I signed up for Angel Fire 50k last Sunday, a week before the race. I had done three 50k's at that point and was basically doing marathons on my long runs alone. So Friday night before the race I decided I would run the 50 miler instead (I mean, it was only 19 miles longer I could totally handle that....). And with the encouragement of Toph White (previous Angel Fire 100 mile winner) and Steve Nelson (father of Luke Nelson, a crazy fast ultra runner who is sponsored by Patagonia and just won Bighorn 100) I was convinced I could do the 50.
We got to stay at the fire station because Toph has ins with the firefighters. (I got to sleep in a bed before the race!) The next morning my contacts went in super easily on the first try, and I was like, if that doesn't mean I'm gonna have I good day I don't know what does. So my perfectly fitting contacts and I headed to the race. The city of Angel Fire is elevated at 8,600 feet (Glen Allen, Virginia is at 207 feet.... So it's a litttttle different). The highest point of this race is only 10,700 feet though, and I've been to 14,000 feet so I thought I could handle the elevation, which I could for a while. I didn't even notice it. The 50 mile course consists of a 6.5 mile loop, with minimal elevation gain/loss and then a 5 mile climb up the mountain, a 4.5 mile descent to the other side, and then you get to a turn around aid station and climb the 4.5 miles and descend the 5 miles back to the starting area.... Where you then repeat that whole thing.
The race started at 5am and I was not feeling good. I was like, shit shit I still have 49.8 miles to go I need to feel good! But then I was like, I still have 49.7 miles to go (I had run .1 of a mile by this point), I definitely don't need to start freaking out yet. So as the 6.5 mile loop went on, with my headlamp lighting the way through the trails, I started to feel alright. I made friends with a lot of old men during this race (pretend that doesn't sound creepy). Jim was the first. We ran together for about an hour and he told me all of his race stories (it's weird that I have race stories to share now too, although not nearly as many since he's been doing ultras for 16 years and I've been doing them for 5 months). He told me that my race was gonna go really well, "I can tell this is gonna be a really good race for you, you're talking fine and aren't breathing hard at all!" And I was like, "we've only been running for 45 minutes I better not be breathing hard yet!" So we finished the loop together and got to the first manned aid station, where I ate some fruit and handed my headlamp and clothing to the Nelson's (LITERALLY THE GREATEST CREW OF ALL TIME I LOVE THEM AND THE PINEAPPLE THEY BROUGHT ME) and took off up the mountain.
This is where I talked to Peter. Peter is the nicest most humble racer I've ever met. We talked for about an hour and I learned that he was doing the 100 miler, one of only two people to finish it (75% drop out rate... It's a TOUGH course.) Then we got to the dreaded climb. It's one mile basically straight up a rocky road. Hell. Two steps forward one step back type of deal. People were sliding and falling, it was so hard. (Coming down was pretty freaky too.)
The next couple miles flew by as I ran down the mountain and got to the turn around aid station: Larry's infamous truck. I took off my pack, Steve filled it up, and some lady was like, "your back looks awful!" I mean, it wasn't feeling good but I'm used to ignoring pain. My backpack had been rubbing against my back (I was just wearing a sports bra) and despite the body glide, my back had huge bloody and oozing abrasions. She put a lot of Vaseline on my back, I sprayed myself with sunscreen, ate some fruit, and thanked everyone for their help before heading back up the mountain.
This climb was brutal, but I talked to Dan here, who has completed Leadville 100 seven times and was super cool. I made it up and then back down the mountain to the 25 mile/halfway aid station in under six hours, so I had plenty of time to make the 14 hour cut off time. Once again, I'd like to thank the Nelson's and Philmont for taking care of me at the aid stations. I would get there and immediately had water and gels in my hand, someone filling up my backpack with water, and people rubbing Vaseline on my back (that must have sucked for them). First class service.
I started the 6.5 mile loop, which hurt. I passed Spencer, who was the one who told me about this race but had twisted his ankle a few miles back. He finished and did great despite his ankle. So I got to the aid station, 50k completed, and all I had left was the 18.5 mile mountain loop. I did the first part with Phoebe who told me that this race is the hardest race she's ever done, even harder than Leadville 100. She also said I was crazy for making this my first 50 miler and was shocked that I was doing this at 18 years old.
I made it up the mountain but started feeling pretty bad on the way down. I made myself drink a lot of water and forced down GU. When I finally got to the turn around aid station I learned that only three females, including myself, were left in the 50 miler. I was feeling drained but excited to only have 9 miles left. As I climbed up the mountain I felt worse and worse, but I knew I would be done soon and had to fight to make the cut off time. After 43 miles I was so dizzy and light headed that I laid down on the side of a dirt road. I gave myself 2 minutes to pull it together and then start climbing again. But when I walked I got light headed again so I would lie down. This happened a couple times, and then a car drove by and asked if I needed help. They drove me to the ambulance at the top of the mountain, where some extremely nice medics helped me. Turns out I had low blood sugar and electrolytes, low blood pressure (which dropped over 20 more points when I stood up) and I was dehydrated.
So after 43 miles and 11 and a half hours of running I was medically disqualified from my 50 mile race. It was a great day on a beautiful course spent with fantastic people and I ran longer than I've ever run. Of course I wish I could have finished, I was so so close. Just 7 miles! But what happens happens and I'll be more prepared for my next one. Hanging out with friends at the end of the race and sleeping in a chair at the aid station while waiting for the 100k and 100 mile racers to finish was also really fun. Overall a very enjoyable weekend (with minimal pooping and only running off course three times).