It's always interesting when I start to write a race report about a race I have ran before. The story feels somehow so familiar that finding a new way to share it seems like an effort. However in this telling of my running of the Bull Run Run 50 miler the effort was in the running. No. That's not quite true. The effort was in the not quitting. But before I jump to the end, let me tell you a bit more about the beginning.
I made the drive to Clifton, VA to my luxury accommodations. Unlike last year my late arrival didn't go unnoticed since I woke the one other bunk mate who had been unlucky enough to chose the same side of the cabins as I did. After a few apologizes I got quickly settled in for the night. Hopeful that I wouldn't cough all night long I tired to sleep.
As I lay awake waiting for it to not be too early to start moving and wake my bunkmate I wondered about the day that lay ahead. I knew that my chest was sore and tired from simply trying to breath let alone trying to move sufficient air for carry me over 50 miles. My thoughts were on the days of the past week and the lack of fueling I had been able to do. As I began to hear others arriving to set up for the day, I told myself that today would be about simply pushing myself to whatever limit I was able to and that no matter how far I got I would be successful in simply starting.
With few others on site this early I was able to get dressed and ready without having to wait. I found Anstr, the RD and paid for my room and picked up my bib which was appropriately number 50. With loads of extra time I gathered up my gear, packed up the car and went about the business of visiting with as many trail brethren as I could to keep the nerves at bay. There were so many friends there, Carter, Charlie, Katie, Mark, Melissa, Kari, Rande, Alan, Matt, Cherry and more I know I'm forgetting... I tired to chat with everyone and ended up starting with Charlie and Carter. But I didn't kind myself about pace after the clock hit 6:30 and we were off I would only see Carter and Charlie for the first four miles when I needed to pull back on my pace. I had already fallen four times.
Four falls on such nice trails - after all the practice on the rough trails on the MMT course - I knew that my mind and body were going to be in for a day of struggling. But the course was beautiful and the day was amazing so I simply kept enjoying the trail brethren I found around me and enjoyed the scenery along the way.
The course consists basically of three loops which put runners back at Hemlock three times. This allows runners to see nearly all the runners on the course at one point or another. I enjoyed seeing all the runners that I was used to running with. It was so thrilling to see friends who were having amazing runs on near perfect trail conditions. It was easy to feed off their energy as we shared cheers for each other in passing.
On my way to Centerville Road and the out-and-back through the blue bells I ran with Melissa who I had shared miles with at the Mega last year. She had ran 90 miles a mere 2 weeks ago and wanted to hit steady 12 minute miles. Her drive carried me through a few miles of what was already becoming a warm day.
Luckily by the second pass to Hemlock I fell into running with a small group of runners and nearly ran the entire second two loops with one runner, Stacey. She wore a bright orange shirt which made an easy target to hold when my mind was so cloudy and my lungs were so tired. To say that I felt good during any of this run might be an exaggeration. I love trail running so much. I wanted to find joy in moving over these trails. I wanted to play over this course knowing it's path was so smooth by comparison to others I had traveled this spring. I found joy and happiness in moments along the trail but mostly I found a desire to simply keep going like I had never found before.
I wasn't the only runner on the trails that was struggling. Multiple times I would stop and ask the same question, "what can I give you?" Sometimes it was to an unfortunate runner unable to hold anything done. But luckily I had pepto to offer. Another time it was to a young lady with a terrible bloody nose. This time I had a pile of paper towels in with my hydration pack bladder to give. One runner with a turned ankle only needed a few ibuprofen. Some how in simply helping others, my own suffering seemed momentarily lifted.
All thoughts of time had left my mind. I knew that this run would only be about pushing my limits in a way I hadn't ever done before. I had run when I wanted to stop before. Every ultra runner has those moments. But this run was different. I can only imagine that I will feel as depleted and completely without anything left to give when I am deep into my 100 mile attempt this May as I was feeling throughout this run. As we entered the white loop I rolled my Garmin around wrist determined to just finish no matter the time. Aid station after aid station I tried to drink, grab some salt, ice if they had it and a few calories. Of course nothing compares to the Popsicles before and after the Do Loop they were almost as sweet as the knowledge that every step was now leading me towards that finish line.
The day couldn't have been much closer to perfect. The trails were completely amazing. My trail friends were inspiring and uplifting. The volunteers were helpful and encouraging. On a day that started with the hopes of finding a lower number on a clock to prove that I had become stronger, I found it took forgetting the clock was even ticking to find out how very strong this ultra runner has become.
2013 Bull Run Run