Dirty German 50k Race Recap

Dirty German 50k Race Recap

This past Sunday, May 15th, I finished my first ever ultramarathon.  I had signed up for the Dirty German 50k way back in the beginning of January because I knew I wanted to make the transition to ultrarunning.  I was itching for a longer race since I was officially fully recovered from my marathon debut back in November and I needed something to train for.  I had completed another Uberendurance race a few years back (the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut 1/2 Marathon) so I knew how well organized their races were.  I chose the Dirty German 50k because it was a trail ultra and I knew I wouldn’t want to do an ultra on the road.  It was also described to be “easy by trail running standards”.  In the description it said it would be a great race for 1st time ultrarunners.  This race was basically screaming at me to sign up.  So there I was on my computer on January 2nd signing up for this 50k.

received_10207427398541051Fast forward a few months and there I was on a cool May morning in Pennypack Park standing on the starting line surrounded by other racers.  I was wearing my Altra Lonepeaks, a neon SparklySoul, and my UltimateDirection Ultra Vesta pack.  I was accompanied by my boyfriend and training partner, Josh, who also had committed to running his first ultra on that cool May morning with me.  We had done 85% of all our long runs for the past few months together and we both had the same race goals so we decided to race it together.  Our goal was to run under 6 hours and as close to 5 hours as possible.  His speed and confidence running hills and trails mixed with my everlasting endurance and experience with longer distances made us a perfect team to race this ultra together.  So there we were together standing amongst nearly 200 other racers with an accordion playing German music before we were set off to run 31 miles.

I remember the first half mile to be rather crowded due to some congestion on the trail but I never felt like I was boxed in or stuck behind anyone.  There was always a way around runners if I needed to get around.  My anxiety about the start of the race was soon diminished as I settled in behind Josh and powered through some of the hills at the beginning of the race to get around people.

For the first 4-5 miles we were running with a few other racers as we settled into a pace that we knew we could sustain for the entire race.  We had set out to average about 10 minute pace but my watch kept recording splits in the 9 minute range.  I felt comfortable though and Josh didn’t feel like he was overexerting either so we kept the pace.

I passed a few women while hopping from stone to stone across the stream which allowed me to run right beside Josh now.  At some point in the race we also came across a dog owner trying to re-capture her golden retriever puppy who was just too excited to see all the runners.  Josh and a few other runners stopped to helped her but I (selfishly?) kept running.

There were also some sections of the course that were on pavement due to construction on one of the bridges we were supposed to originally cross.  Josh and I were pretty much alone at this point and we were both in very high spirits.  I was happy we were doing this race together and at this point it just felt like any normal Sunday long run we go on together.

Eventually a woman from NYC named Mary (shoutout to Mary!) who had raced this course before caught up to us.  She gave us a few pointers and tips about ultrarunning and Josh told her all about his race up at Hyner a few weeks ago.  I just listened in on the conversation and laughed at her clever race tips.  It distracted me for at least one mile and we got to meet a very nice person (hope you did well in your race, Mary!  It was nice meeting you!)

The miles were passing by quickly and I was barely paying attention to the mile splits we were running.  We stopped at an aide station I recognized that was near where we had started the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut 1/2 marathon.  I picked up an orange Gatorade and Josh asked for some ibuprofen which they graciously gave to him.  We continued on our way.  I ate some of my tortilla with peanut butter and raisins in it and Josh ate his Stingers.  Every so often we would pop a Shotblok in our mouth to replenish some electrolytes.  We were feeling good.

At every aide station after that we both would stop and grab a cup of Gatorade to maintain our electrolyte levels and to change it up from the water we were drinking from our packs (Josh has a Gregory which he loves and I have an UltimateDirection with I love).  Soon were heading back towards the finish line which would mark 25k complete.

As we were running up a hill, we heard a cowbell.  Josh made some snide comment about the cowbell and I predicted that it was probably my parents.  Surprise!  There were my parents standing at the top of the hill.  Josh surged up the hill and left me to climb up it myself (disclaimer: he’s a very strong hill climber so I’m used to it).  The next 2 or so miles we didn’t run together but I could still see him ahead of me.  I knew I would eventually catch him once the rolling hills stopped.  Some 25k racers who had started 30 minutes behind us began to pass me  – they were going sooo fast!  Regardless, before the completion of our 1st loop, I had caught back up to Josh and we were running side by side again.

Before race day, Josh had predicted that we would run a 5:15.  Through simple math, this would require our 25k split to be about 2:37.  We came through the 25k split in 2:23.  After some quick math we decided a sub-5 finish was completely attainable even if we ended up slowing down (which we knew was going to be inevitable).  Josh made us a new goal which would be to finish in under 5 hours.

received_10207427468102790So here were are back out on the course for the 2nd loop.  At this point we were pretty much alone except for a racer about 100m in front of us and whomever was sneaking up behind us.  We started passing 25k runners and 50k runners in the opposite direction as they were still working on their 1st loop.  A few 50 milers also passed us in the opposite direction, some of which were going much faster than we were.  I was amazed by how fast they were going for a 50 mile race!

We just kept running, kept drinking, kept eating, kept moving forward side by side.  At aide stations we took no more than 15 seconds to grab what we needed and continue to move closer to the finish line.  We had a deadline now.  One of the other racers called us a “pacing powerhouse” because we were running such a consistent pace.  This gave us the confidence we needed to continue moving forward at the pace we were holding.  We don’t know your name but we appreciate your compliment A LOT.

Along one of the paved sections I was feeling sluggish but just happened to look down at one of my mile splits and see 8:17.  At this point we were already 25 miles in to the race  – why did I just run an 8:17 mile in a 50k?  That was never a split I intended on running and I definitely didn’t feel like I was running that fast.  I decided to just go with the flow and keep running.

We also started running with a woman who was in the 50 mile race who was keeping an impressive pace (I think she was actually running faster than we were at some points).  She was extremely friendly and it once again distracted me from any soreness or fatigue I was feeling.  I don’t know your name but I hope you also did well in your race!

received_10207427470022838Once we were back on trails our legs didn’t hurt as bad from the pounding on the road.  By this point 95% of the paved part of the course was done.  We just had to finish the last 4-5 miles of trail and we would be home free.  We took one last cup of Gatorade at the aid station, saw one of our Instagram followers, saw my parents, and started running up another hill.  I knew at this point that we would be under 5 hours if we just kept pushing.  We did end up powerhiking some of the last few hills and we bombed the downhills as much as we could (well, at least it felt like we were bombing the downhills).  I just kept repeating over and over again that we were so close to being done.  Josh probably thought I’d never shut up about being close to the end.  So. Close.

received_10207427468822808The last few miles are a series of rolling hills but we just kept pushing.  We exited the woods with a little less than 4 minutes to get to the finish line before the clock struck 5 hours.  I knew we had it.  I knew we would run under 5 hours.  We ran towards the finishing stretch, made the last turn into the grassy field and made our way towards the finish line.  We crossed the finish line in 4:58:04.  My Garmin Forerunner 230 recorded we averaged about 9:40 pace – not too shabby!!  My legs hurt but I was happy.  We had totally crushed our original goal of being under 6 hours and Josh’s prediction of us running 5:15.  We had ran our sub-5 like the new goal we had agreed upon mid-race and we had finished our first ever ultra.

At the finish line two patient gentlemen ripped off our bib tags.  The one gentlemen also asked me my age and I was perplexed by this question.  I answered with a fatigued “22” and before I could process what was going on he handed me a box and congratulated me on being the 3rd female in the 20-29 age group.  Well, this was a shock!  Josh and I were handed a hat and a medal that also functioned as a bottle opener (pretty awesome medal if you ask me!).

We staggered further through the finishing chute, exchanged a sweaty hug, and reflected briefly on actually completing an ultra.  Shortly after, my parents found us and congratulated us on a job well done.  At this point all I wanted to do was sit down.  We staggered over to a bench and I slowly lowered myself onto the bench.  We took a post-race picture to further document our accomplishment.

received_10207427421301620I soon started shivering because the air was still a bit cool.  I changed into a long sleeve shirt and we all agreed to start walking back to the cars.  This is where the fatigue and soreness finally hit me.  I could barely pick me feet more than 1 inch off the ground and I had a half mile walk back to the car…uphill.  It probably took me close to 20 minutes to walk that half mile.  Runners who were starting their 3rd lap of the 50 miler probably thought I was being overdramatic or something.  I’m sure I looked ridiculous and because I was staggering I probably even looked like I was somewhat drunk.

Later that night Josh and I indulged in some wine (me) and beer (Josh) and pizza – the perfect way to recover from an ultra!  We reflected on the race and all the wonderful people we met along the way.  Surprisingly neither of us ever felt like we “hit the wall” during the race.  I think this is because we ran together the whole time which allowed ourselves to be distracted by any fatigue or pain we may have had been feeling.  Unlike my marathon last November when I still wore Asics, my feet never truly hurt and my toes never started to bleed all thanks to my Altra LonePeaks and their wide toe-box feature. (I am completely obsessed with Altras!)  Throughout the race, Josh and I also paid close attention to how much and how frequently we were eating and drinking.  I believe that our training was perfect for this race which gave us a great advantage with confidence out of the hilly and trail sections.

Just as this race was described, it’s a great 50k to start with for the 1st time ultrarunner.  The course was extremely well marked and not very technical.  Because of these qualities, I would recommend this race to anybody who is just entering the ultra world.  Uberendurnace races are always very well-organized and they always have great prizes, food, and music (i.e. the accordion player!)

We are both extremely happy and pleased with our ultra debut.  I am beyond excited that I got to accomplish one of my goals for this year.  I’m lucky enough to have done it with such an amazing guy – without him I definitely wouldn’t have done as well as I did.  Cheers to many more ultras in my future!  I can’t wait to do another one!

The Taper

The Taper

The wait is on.

Counting down the days.

Anxiously thinking, planning, and thinking again.

Barely running – a 3 mile run here, a 4 mile run there.

Nothing too challenging.

No watch to calculate pace.

Checking the weather forecast hourly.

Reviewing race information.

Stalking previous race results.

Talking strategy.

Making a plan.

Carbo-loading.

Checking and re-checking gear.

Waking up thinking about the race.

Falling asleep thinking about the race.

It takes over you like the humidity on a hot summer run.

Anxiety, excitement, nerves, and anticipation.

It’s the taper.

It’s the days leading up to race day that get your heart beating fast,

your mind swerving in every direction,

and your body tense with the thought of finally starting the race you’ve trained for for the past 5 months.

It’s almost race day.

Ultra Training Week 2

Ultra Training Week 2

I’m feeling overdue for a blog post so I figured it would be appropriate to blog about this past week of training.  Life has been hectic.  Life has been great.  Life has been overwhelming and crazy.  But most of all, life has been life.  Ups, downs, highs, lows, good days, bad days, stress, and love.  Some bad days turned into good days. Some days even seemed to merge together with unknown separation.

The only thing that has seemed to stay consistent is the training plan I made myself two weeks ago.  This plan has guided me through the last fourteen days. I haven’t been stressed about deciding how far to run because this plan pinpoints what I should be running.  Despite having a training calendar that will guide me through the next two months, I’ve become aware that I also need to be flexible with my training plan. Even if the plan says 5 miles but I only run 4, I don’t freak out or stress about it.  There are some things in life you can’t control.  The plan is not set in stone – it’s there as a tool for me to stay focused on the goal.

Monday I ran an easy 3 mile recovery run after completing my 10 mile long run the day before.  I also decided to bike 4 miles because it was a warm(er) day out and I wanted to spend as much time as possible outside before going to work.

Tuesday was my rest day.  It was cold and rainy outside so this was perfect timing for a day to recover.

Wednesday I went to my internship site an hour early to lift.  I lack upper body strength and since I’m an intern at a fitness facility, I’m trying to use the resources I have to become a better runner.  I also ran 5 miles.  I ran two miles with my dog.  She can run up to 8 miles without any issues, BUT it was raining during this run and she was miserable.  So I opted to turn around after running one mile to return her to our warm and dry house.  I completed the remaining 3 miles solo.  The rain stopped which was exciting!

Thursday is the night I attend group runs at my dad’s local bike/running store. One of my best friends was home from Florida and I was able to convince him to join the group run even though he hasn’t ran in over a month.  This group run was also an Altra demo day with one of the tech reps from Altra.  I LOVE Altras so this was a very exciting group run for me. She brought a variety of Altra shoes for us to take out and test on our run.  I decided to try out the Altra Ones. These are their “racing flats”.  At first I couldn’t decide if I liked them, but after completing the run I knew that they would be a great racing shoe.  I ran three easy miles with my best friend (I missed running and chatting with him!) and then went out for another 1.2 miles by myself.  I picked up the pace and ran a sub-8 for my last mile – this is when I realized I liked the Altra Ones!  They’re for fast feet!

On Friday I ran 5.7 easy miles with my dog.  It wasn’t raining so she had a great time running with me.

On Saturday I ran three easy miles with my dad and my dog.  I was scheduled to run four but I knew that Sunday’s run would be extra long so I took an easy day to prepare my body for Sunday.

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Altra LonePeaks remind me that I have #zerolimits

Which leads us to Sunday, today, and my longest run of 2016.  My dad, mom, and I travelled to a state forest that’s about an hour’s drive away.  My mom accompanied us riding a Rocky Mountain fat bike.  My dad picked the 19 mile loop as he is preparing for his 50k in April.  We averaged 10:26 pace which included walking to eat, refuel, and get some video/photo footage of our run. The soft terrain of the pine barrens was welcoming to my feet and legs.  And of course I wore my Altra LonePeaks (my favorite trail shoe) and I didn’t get a single blister.  Although I only had 10-12 miles on my training plan, I couldn’t resist the trails on such a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  Trail running is my favorite because you focus all your energy on the trail ahead of you.  You forget your worries, stressors, and emotions.  You just get out on the trail and run.  That’s my favorite.

Weekly total:  39.9 miles.

Here I sit now typing up this blog post with a glass of water to my right.  My legs are a tad bit stiff and I know that I will be sleeping with my Zensah compression socks on tonight.  Because of today’s long run and another great week of training, I feel happy and stress free.  Most of all, I feel alive.

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Stride for stride with my dad