The Aftermath: Noble Canyon 50K 2011 recap

It’s hard to believe it is all over.  I crossed the finish line of the Noble Canyon 50K in 7 hours, 5 minutes, and 39 seconds. It was physically and mentally the hardest thing I have ever done.  Although I am completely satisfied with the race and performance, I am dealing with a mix of emotions. Guess this is what they call post Marathon Depression.  In my case, I am going through post Ultra Depression.  (ha)

I was not prepared for the cold, the website said this race was typically a warm race; it was around 40 degrees at the start of the race.  Guess this is one thing I over looked being my first ultra.  Although cold and shivering, I took the time to look at everyone lined up to start the race.  I stared at the clock, there was 7 minutes, and then 6 minutes left.  I began to jump up and down to warm myself up.

Then the moment was upon us as everyone started to shout the last second’s, 10-9-8-………  GO!  In my first 2 steps I nearly tripped a man in front of me.  I apologized but he did not look to happy and did not even gesture to me.  I decided to go around him and his buddy.  I later found out he said something like “dang road racers.”  I was just so excited. 

My fingers were completely frozen and my hands throbbed with pain.  To make it worse, I was holding a 22 ounce water bottle in each hand with cold water.  I tried tucking my hands, one at a time, under my arm pits, but it did not really work to well.  I decided to focus on my pace. I found myself in a caravan of runners all running at 10 minute and 30 second mile pace.  This was the pace I had hoped I could run the first half of the race.  We went from a paved road, passing RV and tent camping area, to a single track forest path that begun to wind up the side of a mountain.

I highly anticipated getting to the first aide station.  I had read and seen lots of footage of runners going in and out of the aid stations.  At mile 6.8 I got my chance as I came into the first aide station, Big Tree.  I must say all the workers at the stations were so friendly and helpful.  They refilled my bottles and offered me some snacks.  I quickly accepted a potato dipped into salt, it was so good.  I made quick time at that first station and headed back on the trail.   

I was soon running through a beautiful trail lined with huge trees and a stream that crossed that path several times. I wished I had taken a camera.  I was still feeling strong and focused on my pace.  A few miles from next aide station at mile 13.2, I was passed by the leaders on their way back up the mountain.  Wow, they were really moving fast.  I started to count the runners.  I was in the top 70 at this point.  I pushed myself and reached mile 13.2, which was the Noble Canyon Trail Head aide station.

When I stopped at the aide station I felt as though I lost my bearings.  My head was spinning, but I did not want to waste time.  I refueled and took off up the mountain.  Now the real pain started, I would be climbing up hill for the next 18 miles to the finish.   I was feeling strong, and then I felt a pain in my left knee.  It was mile 17 and I had hit the wall.  I was cursing myself and contemplated quitting.  Runners began to pass me.  From mile 17 to mile 19.6, I was a wreck.   

I was so happy to reach the next aide station, Big Tree 2, at 19.6 miles.  I drank a Mountain Dew, a Gatorade, ate more potatoes, and then sponged my head with ice water.  I knew it was only 2.5 miles to the next aide station, so I begin to talk to myself and said mantras under my breath.  “You are the sh%%, you are one strong mother effer” I kept saying to myself.  At this point I was walking and shuffle stepping because running seemed impossible. 

I reached the Penny Pines 2 aide station located at 22.1 miles.  I was beyond exhausted and must have been somewhat incoherent.  At one point, I remember the aide worker asking me if I needed something.  I recall trying to joke then getting embarrassed.  I thought in my mind “11 miles to go I kept telling myself, a walk in the park.”  There were spectators parked along the road, their cheers gave me strength and hope.

I was now in the desert portion of the race.  I decided to eat an energy gel.  I struggled to rip it open with my teeth.  As I ate it, I realized I could not see or hear any runners.  I yelled out loud, “FECK,”  well just replace the E with a U and you get the picture.  I was off the race path; I wanted to cry.  I doubled back and saw that I missed a very obvious junction.  Now began the real pain.

I was now exposed to the sun and hobbling up what seemed a never ending hill. I kept looking at my watch.  I was approaching 26.2 miles which is the marathon distance.  I celebrated the distance in my mind; I hit it at 5 hours and 30 minutes.  Soon after, I began to feel nauseated.  A runner approached me and she asked how I was.  Not sure what I said, but she offered me some Tums antacid.  She then said “come on lets walk,” next thing I knew we were running.

While running, she engaged me in conversation. I learned her name was Maggie.  She knew the course and lived in California.  It was also her first Ultra.  I was shocked to see we were running at a 10 minute mile pace.  She saved my race.  The “Rat Hole” (27.0 miles) was the last aide station. From the rat hole, the finish line was 4.2 miles away.  

That last 4.2 miles was the longest 4.2 miles in my life.  As I turned that last corner and could see the finish line I cried a bit.  But I wiped off my tears of joy and ran to the finish line.  The tradition is to kiss the Rat.  I did and I got my medal.  I was too tired to celebrate.  I went and sat down on a retaining wall and just embraced everything and everyone around me.  So much energy and time had been put in just for this moment.  It was so brilliant.

Thanks to everyone I got to run with and talk to on the course.  Those moments got me through some tough moments and meant a lot to me.  Also another big thanks to Tim and Giles for letting me tag along.  Congrats to both of them on their achievement. 

Official results can be found on the races web page.

I would also like to shout out a pod cast I enjoy. “Full Speed Ahead” Link is below and can also be found on I tunes.
http://fullspeedaheadpodcast.podbean.com/

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