Fast Fall 50k, sure… why not!!!
After some research, I decided on the Hennepin 50k, a race on the Hennepin Canal Trail, it’s notoriously flat and fast…plus an Ornery Mule Race, so I knew it would be fun plus well run! Only unique twist, the race starts at 5pm, and runs into the night.
With the race about three weeks out… I’m walking with Jaime (it was the Wednesday after her 50 miler up at Ice Age), and she turns to me, “I may have a stupid idea.”….. I’m like “bad stupid or good stupid ;) ?” Jaime says, “I’m thinking about running your 50k with you!?!?” My eyes got wide and a huge smile came over my face, I didn’t even think…I responded, “YESSSSS, omg yes, let’s race it together.”
The rest was history! A few more times convincing her it was a GREAT idea, and she signed up!!
In my head, I had the goal of getting just under 5:30, my previous PR had been just under 6hrs on a hilly, more technical course. So I thought sneaking under 5:30 was possible.
I was conditioned to being patient, conservative, and to let the race unfold with 100 milers, how would I feel/hold up trying to really attack this 50k? I didn’t know how this race was going to unfold, but what I did know was, I was ready to show up, and see what I could do.
It was the week of the race, and I had my pre-race chat with my coach Sarah. We chatted through strategy, and got to pacing and timing. I told her I still had my sights set on breaking 5:30. And that’s where she dropped the *carrot* of “I think even more is possible. I think you can do faster…. like closer to 5hrs.” She knew how well Jaime and I work together, and knew that if we worked together, and the stars aligned, anything was possible.
Insert WIDE EYES…ok – now 5hrs was in my brain.
To be fair…Jaime knew I wanted to do a “fast 50k” but I don’t think I ever mentioned a time goal. I think I dropped sub 5:30 to her, but never anything past that. So when I texted her after my coach call, literally this was her reply, “WHAT THE F*CKING F*CK PACE WOULD THAT EVEN BE???!”…..ok all CAPS, haha she was *serious*.
[Side note: Leading into the weeks before the race, I started to do some past results research.
What top women times had been, and times in our age group (AG). It *seemed* if we could get sub 5:30, or faster – we’d have a shot at placing.]
I worked through pacing spreadsheets, and it seemed if we eased in at 10:30s and then made our way down to 9s, we had a shot at going low 5s. You need to go in with a plan but also be flexible and let the race unfold.
We were calm, cool, and collected at the Start. Jammed to our pump up tunes and exchanged some wicked hi-5’s/hugs with our crewing extraordinaire friends Julie and Tara. I was excited mixed with the right amount of nerves. In ultras, you have to respect the distance, ALWAYS.
More than any other feeling, I was grateful.
Grateful that I got to cap off my race season with my run or die, I knew it was going to be great, no matter the outcome, because we were doing it TOGETHER.
The horn sounds and we are off!!! We started out with what felt *easy*, and we were already in the 9:45s vs. 10:30s – oops, but it felt good – so don’t overthink it, roll with it. We were chatting, laughing, I snapped a quick picture of the sunset (even tho Jaime was like, “REALLY?? there is NO time for pictures, we are racing this thing”, but I HAD to take oneJ ).
In under an hour we were at mile 5.7, our first crew stop. We were in and out fast. Honestly it felt like the race started there for us. It felt like we had the pedal to the metal from HERE.
[Funny sidenote, after leaving this aid station, Jaime dropped an apple sauce pouch, which I snatched up and continued to carry for the rest of the race…which seemed sorta fair, since she held an OPEN applesauce cup for me for miles while pacing me – to be fair I say *sorta* because she had applesauce dripping down her pack, I got to hold a SEALED applesauce pouch…so I guess I still owe her one! ;) ]
Jaime asked how my legs were feeling, and I said, “ok”, but for me my legs don’t get into a rhythm until like 10 miles in (ha ha). She was like, “to be honest, my legs already feel trashed.
So I knew from then on out, I wouldn’t mention how my legs felt. I was prepared to be strong, if I needed to, for the both of us (like she did for me pacing me at Kettle, and on countless other times). She was brave to come on this journey with me. She was pushing herself, HARD, just weeks out from a grueling 50 miler.
Once the sun set, and we turned on our lights, it felt like we flipped a switch. It was GO TIME. We had already been pushing, but this was different, it was a mindset, we went into “hunt and attack mode”. We would see a light in the distance, and go for it. Picking people off became our “game”. We’d whisper to one another, “ok patience as we approach, make sure once we are ready to pass, we pass with confidence, no one we pass is gonna pass us back, etc.” Then once we got close it was “ok, you ready?, YUP, Let’s F*cking GO!”
We made it to mile 10.7, the next aid station, and breezed through. No time to stop and nothing we needed. Onward we went.
There were moments we’d be chatting away, and moments where we were just surviving one foot in front of the other.
We were running through tunnels, along bridges, playing our version of “leap frog” (Jaime’s coined funny ;) with the frogs that were on the trail, making our way to the next glowing oasis of an aid station.
Like machines we were knocking off miles. We HAD to believe that we were the strongest two runners out there that night.
We reached mile 14.8, the next aid station, and some M&M’s were calling Jaime’s name ha ha, grabbed some, thanked the incredible volunteers, and off we were again.
Moments that stand out.
We were coming up on a road crossing, and approaching another woman racer. With patience and strength we passed her, exchanged a few words, and then she hung with us for a while. We didn’t say anything but were both thinking, “oh, no….no sorry, we aren’t carrying you along with us.” And we pushed onward.
Further along in the race, we came up on another runner, a woman racer. We didn’t know our place in the race at this point, but had a feeling if we could keep this up, we had a shot at placing. As we passed her, she said to us, “oh my pacers have arrived.” And WOW that lit a fire under us. Jaime turned to me and said, “I’m willing to bury myself for this, are you in?” Of course my answer was a resounding “YES”. And we pushed. You could hear her footsteps behind us, on the leaves and through the crushed gravel. How was she still hanging on? We continued to push. Finally after what felt like 2 miles we were safe, and back on our own.
At mile 19.2 we saw our crew again, and did a full reload – hydration bladders, nutrition, and some caffeine to help fuel us as we continued in the dark. We told them it was f*cking go time!! And I think only 90 seconds later, we were on our way out of the crew stop.
Leaving this aid station was the time I had *planned* on starting to push, but the way the race unfolded we were ALREADY “cookin pushin” (#IYKYK)(a phrase trademarked by Jaime during the last 2 miles of my hundred where she was pacing me to the finish).
I won’t lie, things hurt, it was uncomfortable, but that’s what I signed up for, to challenge myself, dig deep, and uncover what was possible.
We were only checking mileage and pace every so often.
We came in HOT at mile 25.8 our next crew stop, we slammed some more caffeine, and let Julie and Tara know we were ready to bury ourselves, we were going to burn this thing down!
WE’LL SEE YOU AT THE FINISH!
A little after leaving them, my watch hit mile 26…ok – 5 miles to go…let’s keep digging.
We were running every mile now like it was the last mile.
The last 5 miles were tough, we had been pushing for so long, in the dark, and we were alone. There was no one we could spot in the distance to work toward. We’d have moments of tunnel vision and have to take short walk breaks.
There were moments where I could feel Jaime surge, and moments where I felt myself surge, pushing one another to pull out our bests.
Mile 27…ok - 4 left, that seems like manageable chunk…but it’s still enough where you can’t feel comfortable, flashing back to my hundred, when Jaime let me know we had 4 miles to go (again assuming I’d be happy with that information, but I instead was like UGH FOUR MORE?!?!, ugh I wish it was only 3). Jaime turned me and was like, ok, I get it, 3 is significantly better than 4 ha ha.
Watch hit mile 28, we were in full on #cookinpushin mode!
Watch beeped 29 miles – ok 2 to go…I turned to Jaime and said, “f*ck ya, this is it, everything we got” Jaime replied, “this IS it, this is all I have left, I’m giving it.”
Somewhere between mile 29 and 30 the trail sorta split up into two, one up and over a road, and one in a tunnel. It forced us to come to a complete stop to make sure we continued on the right path. We were so close, there was no time for a wrong turn. It was really hard to get back going after that stop. We were frustrated but had to keep pushing. Our legs were on fire, every muscle was burning.
Those last two miles were all heart.
Watch beeped 30 miles.
Ok keep fighting.
That last mile we were just in a hunt for the Finish Line. Every step hurt. We had pushed for so many miles now, the end was in sight, but it seemed to get farther and farther away with each step. I was pushing my body as hard as I could and I knew Jaime was doing the same. It almost felt like my feet weren’t even hitting the ground. I was only capable of pushing like this because Jaime was by my side.
Then finally in the distance you could see glowing lights, and the FINISH! I smiled the biggest smile, and turned to Jaime, “F*CK YES! we got this”, as we crossed through that Finish together! Well Jaime, being the amazing friend she is, was like YOU are crossing first, go, take it.
[Side note: we had raced Earth Day 50k together earlier in the year, and much to our surprise, had come in 2nd and 3rd in our age group, I had no idea, but Jaime could hear them announcing us.]
I’m proud of leaving it all out there, for some gutsy moments, some big moves, that could have blown up in our faces, but didn’t.
But I’m really freaking proud of my run or die Jaime. She had JUST raced a 50 MILER but was down for the challenge of racing a 50k together just three weeks later. She didn’t know how this was going to go, but was committed to showing up, and in her words didn’t want to wonder “what if”. I hope she doesn’t have any “what ifs” left after that epic performance, because she showed up BIG TIME! She pushed herself and pushed me to the best race we could have executed.
I can truly say, we raced with everything our heart, mind, and body had to give. You never know what is possible until you push yourself to the very edge. And that we did.
It was an HONOR to race side by side with my run or die. It’s a sweat bond like no other.
Thank you Jaime for having the crazy idea to race this with me…it’s an experience I will NEVER forget! And gets added to all the amazing memories I have of us running together.
Now, when do we get to go after sub 5 together ;)
NEGATIVE SPLIT this race by 6 minutes and 28 seconds (WHAT???? Never ever thought possible)
1/2 in our Age Group (holy crap – that’s never happened to me before).
6/7 overall for women, and 14/15 out of 98 for the field.