*Disclaimer: I received a free entry to The North Face Endurance Challenge as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!*
For those that have been following my blog or Instagram the past few months, you know that my main goal for the year has been to run my first 50 mile race. I had the challenge of training for my first Half Ironman earlier in the summer, which coincided with the beginning of my 50-miler training. I definitely had some challenges and injuries along the way, but the few weeks going into The Endurance Challenge, I felt on track and strong.
I was able to fit in 3 days of strength training, 60-80 miles of running, and lots of hill training. But no matter how prepared I am for a race, I always have some pre-race jitters. The 3 days before my race, I found myself barely sleeping and constantly thinking about the race. I haven’t had a sleepless night like this in a long time, and I couldn’t wait to get to race day. Luckily, I had a few other friends who were running the same event and who were equally stressed, so we confided in each other with constant messaging to each other.
The day before the race, I packed up my camping gear and headed to The North Face Store in Brookfield, Wisconsin. I wanted to visit my old employer, hoping to see some familiar faces. I dropped off my “drop bag”, and picked up my packet which had a t-shirt, bib, and a handkerchief. Then I headed off to my campsite, to set up my site, hopefully get a fire going, and eat some dinner before going to bed. Staying close to the start of the race is ideal, considering the race starts at 5 a.m.
I surprisingly got some sleep the night before the race, something about camping and fresh air always makes me sleepy. So when morning arrived (even though it was still dark outside), I was ready to get the race underfoot. I was tired of stressing over every little thing, and couldn’t wait to just start running. I got to the start line with a few minutes to spare and found my friends, who I’ve been messaging all week. When the race director announced the start to the race, I felt a sigh of relief. I made it…I was here at the start of this race, injury free! I was healthy, I was happy, and all I had to do for the rest of the day was run in the woods. This was my time of peace and sanity, after months of crazy training, constant stressing, and a lot of planning.
The race was flying by as I chatted the first 15 miles with my two friends. We were laughing and having a great time until one of them twisted their ankle on some of the rough rocks on the course. She kept going but in some pain. Shortly after, my other friend started having some stomach issues. They started to slow down a bit, which forced me to make a decision. I made the tough decision to carry on, because I was afraid of losing momentum. I was sad to leave them. However, around mile 22, I ran into my boss on the trails. We ended up running 10 miles together, which pushed me through a pretty hilly section of the race. Every few miles I ran with new people, getting to know their story along the way. I love this part about trail running, there’s always new people to meet and chat with.
At mile 35, I arrived to my drop-bag area, and the place where Kristen, my pacer, would meet up with me! I changed my socks, and shoes, and shared some blister commiserating with some other runners next to me. I got a quick kiss from my man, waved to my running buddies who came to cheer (thanks guys!), and went out for the last 15 miles! Kristen and I were cruising along, chatting, and having a “normal” run experience for the first few miles together. But then some hills started kicking in, and my blisters started to become a real problem. I could feel them growing, and popping, repeating this process over and over. With 10 miles left of the race, I started to get quiet, and had to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. My trusty music started to kick in right when I needed it to pump me up. Kristen did exactly what I needed her to do; she’d run up the hill, make it look easy, and yell at me to get my ass moving! Though I was feeling quite a bit of foot pain, the whole experience was exciting, knowing that each stride was the furthest I’ve ever ran.
The last aid station felt like a breath of fresh air. I knew that beyond this point, there was only 3.7 miles left. That’s just a little more than a 5k! I could do this…I was going to do this! Everything around me seemed wonderful, the coke at the aid station, the pretzels, my nuun water, and seeing Steve and my pup waiting to cheer me on. Once Kristen and I left for the final stretch, I felt my legs kick in with extra energy. I started to see more racers from the marathon and 50k out on the course as well. The extra comradery on the course pushed me that much harder.
The final stretch seemed to last forever. As I came off the trail and around the final turn, I saw my friends and fellow BibRave Pro’s waiting for me at the finish. As I ran through the finish, I couldn’t believe I was done. My legs didn’t believe it either. I could feel them still moving and pushing me forward. Luckily, they pushed me towards the food and the beer tent. I cheers’ed with Kristen at the Sierra Nevada tent for being a rockstar Pacer for the last 15 miles. The finisher’s village was full of other runners and families waiting for their runners to finish, and I just soaked up the excitement before heading back to my campsite for the night. This was an amazing event, with great volunteers, race coordinators, and beautiful scenery the entire 50 miles. I hope to keep this event on my future race schedule.
Since the race, I’ve been asked-What’s next? Though, my 2017 is still up in the air, there is one race already on my list….Frozen Otter.
(several photo credits go to Laura Baumgardner & Faith Walter)