Finding My Ultra 1.1
My first taste of ultra running a few months has left me with an insatiable thirst. I cannot get enough of it. I'm constantly seeking out any and all information on ultra running. Thanks to an insane ultra running community for posting up countless inspiring and amazing videos on Youtube. I'm slowly learning about the famous, legendary and iconic races such as Western States and Badwater however, the race that has caught my eye is the Gorge 50k in Oregon. This race has everything that excites me about ultra running; trail running, nature, solitude, scenery, landscapes, vistas, energy. The only drawback is that it's during the Winter, in Oregon....I hate the cold. Let me rephrase that, I hate when it's so cold that I can't feel my toes or fingers.
This past weekend I had an opportunity to quench mm thirst taste when Matt and I took our athletes to the Fat Ass 50 for a group run. Since it's the triathlon season is just starting up for most of us we limited our athletes to 10 miles. Matt is very aware of my new passion and capped me at 15 miles. This race was a ten mile loop that could be completed a maximum of 5 times. To add a bit of challenge to the distance it was all on trails. To raise the excitement levels the temperature was around 15 degrees, there was a fresh blanket of snow on the ground and the race started at 6:30 which meant that for the first hour we would be using headlamps to light our way.
We obviously waited in our cars until the last possible moment because I wasn't going to chance running for a few hours with frozen toes and risk frostbite. Ten minutes before the start we made our way over to the huddled racers around the race director. My excitement skyrocketed when I saw all the headlights and the glowing reflective gear, so awesome.
I did make a couple of key observations while standing at the start. First, it appeared that most of the real trail runners had trail running shoes on. Most of them were running in Salomons and practically everyone had a shoe with some quality tread on them. I really hoped my running shoes would hold up. Another key observation was the clothing. Considering the temperature I figured everyone would be bundled up. The real runners looked like they were dressed for 50 degrees rather than 15 degrees. I really hope my three hats, 5 shirts, jacket, two pairs of tights, two pairs of gloves, ski socks, compression socks and toe warmers wasn't over doing it?
With in the first 5 minutes of starting we couldn't stop talking about how amazing this was; running in the dark, in the woods, on snow covered trails,together. Of course our conversation strayed to doing some type of team adventure race. I mean it's only logical that after five minutes of doing something for the first time you want to take it to the next level, right?
As the sun started to rise the true beauty of the race started to reveal itself. There is something magical, serene, and absolutely calming about the sunrise. Weather on a bike or on my feet I love being active and embracing the rising sun.
Note to self: For my first 50k race next fall, do not be the last man in line as the trail bottlenecks into an uphill section. You will never be able to pass anyone and you will lose a lot of time.
Observation: Why are people walking? I noticed in many videos and then first hand at the race that many people walk during the race, mostly on the inclines. Is it acceptable to walk up hills? Is it my ignorance about ultra pacing strategies? I plan on doing the proper training to ensure that I won't have to walk up hills during my future ultra race. I also can't wait to read this paragraph after my first 50k and laugh at my ignorance and stupidity.
Paul and I reached the 5 mile marker in roughly an hour. I began to do some calculations in my head and how it would translate to 50k and actually racing. If 5 miles took an hour then 10 miles would take 2, and 30 miles would equate to 6 hours! I think if I was racing then I could knock off a good hour. My body mind and spirit were all in good places but I wonder where they would be or travel to in 2 hours? 3 hours? 4 + hours of running? Time will certainly tell.
The return trip was over similar terrain however the details drastically changed as the sun was fully out. Now I was able to see the finer details of the trail and what I had missed while it was dark. As I followed the bread crumbs back to the start I began to think about how I would train and prepare for a 50k. The big question mark would be nutrition.. How the hell would I keep fueled for at least 4-5 hours of running? How many calories would I be burning per hour? What type of support would I need? I have so many questions I need answered and I have a feeling the only way I'm going to acquire the correct answers is through trial and error.
Paul and I finished the 10 mile loop happy and healthy in roughly 1:50. We were greeted by Matt and Anthony and exchanged celebratory hugs and high fives. We had an extremely brief chat about our adventures and then everyone scattered for warmth. I on the other hand headed back onto the course to log a few more miles and hopefully meet up with Gabby who got a late start.
The start of the second loop looked completely different from the first which provided some needed mental stimulation. I took off at a quicker more focused pace. I tried to envision myself starting the second leg of a 50k; the sights, emotions, feelings. After a couple of miles I ran into Gabby and decided to join her back to the finish. We emerged from the woods and crossed the "finish line ". Another celebration, more smiles, frozen fig newtons and bananas.
14 miles were logged on trails in about 2:50. This race was certainly a learning experience and put into perspective ultra trail running. I'm more passionate then ever to find my ultra and the Fatt Ass 50 was a step in the right direction.