DRB 50k/Boston Marathon (part 1)
I already wrote about my training and thoughts leading up to the race in my last post (so read that first if you haven't), so let's start off with Saturday the day before both races. I went out for one last shake out run in the most gorgeous weather right after receiving an email from Howie (DRB race director) about safety concerns about the next day's race. The forecast was predicting freezing rain, high winds, and cold temps. Normally this is no biggie for a trail race, but the trails that are part of this course are extremely rocky and technical, and become very dangerous when they are wet. I know, I've run them before in the worst conditions! I was a little worried about potentially getting injured the day before Boston, but mostly just concerned about having to tip toe on the technical descents, which meant more time on my feet and more time in crappy weather which would be quite stressful on my body. Later that day I went to Scott Jurek's talk in Boston about his new book, which was extremely inspiring and made me feel like what I was doing was no big deal, but while sitting in the chair for a long time, my sciatic was bothersome. Afterwards, we went to bib pick up. It was really hard to get excited about Boston. I was really concerned about not even making it to the starting line and didn't want to get my hopes up. I had purchased the marathon jacket a few weeks ago online and it was hiding in its packaging in a closet, just in case it needed to be returned. It all felt so surreal and overwhelming, and I just wished someone could've gotten my bib for me. We didn't last there very long.
That night I barely slept, not just because of nerves, but because my dog was up all night puking and my cat decided to be an asshole. I got up early, ate breakfast, sat around for awhile, then headed to the race which was only a 30 minute drive away. To my relief, no rain and everything was completely dry at the start, but it was pretty cold and windy. After training in the below zero temps and white out blizzard conditions the last few months, I was just happy to see everything so dry and knew that today would be a fast day for me. I met up with a friend, Leah Lawry, and her friend that I planned on running part of the course with. Before the start, someone noticed my Strong Hearts Vegan Power shirt and came running over saying that he was vegan too and this was his first ultra. He had run at Blue Hills Reservation a lot but had no idea about navigating the course. He asked me what my goal time was and I said, somewhere around 6:30 and he said, me too and asked if it'd be ok if he followed me. My initial thoughts were "yeah sure dude, if you can keep up". I kind of blew him off and figured he had no idea what he was getting into.
The start was really small, as expected. A handful of runners didn't even show up and others had started at 6am (we had the option of starting at 6am or 8am). The first mile or so all I could hear was "did you hear that chick is running Boston tomorrow too?". It gave me a good laugh and made me feel kind of badass which is a good way to feel at the beginning of a race. Since I had already run the beginning of the course a couple times in practice, I didn't even need to look at the route on my watch. The miles ticked by and the large group of us that started together remained mostly intact. I felt really good and the trails were the most dry I have ever seen them there, plus miraculously they had cleared all the branches and downed trees from the trails. I really focused on keeping the pace honest and easy, and not losing the runners who were following me at the beginning. Once we got off the fire roads and got onto some single-track, I knew I was going to fly on the technical downhills and it was going to be tough to stay with the other runners. There was a couple times where I actually had to stop at the bottom of a downhill and wait a second. I started to worry about miles 10-16 which are on the toughest trail of the reservation, the Skyline Trail. I knew I was going to have to move ahead of the herd before this section and just run my own race, slow uphills, fast technical downs. My plan for just about any other race! I've never run a race with someone else before, and even though Leah and I had talked about how I might be feeling good and it'd be ok for me to go ahead if I was being slowed down (fact: she had run a 50k the weekend before, crazy!), I still felt really guilty. But then after the swamp... a swamp that required climbing over a tree, walking on top of a barbed wire fence that had been pushed over, then climbing back over to the other side and clinging on to the fence to avoid a disgusting knee deep swamp.. I decided to make my move. There were two packs of runners, one ahead and one behind, so I knew that anyone who had planned on following me would be totally fine without me and wouldn't be alone after I left. So I took off, past the pack ahead, and then at mile 10ish I was at the Skyline Trail. Now it was time for some fun!
Took a couple miles for the guilt of having left everyone to wear off, but then to my surprise, vegan newbie, who I'll now introduce as Justin, was right behind me! I thought maybe he had missed a mile or something, how the heck did he catch up to me, but he mentioned what mile he was on and it was almost the same as what my watch had said. He asked if it was ok if he kept following me, and again my thoughts that I kept to myself were "sure dude, if you can keep up". As much I usually like to be alone at races so I can keep my laser focus and run my own race, this is the type of race where company was much appreciated and it was suppose to be fun. At mile 13 we passed the only aidstation on the course (which reappears at miles 16 and 26) where my husband was volunteering. I don't really like to stop at aidstations so I kind of ushered Justin right out of there and we kept moving. The next few miles on the Skyline Trail go up to the highest point on the course, then back down to the aidstation. I told Justin my plan was to take it easy on the climbs, run a little harder on the downhills and flats, but still somewhat conservative on some of the technical descends so I didn't fall and get hurt the day before Boston. He really let me just lead the way and was ok with running however I wanted, and being in control was something I think I really needed that day. We kept passing 50k and 50-mile runners who had started at 6am, and I saw so many familiar faces. My TARC friends make me feel like a hero at these races, but I don't think they realize how much seeing THEM means to ME. It gives me such a boost of energy. Somewhere after hitting the aidstation the second time (which poor Justin was ushered quickly out of again), I was staring to hit a low, and then I looked at the timer on my watch and realized I had been running for hours and not eating a whole lot. I'm usually much better about eating every 45 minutes but because I was looking at the route on my watch a lot, I wasn't paying attention to time. Also, by that point we had climbed over 4,000 feet my legs were feeling it. Luckily, Justin was still keeping up with me and we were chatting away about everything. I was giving him all sorts of advice about his first 50-miler in June, whether he wanted it or not, and it kept my mind busy and off of what was coming ahead, not just that day but tomorrow too. On the second biggest climb on the course back up to the tower, before you descend down a ski slope (yeah, this course is crazy), he said "is it ok if we hike this?", and I said, "totally but we are bombing down that ski slope!". And we did.
Miles 22-24 are the most confusing on the course. There is one intersection that is really tricky but just as we were about to go the wrong way, a couple DRB veterans who had started at 6am pointed us in the right direction. At this point I realized that most of the climbing was done, the hardest parts of the course were over, and although I wasn't 100% sure because I didn't know who had a started at 6am, there was a good chance I was in first place and was going to finish in under 6:30. Energy wise I was feeling awesome. It kept hailing off and on, but the trails were still so dry, I was actually pretty warm and regretted not wearing shorts. My sciatic was bothering me, but it wasn't painful. It just felt tight and honestly I had expected it to feel a lot worse after all the climbing. We got to the aidstation at mile 26 for the last time. The last 5 miles of the course I had never run before. Justin and I were definitely in this race together now. I had the GPX route on my watch, he had lamented maps, two brains were better than one, especially after 5 hours of running. We went the wrong way so many times within just a couple miles, but never that far. We ended up back onto some hilly, technical single track, which neither of us were super stoked about at that point, but with a just a couple miles again I refused to do anymore powerhiking (again, sorry Justin). We cruised around the pond back to the start/finish and as we were approaching we realized that we didn't actually know where the official finish line was and there was NO ONE out there. We ended up crossing the "finish line" and a few volunteers came running out of the warm building near the pond yelling "stopping running you're done!". It was definitely the most humorous finish I've ever had. They jotted down a couple numbers and then I asked if I was first female, and I was! Couple of quick congrats, goodbyes and good lucks, and within a couple minutes of finishing i was in my car heading home. Gotta love small races. The drive home was emotional as I realized that there was no way I wasn't making it to the starting line the next day.
Thanks to Iyla Bass for all the DRB pictures. Thanks to all the volunteers who were out in the freezing cold all day. And HUGE congrats to Justin for finishing his 50k!!! I totally underestimated him, but his company so was much appreciated. I had such a blast!
Stats from DRB
31 miles/5,968 feet of gain/6:08:42
*First place female, 15 minutes from CR and 4th fastest woman's 50k time in the 22 years of the race! Tied for second overall with Justin.
TO BE CONTINUED....