Saturday, March 22, 2014

Citrus Trail 50K

March 16, 2014
Inverness, FL

This is the weekend I've been waiting for/dreading for a while. My second 50K run. I did not get in the training that I should have. My longest run was a road marathon in January. I'd only got out on the local trails a few times, the longest distance was 12 miles! Plus, a couple of people had told me it was a hilly race. I did 6-8 hill repeats out at celery fields a couple of times, but that was not even close to what was going to be out there on the trail for this race.

I drove up to The Inverness area Saturday afternoon. After driving out to the race area to pick up my shirt and race bib, I stopped at the local Publix, to pick up dinner, then headed to my hotel. There were few hotel options just off the interstate, so I went with the one that looked the best online, a Days Inn. My room seemed clean at first glance, but then I noticed the stains on the beadspread, floor and sofa. Yuck. I kept my flip flops on and tried not to put much on the bed itself. After eating and watching some TV, I turned in for the night, taking that nasty beadspread off completely and making due with sheets. I didn't sleep very well. I kept dreaming that I was late for the race! Finally, at 5:30, I got up, got dressed, packed up everything, filled my little cooler with Ice and then headed out. A quick stop across the street to the big gas station mart for coffee and I was on my way. I big, full moon helped to light my way to the race venue. I am glad I went out the day before, so I knew where to look for the turn off the main road. I had to make a few stops at the porta pottie, (note to self, do not eat baked lays the night before a race. They do a number on the stomach!) before heading back to the car to finish getting everything ready. I took my drop bag over to the bin and then listened to the race instructions given by Kip. We all gathered at the start line and then we were off!

First loop is the yellow path.

We headed down the dirt road, following Kip on his bike. We turned left and then a bit further down the road we took a right onto the trail. We are all pretty close for the next few miles. I had my music going, but decided to turn it off, save the battery, and just enjoy the company of runners while I had it. We pass the "Smile Zone" where there is a photographer set up and then we are on to the first aid station. I had water with me, so I ran past without stopping. Now, the hills start. We go up and down a few times before we cross State Road 44. Just before the crossing, I see the bones of a large animal. A fully intact rib cage, plus lots of various bones. Yuck! I've seen a couple of runners heading back already, but as we get closer to the aid station, more and more pass. As I get to the aid station, I grab a water, and head out quickly. By my count, I am 5th female runner, with number 6, pretty close behind. That's pretty cool, but I'm not to concerned with where I'm placed. Runners are spreading out a bit more now. The guy I had been running behind for a couple of miles, dropped back at one point, so I was on my own for a little. I got up to the main junction, where there were a ton of signs, (thanks Kip!) and turned right. I am now on the main circle of the course.

First time running by the photographer.

The next miles are hilly. Well, the whole rest of the course is very hilly, with minor sections of flat parts. But, the trail itself, is nicely packed down, with little to no roots. The kind of trail I love to run on! We did have some great shade early on. The first couple of hours were cool with temps (probably) still in the low 60s. I was happy to see aid station B, as I was pretty close to being out of water. One water bottle has been leaking the entire time, making the left side of my skirt very wet! I re-filled my bottles, deciding to hold the leaky one for a while. It seemed to hold the water better when it wasn't in the waist belt. I pass one woman and then another during this section. Now, by my calculations, I am third female! This feels pretty cool, and motivates me a lot. I figure I have a chance at an age group award. In these type of races, it's a 10 year age group, with just first place getting an award.

The second loop is much longer.

Still feeling good at aid station C!
As I finish the first loop, I see a few guys standing at the signs showing where to go for first and second loop and the finish. One guy looks at me and I say "we aren't done yet! One more loop." So we turn slightly to the left and keep going. I chat with one of the guys for a little while before I leave him at aid station A. I probably should have stopped and topped off my bottles, because it ended up being a long stretch with no water break. We have just a short out and back, before heading back out on the main loop. For the next few miles, I have one guy just ahead of me and then 2 other guys catch up and hang out behind me. It's nice to have some company. Finally we see the sign that has us turning to the right, instead of the left (first loop), We are now on new ground and the hills are still plentiful. We all pretty much pull into Aid station C about the same time. I eagerly pull out my drop bag, getting my banana, small bag of turkey jerky and a dry wash cloth. I fill up my bottles, drink some gatorade, snap a few photos and then head out ahead of the guys. I've now run about 19 miles. I'm still feeling pretty good. I have been walking most of the hills and I think this has helped. I pass one woman soon, but I don't remember her from before, so I figure she is running the marathon, which started after the 50K did. Pretty soon, the guys come up behind me and pass me. It's the last I see of them until the finish. I am now on my own.

Aid station C at around mile 19
The most memorable part of the next section is the run through a large area of burned out park land. Not sure if it was controlled burn or caused by someone, but it wasn't so great to run through. The wind was getting pretty brisk, so the ash was blowing around a lot. I hadn't had to wear my sunglasses up to this point, but now I was happy that I had them. They helped to keep the dust of the ash out of my eyes. This seemed like a super long stretch, but according to the map, was just under 6 miles. I was very happy to get to the aid station D. I filled up my bottles again, ate another half a banana and chatted with the volunteer a little. He looked at his clip board and told me I was 4th female. Hmm, I thought I was 3rd, but figured I'd probably counted wrong. It was no big deal, I was more concerned with finishing at a faster time than last years 50K. I thanked him for helping out and then headed out. These last miles where rough for me. I was starting to feel stiff, hot and tired. I pulled my phone out to snap a photo of my time at 26.2, which was faster than the trail marathon last year, when I saw a text from my friend Gina. She asked how I was doing and I told her how I was feeling. I snapped a photo of my watch and then a photo of a guy who came out of now where and passed me. That's the thing about trails, you can feel all alone and then all of a sudden, there is another runner! To bad I couldn't run at his speed.

Mile 26.2. This is the last person I see until mile 30.
I keep on going, more of a run/walk thing going on now. This is a major mental game. I need to learn some key phrases to keep me going, cause I have a hard time pushing through the mental breakdown late in a race like this. Even though I filled both bottles and should have had plenty for 5.5 miles, I was drinking more than normal and was pretty much out for almost a mile. I hit the last aid station, feeling very thirsty. One of the volunteers took my bottles and filled them for me as I drank a couple of small cups of gatorade. I must have looked a bit dazed, because the volunteer asked me a couple of times if I was OK. I assured her I was going to make it. Not much left to go! I grabbed a small piece of watermelon (yummy!) before heading back out.

Lots of tall weeds on the trail, which were annoying to run through. My feet were not being lifted as high as they were in the beginning, so I was hitting all those weeds with my feet. I knew I didn't have much to go (2.5 miles) before getting to the sign pointing us to the right and to the finish, so I tried to push all doubts out (not easy) and just keep going. I checked my phone at some point during this time and see a text from Gina. She tells me "Hang in there!!! U got this!!! U can do it! Stay strong!!" That was the best thing to see at this point! What a boost. I'm not much of a crier, but I felt like I was going to start crying right then! Finally, finally!, I see the sign pointing us to the right. I have never been so happy to see a sign and once again, I feel like crying. I know that I have just under a mile to the finish line! I can get through a mile, no problem! Just a little after I pass the sign, I hear someone come up behind me. I move over to the right a bit and look over my shoulder. It's a woman passing me! She is running strong and fast. I have no idea if she is in the 50K or marathon, so I just keep doing my own thing. Finally, I make the left turn off of the trail. A short while later, I make a right turn, running down the dirt road to the finish. I see some people up ahead cheering, so I try to pick up my pace a little. I make the turn to the right and then quickly to the left and run it in under the finish sign. Done! And, with about a 50 minute PR! Woot, Woot!! :)
Time: 6:03:59

Finishing my second 50K with a smile and a PR!
I get my finisher medal and finishers hat, grab some cold soda and a water and then hang out for a little, watching other runners finish. I had a long drive ahead of me, so I didn't stay long. I got some photos and then changed in the back seat of my car. I grab my protein drink and then hit the road.

A couple of days later, I find out that I came in second overall female runner! The woman who passed me with less than a mile to go, won! I guess that there had only been two women ahead of me (like I thought) and both pulled out of the race. If I had know I was in first, I would have pushed harder! I guess I should always push harder and try my best. :) Very happy with my 2nd place and 1st place age group. :)

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