I went into one of my favorite races, the Rosaryville 50k, for the third time today with two goals.
2. Don't get stung by a bee
I'm pleased to report I accomplished both of them, and even somehow pulled out a surprise PR (by 3 minutes, but still). I was even 2nd in my age group - not bad for my first time in the 30-39 club!
I really love doing races I've done in the past. Obviously knowing the course is a benefit, and knowing where the race is, what the parking situation will be like, how early I need to get there, etc eliminates a ton of stress for me and allows me to solely focus my anxiety on the race itself. Or, in this case, just skip it entirely. I don't know why, but for some reason I was just completely underwhelmed going into Rosaryville. Maybe it was the fact that I have another ultra in less than a week, maybe it was the week of miserable running in heat indexes reaching 115 degrees, maybe it was just apathy in general, but I couldn't bring myself to care about a goal time.
As if getting myself soaked in sweat multiple times a day for the week leading up to the race wasn't a solid enough hydration plan, I decided to spend the day before at Artscape, an outdoor festival. But the heat index only reached 99 degrees, so it was practically chilly.
Artscape is 100% worth the heat for the people watching. Outfits like this are the norm.
|Can you tell he has wings or something?|
And things like this "ten minute theater".
|The boxes were part of the play.|
I went to bed around midnight Saturday (I was at work and then couldn't settle down) and when my alarm went off four hours later woke up not knowing what the hell was going on.
I was supposed to pick up my friend Matt, so I showed up at his house a little after 5. After pounding on his door and calling him for about 15 minutes (while hoping his neighbors didn't wake up and call the police), I gave up and drove the rest of the way to the race myself. (He apparently was sleeping on the couch like 5 feet from the door, and somehow still made it to the race on time!).
Then I was running a little later than I would have liked, but Kara picked up my bib for me so I still had time for two bathroom breaks before the race began at 7am. Rosaryville is a trail race that goes around a 10 mile-ish loop. The 50k had 71 finishers this year, which I think is the most I've seen so far. Being vets, we missed the pre-race briefing and just headed to the start about 6:59 and were off.
|Dry and happy|
There's a 50k, 25k, 10 mile, and 10k option, and the 50k begins first. This is pretty nice because it breaks up the loops. Having done the race 3 times now, I can safely say it always follows this pattern.
Loop 1 (miles 0-10): The first two miles are great, you can still find dry (not yet sweat soaked) spots on your shirt (if you really look), and running is wonderful! Sure, the humidity is through the roof but the temperature is still safely below 80. Then you start getting passed constantly by people doing the shorter races, which is annoying, but you're not bitter, because they won't get to feel as hardcore as you in the end.
Loop 2 (miles 10-20): The sun's coming out, it's starting to get really hot, the hills have mysteriously grown, and moments of that lovely "I'm running on a trail!" zen feeling are interspersed with growing suspicion of your own intelligence for signing up for an ultra marathon during the month of July.
Loop 3 (miles 20-29.5, the last bit is off the trails): Well, now the majority of the other runners are out of the way, and you are starting to get really pissed off thinking of those assholes already at home enjoying their air conditioning in dry clothes. The one advantage is that finally all the trail congestion is gone and you can enjoy not seeing another human for miles, the way trail running is supposed to be. Except now those damned mountain bikers are out and ringing their stupid bells and you have to jump into the grass until all 6 of the group passes and by the time that happens you have grown to enjoy just standing in the grass and don't particularly care to run again. Oh, and now it's hotter than hell and if someone blindfolded you and said you were in a sauna no one would question it.
This year continued to follow that pattern, but I was having a pretty good time. I had Kara to talk to and while it sounds insane, after last week the heat really didn't seem that bad to me. Plus one of the aid stations had ice. The very kind man volunteering was trying to help out and asked if we wanted to eat it, drink it, or put it in our packs. He seemed shell shocked when we each grabbed a huge handful and put it directly in our bra, and muttered "I didn't know they liked those things cold" as we walked away.
I really love Rosaryville because it's all all on trails in the woods, but the trails are not at all technical and easy to follow, so you get all the joy of trail racing without the hard parts. Plus, it's rolling hills which are just enough to keep it interesting but not enough to really be strenuous.
So we were trucking along on our third loop, complaining about the head and how dumb we were for doing a summer ultra. I thought it was all fun and games until I realized Kara was walking more and more and breathing so loud I could barely hear my own delirious thoughts. I suggested we stop and drink some water for a minute. She just stood there, so I thought maybe she needed some of my water, but when I asked why she wasn't drinking she just gasped that she couldn't catch her breath enough to drink. I took a good look at her and saw she was covered in goose bumps, and that's when I was like "SHIT JUST GOT REAL".
My own thoughts were still moving pretty slow, but I grasped that she needed to DNF, but I wasn't sure that was going to go over too well. Kara has a martial arts background, plus carries around heavy kids each day, so I didn't feel too confident about my ability to physically prevent her from running, but I did currently have the advantage of being able to breathe. I thought it over and decided my tactic would be "you must think of the children!".
I was pretty relieved when not long after she said "it would suck to DNF at mile 25" and I was able to point out that it would suck a lot more to end up in the hospital. Luckily, she resigned herself to the idea pretty quickly. Unluckily, we were about a mile and a half from the nearest aid station, and no one was around, so there was really no option but to walk until we got there. Kara always thinks of others, so she kept trying to convince me to just finish running the race and leave her to die in the woods.
Once we got to the aid station, they sat her down, covered her head in ice, and offered her a ride back. After making them promise not to let her keep running even if she said she felt better, I grabbed a saltine PB&J (possibly my new favorite trail running snack) and finished the race. I actually felt pretty good after the break, so I barely walked from then on, and the last few miles were some of my fastest (I even passed two women!).
The last mile is in direct sunlight, on asphalt, uphill, and just as I remembered, pure unadulterated hell. I forced myself to run the whole time to end the misery sooner. The last tenth of a mile or so is on grass, and when I saw the finish line clock I thought I was hallucinating. It said 6:13, which was three minutes faster than my time last year! I had pretty much given up any thoughts of a PR, so that was quite a pleasant surprise, and I was able to "sprint" to the finish.
There were still a few people remaining at the park pavillion and they were all really nice and cheered for me and personally congratulated me after I finished. Kara wasn't there so I immediately called her to make sure she wasn't in the ER, but she was doing better and on her way home.
I took a selfie for proof, hosed myself down, and went over to the cookout that the race director hosts by the finish line.
|Weather at the finish|
I really just needed to not be outside, so I got back in the car and drove home. I satisfied my burger craving at Ruby Tuesdays a few hours later, and also ate about half my weight in croutons, and the other half in frozen yogurt.
Fingers crossed that next week's ultra is significantly less eventful!