me. I took off and never looked back, determined to not have the beau wait two more hours for me…
[Sorry for the lack of photographs – I was either running or terrified my phone with die before I crossed the finish line.]