Just sitting down to write this post brings back a flood of emotions. I have dreamed about completing the Fall 50 for over 5 years, but honestly never thought I was capable of such a huge race. In 2015 I ran the relay with an amazing group of friends one of which mentioned half way through the race she wanted to run the whole thing in 2016. Now to put this in perspective this Katie is also the friend that almost 10 years ago said “let’s run a marathon”. I thought she was insane, but low and behold we did it and the rest is history. When she suggested running the Fall 50 I blew it off and figured it was a cool idea, but not feasible. At the time I had run 2 ultras and they were tough…50 miles – not so much! Well Katie is a force of nature and I am so grateful that she is. We both committed to training for the Fall 50 in 2016.
Recognizing that this was way out of my comfort zone I connected with Nora Bird of Team Bird Training to help set up a customized plan to prepare for 50 miles. Nora is great, she has run the Fall 50 numerous time which gives her a unique advantage to know exactly what is needed for this type of endeavor. We began focusing my training efforts 5 months out from the race. Lots of back to back runs and races made for a busy, fun summer. The road to Door County was however not a smooth one. At the Ice Age 50k in May I took a nasty spill and injured my SI joint. This reared its ugly head numerous times throughout the summer and looked to end my plans of running the Fall 50. I am lucky to have great people in my corner and with the help of a former student who is a PT in training I was able to get back on track. The set backs were annoying, but valuable to teach me patience (not something I have a ton of). Through it all Nora kept me on track and focused. I have never worked with a coach and wasn’t sure I needed one when we began working together, looking back I see that her advice, support, guidance, and friendship was priceless. I could not have done this without her.
As the race approached my nerves were getting the best of me. I actually did not sign up for the race until 2 weeks before the event. Part of me kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and it to be apparent that I couldn’t do it, that I really wasn’t capable. I finally pulled the trigger and registered. That was a unique feeling…I was scared and felt sick not excited like I usually do. This race was different than all the others it was my unicorn, my big goal, my dream race. The weeks flew by and before I knew it Katie and I were making plans to go grab our packets on Friday after work. We called it an early night and headed our separate ways to meet back up in the morning.
My pre-race ritual has been honed over the last few months. I lay out my clothes, pack my HydraQuiver vest, fill my bottles, and eat pizza before getting to bed early. My alarm went off early and I was up with a pit in my stomach. I could not believe that it was time to go. All the doubt I had bottled up and stuffed down came welling up as I dressed and ate breakfast. I struggle with being my own worst enemy. I know I had run all the miles and prepared to the best of my ability for this race, but I did not believe I could do it. Katie picked me up and we began our 45 minute trek to the shuttle bus. It was an eventful drive as we almost hit a HUGE buck with Pearl the Prius. There were some quiet moments after our brush with disaster. Once we were on the bus we met up with Nora who was also running. Talking with her I felt at ease and was so happy she was there to reassure me. Katie and I sat together…what a flashback moment. We started our running journey together and I cannot imagine taking on 50 miles with anyone else. She has taught me the true meaning of friendship and I love her for it. The bus ride was short and sweet. Once we arrived at the start line we headed to drop our bags in the bins and go to the bathroom one last time.
Sean Ryan sure knows how to kick off the start of a race. The atmosphere was lighthearted and fun. The National Anthem was sung by a participant which was a nice unique touch. We got some last minute updates, exchanged some hugs, and away we went. My number one goal was to finish, my second goal was to not get a glow stick necklace. If as a runner you are on schedule to finish close to the cut off the race volunteers will give you a glow stick necklace to put on at the last aid station to wear for the remainder of the race. I did not want one! As we started into the 1st mile Katie and I hung together. We chit chatted about strategy before separating around mile 3. She is a speedster and hanging together any longer would have been a struggle for me and it would have held her back. Our plan was to meet up after and celebrate our accomplishment like we did at the Cellcom Marathon 10 years ago.
I did not start my watch and had no intention of doing so for this race. I made note of the time we started and kept an eye on it throughout. This rough estimate approach had worked well for me in other ultras and allowed for me to track my progress, but not stress out about my pace. I settled in to a good groove and felt great. The Fall 50 is set up as a relay and solo event. This provides for many aid stations that are relatively close together.
Since I have run this race before on a relay team I had a great idea of how the lay was set up. I however knew I would get tired and needed to be careful about pacing myself for all 50 miles. To help with this I created a small cheat sheet with each aid station and the miles in between them. Game plan was to run from station to station and not worry about the massiveness of the whole event. Aid station #1 arrived quickly and it was a welcome surprise to see the Waege clan cheering. I tossed my vest to them and kept on going. I had plenty of fluids and felt great. Not reason to slow or stop. Onto to station #2. This portion is the leg I ran last year for my team. It has a few hills and twists, but the wind had died down and the sun was coming out. Perfect running conditions.
Life was good, I was having a blast, and meeting a ton of awesome runners along the way. Famous last words as a runner! The thought goes that if you feel good in an ultra give it a few miles that will change and boy did it ever. Around mile 15 my stomach started to gurgle, not the “I’m hungry” type of sound but the “you are in for a surprise” sound. Shortly following this I threw up. Not cool! I have had this happen before and thankfully did not panic. 3 kids and 9 months of morning sickness had prepared me for this. I knew to keep drinking even though that was counter intuitive to vomiting and try to eat. In most 50ks I will eat 2-3 Picky Bars in addition to my Tailwind, roughly 1000 calories. Prior to tossing the contents in my stomach onto the road I had taken in 1/2 a Picky Bar and finished my bottle of Tailwind (300 calories). I could feel my bottle slowing down. I ate the other 1/2 of my Picky Bar between mile 18-19. Luckily I was able to keep it down, but it was a struggle. Another Waege clan sighting gave me a huge boost at mile 19 and I was ready to keep going. Quitting was never an option! My stomach may not be happy that was not going to stop me. I filled my bottle at the aid station and got back on track. I pushed on and focused on the halfway buffet at mile 28.
Tait Waege to the rescue. I was moving faster than I had thought I would be and my husband missed me at our meet up here. Tait the angel that his is helped to reapply Trail Toes cream to my feet…yet, he touched my disgusting feet and for that I am grateful. I was starting to develop hot spots so I changed out my socks and added more cream to provide a buffer. I also swapped out my shirt and refilled my pack with items needed. My body was holding up, my stomach was still not on board with what we were trying to do today.
Fixed up and back on the road the next 3 miles zipped by. I looked at my watch at the 50k (31 mile) mark and was shocked to see that I had hit this point in the race and had bested my last race by a few minutes. I have raced enough events to know though that my lack of fuel at this point was going to be a problem as the race continued. Time to get serious about eating. I forced a 1/2 of a Picky Bar down. I did not throw it up…score! Miles 31-40 got slower. I was running on fumes. I meet up with my husband at the aid station and he helped to get me stocked back up. I headed out but did not make it far before I threw up. Grossly it was mostly fluids. I walked for 5 minutes and got back running. Miles 40-48 were ugly! I was able to keep liquids down in small quantities. I adopted a 5 minute run walk 5 minute plan. While walking I sipped Tailwind. Thank goodness for sun glasses, they masked my tears. I was a hot mess. There are few times in my life that I have been truly vulnerable. I am a massive control freak that handles my business in a clinical manner. Running has always pushed me but never like this. I was on the edge of breaking at mile 48. I felt like death warmed over and putting one foot in front of the other was so hard. My fear of failure was raw and at the surface of every thought I had. By this point I was at an agonizingly slow pace. I did messaged Nora, Derek, and Katie not to worry. I cried hard from mile 48-49. This sucked. Then I saw the sign for 49, holy shit…I was almost done. Don’t get me wrong a mile at this point felt like a marathon. I started dry heaving again. This GI stuff is for the birds.
As the race course turns into Sturgeon Bay you hit city streets and can hear the post-race party. The sounds pulled me towards them. I turned onto the park path that led to the finish line. There were several winding turns that HURT. I wanted to stop and walk. Just as I was about to Katie starts cheering and running towards me. Man I love that girl! She has impecable timing. I kept running. I had pulled myself together after my meltdown around mile 48. I put my head down and just ran (slowly). When I finished and looked up to get my medal I was greeted by friendly LC faces. To my left I heard Nora and turned to her. I was so tired walking over to her took me a bit. I was shell shocked and silent. I’m not one that is often at a lose for words, but I did not know what to say in that moment. A few steps from her I lost it, the tears flowed down my face. I could not put into words how thankful I was. We hugged and she walked with me to the end of the finish line where Derek was waiting.
All that work, all those miles, and it was worth it! I learned a lot about myself in those 10+ hours. Being vulnerable is not something I am used to, it scares me. Running has been such an amazing vehicle of change in my life; I am blessed and appreciative of all those that have helped me along the way to do great things and challenge myself. On to my next adventure!!!
#BeKind #BeHappy #BeActive
Date – Oct 22, 2016
Finish Time – 10:34
Gear Used –
- Orange Mud HydraQuiver VP1 –My go-to hydration vest. I have worn this vest all summer for training and races. It fits like a glove and allows for me to carry everything I need.
- Orange Mud Buff – Thank goodness I grabbed this last minute. The temps were in the 40s all day and my ears were cold. I used the buff as a head band. Perfect addition.
- FitSok – My feet stayed dry, cool, and blister free! I did change at 28 miles to a new pair and applied more Trail Toes cream. After 50 miles my feet were in great shape and I did not lose a single toe nail.
- Tailwind Nutrition – I filled my bottle 3 scoops of Tropical Buzz (caffeine) with 24 oz of water. I was able to refill my bottle with water easily at aid stations and mix up more Tailwind throughout the day. The Orange Mud VP1 back pockets allow for me to carry 4 sticks of Tailwind powder which was the perfect amount to keep me fueled and hydrated.
- Oiselle – Black Distance shorts, Gray Flyte long sleeve, Rose Wazelle long sleeve (switched at mile 28) and team singlet.
- Run Gum – I popped this in about 30 minutes into my drive to the start of the race. We were up early to make the shuttle bus and I was tired. I also carried another pack with me in my hydration vest. The minty flavor is a refreshing change from the fruity flavor of my Tailwind.
- Trail Toes Cream – Only blister fighter I use. I slather this stuff on before I put my socks on to prevent hot spots. I also used it along my shorts waist band to prevent chaffing. I also used the cream on my legs to half way through the race when I began to chafe. Worked awesome!
- Salt Stick Caps – Even though it was chilly I was sweating. My game plan was to stay on a regular schedule with my salt tabs to prevent cramping. I ran into GI issues and could not keep food down, but remained on my salt tab schedule which helped stave off cramping.
- Altra One 2.5 – I have switched to a zero drop shoe to combat my SI joint inflammation after my fall at the Ice Age 50k . I love the wide toe box and lightness of these shoes. They proved today they can handle the distance. I kept the same pair on throughout all 50 miles.