I'm an ultramarathoner!!!!! I made the official cut-off for Spring Chicago Lakefront 50K by 1 minute and 10 seconds!!!
I arrived at the start of the race at Foster Beach and easily found free parking. I was so thankful for that because I really had no idea how long I would be running and I didn't want to worry about feeding a parking meter!
The start was rather low key I think there were about 200 runners total, maybe a bit more. I dropped my bag at the gear check/bag drop which was basically just an open area that was just a few feet away from the start line. I got my bib and long sleeve t-shirt with no problems. Now it was just time to wait for the start!
I guess I was looking a lil queasy because an older gentleman came over to ask me if I was ok. I just sort of nodded because to be honest I WAS feeling queasy! I had arrived at the 50K race start with no clear game plan. On the one hand I wasn't sure how my legs would hold out. Afterall I was scheduled to get an MRI on Monday! Clearly they weren't in the fresh condition you'd want to run a 31.25 mile race! But they weren't feeling all that bad. They weren't feeling fresh but they weren't feeling my worst. So I think within the first mile I decided instead of dropping out after 20 miles (my original intention) I was going to go ahead and try to finish the WHOLE DANG THING!!
The course was a simple out and back 3 loops that I knew VERY VERY WELL. This is my normal training ground and a big reason why I signed up for the challenge. I think mentally it helped to know the area well in order to tick off the miles. There were no mile markers but each aid station had a chart so you would know how far you had gone. I of course had on my Garmin to keep track of the time ticking and the miles.
There were 3 aid stations set up on the course, basically 1 at each turnaround and then one in the middle. The aid stations had Gatorade, water, and soda for fluids. I carried my own water bottle and everyone was super nice and allowed me to fill my water bottle when I needed. Then there was a wide range of snacks everything from potato chips to nuts to pickles. I really realized that I much prefer salty snacks over sugary GU!
I definitely stopped at each aid station and grabbed a banana almost each time. I loved that they had bananas because when I ran long runs in the gym I was able to fuel with bananas but it's not so easy to do so when running since they get mushy so easily! I also was loving the pickles. I think I might try to figure out how to carry pickles on training runs!! The aid station that was near the start/finish I was grabbing pretzel rods, since those were harder to eat they seemed as good as an excuse as any to take a walk break back out onto the next loop.
Since there were so few runners I only had a few chances to run with others but I did enjoy the few times I did get to run with someone else! Around mile 4 I picked up a lady who was battle an ankle injury. She'd already signed up before the injury so she'd told her family to meet her at mile 5 in order to pick her up. I was really sad to see her go as we settled into a nice brisk pace together. Garmin says we were running about an 11:30 min/mile and the lady said that was actually pretty fast for her usual runs. She had run quite a few marathons and said her body got the most adjusted when she one every few weeks. Since I'm a race addict she might have been telling that to the wrong person..... ;)
At each turnaround we had to check in because the race wasn't chip timed. The last time the start/finish was a turnaround they asked me if I was OK and I just managed to smile back at them. They laughed and said at least I was smiling! Honestly I was ready to quit at this point. But there were two Cupcake Ladies that had been running in front of me for most of the race and I had told them it was my first time. I said to them "I wanna die, I can't make it". and they laughed and said "Oh Honey we ALL feel like that". So I trudged back out there.
During this last loop I was basically trying to calculate how much time I could allow myself to walk but still make it in the 7 hour time limit.
Here's how my splits looked:
Mile 1: 10:57
Mile 2: 11:48
Mile 3: 12:26 <---Aid Station Stop!
Mile 4: 11:45
Mile 5: 11:34
Mile 6: 12:13 <---Aid Station Stop!
Mile 7: 11:35
Mile 8: 13:03 <---Aid Station Stop!
Mile 9: 11:52
Mile 10: 12:08
Mile 11: 13:42 <---Aid Station Stop!
Mile 12: 12:26
Mile 13: 12:40 <---Aid Station Stop!
Mile 14: 11:11
Mile 15: 12:08
Mile 16: 14:01 <---Aid Station Stop!
Mile 17: 13:15
Mile 18: 13:36
Mile 19: 17:12 <---Bathroom/Aid Station Stop!
Mile 20: 13:38
Mile 21: 15:12 <---Aid Station Stop! This is where I considered quitting!!
Mile 22: 14:15
Mile 23: 14:18
Mile 24: 15:35<---Aid Station Stop!
Mile 25: 13:30
Mile 26: 13:47
Mile 27: 16:42<--Aid Station Stop!
Mile 28: 15:31
Mile 29: 16:35<--Aid Station Stop!
Mile 30: 14:00
Mile 31: 13:24
Mile 32: Last .25 miles was at an 11:14 pace!
Those last 10 miles I really wanted to just break down and start crying on the course. But since the path wasn't closed I was getting encouragement from both random people on the lakefront path and also from fellow racers. Each and every person who I passed coming as they were going gave me words of encouragement or a smile.
When I hit the last aid station I was really worried, at that point I think I only had 1 hour and 15 minutes left to complete the race. And I was having trouble walking any miles much less walk them! I got to the last station and I asked how many miles to go. The guy said about 2.5 miles. I looked at my watch and realized I only had 30 minutes to get those done! There were 3 people in front of me and they were taking cups of food with them and then kept going. I grabbed some chips and some soda and I sped up to meet them. I asked them if they thought we could make the cut-off. They had already given up on it but they told me to push it and that I was going to make it!
I tried as hard as I could to straight run those last 2.5 miles but I did have to stop twice to walk. But then I saw in the distance to other finishers and I just kept pushing and following them. My Garmin seemed to indicate that there was about 1 mile left on the course and I had about 12 minutes to finish so I pushed, I really did not think I would make the cut-off. And then there it was so I stopped looking at my watch and JUST RAN!!!
Official time: 6:58:50. I'm pretty sure I was the last official finisher. But I tried to tell them of the few others I knew that were still out on the course. The other finishers that waited around said they knew they were coming and they'd finish (just not within the cut-off time, they'd still get a medal). I met a really cool Marathon Maniac Halbert at the finish and he MADE me take a bowl of red beans and rice. Eating was the LAST thing that I wanted to do but I know that it was for the best that I ate it.
Am I ready to sign up for another ultramarathon? Yes and No. While I originally wanted to run a trail 50K this summer, I am thinking that is just not going to work out. But I look forward to running the fall Chicago Lakefront 50K on November 2nd. The course will be on the Lakefront Path again, but this time it'll be on the southside rather than the northside.
Oh yeah and about that MRI I was scheduled for on Monday? Well I went and got it and then was diagnosed with stress fractures in both legs. Sidelined for at least 6 weeks. My first major injury as a runner.