|Paul and I at the start|
Second lap was like the tail end of the first, feeling really good, but the groin not particularly happy with me. By this time, with the exception of the 4 or 5 runners that we kept passing each other back and forth, I was running alone. The weather was perfect for running and the course was well marked. Somewhere near the end of lap two, the ball of my left foot was starting to get really tender and I could feel every twig and rock. Having two miles to go, I kept my head down a little more than usual to watch my footing, and decided to change over from my Salomon’s to my Hoka’s at the turnaround for the third lap. I finished lap two 16 minutes ahead of pace, but would give back 11 minutes of that, with changing shoes and eating a little more at the aid station than planned.
Third lap was almost a carbon copy of the second lap, feeling good but not pushing overly hard. I know I was only half way thru and was just looking to get thru this lap until Hayley, my pacer, would help to drag me thru my last lap. I would end up giving back those 5 minutes (ahead of pace) that I had worked at, but the Hoka’s were doing their job, and I was pretty happy to be 37.5 miles in, and dead on my pace. I would hit the aid station and Laura was there to welcome me. I was getting cold so I decided to change my shirts. I text’d Hayley and out from the parking lot, she came running ready to get me thru.
Hayley has run a few Ultras, and is one of my Saturday running partners (along with Todd W), but with conflicting schedules, the three of us haven’t run much lately, so it was nice to catch up and lose a few miles in conversation. That is not to say that she was going to have any part of us taking a leisurely walk. She was the perfect pacer, pushing me when needed, encouraging me when it was obvious that I was hurting and getting me thru the aid stations as quick as possible.
I really can’t go any further without giving the aid station volunteers their due. They were absolutely the best! They were so accommodating and friendly, I can’t say enough good things about them. That being said, I regretfully did not catch his name, but at the first aid station on my last lap there was one individual in a clown costume that really made his mark. I was inhaling a grilled cheese and tomato soup when he came over and started talking and asking questions. Hayley mentioned that this was my first ultra. The genuine enthusiasm, pride and support that he showed to me, a perfect stranger, really got me excited to finish. I wish I knew who he was to truly thank him. Besides finishing, it was truly one of the great memories of the day. Well back to lap four….. we left the aid station and continued on. Now don’t get me wrong 50 miles is a long way, but I really hit me how long I was out there when the sun started setting. Thankfully I was somewhere around 48 miles down, so it wasn't too bad.
Hayley and I started down the final fire road heading towards the school. I thankfully had grabbed my headlamp for the finish. Just as we were taking the last left to go, we saw two glowing eyes looking back at us. A few steps later and this good size doe ran off into the woods. We turned the corner and started across the field. Hayley ran ahead and called out for Laura so she knew I was coming. That last 100 yards or so was almost surreal. It was like time slowed down as I passed the last family and friends waiting for my fellow back of the pack finishers, and heard Hayley and Laura cheering for me. I crossed the line in 11 hours and 46 minutes and 34 seconds, stopping a few feet afterwards to put my hands on my knees and to revel in this overwhelming feeling of accomplishment. I had finished my first 50, I had gotten my finishers jacket, I had done it!
I am so appreciative of all the people that put the race together. The course was perfect and the volunteers were awesome. I also want to thank Laura and the people I know and love for all their support and for dealing with moving around their schedules and lives so I could get my runs in. I couldn't have done it without you, and I thought of each and every one of you at some point(s) during the day.