Go ahead ask me why I’d run 50* miles, I promise you I won’t get offended this time. I mean, hardly anyone would know that I had if it wasn’t for my social network.
I sleepily signed up for the North Face Endurance Challenge (at Bear Mountain which is the toughest course) last year while visiting my family in the Virgin Islands. At that time, I already had the base that I wanted so I anticipated a very effective regiment of training in the months ahead. I was determined. I had just ran the Central Park 60k, did my first ultra that year on snow and ice (and -2 degrees) and the 2nd 50K had been at Bear so if I trained well, I could do it (I told myself).
What I didn’t realize was how my job was going to affect my recovery, and although I don’t want to point fingers, I am. I spent the past months hardly able to recover from each important race and barely making each checkpoint planned trail run
. You can never predict these things of course. However, running 50 miles
helped me with the decisions that occurred shortly after to make myself a happier person.
The night prior to the North Face Endurance Challenge, Luis picked up Stalina and I in the meatpacking district and drove to the FairBridge Inn & Suites at West Point where we overnighted. We met with Jun and Maria, who were also signed up for the 50
-miler, and had dinner at an Italian restaurant called Angelina’s Pizza
(incredible place by the way). I inhaled about half the pizza that Luis and I shared and most of us had really strong stouts.
We weren’t sure how the stout would affect us but when we got back to the hotel, we were knocked out until our alarms went off at 3:30am. We got ready and headed to where the buses would take us to the start from Anthony Wayne.
I felt bad that Stalina had to come with us so early but she said she would be fine seated in the heated tent until it was her time to run the 50k. I kept nagging at her to do the 50 miles but she was quite content doing the 50k. I don’t blame her, especially after what occurred with my experience.
Apparently I had temporary amnesia from running last year’s 50k. I forgot the impact on my body until I started at 5am with wave 1 to embark on the 50 mile version of the North Face Endurance Challenge. I figured I would stay within 4-5 mph based on how I felt and I should hit my goal. So, I started off strong ensuring that I kept myself around 13 min pace. Wow, I thought, I was really doing this.
“Let’s take this aid station to aid station,” I reminded myself.
The first few miles
were terrific. I allowed myself to follow the runners infront of me because we all had headlamps and I trusted that they were following the correct mile
markers. However, we would only need to have the lamps for half hour. The sun rising is my favourite part of the day so I allowed myself to enjoy the moment as I let my body fall ever so slightly forward as I take the downhills and adjusted myself upright as I approach the hills. The sun rose so quickly that a fellow runner had to remind me that my lamp was still on. I turned it off and nearing the first aid station I tried to read what my body was telling me. I had taken Generation UCan
with my coffee earlier and had a slice of orange. I figured the pizza I had the night before would also be burnt to fuel me for some parts of the beginning. I had prepped my refillable UCan in my bottles and placed them in my camelbak for when I needed them. So I looked at my Garmin to keep time. I’d take another serving within two hours to stay on track.
I was attacking those rolling hills like nothing, after all, I had the base. Memories of me climbing the stair master left me confident as I hiked up the hills and jogged the flats. I shouldn’t feel anything too challenging until mile
38 I predicted. I paid attention to what I was wearing also because I had packed my Brooks Cascadia
just in case my Hoka One One Stinson
failed. While everything was well and good with my shoes I was wrong about predicting that I would occur prior to mile
I felt a tiny pain my my knee around half marathon distance. Not only that, my fingers were swelling so much and I didn’t know why. I think my friend Debbie got into my head at the relay that we had done together since her hands swelled. Was there something going around?
“Ok, Jerlyn don’t freak out.”
I had felt the pain prior. A few weeks before I had used the Ragnar Relay ultra to cover 38 miles. While running one of the legs I felt a tiny pain. Back then, I had strapped my knee with KT Tapes so I began to regret not doing so even if I wore compressions everywhere (compression pants, compression calf sleeves). I decided to take it to the next aid station and see if I would be ok. We had to loop that station twice so I decided to feel it out again. When I got back, it was around mile 25 and I was determined to have it looked at by a medic. We iced it abit.
I tweeted out a pic saying “Temporary setback.” To keep people updated of what occurred but it was exaggerated.
I looked at my Garmin and realized I had sat around too long so I tried to feel it out by taking it to another aid station. A runner next to me sat and gave me doubts because he decided to DNF. He had runner’s knee a few months back and he wasn’t going to finish the race. He waited for transportation. My mind quickly reflected to, “DNF is not an option.” This is a mantra that I’ve heard Kat expressed before however I quickly altered it to DNF only cautiously. I pushed the ziplock of ice back under my compression capris and scrambled off.
When I got to aid station, it was much too far to quit. I came along to a familiar face.
He must have realized that I was in pain and I requested ice.
“This is my friend, I’m helping her.” He said to the other volunteers and he helped me get ice from his wife, Christine. He quickly told me why my hand had been swelling—too much salt intake. Surprise! As someone who doesn’t even cook with salt taking it in only when I race, or when I eat food outside, my body seems to go haywire.
This was the first time that I regretted not ever taking pain medication at a race. I inquired whether there was any. The medics said no, of course. No one wants a lawsuit if they administered pain meds without prior medical history. I think this was a good sign also because this race was going to be completed with sheer determination.
“I have enough time to hike this!” I proclaimed to Kenneth. He agreed that there was sufficient time.
I wandered off a few minutes later although my heart was set on stopping. I had to finish.
I continued on until another runner came upon me. He was college-aged and also injured. We jerlynthomasted a bit and decided to hike and power walk the rest. However, I realized that he started leaving me when we went downhill and my knee shot in pain.
“Omg I should probably quit right now,” I thought however, since I had already passed the cut off on course. I didn’t understand why I should even bother quitting since I had gone too far. I was on my own.
I was determined. I texted Stalina and Luis because I knew they had already finished. They would wait for me of course however, I was abit bummed that I probably changed the plans that we had set initially.
I took each excruciating step slowly and cautiously. I struggled until I came to the final aid station. I was delirious. I started begging to die. I didn’t know why I was doing it.
Seriously… When will I ever run after this race? Yes, leave it to me to think about the next time that I’m going to race when I haven’t even finished the current race in progress.
The people at the station saw my singlet and called out my running team’s name.
Boy, was I thankful to be part of a popular team.
They made me feel like I could run the final 2.8 miles, and of course I did.
I don’t know where the jog came from but I was doing it. My watch died and I was bringing it home.
I don’t know how people run through pain. That day, I learned how. I was passing people along the way, including a woman who did this race without carrying any supplies at all (I know right?!)
The medal was earned in blood, sweat and tears. Ok… I didn’t bleed. However, I cried. Yes, I cried. I never deserved a medal so badly. I finished with hardly 3 minutes to spare from cut off—13:57:52.
Overall I was the 294th out of 314 people who completed, the 35th female out of 41 (can you believe so few women run this?), and 8th in my age group (yup, out of 8, not surprised).
It’s certainly how bad you want it. This is where I said all I care about was finishing.
Seeing Stalina in the end, I hugged her and cried. We earned the medals.
She said she actually expected a more exaggerated reaction.
However, I need a do-over. At the time, I thought I’d never do that again but that wore off.
Yes, I’ll run another 50 miler.
*Eveytime I mentioned running the 50 miles since the race, everyone assumes that I said 15 miles. “No, 50 as in five zero.” If you’re into the metric system: 80.5 kilometers.
Why would I run 50 miles? Why would you not?