Earlier this year I ran my first 24 hour race, the Midsummer Night’s Dream Ultra (details here). At that race I pushed my limits and ran 55 miles, exceeding my previous record of 37 miles in a timed race. While running my loops, a fellow ultra runner mentioned another race later in the year that had a 50 mile option. My goal for the second part of the year did not involve a point to point 50 mile race but the generous finish time of thirty hours enticed me and my goals and focus shifted for the second half of the year. This shift of focus changed the way I approached my planned second half of the year races, the first of which was the Yeti Snakebite 50k, turning it into a supported training run instead of a race. Because this was only a long run with support I had a full week of training, running 45 miles leading to the race, including a ten-mile hard effort run on Friday before taking the day before the race off.
For me the Yeti Snakebite 50/50 (50k and 50 mile) race was the first ultra-marathon race I volunteered at last year. Last year I set my sights on running my first race distance past a half marathon (13.1 miles) and chose the Tortoise and the Hare 50K in the middle of November as my goal race (details here). In order to prepare myself and understand more about ultra-running races in general I volunteered for this race and fell in love with the people and the community. At that time I figured running a 50k(31 miles) would probably be a ‘one and done’ event for me and I would go back to running half marathon races, little did I know the path this decision would take me down. Running the Snakebite 50k this year thus had special meaning, even though I was supposed to treat it as a training race/run as my 50 mile race at the end of September is my larger goal.
The wonderful thing about this race is that it’s an extremely popular end of summer race and all my ultra runner friends were present, including a few that ran the same 50k as I did for their first. With less than an hour til race start I worked to get my stuff together while saying hello and chatting with my numerous friends. The Snakebite race course entailed running 10 mile loops that started and ended with the group shelter, where we could resupply. The first five miles course mostly involved rolling terrain that ran along the Sweetwater river, some stairs and a few small boulder climbs. The second four miles of the course, dubbed the lollipop loop, involved crossing a bridge and running a series of more technical trails with a few steeper climbs. The two loop segments were separated by an aid station and a bridge, as you finished the first segment you went into the aide station and over the bridge to the second segment. At the end of the second segment the course crossed the bridge and shot out to the aide station and only a mile uphill remained to get back to the start/finish line and group shelter.
As the race started I took my time warming my muscles up and just let myself fall behind the other runners. I could tell right away that my legs were tired and heavy from my current training cycle so I just worked to keep myself moving at a natural, easy pace. The first segment went by pretty fast and before I knew it I had crossed the bridge into the technical lollipop section. This is when the sky opened up and a deluge of rain came pouring down, turning the trail into a small river and leaving every inch of my body wet beyond soaked. Immediately I ran into the problem of my insoles pushing forward and forcing my toes upward. I did not have a solution for this at the time and figured the only thing I could do would be to push on and finish the first loop. When I made it back to the group shelter I realized the only option I had for my shoes involved removing the insole all together and run the rest of the race without insoles. This lead to a bruised arch on my right foot but at the time it proved the right response to keep my feet comfortable the rest of the day.
The second loop proved pretty uneventful as the rain had stopped and the sun came out, brining humidity and heat with it. I settled into a rhythm and kept moving forward. The only issue I ran into during the second loop was a lack of nutrition and water as I had opted for a handheld water bottle over my hydration vest. When I finished the second loop I switched up and grabbed my hydration vest. A fellow runner who dropped out earlier offered to walk the first segment of my third loop with me and I agreed. As we chatted and walked my legs began to restore some of the tired energy I had lost from the previous two loops. For the last two months my training schedule has been an intense ordeal starting at 60 miles a week and recently 70 miles a week, often running a marathon or longer as my Saturday long run distance. My legs were tired and definitely not in peak race shape, but this was just a training race, a shake down for the upcoming 50 mile race at the end of September. As we neared the turn off point where I would start the last four mile loop and then the last mile uphill to the finish I realized with a bit of a push I might be able to break my previous 50k finish time record of 10:57:00.
I put everything I had into running those four miles of technical trails and when I came out of the lollipop and onto the bridge I looked at my watch and saw I had used 10:27:00 with an uphill finish to go. My mind did some quick calculations including the overall lack of energy in my legs and figured it would be close. So I pushed myself to move as fast and as hard as possible to get to the finish line so I could break my previous race time. As I finished the mile, I turned and climbed the last few stairs to the final couple of feet of uphill push where the group shelter and finish line awaited. I crossed the finish line and saw my time…. 10:45:00. I beat my time and all I wanted to at that moment involved hurling. I bent over and tried to suck in air, I was spent and tired and hungry.
I had pushed myself hard over the last five miles to get to this finish time and now it was time to recover, find some food and let my body recover. I had run through rain and heat and I had pushed myself hard when my legs and body were tired coming into the race. I had amazed myself with a great for me finish time. The next day I had the day off, but then it was time to get back to work, I have a 50 mile race at the end of September and this 50k race was only a training race to get me to the start of that race.
Til next time.