Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I am an Ultra Runner - Autumn Leaves 50K

On October 29, 2016, I ran my first 50K, and became an ultra runner! Me, yes me :-) What a journey it's been. Running that race up in Oregon was exhilarating, scary and exciting. And I did it.  And now I know for sure what I am - an ultra runner.  When I started this blog back in 2008, I didn't know if I wanted to be a runner, a triathlete or an ultra runner.  Having tried all 3 of those things, I now know.

We arrived in Oregon at the race packet pick up on Friday evening, with minutes to spare.The weather was awful on the way up, but so beautiful to see Mount Shasta and Mount Hood. But it was very misty and rainy so it wasn't all clear and lovely to take pics. But what a lovely trip!  Oregon is definitely on my list to visit again. It rained heavily all night, and it was scheduled to rain all day on Saturday too.  Rain is no big deal, but I didn't quite fancy it - having run a marathon 2 weeks prior in pouring rain!  Still, 3 days before my race, I met my other god of running, Dean Karnazes, again, and he wished me good luck.  Ok, that's definitely a good omen - especially since it's thanks to him that I got into ultra running.

So, the race start was at 7am sharp, and we were told to wear headlamps as it would be a full hour before sunrise.  Wow, it wasn't just dark, it was pitch black when we arrived, and there were no lamps, lights or anything else.  So headlamps and torches went on immediately. Got to the start, organised the drop bag and it was time to start.  It was raining as we lined up. And then off we went, punctually, at 7am. I didn't even have a chance to feel anxious or worried! Just started running and felt myself immediately.

After mile 1, I realised it was going to be a tough day at the office.  My legs were tired!  Two weeks prior I had run a trail marathon, and that was not enough time for me to recover for the 50K.  I have only been running again since June, and spent June and July testing out my foot and just getting back to it.  I was scared that if I have any more foot issues, I would need an op, and that would put me out of commission for quite a while.  So I decided to go for it.  In 4 months I went from zero to half marathon, to marathon, to ultra. I thought about all those things that morning, running in the darkness, listening to the birds - and before I knew it, 6 miles were done and the sun was up. What a glorious sight greeted me.  Piles and piles of leaves, and beautiful pine trees. It was quite a small race, with around 200 people: half doing the 50K, the other half doing the 50 miler.

For my first attempt I think I ran a good race.  My goal was to finish - that was never in doubt - and if the foot didn't hold up, I would have walked. I saw quite a few people drop, which was surprising.  But I did learn what true pain feels like.  When it's easier to run than walk! And I really learned what I was capable of - putting up with a lot of pain. And smiling all the way through.  How do I know that? Because competitors and aid station volunteers all commented on that.  My head was screwed on, my nutrition was on point, and I was in the zone.

To run in such beauty, with such fantastic people, restored my soul.  It was just what I needed.  I am happy with what I did.  Of course there is always room for improvement, but that's not what this journey was about. I had to do this, and I did it! It was amazing, and I loved every minute of it.
When I finished that race, it was like being reborn.  2015 was the worse year of my life.  I lost my fitness, I was injured for almost the whole year, and I was just sick the whole year. I never thought I would get out of that situation.  But running has always been my compass and anchor.  I love running. I'm not very fast, but I don't run to compete with others, I run to please myself and achieve my goals. I completely forgot all about that in 2015 because I was so busy being miserable about not being able to run any more.
And now, onwards and upwards.  I could hardly walk that night.  Had a shower, ate and was in bed fast asleep by 6:30pm!  But man, did I feel like a queen the next day, and weeks thereafter :-)

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