Do a shot every time you read the phrase: WOEFULLY UNDERTRAINED.
So! Going into this race I was woefully undertrained. I hadn’t run more than, maybe 50 miles since my last 50K in January. I hadn’t run on a weekday since before that race and my longest run was 15 miles and I had done it the week before.
But! I’ve learned something over the years of this running journey, and that’s that my body is capable of more than it ever seems my mind is willing to accept. So, I figured I’d show up, and just run until I felt like leaving. Now, I’d be sore as hell because of the “(woefully) undertrained” part of the equation, but I could still run/walk most of the day, I was certain.
The day before the race, my friend Chelsea texted that she feared she may be the only person on her relay team that would be there on race day. She indicated that if this happened, she’d just run with me for as long as she could handle it, and suddenly? I was much more inspired to stick with it. I have a stage race next month so I decided I should do at least 31 miles in preparation for that and so I could at least get a 50K sign for my plaque. But, I knew it could take me all day, even though my best 50K time this year (on trails with substantial elevation gain/loss) was like 6:20. I knew I was woefully undertrained, but I could walk a 50K even at this baseline of fitness.
So! I showed up at the very cold start thinking I’d do at least a 50K, no matter how long it took me.
OH! I also had an event I needed to attend that night that started at 6pm. The race (which was in Decatur) ended at 6pm, but the event was back in Huntsville. So, if it took me until 6pm to make my goal, I’d have to just go without a shower and I’d still be an hour late.
Chelsea’s team did end up showing up, but with no desire to run any more than they had to. So, she still was hoping to at least do a marathon+ of 27 miles. We started out together and ran a few miles, and then her relay team would run some and I’d listen to Harry Potter. Then we’d run some more together, and then her relay team would run. I feel like the majority of the day she was feeling better than I was. I hit a bad spot around mile 18 when I had slipped in some mud and twinged my groin again. It hurt for about 2 miles and I panicked a bit, but then it subsided and my usual long-run back problems set in.
I decided to take some Ibuprofen and walk a lap or two and reevaluate my “goals” for the day. I was still running more than walking, for sure, but my back was KILLING me and I just didn’t see how I could last hours longer. I walked two miles solid and finally the ibuprofen kicked in and I started feeling MUCH better. Chelsea was feeling good about her 26.2+ goal too so we had some solid miles together as the halfway point approached.
We were taking these designated walk breaks though. Blue garbage can to White garbage can. Tree #1 to Tree #3. Knobble tree to Fence. There were designated short stretches that were “uphill” (The entire 1-mile loop only has a gain/loss of 15 feet – none of the “hills” are that substantial…until you get to mile 15. Then they’re all Everest.) but those walk breaks were the only thing keeping me going. My body was doing okay, save for a couple of blisters, but my breathing was strained. Those stretches of running felt like sprints and every walk break came with me catching my breath. Another reminder of how woefully undertrained I was.
The one thing that’s great about this race is that you spend all day running with the elite runners. I usually only see them at the start line, but this race? They’re all either doing 50 (which will keep them there over half of the day) or the full 12 hour run, and since they’re faster than me, I see them often. It’s my favorite thing about this race and the reason I’ll probably do it every year. There’s a kinship by the end of the day, and I love sharing that kinship with the elite runners in my community. We all wave to each other and mutter “Good Job!” when we can. Saturday was no different and one of the things that kept me out there all day – even (wait for it…) woefully undertrained.
Another friend showed up at lunch at ran 5 miles or so with us and that was a GREAT break for the humdrum of running/walking/shaking out shoes. And that got me past my 50K mark in PLENTY of time to shoot for 40 miles and STILL leave early for the party. This was also good as I turn 40 this year, so doing 40 miles just felt right. My friend Chelsea had decided she had plenty of time to do her first 5OK so we were settling in to our new goals for the day. My last several miles were probably half walking, half running, BUT I WAS STILL RUNNING SOME. And for that? I was really proud. One of Chelsea’s teammates even ran/walked two with me. When you’re circling the same mile over and over again? Any change in company is welcome.
I finally hit the 40 mile mark and basked in the fact that I was SO undertrained that I was going to be SO sore the next day. But still! 40 miles! Chelsea still had several to go for her 50K so I ended up walking a few with her too. My walk, however, was MUCH slower than hers and she was worried about the 12 hour cutoff so I ditched her for her last two miles and she ran/walked them with her husband.
She crossed the finish line having ACCIDENTALLY done her first 50K – something most people dread and suffer sleepless nights over for weeks. It was awesome. I ended up with 44 miles total for my day. And I still was able to leave in time to shower and still only be an hour late for our shindig that night.
All in all? A great day because I had great company. This race is one I’ll always do, especially since I proved to myself this year I can always do at least 40 – no matter how woefully undertrained I am. I don’t know if it would have been as fun without Chelsea, though. She’s always been one of my favorite running buddies and the kind of person you can’t get sick of even after 12 hours. And there is no doubt that with a 12-hour race? Misery does love company.