Triple Lakes Trail 40-Miler Race report: Some thoughts about running my first ultra-marathon

Writing my race report throughout the day as I ran went something like this: at mile 22, my knee started to hurt. At mile 27, other things started hurting. At mile 32, things really were hurting. At mile 34, things REALLY were hurting. At mile 36, dang, EVERYTHING WAS REALLY, REALLY hurting. Let’s face it: running an ultra-marathon hurts. You can see why a mile-by-mile race recap would not build readership for my blog, so I’ve instead collected a few tidbits. It’s rather long, but so was the race.

My running buddies Jon, Joanna, and Danny knew I was coming into this race after a tough week, and they were awesome. I can’t point to anything specific, but having understanding friends who know you are struggling helped a lot. In addition, Andrew helped me get through an incredibly hard week and encouraged me to stick with my plan of doing the race. I really appreciated all the kind thoughts and gestures from my friends, too. In the months of training leading up to this race, I covered many miles with many different friends, and I will say it again: running buddies are the best! All of this incredible support helped me get to the finish. Thanks.

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Joanna, Jon, Steph and Danny at the finish. We made it!

The trail ran through the woods and along the lake and it really was a beautiful course. The day was gorgeous. It was warm, but we were mostly in the shade and the humidity was low.

The course was a marathon loop with an added out-and-back for the 40 milers, with the turnaround at mile 19.5 (where our first of two drop bags were). The marathoners split off at mile 11, so everyone you saw beyond that was doing the 40 mile distance. And, we got to see everyone on the out-and-back segment, so it was great to see my buddies and check in with each other. Danny and I ran together off and on until the turnaround at mile 19.5, which was awesome.

The trail crossed several greenway paths, so there were all kinds of hikers and mountain bikers out on the trail who had no idea what we were doing. One family’s smiles faded into shocked disbelief after the following exchange: “Good job! How far do you have to go?” “Eighteen, I think.” “Another guy we saw said 22.” “No, that’s how far we’ve already gone.”

Steve sent us a quote from Medoc (or so he says) on Friday: “Do not assume the person in front of you knows where they are going (especially if their trail name is Ray Charles). Most likely the person in front of you is an idiot. They are just a faster idiot than you are.” Well, that ended up being quite appropriate as Danny, Joanna and I all missed the same [well-marked] turn, going straight and coming out to a road around mile 16. [Danny will try to blame this on me. But, I ran into him while re-tracing my steps, trying to figure out where the turn was that I had missed—it was behind him, so he missed that turn all by himself.]

Putting wet washcloths in ziplock bags for my drop bags at mile 19.5 and 31 was a great idea. It was so nice to wipe some of the salt and grime from my face. I was right at 4 hours at mile 19.5.

Reaching the marathon mark around 5:10 was rather demoralizing. Not because of the time, but because all I could think was, cripes, I still have to run a half marathon! Miles 27-30 were a bit tough.

The thought of Jon and Joanna discovering a pair of high-heeled shoes and a rubber chicken (among other goodies) in their mile 19.5 drop bags kept me entertained for hours (admittedly, I’m easily amused). If I ever get so serious about running and training that I don’t have time for these kinds of shenanigans, please remind me that I’ve lost my way.

It’s the little things, like putting a rubber chicken in your buddy’s drop bag, that make these races so fun!

Hitting mile 30 was awesome! After 30 miles, I would shout “WOOHOOO!” at every mile marker. I must say that I was less enthusiastic at miles 34 and 37, but I made myself do it to keep up my morale. I was mostly by myself, and my whoops echoed around the empty forest.

One section of the race went through a clearing overgrown with kudzu and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was waiting to grab lagging ultra-runners. I picked up my pace a bit.

I ran up to a doe and got really close before she saw me around mile 32. She stared for a long moment, then leapt gracefully away. I admired her ability to pick her legs up so high.

Half a mile later I found myself planning ahead for a fallen sourwood tree that was about 10 inches off the ground. I slowed down and seriously considered whether to step over it with my left or right foot. And let’s face it—I was not approaching it with anything that could be called speed.

Stubbing your toe on a root hurts. Stubbing your toe on a root at mile 35 is agonizing.

I don’t know how people run 100 miles. I can definitely see why Danny focused on 8 laps at Umstead, instead of the miles completed or remaining. It is funny how the time flies by out on the trail, though. At several points I was startled to look at my watch and see that I’d been running for 6, 7, and 8 hours. The day really flew by.

Many know that I hate Fritos but love their salty goodness on long runs. Danny put a bag of them in my mile 31 drop bag and they were awesome! I’m sorry there isn’t a photo of me running at mile 32, beaming ridiculously and holding onto a bag of Fritos. One lady out hiking exclaimed “oh my goodness, I wondered if you people ate on these runs.” Fritos: Running Food of Champions!

My biggest concerns going in were a) emotional and mental exhaustion, b) physical lack of sleep and poor eating all week, c) nutrition problems during the race. I was most afraid that I didn’t have the capacity to get through the inevitable pain of that distance. My mental preparation on Friday helped immensely—out on the trail, I felt peace and joy, and I was never overwhelmed with sadness. I kept thinking how much Suzie would have loved running on the trails, and how grateful I was to be out there.

Although I don’t know how it’s possible, I did not feel very tired during the race. I had a few bouts with a queasy stomach but nothing too bad, and ate all the way up until mile 32.

On the other hand, I was not expecting ITB problems, but both knees hurt pretty badly and by mile 33, I had a hard time running the downhills. By mile 36, I could only run the flats. I walked most of mile 38, but I wanted to run the last mile, even though you had to pass the finish, run around a pond (including a jump (!) over water—soaked my foot at mile 39.9) and up a hill to the finish.

Telling yourself you have two miles to go at mile 38 in a 40-miler is just as tough as telling yourself you have two miles to go in a marathon, a half marathon, a 10-miler, or a 10K. That second-to-last mile is always tough, no matter what the distance.

Andrew helped me put together a training plan that was very doable, and made sure I could complete all my long training runs. I think that continuing track and tempo runs, and doing hill repeats really helped my training. I think I needed to do more strength/functional training (maybe could have helped the ITB) and a bit more trail running. Today I feel pretty good—I’m sore, but surprisingly, not bad.

There were only 13 women in the 40 mile race, of 56 finishers total. I placed third in my 40-49 age group because one woman placed overall and another won master’s (I was 9th of 13 women, 39th of 56). My time was 8:50, which was a 13:16 pace. My new race strategy is to sign up for races that no one else wants to do.

This was my first race over a marathon distance, but I don’t think it will be my last!

I made it!

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13 thoughts on “Triple Lakes Trail 40-Miler Race report: Some thoughts about running my first ultra-marathon

  1. Awesome job!!!! I would never dream of it! There may be a reason no one wants to do the races you plan to sign up for. Thanks for taking the time to recount the race for us. I have never run more than 5 miles (and could only run 5 on the Newport cliff Walk–otherwise, too boring), but ask me one day about sailing around Aquidneck Island on my Laser–a 9 hour adventure :).

  2. Just waiting to hear … It’s only 100 miler and ot won’t be fast … It’s in my back yard …

    Seriously, congratulations. Suzie was smiling down on you!

    • Ha ha. I will focus on PACING Danny in 2013. Suzie helped me over many of the tough spots near the end. She would have loved the race–when I told her about it, I didn’t have to explain why I’d sign up–she instantly got the appeal.

    • Thanks Scott! I’m telling you, these races for crazy people are awesome. There are just not that many of us.

      Good luck to you at Medoc this weekend! Look for my friend Steve F.–curmudgeonly British dude. He’s also doing the marathon and several other Peeps are in for the 10-miler. I think his trail name is “Leeds.”

  3. Pingback: 2014 Uwharrie Mountain Run 40 Mile Race Report | Running with Scissors

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