After a disappointing start to 2016 at the Olympic Marathon trials, I came home ready for a break, ready to move to my new home in Boulder and attack the remainder of the year as a “gulp,” Masters runner. Ever since I started running at the ripe age of 14, I’ve been told by my coaches that I have endurance like an ox and could run and run. Sort of like a blond female version of Forrest Gump, trucker hat included. I always knew I’d love the marathon, but running more than 26.2 miles?? Not so sure. It wasn’t until I matured did the ultra marathon seed get planted and start to sprout.
I love long runs. I love running for more than 2 hours. I love post long run when your legs feel like jelly, your endorphins are in overdrive, and all you want is a big juicy burger and some champagne. Even when I took a break from competition in 2013, my sole focus was to stay in good enough shape to do long runs with my marathon training friends. Longs run are my jam.
So, with the dust settling, I hopped back on the horse and pointed her on an unknown path towards the ultra marathon world and a soon to be recognition as a Master’s runner.
Coach Brad and I discussed the “beyond” marathon, maybe easing into the distance with a 50k and then graduate up to something longer. Ever since my first Olympic Trials in 2008 I had the goal of making a World Team and through a close friend learned that Mad City offered a spot on the USA Team to the overall male and female winner of the 50k. A few friends who previously raced Mad City raved that with the tremendous organization, course, and staff that it would be well worth the investment.
The course is five 10k loops around a lake with two fuel stops at the start/finish and 3.8 miles. The front half is hilly on paths and roads with the second half flattening out providing the ability to lengthen my stride and get into a good rhythm. I thrive on loop courses with one of my favorite spots to train in Boulder being the three mile “Cabada Loop” which has prepared me for the “seriously, not again” that messes with your head from this type of race.
I was relaxed leading up to the race, so much that I was actually getting nervous – the vicious mental life of a runner! The spot on the World Team keep me focused, but I had little to draw on for the 5 miles that would follow the marathon. The plan was to ease into the race, letting it come to me and attack the second half based on feel.
The morning of the race was below freezing and a slight breeze, but much better than the wind gusts just 12 hours earlier. Like many a marathon before, I headed to the start line all bundled up, but as I toed the line the clothes did not come off. I knew there were others with more experience at this distance, but felt confident in what was to come. The gun went off, and I eased into the first loop and quickly started a conversation with another Boulderite. We chatted the entire first loop and was so happy how quickly time flew by. Paul, my husband and Sherpa of the year, was at mile 3.8 and at the start/finish line to hand me my bottles. The start of the second loop I settled into my zone and got a bit ahead of my new buddy and the other female. I started climbing a hill that seemed steeper than the first loop when I heard someone yelling my name. Yep, a wrong turn, where is Waze when you need it?! After freezing for a second I retraced my steps and got back to the course only to see that my competition had started to make a move. I quickly accelerated up to her, settled my breathing and eased back into pace.
Each lap I set a couple goals for myself: get to the first aid station and see Paul, take off a layer and release down the hill and repeat. There were enough distractions that the laps went by fast, and I was having a great time. Early in the last lap I crossed the marathon distance. The last 5 miles my legs felt like jelly, but I knew if I could get to that aid station it would be a slight downhill. I knew I was slowing a bit in the last lap but hoped I had enough of a lead. Once I saw Paul with 2 miles left I got a tear in my eye knowing nothing would stop me from finishing and making the World team. I can’t say the last 800 meters were the fastest I have run, but I felt like I was floating!
I crossed the finish line, my legs like noodles, but my heart filled with such joy. The race director confirmed I broke the course record, and I believe he was excited as I was. My first ultra marathon in the books and a chance to represent my country in Doha. This day could not have been possible without the support of my husband Paul, my coach Brad Hudson, and my team Hudson Elite.
Now it’s time for some rest, a couple of burgers, and plan out my last race as a 39 year old….