“Run when you can. Walk when you have to. Crawl when you must. Just never give up.”
My watch died somewhere just before 31 miles–after recording for 7:59:35. This meant we had just over 1 hr 15 min and two major climbs to reach the finish line.
I had one popped blister and was just biding my time until the other one burst. I had dirt all around my ankles and my shoes rubbed the skin raw pretty early on in the day. But I couldn’t waste my precious fucks on either of these.
You don’t get to run the Catoctin 50K pain free, you just don’t.
I tripped and stubbed my big toe so many times I was pretty certain the nail would be coming off with my running shoe– but hey, I never actually fell #ihaveawesomebalance.
My brain was foggy. I couldn’t think. I was moving purely out of some innate sense of “just keep moving”.
I looked and felt like something out of The Walking Dead.
The second half of the race was probably 30% running, 50% speed hiking, and 20% how the fuck and I going to keep moving up this steep hill (aka slow AF walking).
But wow, I did it. I freaking did it. I don’t know that I have the words to explain what that feels like.
Every step I took past the turnaround gave me more confidence that I would finish.
- I was out of the turnaround aid station and crossing the stream to head back up the mountain in 3 hr 48 min.
- I conquered the 1200′ climb in ~40 min.
- I left the last aid station with 2 hr 30 min to make it the remaining 6 miles.
- I crossed the finish line with plenty of time to spare!
Only a little bit of doubt when Nick was concerned we were moving too slowly on the outbound leg– but sometimes you gotta go slow to go fast.
The turnaround climb makes you question your very existence. I didn’t know how I was going to go 16-17 more miles (no idea what the actual distance was, but this race is definitely longer than a 50K).
But then I got some nice runnable trail, I got some fuel from the aid station, and Nick pointed out, that as long as we maintain 20 min/mi pace we’ll beat the cut off time #confidenceboost I’m a fast walker, I was able to relax a bit after that realization.
The last 6 miles were hard– like really hard. The downhills were steep, rocky, and unrunnable for me with tired legs. The uphills were steep and unrunnable for me. But we did have quite a few flat-ish areas that I was able to run!
The climb into the finish is long and steep. You can hear the finish area– it’s so close, yet so far. We hit the parking lot, and ran it in– crossing the finish line in 8:40:35 and claiming our Cat Cards!
After we finished Nick asked me if this was a “check in the box” or if I would do the Catoctin 50K again.
My answer at the time was, “Depends when you ask me.” Asking me now when I can’t even bend my legs to sit down, the answer is probably a “no”– wait until I forget the pain, and who knows!
I do know this though– the trail is my happy place. My body and mind we’re built for trail running.
There’s just something about it that requires you to dig deep into your entire being to find strength, grit, confidence, and determination.
It will challenge you in every mental and physical way. It will make you question yourself, force you to find your inner warrior, and prove to yourself that you can do more than you ever thought possible.
Ultra running hurts.
You’d be silly to think it won’t hurt.
But the better question is–
What do you do with the pain?
How do you use it to become your best self?
How do you use what you learned about your body’s limits and channel that inner warrior goddess in the future?
How do you use what you learned to inspire and encourage others?
Physical pain is so temporary in the grand scheme of things.
A week from now, I won’t remember what hurt– but I will remember that I kicked ass at a super hard 50K.
🤍 amanda maureen