Kansas Rails-to-Trails Fall Ultra Extravaganza
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Kansas Rails-to-Trails Fall Ultra Extravaganza - Run
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Before I start, let me say that this was my first ultra marathon. I signed up for one in 2012, and got pregnant (almost miraculously so) during my training. I skipped that race (obviously!). I signed up for another race last year, after having given birth twice. I severely sprained my ankle about 6 weeks before the race, while playing soccer. The race director let me defer my entry to this year which was very very kind.
So all this to say, this race has been about 5 years in the making. In the past 5 years we've adopted 4 children, I've given birth to 2, and just this summer our nephew moved in with us as well. It has been a crazy, crazy 5 years.
Where to start? I had already planned to do a 4 min run/1 min walk pace, from the beginning. I think I skipped the first 2 walk breaks because I was really freaking cold, but after that I took them religiously. I didn't feel that I needed to, but I knew that the cumulative breaks would pay dividends towards the end of the race.
I also planned to eat a little bite of food and drink something during each walk break, so as to maintain fuel levels and not try to force myself to eat a bunch of stuff at once. In my pack I had 2 Clif bars, 2 liters of water, and some salt tabs that I could mix with water in a little bottle in my vest or swallow if/when I needed to.
At the start there was a bit that headed north on the trail. It was pretty much through the town, but there was very little traffic. Almost everyone was wearing tights, and I was already beginning to second guess my attire choices (which, by the way, I had already agonized over FOR DAYS). I was wearing shorts, soccer socks which came up to my knees for added warmth, a short sleeve shirt, arm sleeves, a long sleeve shirt over that, then a lightweight jacket over that. Plus gloves, and an ear warmer under my hat which I planned to shed once it got warmer. I thought socks would be easy to change out, and I could remove as many layers off the top as necessary.
I felt really good, other than being cold. About 2 miles in I couldn't feel my legs or thighs and I had a moment of panic - oh crap, I'm not wearing any thing on my bottom! I felt with my hands...yep, was definitely still wearing shorts. Just too cold to feel the familiar brush of them against my legs I guess!
About 4 miles in I started to realize that I wasn't getting warmer, and I was really wishing for an extra pair of socks to put over my gloves, as my fingers were quite cold. I was in a rhythm though, and I encouraged myself by thinking of how much warmer it would get later on.
The first aid station (Princeton) was about 11.8 miles in. I really needed to pee, so I did that. It was a legit bathroom, not a port-o-potty, which felt really nice. I started realizing more and more that I should have gone with tights and changed. But, again, I just told myself it would get warm later and I'd be happy with my shorts.
Once I was done with the bathroom I headed back out to the trail. I didn't really need any of the aid station food, and I still had plenty of water. But about 50 yards later I realized - dang it, I still need to get the food out of my drop bag, duh! This is my first ultra ever, my first time using a drop bag, so I chalked it up to a newbie mistake. I turned around, mentally cursing myself for wasting the energy. It wasn't that far, but every extra step is one more that I'll have to take later!
I had oreos in all my drop bags, and they sounded so good. I had more Clif bars also. I brought a ziplock bag to put my clif bars in, so that they could just be dumped in there and I wouldn't have to mess with their wrappers. I couldn't open it, my thumbs were so cold they were not working. Thankfully the aid station peeps were on point and they helped me out.
So, I was off again. The next aid station (Richmond) was only 7 miles away. I had to pee again soooo bad. I must have been really well hydrated, because this was a common concern of mine throughout the race. Nothing too exciting at the next aid station. My hands were feeling better so I took off my gloves and left them in my drop bag, knowing I could pick them back up on the way back if needed.
I had a fantastic pace (for me), I was hanging out around 11-12:30 minutes per mile which was great.
I reached the turn around (which was at 27.3 miles) feeling great. I took extra time, refilled my water, ate a grilled cheese sandwich which was possibly the yummiest thing I've ever eaten in my life. I changed my socks and noticed I was getting a blister on my pinky toe. My parents were there and helped me band aid it up, it was kind of starting to go under my second littlest toe. It was somewhat painful but not bad. I refilled my oreo and Clif bar stashes, then headed back out.
The distance until the next aid station (about 9 miles) felt like FOREVER. Oh my goodness. It was so long. I was still feeling really good, and it felt awesome knowing that every step I took was further than I'd ever run before. My longest training run, or run ever in my life, before this race was 26.2 miles.
The next aid station was at about 37 miles. It was RIchmond again. I could feel the wheels starting to come off. My pace was dipping, closer to 13:00-13:30 per mile. Still definitely decent, but I could feel myself slipping. I was tired. Really tired. And I started getting cold again. I didn't ever end up taking any of my top layers off during the race; the only things I removed were my gloves, my long socks, and my ear warmer. At Richmond I changed shoes, which felt nice, and I changed socks again. I re-bandaided my foot. I made sure I had my oreos, and headed back out.
I stupidly had not grabbed my gloves. I felt OK when I left, but running into the bit of wind, and plus the sun getting lower in the sky, just meant that overall it felt colder. I think I was starting to be so numb that I just couldn't tell how cold it was.
At Princeton, about 43 miles in, I was feeling horrible. I felt like I was going to do this, and so that was awesome, but the knowledge of how much further I had to go was daunting. 7 miles is nothing for me, I do 7 miles without breaking a sweat these days! But oh, 7 more miles felt like an eternity.
My mom pointed out my fingers, they were red and swollen with the cold. I really couldn't feel them at this point. My husband gave me his gloves (I'm pretty sure mine wouldn't have fit at this point anyway, due to the swelling). Thankfully I had my ear warmer wrapped around my wrist, so that was easy to put back on as well. I refilled oreos and a clif bar, and headed back out.
The last 6-7 miles were a death march. I was averaging 16-17 minutes per mile. I was trying to run, but I just...couldn't. I could walk, though. I tried to walk fast, I felt like I was, but the fastest I could go was about 18:30/pace while walking. So I was still running, a little bit, but only for 1 or 2 hundred yards at a time. I got choked up a few times, both with thankfulness of knowing that I was going to finish and then also just how hard it was and how much further I had to go. I felt so horrible. I can't even describe how painful, cold, and miserable it was.
What would you do differently?:
Wear tights! Also, I shouldn't say this probably. But I will. I had bought these hand warmer things at Scheel's, you just open the bag and they warm up magically I guess. I had them in my pack THE ENTIRE TIME and had just forgotten them! So stupid! They could have saved me from at least some of my misery.
Warm down? How about, warm up! My hubby and parents were there at the end, they had my blanket for me plus my hubby and my dad both gave me their coats. I just sat down in Celebration Hall in a stupor. They brought me food, it was pancakes which was awesome. I could barely eat because my hands and arms were shaking so badly. I was so thankful to be done. I have never been so glad to sit down in my life.
What limited your ability to perform faster:
I struggled a lot with injuries this past year. I severely sprained my ankle a year ago, and that had long-reaching repercussions and I think my foot/ankle is still not the same. I also had PF at the beginning of this year and took almost a month off, and was seeing a PT for the last month or so to deal with IT band issues. Due to all of these things I didn't run as much this year as I had hoped too; however, I reached the starting line healthy and strong and that was very important to my ability to persevere at the end of this race.
Otherwise, I'd say just the cold itself was a factor. I didn't take into account that, even though the high was supposed to be 50, much of the race was in the shade. With the breeze it felt significantly cooler. Tights would have been a better choice for me, but I did the best I could with what I had. I should have also checked out the aid stations. I was afraid the bathrooms would be porto-potties (i.e., not ideal for changing in) and that was a large factor in my decision to wear shorts.
Last updated: 2017-10-30 12:00 AM
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After a restless night of sleep, and multiple dreams of missing the start, I woke up and had a peanut butter and honey sandwich (my go-to pre long run or race food). I even brought a tiny container of my own peanut butter from home. Unfortunately I forgot a knife but I have fingers so it worked out OK. ;) I already had all my clothes laid out from the night before, and all the items to pack in my hydration vest, so it didn't take me long to get ready. I hesitated again about if I should wear shorts or tights; the temperature started at 25 but was supposed to get up to 50. I opted to be too cold rather than too hot, and stuck with the shorts.
No warm up needed for an ultra marathon! I huddled in Celebration Hall with a blanket around my legs and listened to the pre-race meeting. Nothing too exciting!