I did it - my first 50K! It's an ultra marathon, because a marathon is only 42K. I've never even done a marathon before, only a 25K. So I did my first marathon and my first ultra marathon on the same day. I know what you're thinking...how smart I am. I know.
I didn't have a very fast time. First of all, about a month before the race I found out that my iron levels were so low they were nonmeasurable, and I knew they wouldn't get up anywhere close to normal before the race. So right away I knew I wouldn't be able to get a fast time. But usually whenever I do a long distance for the first time, my goal is only to finish upright and smiling. If I do it again, that's when I hope to improve my time. And this time I also had to deal with IT Band pain at 30K. So I was just glad that I finished.
I love these trails and I run them so much I feel like I know them intimately. As I was running them, I thought affectionately, "I know these trails so well, they're my peeps!" (You have to think of SOMETHING when you're running for multiple hours in a row with no one to talk to!) That helps when you're doing a race. I knew what to expect and how much farther I had to run. That doesn't mean I ever looked forward to running up the Martin Road hill, though. Let's not get crazy, here.
It's an interesting experience to run for seven plus hours in the forest.
I have never felt as anxious as I felt about this race, and it started two full days before the race. We're talking full-blown panic here. I guess it was just because it was the biggest race (by far) I have ever done. My previous races were all 25K - half the distance! I think I was really scared that I wouldn't be able to do it.
Also, my friend and running partner wasn't able to do it with me, as she hurt her knee. I was worried about being alone on the trails for so long.
I forgot about the running community, though; how supportive they are. So many people who ran by me would say, "Good job!", "Looking good!", "Way to go!" It was so nice. I wasn't alone at all.
Before the race I vowed to try and just record all my observations in my head so I could write them in my blog later. It's fascinating to observe all the different dynamics and personalities in a race. One man immediately whipped out a camera and began taking pictures. He explained, "If I don't take pictures my wife thinks I'm out drinking!" Another woman said to her friend as they began, "I feel anxiety!" (I hear you, sister!)
I saw two runners puking by the side of the trail. I saw a man carried off, clearly in pain, by other runners. I saw runners crying. I saw runners trying to stretch out legs that must have been cramping or hurting. I asked one runner if he had knee pain like I did, and he replied, "I have pain EVERYWHERE."
This may have contributed to my changing mindset. I've heard talk of how your mind can run off, and it was funny to watch the highs and lows. For example, my knee was really hurting by 40K, and also I was feeling back pain and pain in my left foot (no idea what that was all about).
So my thoughts were going something like this: "Why am I doing this? Why does ANYONE do this? It's crazy! I'm hurting myself. We're all lunatics! What is the POINT? You know what? I am just going to start volunteering at these things...forget about running them! Hey, wait a second....I think I just passed the 42K mark. That means I just ran a marathon! Me! I did it! I just ran a marathon! I LOVE RUNNING!!" Then I would laugh at myself for being even more of a lunatic.
Another fascinating thing is that these changing mindsets have continued long after the race. For example, the night of the race and the next day my legs were in serious pain. It was hard to walk. I was 'walking' like either a heavily pregnant lady with back pain or an elderly person who needed a new hip. Again I thought to myself, "Why am I doing this to my body? I will NEVER run that distance again. I mean NEVER. I will just be happy with doing shorter runs." And then once the pain subsided, suddenly I thought, "Too bad I got such a slow time. Maybe I should do it again to try to improve my time?"
Hmmm, so I can't blame the craziness on race fatigue....I guess it's just me, right? Don't answer that!