Ultra Running: Dawg Gone 50k
I started thinking into getting into ultra running sometime when I was on the PCT. The thought of jogging swiftly through the forest on nice single track seemed like a fantasy in my head. I figured it'd be a good way to stay in shape and push my limits in a new sport.
Enter the fall. I signed up for my first 50K last October, to be run the the following April in Kentucky, the Yawmacraw 50k. Unfortunately, after pulling my groin in a hockey game, my training plans flew out the window and so did my shot at the race.
After watching a friend crush it in her race at Yawmacraw I knew I needed to find a race that I could train for and really get into. The Dawg Gone 50k met all of the requirements. A low race entry fee, not too much elevation gain, close by and a family friendly, small field. Perfect for my first ultra. http://orrrc.org/event/dawg-gone-long-run-50k50-miler/
What is an Ultra? An ultra is any running race over a marathon. Typically, the distances are 50k, 50m, 100k, 100m and generally are run on trails. This makes for a community of a group of really mentally confused people that like to push their bodies to their limits and embrace the pain. Maybe people don't embrace the pain. Maybe people are running from something. Maybe they really do love testing their limits. For me, this turned into wanting to embrace the suffering and test my limits as to what my body and my mind could do. Somehow I managed to convince my friend Harry to run the race with me. This was his third ultra; it felt great to have someone who has gone through this a few times to mentally prep me right up to the start.
The organizers of the race had a training run two weeks before the race. Fortunately, Harry and I were able to attend and have a sneak peak of the course. On race day this proved to be really beneficial because we knew where to go parking wise as well as where to go on the trails.
Race day was a mix of nerves and excitement. Arriving just minutes before the start of the race, we definitely could have planned that out a bit better. Luckily, I was able to get a quick poop off before the start. Harry wasn't as lucky and missed the start of the race.
When the gun went off I started in the back. (Video of the Start) I quickly realized even though my slow was slow for me, it was fast for a lot of other people. In the first mile I passed most of the field bringing me behind 4 or 5 runners. It was a comfortable pace for the most part. I loved the course, weaving in and out of the trees. There was a good wind coming from the lake which helped keep us cool in the woods. After a wrong turn by some of the leaders I found myself in first. I slowed the pace a touch to give them the chance to group back up. Eventually though, I found myself pushing the pace more and more. I was having so much fun. Leading the race was thrilling. I skipped right by the manned aid station and kept my sights farther ahead.
Dropping into the woods for the last 6 miles of the loop wasn't bad. I was able to cruise for the most part and really didn't have to walk any of the hills. I was able to keep my feet moving and my momentum forward.
At the finish/start line I grabbed more water as well as tailwind and took off down the road. I thought I had slowed my pace down, but strava didn't think I slowed down that much. I really started to feel the aches in my ankles and my IT band around mile 22-24ish. I just made myself persevere and try to keep jogging. I knew as long as I was jogging I would be making "good enough" time to keep going and break my goal of six hours.
Eventually, I made it to the manned Aid station, this was apparently 12ish miles into the loop. The first lap I didn't stop or take anything. The second lap however, I took a wet towel, all the gummy bears I could fit in my fist and 2 or 3 helpings of watermelon. The race volunteers were urging me to keep running and eat while I was running. I wanted to stay and eat more watermelon. Soon enough though I took off again. I jogged until the road and mostly walked across the bridge. I decided, as soon as I entered the woods again though, it was game on. I was in it to the finish.
My mind was back in the race as soon as I entered the woods. I knew I had to keep it moving. I think it felt easier because I like running in the woods more than anywhere else. It felt fluid and comfortable. As the miles continued to tack on I started talking to myself. I would say things like "I love hills" as I was going up a hill or "I love logs" right before I was about to jump over a log. Most importantly I think, was how I kept telling myself I was strong. No matter how destroyed I felt in the moment, telling myself that i was strong seemed to give me extra energy that I didn't have, and the fortitude to bear more pain. My legs developed into the worst cramps of my short life. Every step something was cramping up. It felt like literally every muscle below my waist was cramping up. Definitely an area I can improve upon next time. Below is a look at my splits on Strava. (Add me! @ Nolan Amos)
Before I knew it though I was done. Soon enough Harry also finished and we were headed home for some recovery. During the last few miles I wondered why people do this. I think i got my answer after the race when I was thinking of ways to do better next time. It's all about pushing yourself to the max, to see what you're capable of and if you'll break or not. I ended up coming in with a time of 5:44. I felt it was a respectable time for my first ultra, and I was very proud of the result. Next on the race schedule is the Rough Trail 50k on my home course in the Red River Gorge!! See Y'all There!
** Special Thanks in this post. The Photos (except the screenshots) were taken by Photos By Tracy**