WTF50K Recap: The Final Exam

Have you ever reached a point where you realized all along you had been subconsciously preparing for that moment? Granted my “moment” was nearly 8 hours long, but this was exactly what happened at WTF50K.

Unbeknownst to me, my WTF50K training began in April 2018 at the Boston Marathon. I survived the 26.2 miles of wind, rain and cold to finish. In May, I ran a portion of the Appalachian Trail on Mother’s Day with Sara. At times, the trail was a river. In June, I ran (swam?) 18 miles with a group at the SU Cool Spring campus which was extremely flooded. As far as hill climbs go, in October I felt the need to tackle a mile long road climb I hadn’t run since high school. In December, I tackled a decent climb at my in-law’s house. Wind? In the past few months, I’ve run several mornings with gusty winds with both the Stephens City DD crew and the Wednesday morning group. Creek crossings? I think I got my fair share at Fire on the Mountain 50K in November. Snow? The Monday before the 50K, I hiked/ran 6 miles of trails in at least 5 inches of snow with Ryan.

At the time, all of these were just individual crazy experiences I shared with running friends. At the WTF50K, I realized all of them were lesson plans for my final exam.

Everything you are learning is preparing you for something else.” ― Marjorie Pay Hinckley.

Pack and maps ready to go!

If you read my last post, you know the expected weather forecast. Thankfully, no precipitation was going to fall. Just cold and WINDY. We arrived a little early, Emily, Laura and I gathered our gear and got ready to start. You will not believe what was announced next. The WTF50K finisher stickers had been left behind! A humorous groan traveled through the small crowd of about 4 dozen. After a few more announcements, we started trudging forward through the mud. Not too far in, we started our first climb of Waterfall. Whoa. Very steep at times and just kept going higher and higher. After a few switchbacks, we reached the top and headed towards Crisman Hollow. A couple miles later, we were rewarded with a beautiful view.

Photo credit: Emily

At this point, I shed my jacket, gloves and earband due to being extremely warm. We continued along the ridgeline for a few miles – rocky and snowy. We reached Jawbone Gap and headed up to the top. Along our ascent, we saw Matt S. and Kevin W. headed down. After a quick glance at the view, we turned around and headed down towards mile 9 (first aid station). After a couple pizza rolls, we were off again. A couple miles later, as we headed down switchbacks, I heard a few familiar voices at the bottom – Matt and Kevin (thanks for sharing the Moon Pie with us Kevin!). Emily and I joined up with them, as well as other runners Levi and Eric. Through this section we alternated a lot of hiking and running until we hit a good decline leading us to….Waterfall Climb: Round 2.

At mile 16, we tackled this tough climb once again. At this point, Matt and Emily pulled away as Kevin and I fell a little behind. I reached Crisman Hollow the 2nd time alone; however there was a runner at the top trying to make sense of his turn sheet. I informed him we were to head left on the road and we trotted off together. Since the last snowstorm, this road had not been touched by a plow. The only bare spots were created by the sun/radiation and at times, the road seemed more like an ice skating rink. We traveled about 2 miles until we crossed over Rt 211 and tried to locate the Aid Station before Mile 20. I grabbed some calories, a swig of Coke, refilled my water and was offered hand warmers. The wind was definitely picking up and I felt the coldest around this time. I pulled the hood up on my Cotopaxi jacket and took off with my new running partner Keith towards the trail. I reluctantly became navigator for our new group of two (which is one of the components of the race I was most worried about!). Soon, we hit the Bird Knob Climb. This climb had much more snow and ice than the previous climbs (which I’d take over the ones with rivers flowing down upon us). After the climb, we were rewarded with a somewhat more runnable path. We turned onto the white trail and then onto purple, following our turn sheet.

Part of the easier trail we traveled. Photo credit: Kevin

Finally, we hit the pink trail. Keith said, “And that’s about all that’s left right?” I responded yes, 4.2 miles until our final turn back onto orange for the final stretch. Around this point, I actually was a little sad the adventure was almost over. As we traversed pink, we approached a fast-flowing creek with no great way to cross. I tried one route – trying to cross on a log like we had on several earlier in the day. A few steps on the slick log and SPLASH! I was in the frigid water up mid-calf. Keith tried another route and SPLASH! Ugh, we trudged on. Soon, I felt something hard flapping on my shoes every step and realized my shoelaces had turned into icicles.

About 1 mile before the turn onto orange, Keith pulled away. For the first time of the day, I was solo for a few miles. I quickly found the sharp turn onto orange and ran into a few downed trees. I couldn’t see a way around and did not see any footsteps in the snow. Crap, where did I go wrong? I retraced my steps and my eyes darted around the forest for the orange blaze. Aha! I missed the trail bearing left. Knowing I had less than 2 miles to go, I was on a mission. All of a sudden, I was flying forward; instinctively dropped a shoulder into a tuck and roll. Thank goodness I fell where I did and not where the trail was very rocky or muddy. I popped back up unscathed and continued on with a smile on my face. Soon, I could see the cars in the parking lot above. I climbed up the ledge and headed towards the fire and food. Complete!

7 hours and 42 minutes. Nearly 7,000 foot of elevation gain. Below freezing temps. Wind. Snow and ice. Mud. Did I mention sloppy? Following a turn sheet. So many obstacles to overcome. Prior to the run, I definitely had some fear. When I was out there, I was oddly calm. Mile by mile, climb by climb, I slowly chipped away at WTF50K. 

Prelim results just came in! 48 starters; 30 finishers and I made podium for females! Read more details about the weather, the run and the results here!

I’ll leave you with my final thoughts….

Remember that question I asked – “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”

The reason I signed up for the Waterfall 50K is because I actually wanted to attempt something I knew I could fail doing. I didn’t want guaranteed success; I wanted to fear failure – buckle down and give it all I could give (and then some).

I’m encouraging you to find a goal, a little out of reach and maybe a lot of crazy and go after it. If you fail, try again. And if you succeed, you better start looking for the next crazy goal..

My First DNF: Seashore Nature Trail 50K Recap

One week ago when I wrote “Keepin’ It Real“, I had no idea what the upcoming weekend had in store for me. Before I dive into those details, let me back up a few weeks.

As I returned to the Runner In Training booth at the South Berkeley Christmas 5K expo on December 2, Dylan came running up to me. “Mom, you got picked off a waitlist for a race!”, he excitedly announced. Not remembering any race waitlist, I picked up my phone to see what he was talking about. Aha – the Seashore Nature Trail 50K Jeremy and Sara had run in 2016. From the email I saw I added myself to the waitlist in June and had completely forgot. The email informed me I had until Wednesday, December 5 to make a decision.

After a lot of hemming and hawing, talking to John and a couple friends, I decided I would go and run. I searched for a hotel close to First Landing State Park and got all my other ducks in a row to head to Virginia Beach on December 14. Since the local Shenandoah Valley Runners Winter Series race was on the same day, John decided to stay home with Dylan (unfortunately John’s paternal grandmother passed away on Wednesday as well).

Friday was soon here and I was excited to hit the road at lunchtime and arrive around 4 p.m. The drive should only take 3.5 hours, but my map app was already telling me 4 hours 22 minutes. Darn. Off I went. Packet pickup was at a local running store until 7 p.m. I found some tunes and started my trek south. My ETA kept getting later and later the further I went along. Somewhere around Newport News, it was suggested I take a detour to save 25 minutes. Sounds good.

Yeah, not so much… The detour guided me through a jam packed shopping area and through a residential area with bumper to bumper traffic. For 20 minutes, we crawled. Stop and go. Stop and go. Finally, I was on an overpass making the left hand turn back onto 64. The SUV in front of me began to move or so I thought. Boom. Dang it. Already running late, and now I’m in a fender bender. We pull over and do all the fun things you need to take care of in an accident. An hour later, I’m finally back on the road. 30 miles to go – GPS puts me at the running store at 7:02 p.m. Thankfully, I call and the race staff pulls my race bib as well as Jeremy’s (the Sanders were stuck behind me in all the traffic).

Finally, I arrive 3 hours later than expected, get race bibs, call and cancel dinner reservations. At this point, I just wanted to check in to hotel, find food and get some sleep. After a quick meal at the hotel, I prepared my race gear and was asleep rather quickly.

Jeremy and I at the start (Thanks Jen!)

Race morning: woke up and ate my usual pre-race meal. I opened the oceanfront balcony doors to see nothing but a wall of fog. Temperature was not bad at all – about 50. I headed over for the short drive to the park and check out the surroundings. After a little walk and a short warmup, it was almost time to start. I decided to aim for 8:30-8:45 pace and see how the trail conditions were. First few miles went by pretty easy. The course was pretty, albeit foggy, and the volunteers and others along the way were upbeat and encouraging. I knew I was the 2nd female and man, was the first female (Gina Slaby) moving!

After the 2nd aid station, we headed right into the woods. Along the way, the course crosses several wooden bridges. As I stepped onto the bridge, I lost my footing but caught myself. Took another step and woosh, my feet go out from underneath me, I slide and fall hard on my right side. Yeowch. Right arm is scratched and bloody but nothing seems absolutely serious. A guy running in a kilt in front of me asks if I’m okay and I respond yes. I get back on and trudge on through the back loop chatting with him, trying to keep my mind off the searing feeling in my right hip area. On the way back to the turn around point for the 2nd loop, I battled between the voice of reason and the competitive athlete in me. The pain was not lessening. Do I just keep on running? Should I simply run/walk just to be able to finish? Should I drop?

Spectators along the way were encouraging me – “Second overall female. Keep going, you look strong!” Ugh, I am not feeling strong. I saw Jeremy on his way onto the second loop and gave him an update. At the turn around point, I mentioned to the race support I was most likely finished. They encouraged me to continue, again reminding me I was second overall female. “You can do this! You can walk and still finish in the time limit.” I refilled my water bottle, added a Nuun tab and decided to try to continue. Starting back up from run to walk was tear-inducing. My kilt running friend said, “Keep it up! Only a half marathon left!” 13 miles?? The reality hit me like a ton of bricks. Running in true discomfort and possibly risking further injury was not worth continuing. What about Boston? Other 2019 races? I decided to surrender and wave the white flag.

Not too much further up the trail, I saw my friend Jamey headed towards the finish area. I turned around and gave him the details. We walked and ran back to the finish together and I grudgingly announced I was pulling out. I walked defeatedly to my car and headed back to the hotel. What a disaster.

Battle wounds!

Sunday morning, I woke up in my own bed and the stress of the weekend hit me all at once. I may seem like a strong, competitive beast, but guess what?

I’m human 🙂 I allowed myself to snuggle up under the blankets and have an ugly cry.After I let the sadness out, I could feel the spark returning. I started thinking about 2019 races.

Yes, the weekend was a complete disaster but, no one was seriously hurt and I live to run another day. You win some, you lose some and yes, you DNF some.

 

I do think I want to go back to Seashore and try again. This time, I think I’ll walk the bridges…

 

Ultra Partners In Crime

Even after witnessing the wild weather which occurred during JFK 50 last year, the seed was planted about possibly running an ultra. Last December, I was out at a winery celebrating a friend’s birthday when the topic arose (obviously alcohol-induced). At this point, it still sounded crazy and I still wasn’t quite sure I’d really consider entering.

Fast forward to the spring. Through several group runs and races, Sara and I became great friends (as did our families). Ads for JFK kept popping up on social media. Mario signed up for his 2nd, then Jeremy for his 3rd. Would I really try to run 50 miles? So far, I had only completed 1 marathon. Was I really considering doing almost double? Unsure how the conversation came about, all I remember is a message between Sara and me: “I’ll do it if you do it” (and no, this time the conversation was not fueled with any wine). That night, we filled out the form and hit submit. We were in.

Over the next few months, I think we both bobbled between excitement and “what the hell did we sign up for?”. Knowing we would have each other to run with I think made the task seem a little less overwhelming. Over the summer, I racked up miles training for my marathon and Sara worked on building a base as well. Now, if you read my post on crewing Yeti, you’ll know Sara joined Josh for 43 miles! Unsure how many she ran vs walked, but she still did 43 miles. Amazing. After Yeti, I knew she would have no problem with JFK.

Once Yeti was over, we started to look towards our race. We planned to head up to the course and tackle the trail portion one Saturday morning. I emailed the race director with a few questions and looked up the maps since we had never been to the area before. From the moment we pulled into the parking lot, we were already a bit discombobulated, haha! Out of the car and we weren’t sure where the trail started – sheesh, what are we in for? We asked another runner in the lot and felt better after he said he had no idea since it was his first time there as well. Blind leading the blind is not a great way to start. Another duo of runners were gearing up and thankfully they pointed us in the right direction. And, off we went!

The two of us were having so much fun, running through the trails, chattering away. We came to a road, crossed and kept going up the asphalt. We continued up this looooong incline forever, switching off between walking and running until we reached the top. And came to a dead end. Crud, what now? I remembered reading a post about a runner who asked where to go at the top, thankfully had cell service and was able to pull up the information on my phone. We circumvented the tower and started back on the trail….until we came to an intersection. Now, the two of us are no girl scouts, so we had to make a decision of which way to go. I again tried to use my phone and we headed to the left. Chattering away again as we ran through the woods – we kept saying, this is so much fun! And then, we ran into the other runners….coming toward us from the opposite direction. Navigators, we are not. So, we turned around and followed them back the way we just came and settled back into our pace. Happy to say, the rest of the run was great! We ended up with 15 great miles and headed to refuel at Panera.

Our first trail adventure…

We decided to head back out again, this time adding on more miles on the C&O. One of our goals was to run the trail correctly this time. Once again, we parked in the lot and we started off to the trail…or so we thought. Somehow we ended up in tent city! Laughing at our awful orienteering skills (Sara – unsure if we are cut out for Barkley!), we quickly found the trail and were underway. When we crossed the road this time, we found the trail we missed on the last run (woohoo!). The trail became fairly rocky and we ended up speedwalking much of the first couple miles. About halfway through, Sara tripped and came up with minor scrapes but that girl kept on trucking! So glad Sara is an easy person to be around; always positive, never panics and is just as determined as I am.

Once we finished the trail and came to the Weverton lot, we met John who was going to run on the C&O with us. We changed out of our trail shoes, fueled, and set off again with John this time. The sun was out and it was a little unseasonably warm for late October. We kept hydrated and ran onto the C&O through Harper’s Ferry. What should be a beautiful running route, especially during the fall, ends up being a tad boring after the miles of trail. We realized on this part of our run when coming to a complete stop; you shouldn’t try to go back to running right away. Definitely need to ease in; walk a bit before taking off. We ended up doing a marathon and John did 12. Another great training run.

Marathon training run

We hit the trail one more time this past weekend and we are glad we did. Since our last run, many more leaves had fallen off the trees which make the trail a little more challenging. We are happy to share with you this time, we did not get lost at all.  About halfway through, I was running along chatting and then WHAM! I was flat on my face. Brushed myself off and we continued on; no injuries. A few more miles and our last training run was finished. Almost 3 hours and 13.5 miles later, we came out of the trail and began walking towards the car as if we had just jogged a mile.

As we headed back to pick up my car at the start, we decided to check out where the race begins and the course leading up to the trail. As we drove down the street, we once again were reminded of the intensity of this race. The road leading to the Appalachian Trail is one long giant hill! Unsure if was a good or bad idea to go see what the start has in store for us. Oh, what an adventure this will be.

Now it is race week. Did we get in enough long runs; enough miles? Not as many as I would have liked to, but there are only so many hours in the day. I know we will finish – even if we are crawling or Sara carries me on her back. We are still excited and still wondering, “what the heck did I sign up for?”. 50 miles is FAR!

Tune in next week for my race recap – hopefully I’ll be able to type after 50 miles!

 

 

Update: did you read yesterday’s post about fear? After publishing, I worked with 2 clients who both decided to move forward, not be frozen by fear and go after their goals! Exciting!

Year in Review and a Blank Slate

“A good goal should scare you a little. And excite you a lot.” – Joe Vitale

This past year was the first full year of running for me since we all sat around watching and waiting to see what disaster the year 2K would bring.

Heading into 2016, I had little idea the year would be full of milestones. When the calendar flipped into the new year, I was still working towards my weight loss goal and I made the decision to try for a new distance; the half marathon.

Looking back over the year, I’m still amazed of what I accomplished and most importantly, what fun I had. I tackled new distances, yet still fit in my old favorites.

Here’s my year in review:

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  • Not 1, but 2 half marathons (1:52 & 1:53)
  • Apple Blossom 10K – only my 2nd time running this race since we moved to Winchester; crushed my time by about 12 minutes (47:40)
  • Loudoun Street Mile – it’s been a long time since I ran an all-out mile so I was excited to see what I could do. I was pleased with 6:03
  • Several 5Ks. In 2015, my 5K time was 22:59. This year, I bested my 2nd running career PR – 20:40
  • An 8K trail race – a lot of fun!
  • 20K – close to the half marathon distance (1:36)
  • A 4 miler (26:42)
  • MY FIRST MARATHON, Richmond (3:46)! At the beginning of 2016, a full marathon was not on my radar. After 2 half marathons, I decided, why stop here?

Non-race related highlights:

  • Reached and surpassed my weight loss goal in the 1st Quarter – Total of 66 lbs. lost.
  • Became an instructor for HIIT Like A Girl
  • Became a kid’s running club coach through our county Parks & Rec program
  • My stepdaughter and husband have become runners (my son has already been running for a few years)

Over the 12 months, I was lucky to share so many miles with a great group of friends. I had a fun (and adventurous) 12 mile trail run with friends, several loooong training runs, breakfast runs and a Christmas fun run. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know people better and meet some amazing new folks too.

So, where does that lead me for 2017? Wow, it will definitely be hard to beat!

I have a target in mind and I’m going after her – the old me. 

Now that Mack Attack is back, I have some serious work to do. I have a target in mind and I’m going after her – the old me. Unsure if I’ll ever touch my old PRs (20 years and 20 lbs lighter) but that won’t stop me from getting as close as I can.

Goals for 2017:

  • Race-Related:
    • Mile – all guts. Back in high school and college, the mile and half mile were my specialties so I still have a sweet spot for this distance. I love the feeling of laying it all on the line and finishing keeled over; all energy spent. I’m hoping to break the 6 min. mark and aiming for 5:45.
    • 5K – Striving to break 20. Up until about 2 weeks prior to the marathon, I was hitting the track once per week. Now, I’m ready to add speed work back into my weekly plan to help achieve my 5K and mile goals.
    • Half Marathon – My initial try at this distance was a good race; although freezing cold and very low key (no spectators and an out-and-back). Second try was awful – high humidity and a rough course. My split at Richmond was a 1:47; so I aiming towards the 1:40 mark.
    • Marathon – Yes, I’m going to do it again! I’m going to follow the same path as last year and train for a fall marathon. I’ll announce which one soon. Unfortunately, a lot of my weekends are already unavailable due to work, so I’m trying to determine which will fit best with my schedule. Goal: Beat 3:46. Aim towards BQ? Possibly.
  • Other goals 
    • Try for an ultra? Maybe – if I have a friend that’d join me  🙂
    • Trail race – love the trails – also want to do a Ragnar; so maybe I can knock out two at once.
    • Run a race in my hometown
    • Training my first person (my husband) for his first half!
    • I also plan on finding more opportunities in the fitness/running industry and have been working towards my PT certification. It’s been great getting back into my career.
    • Blogging more often!

 

What accomplishment are you most proud of from last year?

What goals are you working towards this year?

Let me know! 

Until next time,

Becky