Monday, July 28, 2014

Grand Mesa 50 (55) Miler!

*This race report is rated R for inappropriate language and partial nudity

After my spontaneous 50 mile attempt back in June, that unfortunately ended at 43 miles due to medical complications (because I’m dumb and didn’t eat or drink enough) I was determined to complete a 50 before the summer ended. I literally signed up for Grand Mesa two days after that race. People were like, “you should rest” and “it starts at 10,500 feet you probably aren’t ready for that” and “it’s a really hard course with technical trails.” So naturally I ignored all of their warnings and signed up anyway. I mean, my summer basically consists of working and then running mountains in my free time, so I wasn’t concerned about the mileage or the altitude. Honestly, I was more worried about my shitty rolling turd (aka the green minivan) surviving the 7 hour trip to Cedaredge, Colorado.

Thankfully I got to the race with no car complications, checked in, went to the pre-race briefing and dinner, and then set up camp. I swear I sleep better in a tent than I do in an actual bed. I don’t know if it’s the fresh air or the sounds of nature or the threat of being attacked and killed (that’s what my mom always tells me will happen) but camping alone is spectacular.

So I woke up for the race at 4am and I was like, alright I’m feeling good! And then I was like, well I haven’t started running yet so maybe it’s too soon to make that call. But when the race started at 5am and my legs felt fresh I knew it was gonna be a great day for running. I cruised along the first 13 miles, talked to some awesome people, and met the selfie guy (who I actually didn’t talk to at all). He would literally stop running and take selfies, it was fantastic. Like don’t worry about the race, man, I just hope your pictures turn out nicely.

Anyway, after the first 13 miles there’s this 3.5 mile section that sucks balls. I hated it. There wasn’t really a trail, just rocks and branches and bushes. Plus this part of the course was marked horribly. I was basically just wandering around in the woods trying to find the pink flags that marked the course while getting attacked by a million mosquitoes (that’s not an exaggeration, there were a million of them). I ran off course two times in this section which was a little frustrating, but it didn’t add too much time and it was still early in the day so I felt great.

The next 15 miles were fantastic; the mesa was amazing, running felt incredible, and the rocks and dirt looked beautiful (possibly had a lot of endorphins at this point). Anyway, I was loving life and extremely happy. This happiness continued through the next aid station, through my third time running off course, and until about 7 hours into the race. I had just run off course for the fourth time and was hitting a low point. Pretty sure the only thing I thought from hours 7 to 8 was “I fucking hate this mesa” which was definitely a change from my earlier “I love this mesa!!!!” attitude. I tried to pull myself out of the low point by thinking of inspirational quotes but all I could think of was “may the force be with you” and that didn’t really help much.

I finally ran off course for the fifth time (adding a total of about 3 miles to the 52 mile course) and I was PISSED. I came up with an analogy for how the course was marked:

So some guy goes to the bathroom and takes a huge shit. He flushes the toilet and half of the poop goes down but the rest resurfaces, so there’s still kind of a lot of poop in the toilet. But the guy’s like, “ehhh, good enough.” And that’s how this course was marked.

So I was angry, upset, and drained. Basically on the verge of tears (like I never cry but there’s something about running for so long that really breaks you down). And let me tell you, if I wasn’t so pissed I would have cried. Thankfully I was still feeling good physically (hurray for properly training for an ultra!) and I was only breaking mentally. Plus I was so tired of eating Apple Cinnamon Gels. I’m pretty sure Apple Cinnamon Gels are made by the devil. Actually, I’m positive they are (to be fair, at the start of the race I did like them). But when I made it to an aid station at about 9:20 and only had 12 miles left my attitude changed completely.

I pooped at one point during the final climb and noticed this random old man about 200 feet away from me mid-poop (who was definitely not associated with the race). So when I ran by him I was like “hey, sorry for pooping right in front you.” And he was like, “you gotta do what you gotta do…” which is apparently pooping in front of strange (homeless?) old men. So I got to the final aid station and I was incredibly happy. Only 3.5 miles to go and I could hike the whole way back and still break 13 hours (because at this point my legs were pretty sore). So I hiked and ran a little and got attacked by more mosquitoes and then I crossed the finish line in 12 hours and 51 minutes. Fourth place female in the 50 miler! And as soon as I crossed the finish line this guy was like “hey, you want some Gels?” And that was probably the funniest thing that anyone said to me all day. So I was like, “you know, that’s really all I want right now.” And this conversation might not make sense to people who don’t run ultras but basically when you finish a race you want some real fucking food and Gels suck. A lot.

There were a lot of ups and down during my race. For a few hours I loved running more than anything and for a few hours I hated running so much and probably would have squirted Apple Cinnamon Gel on you if you annoyed me. But when I finished the race the bad parts didn’t seem so bad. That’s always what happens. And I’m guessing that’s what happens to most ultra runners because we always come back for more. When I’m running in the mountains I’m in a state of pure and natural happiness (even if it is one of those moments when I’m not actually happy).

The ultra running community is incredible. It’s a place where strangers with one common interest gather and leave as friends. It’s a place where 30 and 40 year olds will hang out with you after a race, let you use their shower, and take you to dinner. (Although when they found out I was 18 I got a lot of, “you’re ONLY EIGHTEEN??!?!” comments). It’s a place where everyone is included and everyone simply loves to run.

After the race, someone asked me why I run. Is it weird that I’ve never been asked that before? Or I’ve never been asked that in a serious manner, where someone is genuinely curious why an 18 year old wants to run so much. I didn’t really know how to answer. I do now.

I love that I can push myself to do something so many people can’t even imagine doing. I love that I can block out pain and push forward because that’s just what you have to do. I love being outside in the fresh air and mountains. I love the ultra running community. I love being in shape. I love that I can literally run 50 miles. Freedom. Mountains. Endorphins. Adventure. Determination. I just love to run.