I had the pleasure of running with my teammate, Zsuzsanna Carlson at Harriman State Park during the summer last year. At the time, I was training for my first 50 mile race. During our 3 hour run, I pestered her with questions about fueling, hydrating, how my legs would feel, how to train, what to expect, etc. One of the most interesting things she told me was to go out a week or two before the race and run some intense verticals to really trash my quads. It would help me to not be sore after the 50 mile race. I thought she was crazy.
The weekend before The Febapple 50 mile, 50K, 20 mile, and 10 mile races was a long weekend for me. I was fortunate enough to have President’s Day off so I met a couple of friends for a run on the trails in Round Valley State Park. We ran about 15 miles with 3100 feet of elevation gain/loss. I was sore for days. It wasn’t until Friday that the pain in my quads had completely disappeared. I went for a short shake out run Friday evening knowing that I was running a 50K the following day at South Mountain.
I arrived 45 minutes before the start of the Febapple Frozen 50k Race, part of the NJ Trail Series by Rick McNulty. I was relatively calm, but wondered what females would be racing and whether or not I could keep up with them. After one final pit stop in the woods and saying hello to Zsuzsanna, I walked over to the starting line and huddled with some friends to stay warm. I carried a water bottle with 3 gu’s (always chocolate!) in the bottle pocket, with an extra one in the pocket of my tights. My plan was to waste as little time as possible at the aid stations.
I’ve never run at South Mountain so I didn’t know what to expect besides mud. The day long rain the previous day guaranteed muddy conditions. What good is a trail run without getting dirty?! The 50K course began with a short 1.5 loop before 3 figure eight 10 mile loops. The first section of the figure eight was more technical than I am used to (most of my trail running is at Watchung Reservation which doesn’t have as many or as long sections of rocky terrain). About 5 miles into the race I caught up with Zsuzsanna. She was so happy to see me. I commented on all of the rocks before wishing each other luck. I was so motivated after seeing her. Not only is she one of the toughest people I know, but she is everyone’s biggest fan. Her excitement to see me out front, and her encouragement to have a good race filled me with so much motivation even though it was early in the race.
The second half of the figure 8 was very flat and enjoyable. I relaxed, in hindsight probably too much, and enjoyed the running, most of which was completely alone. I didn’t bother stopping at aid stations, I had enough water in my bottle and ate a gu around mile 6 or so. I finished the first of 3 loops excited that it wasn’t too bad. I went directly into the second loop without stopping for aid. I thought that I was the first woman but I couldn’t be sure and I knew there were likely people on my heels. I walked the steep inclines but moved as quickly as I could, pumping my arms. I stopped at the next aid station long enough to fill my water bottle and grab an extra gu just in case I needed it. I believe I had eaten 2 by this point. I’m more comfortable holding the water bottle in my right hand, but it often causes cramps in my shoulder (advice welcome!!) and the weight of the bottle when full makes it worse. I did my best to ignore it, knowing that it was better to have water with me.
Toward the end of the second loop I did start to feel a little bit tired, but rolling through the start/end area again and hearing teammates cheer for me (even if they did call me Jody!) filled me with some adrenaline to tackle the first, more technical half of the figure eight. At this point I had already mentally begun to break the loop into sections. Finish the first section, get to the aid station, cross the foot bridge, see the waterfall, final climb, finish line!! I was drinking more at this point, which makes me believe I didn’t drink as much as I should have early in the race. As I finished the first section of the figure eight I saw Julian. He ran ahead to take my picture (which I’m sure is fantastic, note the sarcasm). I asked about women and he wasn’t sure if there were any ahead. This, and seeing a friendly face, helped keep me moving forward not knowing what was ahead or who was behind was motivation to push forward. At the aid station I stopped to fill my water bottle half way and asked the volunteers at the aid station about females ahead of me. They were fairly certain no one was ahead. This was wonderful news and helped me forget about the tired legs and take off for the last part of the race.
Crossing the finish line and seeing the smiling faces of teammates Elizabeth and Julian (and Sam!!) was such a wonderful feeling. Hearing that the 10 mile runners, Lenny and Phil, had placed 1st and 3rd and Zsuzsanna was out there running strong was icing on the cake!
I woke up the next morning without any leg soreness. Usually 2 days after the event is my worst day, but I woke up again on Monday feeling strong. The first thing I thought of was Zsuzsanna’s crazy advice to trash my quads before a race and avoid the soreness.
I have a lot to learn, but luckily I am surrounded by a team of people that can teach me a lot! I’m excited to have represented the MPF Campmor Trail Running Team well and more excited for the rest of 2012. So much of our sport is individual, but when you run for a team and you have the support of others around you, it becomes about so much more than your own performance. My first race experience with Mountain Peak Fitness was nothing short of wonderful. Thank you!