June was one of my busiest racing months, and also turned out to be a very gratifying month as I got to volunteer and see many of my running friends.
I ended up running the New York Mini 10K the second week of June, then the Portugal Day 5-miler on Father’s Day, and volunteering at the Back on My Feet Birthday Bash, all of which I’ll write about soon! Before all of that, I ran my 2nd ultra in two weeks, the North Face DC 50K.
On May 31, I made a quick trip to Burke, VA to see my friend Diane and run the North Face Endurance Challenge 50K with Shane. In the days before the race, the forecasts indicated temperatures of 90F and higher. Ouch! I don’t do well running in the heat, but that took some of the pressure off because I had just run a 50-miler (and PR’ed) the week before! I knew the heat would force me to run slower, which was fine by me.
Diane was doing the team relay, and kindly hosted us before our 5am wake up call for the 7am start on Saturday, June 1. Diane had already picked up our bibs so we didn’t have to worry about that. Thanks, Diane! I was a bit tired at the start, but once we started lining up I got excited about running on trails again. I ran the 50-miler and loved it last year.
This year, they were screenprinting North Face tech shirts again, and SmartWool was a sponsor so we all got SmartWool running socks in our race packets. I love their socks–I run in them a lot during marathons and ultras.
Thanks once again to Team Refuel and Got Chocolate Milk? for sponsoring me for this race!
At 7am, the race started, and I was already sweating at the very beginning. It was mostly singletrack trail, and the course was very packed with about 450 starters for the 50K. My friends who were running the 50-miler already started at 5am! I was looking forward to seeing them at the turnaround points. Shane ran with me for about 2.5 hours, and I was glad for the company because I actually ran out of water between the Frazier and Great Falls stations (between miles 7-13), and he gave me some! I drink a ton of water regardless but it was even more apparent on this hot day. I carried a handheld bottle, and while it was more comfortable than a Camelbak, it didn’t carry enough fluids.
I felt pretty good for the first portion of the race, and it was really cool seeing Charlie Engel (of “Running the Sahara” documentary fame) volunteering at one of the aid stations.
Here were the pros and cons running through my head during the race:
-fantastic course, not too technical but with just enough hills to keep it interesting.
-a bunch of my friends were running!
– good race schwag and nice medal
–Extremely hot weather–temperatures reached 95F
– Aid station staples have changed since last year–they switched over from Nuun (good) to Clif Shot electrolyte brew (tastes like medicine), and potatoes were uncooked! They were just dipped in water! They also didn’t have as much fruit as in previous years (I remembered nectarines and oranges but I just recall bananas this year). Most upsetting for me was that only one aid station had PB&J sandwiches, which I depend on. They did have Clif bars, but those are too heavy for my stomach.
Back to the course–my favorite part is a rocky climb up Great Falls, which offers a spectacular view of the Potomac River. It is a hard section–50K people do it once, but 50-milers have to do this section 3 times.
As the sun got higher in the mid-afternoon, I started to feel more and more fatigued. Thankfully, about 75% of the course was shaded so I was grateful for that.
I saw Jessica, Paul, Mary, Hideki, Keila, Joe and Stephen all running the 50-miler. It was great cheering them on.
The last 10 miles were really tough–my glycogen stores were depleted at this point and it was the hottest part of the day. I rationed my water (which was unfortunate, you should be able to drink as much as you want) because Shane was no longer running with me and I had no back-up plan if I ran out of water. I saw a bunch of people stopped by the side of the trail, dehydrated. I asked if they were ok and they just waved me on.
The funniest thing I heard during the race was a comment from a fellow park-goer: “Wow, these people look like they’re in the Hunger Games!” Haha…we did look pretty haggard.
I also saw fellow Team Refuel member Evy Gonzales doing the 26.2! It was great seeing a familiar face.
The last 5 miles I pushed hard and barely stopped. I just wanted to reach the finish line as soon as possible, and even though I was sweating I felt like I was ok in terms of energy stores. I also had to rush back and catch the 6pm bus back to NYC.
As I approached the finish line,
I thought about Diane, Shane, and all my friends back home who thought I was crazy for running in this heat. I had to agree with them. I was SO close to earning a sub-7:00 finish, a personal best for a trail 50K (previous best was 8:45 for the Bear Mountain 50K).
I crossed the finish in a time of 6:59:37!
Overall, I was 195/430 finishers, 10/32 in the F20-29 age group, and 50/166 out of all females. I was really happy with my performance in the wilting heat.
As soon as I finished, Shane found me at the finish line, and I congratulated Keila, who had just finished an amazing 3rd place in the 50-miler. Shane made me lie down in the shade and helped me with my shoes and socks so my feet could breathe. I try to never lie down after a race, and I’ve only done it twice before, after a VERY hot Mad Marathon in Vermont in July (temps in the 80s) and the Chicago Marathon in 2007 (88F temps). My body was just spent.
After I recuperated, I found Diane and friends with their team in the shade. I also enjoyed some free coconut milk ice cream by one of the sponsors, So Delicious ice cream. It was pretty good! They were also giving out a free Klean Kanteen metal water bottle, which made my day. Best of all, there was Hawaiian-style shaved ice for sale at the finish, and I forked over the $4 for my big heaping cup of ice. It was just what I needed!
I have to thank Diane’s dad for helping me and Shane get back safely to Union Station post-race to catch the bus back to NYC. He was a life saver. Shane and I got some Thai food on the way back and brought it onto the bus. Most importantly, we got ice-cold Thai iced teas, which I had been craving the entire race! I was just thankful that all my friends raced safely in the heat. Hot weather running is no joke!