Sussex County Fairgrounds, New Jersey
24 March 2012
Since this was my first-ever 50k, I had gotten pretty nervous in the days leading up to it, mainly wondering if I had trained well enough. But races wait for no one, whether you’ve trained well or not, so I made my way to the starting line bright and early.
The weather was perfect, in the 50s (and overcast most of the day), and there was no long wait in a corral before we started. We gathered around for instructions just a few minutes before start time and ran when we heard go. The course was a 10-mile loop that consisted of a short out-and-back, a long out-and-back, and a circular route through the Sussex Count fairgrounds. We had been told that there had been rain several days before the race, but the course was mostly dry thanks to our warm, dry winter.
That was true, but…
Over the course of the day and the hundreds of feet over the trails multiple times, the damp areas of the trail turned into muddy bogs that expanded and expanded and expanded… By the end, there was a large area on the far side of the loop that had to be carefully navigated in order to avoid your entire foot being sucked down into dark thick mud. There were several smaller areas that were the same and a couple of small jump-able puddles became large un-jump-able puddles. There was also one large water crossing and several bridges shored up by strips of plywood to navigate. Otherwise, the trail was made up of an old road and we ran over packed grass a good deal. It wasn’t a terribly difficult course, but it was a constantly changing course.
The race itself was well-supported, with a full aid station at the far end and a water stop in the middle. Each loop ended with a run through all the campsites (and applause) on the fairgrounds, then through a building where your time was logged. At that point runners had the opportunity to eat/drink and use the restroom–a REAL restroom!
I enjoyed running. Everyone was so nice. We were passing each other head-on and so many people told me “Good job” or “Looking good.” I’m still not sure if this is typical ultra etiquette or if I just looked haggard enough that people wanted to encourage me, but I tried to return the favor and urge other people on. My legs and feet stayed fresh longer, probably due to softer surfaces. However, I did have an IT band issue at mile 15 that made it excrutiatingly painful to run for several miles. By mile 20 it had settled to a dull ache, so the last loop was actually faster than the second one when I was limping part of the time. I nearly stepped on a snake, I tripped over a tree root, and I will now for sure lose one toenail, maybe two. But I finished fairly strong and I am looking forward to trying this distance again. In the meanwhile, I need to do some much longer trail runs.
All finishers were given really nice medals, a tech shirt, and fleece jackets!!! Of course, it’s too warm to wear it this year, but I surely will next winter.
Things I learned:
1) Trail conditions can deteriorate quickly and unpredictably.
2) Orange Heed tastes like watery baby aspirin and it is NASTY.
3) A little Coca-Cola near the end of a race is a good pick-me-up.
4) DNFs are common in ultrarunning and I need to suck it up that I will have some.
5) When you get tired in a trail run you can’t shuffle along like you do on the road; you still have to pick your feet up.
6) Sunburn is likely when you’re on the course for hours and hours. Wear sunscreen!
7) Beyond 26.2 miles, your entire arms will be hurting along with everything else.
50k runners getting last-minute instructions
Running across the fairgrounds headed for the finish
Thanks to my precious husband for photos and video!