I GOT TO RUN A RACE THIS WEEKEND! It has been 9 months since I was able to race, and I was so excited to get back out there. This was my second 50k, and I decided to use it as a supported long run for my 50 mile ultramarathon next month. Although, after the challenge of 31 miles, I’m really wondering how in the world I’ll ever survive 50 miles! I guess I just have to have faith in my legs and training, and hope for the best. I’m so excited to share all the details in my 50k race recap below.
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I kept my mid-week mileage a little lower this week, to give my legs a little bit of a rest before the 50k race. Instead of a hill workout on Monday, I ran a few miles out at the nature preserve. I moved my rest day to Thursday to give myself some rest a little closer to the race, and ran a short shakeout run on Friday. I didn’t do any heavy squatting or deadlifting this week during my workouts, to help avoid soreness. I started packing up and making sure I had all my racing supplies on Thursday, which made packing Friday morning a whole lot easier.
We drove out to Bastrop on Friday afternoon, and got settled. For dinner, I met up with a group of girls who drove up from Corpus Christi to run the race at the cutest pizza place in Bastrop. These are women who have been so supportive virtually of my running, and I was really happy to have the opportunity to finally meet them in person. I also met Ashley, who is an ultrarunner training for her first 100 mile race in Feb. We had previously decided to run the 50k together, and I just have to say there is no better way to get to know someone than spending 6.5 hours with them on the trail! The restaurant had outdoor seating, and a really fun cover band playing. The weather was perfect, and it was a really fun evening.
Saturday morning, my alarm went off at a painful hour, and it was time to race! Here’s my full race recap.
Spectrum Racing Sky Island 50k Race Recap
This year, the race took place at McKinney Roughs Nature Park, which is about 20 miles east of Austin, just outside of Bastrop, Texas. In order to work with COVID precautions, the Sky Island Race allowed runners to start in designated waves of 8 runners every 20 minutes. My girlfriend, Ashely, and I were slotted for the 6:20 start time, which meant a wake up time of 4:30am. I ate my cherry-vanilla bagel (shout out to Panera), had a cup of coffee, and did my usual pre-race routine of hair, sunscreen, and gear collection. We drove out to the park around 5:30, getting parked and settled 15 minutes later. I checked myself and Ashley in, grabbed our bandanas, and went to find a restroom (typical pre-race ritual).
I filled up my bladder, got my pack set up, found Ashley, and quickly walked back to the starting line. We actually got there about a minute after our 6:20 gun time, but timeliness is not my strength. We started on a short paved road into the trails, in full darkness, minus the somewhat annoying headlamps attached to our foreheads. It was a nice, cool morning, and the stars out in Bastrop were pretty amazing. It took about an hour for the sun to come up, and when it did, it sure put on a show.
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The 50k course was two loops, with aid stations about every 5 miles with water and premixed tailwind. I really appreciated having some tailwind on the course, since fueling options were non-existent. I had my 2L bladder in my Nathan pack, and filled up a 20oz bottle with tail wind about three times throughout the race. The first loop felt great! There was a really nice breeze, it wasn’t too hot, we were running about 80% of the time, and things were just trucking along. In hindsight, I wasn’t fueling quite enough, and I think it was because I wasn’t sweating too much and wasn’t feeling very hungry. During the first loop, I only had one packet of HoneyStinger chews and about 10oz of tailwind. It didn’t kill me by any means, but I might have felt a little further from death towards the end if I had been more diligent.
When we pulled back through the starting area, I grabbed a couple of gels from my drop bag and refilled my bottle. We were moving faster than I had anticipated, so I texted my husband when we were about 2 miles out, and thankfully he was able to make it back before we got there. He had both of our drop bags in our car. No one ever said ultrarunning was predictable! At that point we were averaging an 11:30 pace, give or take a couple of seconds. After a quick kiss, and bathroom break, we headed back out the same way we came in for the second loop.
Things were feeling pretty consistent for the first half of the second loop. I tried to increase my fueling, but I still wasn’t feeling hungry at all, even though it had started to warm up. I had two Spring gels and about two 20oz bottles of tailwind during the second loop. It was enough to keep me moving, but I probably could have benefitted from a few more calories. I started to feel tired around mile 22, and at this point we were walking more of the uphill sections. We still had long sections of running, and our overall pace slowed by about a minute. Once we hit the marathon mark, we stopped for a quick pic, and then decided to put our headphones in. We had been talking for the majority of the race, but we both started getting quieter around mile 24. You could tell the energy was waning.
Thankfully, Ashley was able to keep moving pretty consistently, and I just hung on and followed her lead. Those last few miles definitely felt longer than the first few, and the uphill sections that felt reasonable in the morning felt brutal in those last 5 miles. Around the final two miles, we started to realize that some of the course flags had been accidentally taken up, and we had to turn around twice after realizing we weren’t going the right way. It was definitely frustrating, but we were both really focused on getting to the finish. After 6 hours, 31 minutes, and 36 seconds, we finally found the finish line. Henry and the rest of the girls were there to cheer us in, and in all honesty, my brain was absolutely useless at that point. I don’t think I was forming very many sentences other than, “I’m hot,” and “take this pack off me.”
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Henry, bless this man, had breakfast tacos waiting, and one of the girls had baked the cutest sugar cookies to celebrate. We grabbed our finisher hats, snapped a couple of pictures, and tried to not fall apart. My legs were sore, my feet were achy, but mostly I was just tired of moving and thinking. Since we had checked out of our hotel, I wiped the salt and sweat off as much as possible with some baby wipes, and changed into clothes that didn’t smell like a wet dog. Welcome changes. The girls planned to get some lunch on the way home, but I was still not forming cohesive sentences and really wanted to shower more than anything else in the world. So Henry and I decided to skip lunch and head back.
After a little over an hour, we made it home, and I was finally able to smell like a real person again. I ate a little bit of everything in our home, had some Liquid IV, and took a well-deserved nap. My brain felt like it was working 30% better than it was at the end of the race, which is always nice. Henry ordered us some thai food for dinner, and I washed it down with a couple of Oktoberfest beers that I had reserved for my post-race reward. Then I sent him out to get me a chocolate peanut butter milkshake. Seriously, bless this man.
There are very few things that could have made this a better experience for me; it really was a great race day. The course was a mixture of dirt trails, gravel, and some small rocky sections. A few miles hugged a section of the Colorado river, and there were beautiful views the entire race. There were a few steep uphills and downhills, but most of them felt fairly short and runable (at least for the first 15 miles). The weather was great, starting out in the high 60’s, with a pretty consistent cool breeze. It was fairly cloudy until the last 3-5 miles, and we had some great tree coverage to help keep us from cooking in the last 10k. With the great course and weather, I probably ran more during this 50k than any other trail race I’ve completed.
I do wish that the flags hadn’t been pulled up, because no one, and I mean no one, wants to navigate in the last couple of miles of an ultramarathon. Also, I wasn’t super thrilled with the finisher hats. A small grievance, definitely, but I have to say that for a race that doesn’t offer finisher shirts or medals, the one piece of swag should be incredible. In my opinion. They actually did have some really cute technical hats that I saw some 25k finishers wearing, but they had run out of these by the time we finished. I wish they had made enough of those for all finishers, and I was a little bummed that it didn’t work out that way. Small potatoes in the long run, and honestly with those being my only grievances, the race was amazing.
I’m really excited about having more races to run in the future, and I had a blast meeting all of the girls.
This Weeks Workouts
Total Miles: 75.46
Total Workouts: 3
50 Mile Training, Week 17
How the Runs Felt
It was absolutely amazing to run a race again, and to get to run it with a friend. I’ve been running solo for about 75% of my runs for the last year or so, and it reminded me how nice it can be to have a running buddy along the way. I tried to keep all of my runs easy and a little on the short side this week. Since I was running my 50k as a supported long run, I didn’t want to do a full taper. But I did try to give my legs a little more rest than other weeks.
My race felt mostly amazing. Until the last 5 miles, and then it felt like a real struggle. But I’m just so thankful to have had the experience of racing again. I’m definitely hoping there will be more races in the next couple of months that adapt and are able to run in person again.
How the WODs Felt
I mentioned earlier that I wanted to keep most of my workouts simple and light, without any movements that would be taxing on my legs. I did a home workout on Monday that was a lot of fun. On Tuesday, I decided to do a 9/11 tribute WOD that I had been meaning to do for a week, but hadn’t found a good opportunity to work in. It was tough, but a good opportunity to reflect on an important day in history. I did my last workout on Wednesday, and honestly I felt great all week.
What I’ve Been Listening To
I am loving the second season of Counter Clock and In the Red Clay. I also started listening to a new true crime series, Paper Ghosts. It’s about four women who all went missing from a small area on the east coast in the 70s. So far it has been really interesting. I also started listening to Anything You Say. It’s a true crime podcast with a twist. Instead of focusing solely on the crime, it focuses on how investigators were able to get a confession from infamous criminals.
What Went Well
Racing was absolutely amazing. I loved everything about it, even though my legs may have had some mixed feelings.
What Went Shitty
Plans to Improve Next Week
Next week, going to get back to making sure I am incorporating more consistent core and mobility work, since I know I have been slacking there.