On Saturday, I finally finished my first 50K race at the Stanky Creek 50K! This race finish was a very long time coming for me! I first signed up in 2018, but I got a stress fracture while training and ended up volunteering at the race that year (in a boot). In 2019, I signed up again, but I got yet another stress fracture in my foot while training earlier in the year for the Nashville Rock & Roll Marathon. By September 2019, my foot had healed, but I wasn't back to running long distances yet, so I bumped down to the half-marathon.
In 2020, I'd signed up for the Big Buffalo 50K in March, hoping to make that my first 50K, but it was canceled due to COVID (and rescheduled to next month!!). The cancellation notice came one week before the race, and I ended up running the distance solo on the Big Buffalo course. So I'd run the 50K distance before but never with people! Saturday's race was such a big deal for me because it felt like I'd been training for FOUR YEARS!
But let's back up to the night before. I got home from work on Friday and scarfed down a quick dinner of Spaghetti with Marinara & Vegan Meatballs, plus some sourdough garlic bread. I eat pasta before almost every long run, so I know this is a meal that works for my body.
My friend Peter is the Stanky race director, and he held packet pickup at Wiseacre Brewing Co. Paul and I headed there after dinner. I typically have one beer the night before a race to "calm my nerves" (that's my excuse!), so I had an Oktoberfest (tis the season!).
Then we headed home and got to bed. I had a 4 am alarm set! The next morning, I had my coffee and bagel with peanut butter (my standard pre-race breakfast), and then I drove to Bartlett for the race. I got there around 6 am to make sure I could get a spot in the parking lot since I'd be stashing some of my fuel in my car. I got a great spot next to the aid station! Here I am before the race, looking nervous. It was supposed to rain all day, so I wore a cap to keep the rain out of my eyes, but it never did more than drizzle, thankfully!
At 7 am, the 50K-ers were off! I made sure to find a nice spot in the very back because I'm slow, and I don't like being in the way of the fast people on single track trails. One mile in, we came to the creek crossing, and due to heavy rain the night before, it was deep enough that there was no way to cross without getting your feet wet.
For the 50K, we did the 8-mile loop (blue/white trails) four times, and there were two such creek crossings, so there was no way to keep your feet dry. I brought extra shoes and socks, but I didn't see a point in changing my shoes since they'd only get wet again and again. No blisters, but I did lose another toenail after the race.
For fuel, I brought Plant Bites (real food fruit bites from No Meat Athlete), Muir Energy gels (cashew, sunflower, and raspberry), and sesame rice balls that I'd trained with. Every time I passed my car (every 8 miles), my plan was to grab a rice ball since they were too big to carry in my pack. But after two balls, I couldn't stomach them anymore. Luckily, my friend Peter made sure to have vegan options at the aid stations. Here's the main aid station, which was stocked with almond butter sandwiches (I had several of those!), salted potatoes, pickles (these were my jam for the whole race!), bananas, Oreos, coke, Mountain Dew, and Gatorade. Oh, and Fireball! Both aid stations had Fireball shots. I took one at mile 8 and stuffed an airplane bottle in my pocket for emergencies! This is why I love trail running!
My first loop went great (feeling strong), and my second loop was great too! I actually met up with my friend Karla, who was running the 25K right at the end of our second loop as she was finishing. So I grabbed a pic with her. She has her medal, and I had a pickle and sandwich before heading into loop three.
Loop three was the hardest. I had some moments when I felt like that loop would never end. I was tired. My feet were pretty numb. My legs hurt, and I still had 16 miles to go. There were two aid stations (the main one above) and another in the woods at mile 4/12/20/28. That station was womanned by my friend Keshia. I stopped here around mile 20 (on that third loop) to get a photo with her and had no idea I had mascara all over my face. Ha! I had a hard time even working my phone's camera because I was so tired, and my brain felt broken.
But I made it out of the woods at mile 24 and got a burst of energy. The fourth loop is the best because, every time you pass a landmark (a certain tree, a giant mushroom, a crappy hill), you can tell yourself, "That's the last time I have to look at that stupid tree!"
I was DFL (trail speak for "dead f-ing last") the whole race, and I was fine with that. I'm slow, and my goal for this race was just to finish before the 9-hour cutoff. But around mile 29, I saw a guy up ahead, and he was walking. I was feeling pretty strong and still running. In fact, I ran the whole way (just slowly!). So I passed him up and shouted some words of encouragement, as trail runners always do as they pass (yet another reason I love trail running).
About 1/4-mile from the end, Peter (the race director) met me on the trail and said he was proud of me and was planning to run with me to the finish! How many race directors do that?! So cool! He told me there was a group waiting for me at the end. I had assumed everyone would have gone home by that point, but people were there! I ran into the finish line at 8:43:56! More than 15 minutes before cutoff time and not in last place! I had my Fireball shot (it was still in my pocket!) to celebrate.
Check out the cool wooden medals! I was so proud to add this to my medal display at home.
After the race, I was pooped. I had thought I might grab something greasy from Imagine Vegan Cafe. But I really didn't have the energy to go anywhere! Luckily, I'd picked up a Veggie Burrito from The Fiesta Wagon food truck the night before at Wiseacre to have on-hand in case I was too tired to grab food. So I ate that and washed it down with a Crosstown Brewing Earth in Awe dry-hopped IPA.
But I was still hungry after that! So I made a Daiya Cauliflower Crust Italian Herbs & Cheeze Pizza and proceeded to eat 3/4th of that too.
Later, after Paul got home from work, I made a big bowl of popcorn and we re-watched Tenacious D & The Pick of Destiny. A perfect day! Now I have to do it all over again next month for the rescheduled Big Buffalo 50K!