The other day I ran the Watchung 50km Ultramarathon. Here’s my AAR (After Action Report):
Training – minimal. I’d run about 3-4 times since October. Hadn’t been eating clean with the holidays so my diet was way off. I figured what the heck. It’s a cheap race and proceeds go to a battered women’s charity. This race is structured as 5 laps of a 10km loop, single and double-wide track with about 600 feet elevation change per lap.
We got about 8″ of snow in Watchung the Thursday/Friday before the race so the trails had to be remarked with orange spray. I knew the trails (have run this before) so I knew the snow would be bad. I got a pair of Yaktraks to give myself a bit of traction. More on these later.
The morning-of I had a bagel and a cup of joe and that was it. I’d spent most of Friday chugging water so I was fairly well hydrated. Didn’t want to over-eat. I brought along some snackage, wafers mostly and gels. Never used a single gel. I don’t think I’m a gel runner.
The race started at 8AM and it was 2F. Two degrees Fahrenheit. My fingers were getting frostbitten just pinning on my number. Luckily I had time to grab a pair of gloves from the car. Without gloves I would’ve had to drop out. It was that painful.
8AM we kicked off. I couldn’t settle into a rhythm at all with the snow. The Yaktracks didn’t really help and I kept having to adjust them. There was no ice. I suppose if there’d been ice they would’ve been good or if the snow was compacted. The temps were so cold the snow stayed very powdery and never settled down. It stayed that was the entire day.
By the end of the first lap my two water bottles had frozen. I tried cracking the ice but I couldn’t get it out. Because of this I spent a few minutes melting the bottles on the hand drier in the bathroom before setting out on the 2nd loop.
Second loop now and I’m feeling panic set in. The going was hard and I was psyching myself out with thoughts of 4 more 10km loops to go. I blocked those thoughts out, tried to calm down and got down to work chewing up the miles. I averaged about 11mins pace which considering the snow was not terrible. Bottles froze up again and I had to melt them again before the third lap. This was the first race I’ve done where the aid station was handing out HOT water. It was warm but not enough to melt my bottles. Hand drier again.
Third lap now and I’m hurting. I wasn’t even half way. Mentally this is so demoralizing. I looked down and realized my YakTraks had broken. I decide I hate these things but I kept them on. I got to mid-way through the 3rd loop and decided I’m half way through 50km now. Every step is a step closer to home. Sweating way too much. I started taking my gloves on and off trying to regulate my temps. All your blood eventually flows through your hands and gets pumped right back into your heart. The blood’s quite close to the skin in your hands so if you regulate your hand temp it will carry into your whole body. This is actually an area of research [LINK].
Fourth lap. It’s cold. It’s windy. I’m aching. I’m not even at marathon distance yet. I tried focusing on running form, good posture and just willing myself onwards. I could feel my feet getting beat up by the YakTrak wires. These things are soooo getting returned. My feet were shredded by now. I found out later I had developed a weird kind of pressure-bruise, blood blister thing on my forefoot from the YakTrak wires. These are the dark times as they say. I was happy to see the back of lap 4.
Finally heading out on the 5th lap I’m physically shot. This is the last time. Everything you see now will be the last time you see it for today. Got to half-way and started feeling mentally good. You can start to feel the finish but it’s still tremendously difficult to set out on that last lap.
This is the test of ultra running. It’s all mental.
I finished at 3pm, 30mins slower than last year but this event in these conditions I would say was tougher than even the Mega Transect so I was happy to be done without injury. It’s an ass kicker but it feels great when it’s over. I think running ultras is getting in my blood now. I hope to sign up again next year.
Here are some photos from the day.