My first official race report. Some stream of consciousness:
I decided to take advantage of the time change and great weather forecast for Sunday - though getting up at 4am still seemed early, it didn’t feel quite as early.
Forest Frolic- It was dark, but the stars shining through at the openings were beautiful. I agree with earlier notes- the orange blazes were difficult to spot in the dark. Great one to start out with if you are familiar with the course and/or have a trusty navigation system.
Thom B- By the time I started Thom B it was light out, so I didn’t need the headlamp at all. Started the wrong way, ran by a fence and got some massive burrs on my socks, before turning around to start over. It was the first time I had been on this course- a beautiful, non-technical trail. Definitely glad I had course navigation on my watch because there were so many turns to choose from. I fell once on a trail and am pretty sure it was on this course. Bruised hand and knee, but nothing major.
Pseudo Skunk- a little more familiar with this course, but due to less fueling, I felt a little tired on this one, so walked up the major hills. After this, I stopped at the gas station to grab a bunch of drinks. The apple juice tasted delicious.
South Hill- Wasn’t initially excited to do this one, but the way it fit in was perfect. The sun shining through the leaves on the trail changed my mind quickly.
Danby- I honestly most dreaded Danby and Tortoise & Hare. Was prepared to be completely nasty by the end of this one, but the muddy/swampy areas were passable with poles, which I brought just for this reason. I enjoy a good wet and muddy ultra, but again, only when necessary. Until that point, I avoid such things. Ran in reverse, which is the only way I’ve ever run it, but it would likely feel nicer to run that 1.5ish miles of road with a slight decline.
Tortoise: I was trying to use GPS navigate, but once I started it never picked up. Thankfully, I remembered the course. Walked the most tortoisey hill parts. I brought poles due to the chatter about the bridge- I was able to cross and stay relatively dry with those. For any unfamiliar with the courses, or just trying to plan, this is one official on-site bathroom stop of the ultra challenge (the other being at Waterfront Trail @ Stewart Park).
Black Diamond: Have done this one many times and should have been able to zone out and lock it in, but the last five miles of this were the toughest of the day by far. Legs were still ok, but the mental fatigue (and eyes felt heavy) was strong and fast when it started getting dark. I felt like lying down and taking a nap. Called the fam to get some might (which my daughters give me before races) just to make sure that nap didn’t happen. I hadn’t eaten enough before this one. I trudged forward. For the last two miles I just had to play mental games: forced myself to run three poles and walk one. Sat down for a bit when finished to get some fuel and attempt to recalibrate. When I was packing food for the day nothing savory seemed that appealing – for recent ultras I have been able to eat a lot more during the day, so that might have been what was missing. Bottom line — this was my wall for the day.
Waterfront: Drove over to Stewart and sat a bit longer, was waiting to snap out of the mental fatigue-- which was surprisingly worse than any I experienced during recent 100 mile races — I never felt this mentally tired for those, just physically. I walked over to the bathroom and got cold and shivery during that trip, so sat in the car longer with the heat on… and eventually got out to start running before I made any bad napping decisions. Once I started moving, I finally felt a bit better and was ready to go ahead and finish the thing (was hoping to have this feeling 10 miles earlier while on BDT — oh well!)
Botanic: When I got over there the gate was open, but the last thing I wanted was to get my car trapped in there before the final mile, so I parked in the lot across the road. Walked up the first hill, and “ran” the rest.
East Hill: After finishing Botanic was just ready to be done, so tried to keep it short and sweet without doing anything foolish to injure myself. Finishing was a glorious feeling. Walked the mile back and imagined seeing the fam, taking a hot bath, and sleeping.
Overall: Made it through all the trails with only damp toes-took extra shoes with me but only ended up using one pair of trail shoes and one pair of road shoes. Only changed socks after Black Diamond while I was warming up in the car. Used poles for Danby and Tortoise to prevent submersion (and it worked!).
It was a perfect day and I enjoyed most of it- other than the terrible BD fatigue. My legs felt better than I thought they would- I, like others was concerned about cramping in the car. I had mapped it out to try to minimize time driving and didn’t experience any cramping- minor stiffness, but legs felt fine within a mile of starting each course.
Although I always expect a smaller field and crowd with ultras, this solo experience was quite different than even those - no reliance on crowd energy, runner packs, or motivation from either. Some courses I saw nobody at all, and for others, those who I did see were not aware of the day’s journey - in stark contrast to the “limited” 33,000 field and countless spectators at the NYC marathon (my favorite marathon!). Both beautiful and testing challenges, but for this day, I was glad to be enjoying the nature and sunshine doing the FLRC challenge. Congrats to those who led the way and to others who will make it happen before the end of the year! Let me know if you need some pacing — only shorter distances for me until next year