My goal was to cross the finish line– preferably in 7.5 hours.
But sometimes the running gods smile down on you and you manage incredible feats.
My longest run going into the Rosaryville Veteran’s Day 50K was 13.1 miles in early October at the Wineglass Half Marathon. Friends were shocked when I share that bit of information. It even sounds obsurd to my own ears. How is that possible??
I truly don’t know how it was possible. I don’t think it was any one particular thing. Each item below contributed to my successful completion of the event.
I visualized success. I saw myself crossing the finish line.
The week prior, the day prior, the morning of, crossing the start line, finishing lap 1, finishing lap 2, when I started struggling during lap 3. I had some fears over what could prevent me from finishing (a bad hypo, a problem with my hip) but other than acknowledging them as possibilities, I didn’t dwell on them. I wanted to be able to proudly wear the Rosaryville Veteran’s Day 50K hat.
I had a positive attitude. Our energy creates our outcomes.
Several times throughout the day I gushed to Nick about how beautiful of a day is was to be running and how lucky we were to be out on the trail. I smiled to myself, I enjoyed the brief conversations with runners we encountered on the trail, I ate yummy treats at the aid stations, I thanked the volunteers.
I had perfect running weather.
The weather was perfect. It was cold– 23 degrees at the start. But it was sunny. Beautiful glorious winter sun on the trail. The outfit I picked out was exactly what I needed. With the exception of the neck gaiter I removed after lap 1, I was very comfortable the rest of the event.
I had a plan and I executed to that plan.
I believe the human body can do incredible things. We just need to give it the opportunity to do so. You could look at a 50K as 31-ish miles, or you could look at a 50K as a days worth of exertion on the body. I may not have run a 50K, but I have experienced plenty of long days exerting my body– Seagull Century Bike Ride at 7+ hours, strenuous multi-day backpacking on the AT, and the Deer Creek-Thunder River-Tapeats Creek loop in the Grand Canyon just to name a few. My body is not a stranger to hard work.
With that said– my plan going into the Rosaryville Veteran’s Day 50K was all about energy conservation. I needed to push myself while conserving enough energy to spend up to 8 hours on the trail. How exactly did I do that?? Run-walk intervals! 10-2, 8-2, 6-2, and power walking the last half lap. I was surprisingly consistent– averaging 13:13 min/mi over the total duration.
So. You know I finished. But what about the details? The play-by-play of the 6+ hours on the trail?
I was a little nervous when we arrived at Rosaryville State Park. When we picked up our bibs and hats I inquired about the cutoff time. I had a positive attitude and was visualizing success, but I’m also practical– if something happened and I couldn’t finish, would I have a ride back to the start line (the answer was ‘yes’ lol). We milled about for a bit, sat in the warm car, and eventually went to the pavilion for the pre-race brief.
The race director asked individuals to raise their hand if this was their first ultra marathon. I was shocked to see more than 1/3 of the people in the pavilion raise their hands. It raised my confidence factor a notch. I wasn’t in this alone as a first timer.
The Rosaryville Veteran’s Day 50K is basically three laps around the perimeter trail at Rosaryville State Park plus ~0.75 miles on the road from the pavilion to the trail head and back to the pavilion at the end.
The time on the road gave everyone time to space out before entering the single track trail. We took a leisurely starting pace, but still found ourselves towards the front of the group. I didn’t feel like we were going too fast, so we just stuck with it. Once we hit the trail we had a few people pass us within the first few miles, but mostly we were alone. There was one woman that we were back-and-forth with the entire first lap. She was super positive and so happy to be out on the trail enjoying the day.
I originally thought a realistic goal was to finish lap 1 in 2 hours, lap 2 in 2.5 hours, and lap 3 would be whatever it took to cross the finish line. As I settled into a comfortable pace on lap 1, the walk breaks felt slow– it seemed like each interval was an eternity. But I kept telling myself, “This is the right thing to do. Lap 3 Amanda will thank you.” We finished lap 1, including aid stations and checking blood sugar, in under 2 hours.
As I came into the aid station one of the volunteers saw me checking my blood sugar, got very concerned, kept asking what I needed. I assured him I was fine (my numbers were exactly where I wanted them for the event) and just asked for some soda and cookies.
I stuck with my 10-2 intervals for the first half of lap 2, then decreased to 8-2. My energy levels felt good, my pace remained consistent, but I could start to feel some pain in my hips (boo). I don’t remember much about lap 2. Mostly I was focused on enjoying the experience. I, again, had my fill of cookies, gummy bears, and soda at the aid stations. And I remembered to grab my Nutella sandwich from my drop bag as we finished lap 2!
I made Nick take my photo– and of course I posted it while I was walking the start of lap 3. We entered lap 3 in 3 hours and 56 minutes. Wayyy ahead of where I expected to be.
I wasn’t feeling super tired, but my body was starting to hurt. My goal was to make it to the midway aid station, then allow myself to power walk the remainder of lap 3. 6-2 was tough, and much of my energy was focused on just getting to the aid station.
Somehow I didn’t slow down as much as I thought I did, and entered the last aid station within an hour of starting lap 3.
When we hit the aid station I realized that I had 3 hours to go just over 5 miles. Turns out I didn’t need much more than an hour.
I think my power walking caught Nick off guard a bit. My miles seemed fast to him– averaging ~15 min/mi. I did a bit of running when the downhills and flats made sense, but it was almost entirely power walking. I still hurt, but now I had a slightly different set of muscles to fatigue.
As we neared the end of lap 3 I started to run again. There were some nice downhills in that area, and we were SO close. I just wanted to finish. Nick wasn’t expecting me to start running–
N: “What are you doing??”
A: “Don’t worry about it.”
N: “Uhh. Sure!”
We hit the road and had ~0.75 miles remaining. I ran until a small hill, walked the hill, then ran it in. On this last stretch we had some awesome strong women pass and I really enjoyed cheering them on.
For the biggest race of my running life, the finish line was very uneventful. A phtographer and a few volunteers cheering us in.
But that’s ok.
This event wasn’t about glory. I didn’t want a huge crowd. Heck, I hardly told anyone I was running a 50K.
Crossing the finish line of the Rosaryville Veteran’s Day 50K was all about internal satisfaction and proving to myself that type 1 diabetes does not limit me.
It feels surreal. In my head I am still sometimes that girl who wanted to cry at the thought of the timed mile in gym class– not the girl who can complete an untrained for 50K.
Running is 90% mental. Believe you can, and you can.