Race Report

#71: 05/11/2019 — The Dirty German 50K (Pennsylvania: 8:10:14)

I have officially started my 3.0 running era. Yes, I ran a 50K (31 miles), and yes, it took me EIGHT HOURS AND TEN MINUTES. YES.

1.0 is circa 2005-2012 I had just started marathon running. I did one race a year. I was conscious of finish times, but not overly obsessed. In this time-period, however, I became obsessed with trying to get faster. I was new to running (thanks to Paul), and had what felt like all the time in the world to train. I was obsessed with the big, popular races. During this time, I had run a whopping 11 marathons. My times were well under 5 hours. I thought I was an ‘experienced runner’ (no, I was not), but I was still time-focused. At the Philadelphia marathon in 2011, I gave it a go to try and qualify for Boston. I ran a 3:58. Leading up to the race, my hamstring was so severely injured, I could barely bring my leg forward. I finished and I took some time off. I still ran Orlando in January. Still injured, I took more time off and decided to run Berlin 8 months later and suffered through (because it was already booked). Bottom line is, I had really injured myself tying to be a runner I was never going to be…fast. My body was not built for speed, but I kept trying. After Berlin, I gave up trying to run. I actually thought I was never running a marathon again. I stopped running so that I could heal…for two years.

2.0 is circa 2014 to 2018: Post injury. I slowly started running again in 2014–after my two year break. It was hard, and I was afraid of going too far and injuring myself again. I decided that I should just rip the band aid off and run a race that was inexpensive and close to home. If I couldn’t do the distance again, I’d DNF and I won’t feel bad that we traveled somewhere. I decided to run the Bucks County Marathon (in my own backyard, literally). I ran it with no pain from injury in a 4:16. I was back. I decided to keep up my fitness and ran Rehoboth Beach a few short weeks later, and it was there where I officially kicked off my 50-state journey. This frenzy of one-a-month-marathoning lasted until October 2018 at the Run Crazy Horse Marathon in South Dakota.

3.0 November 2018 to now: After finishing Run Crazy Horse, my focus completely shifted on types of races. I learned so much about what kind of races I liked from doing all 50 states. I really do not care about my finish time anymore. I really am just so happy that with the intensity of my job, schedule and age, I can still run. 🙃 I am sick of “the big show” and horrendous logistics to get to the starting line (e.g., MCM… four hours of logistics on your feet before you even start running). Don’t get me wrong, I will still apply in the lottery to run the New York City marathon every single year until I die (because it is the greatest marathon on the planet), but, in general, I’m all about “races in beautiful places,” and the small unique experience. I want to run with experienced runners who are kind and considerate, and demonstrate proper running etiquette (too many newbies in the biggies and I’m sick of being plowed down and shoved through drink stations and listening to someone’s music blaring from their phone because they don’t want to wear headphones). I’m done with that being my “normal” race.

Enough history. On to the race…

A work buddy (who’s a total speedster), mentioned this race to me a few months ago, and I was instantly obsessed with trying something new. This being in my backyard, why not. I was ready for a longer distance and ready for a new adventure!

I tweaked my knee a little on my 12 mile run the week before, so of course, I was actually skeptical if I were going to be able to run or not. Where would I be without the guidance from mom-friend and sports M.D., Dr. Stacey Miller-Smith. Do y’all even know how life-changing it is to have sports medical advice a text message away? I am so grateful. My knee felt funky, so we decided I was going to sustain from running all week and she gave me an anti inflammatory. On Friday, I did a 1-mile “go/no-go” run. If my knee was twingy, I wasn’t going to run. I ran. It felt tight, but fine: it was a GO.

The start/finish line of the Dirty German 25K / 50K / 50-Miler. This race is a local favorite right in Philadelphia proper, Penny Pack Park. I have never been to this park and didn’t even know it was here!

It was so bizarre to sleep in my own bed before a race. On Friday night, we went out to dinner and Nish and Reilly kept forgetting I had a race the next morning–a 50K at that. The race instructions were clear that parking was an issue, so I decided to head out early. The 50K was starting at 8 a.m. I left my house for my 25 minute drive at 6:30 a.m. Sure enough, when I got there, not only was there only ONE port-a-potty, but the parking situation was filling up and becoming a mess. Good call on my behalf in showing up early.

I waited for the one port-a-potty for about 30 minutes, then a truck full of six port-a-potties drove up (…did he forget to set his alarm or something)? I did my business, got my bib, and by the time I was done, it was almost time to go. Remember, I have never done a trail race, so I really didn’t know what to expect. I sprayed bug spray and slathered up in sun block. I was more terrified about ticks than anything. Sunglasses? No sunglasses? 🤷🏻‍♀️

THIS is the course. We were constantly watching for painted white arrows on the ground and pink ribbons in the trees… all while 👀 on the ground ALL DAY so you didn’t trip on a stump or rock. Do you even know how hard this is for someone directionally challenged?
📸 credit: Cherie Meckes Bilbie

We were off. In the first three miles, I was thankful for three things:

(1) That I actually took the time to find a good trail running shoe–it was pretty muddy in a lot of spots. I would have never survived in a road shoe.

(2) That I actually took the time to find a good hydration vest–not only did I look like I fit in (ha ha), hydration was only every four miles. You needed something.

(3) That I did not take the time to research the course more. I did not realize that this course was going to be big rocks, big roots, lots of climbing up and treading down, single file running, and most of all, river crossings (four to be exact). I would have never done this race had I known it was all that. Number of trail training runs before this race: 0. Does the Delaware Canal Path count? Ha.

At the start, the ‘line’ was pretty tight and stressful. There are no waves and when faster runners start with slower runners, you feel the stress behind you and just step aside.
Pretty. There’s water in this park? It was so beautiful, but also so disheartening because there was so much trash in this beautiful creek.
Wait. We have to cross that? And get our feet wet? I didn’t know that.

This course was two full 15.5 mile loops. I actually think it was longer, but whatever. The first loop was intense because we all started at the same time and the fast runners wanted to get by the slow runners–when you’re single file, it’s a little harder. It was also crowded because you had the 50-milers out there already (for about 30 min), the 50Kers, then about 30 minutes after the 50Kers, the 25Kers started (a.k.a. “the half marathoners”). No offense, but yes, if you know your distance is 15 miles versus 30 miles, you certainly can go out a little harder. There were a lot of folks out there running that distance that felt entitled to shove on by you (versus saying three little words, “on your left”). These people needed to finish and get off the course. Immediately.

I realized after the first three miles that this was not going to be a normal race for me. With the single-file, roots, rocks and climbs, I was averaging about a 12ish minute mile (yowzers). I originally thought 6.5 hours, but adjusted to 7.5 hours to finish (my novice goal).

A few short miles in, I met Cherie and Shannon. They were a breath of fresh air. We were already saying funnies back and forth to each other. Cherie was shoved by someone who wanted to get around her right into stinging nettle. I, of course, offered her my fix-all: aquaphore (it fixes most everything). She took it and we leap-frogged for about 7 miles together on the first loop. We actually came in together from the first loop. I went to my bag and when I was getting ready to go back out, I couldn’t find them, so I left for loop two solo.

The beginning of loop two was actually harder. It was harder because all the 25Kers were gone (thankfully), but I was all by myself. For a long, long time. I had no one to push me.

Me and my trail, all alone.
Me and the mud, all alone.

The other thing that was difficult about this race was the lack of bathrooms. I realize I’m outside, but c’mon. I’m not going to squat off the trail (that’s so ghetto). I also have no idea what poison ivy looks like–they ALL have leaves of three and it all looks the same to me. There were bathrooms at the start and only ONE bathroom in the 15 mile loop (right in the middle). On loop two, I had to go so badly that my bladder hurt and I couldn’t stand up straight or run. I ended up walking at mile 22ish until I reached the bathroom. This is also when I ran back into Cherie and Shannon. THANK GOD!

Cherie, Shannon and Carrie at an aid station! I was so happy to be with them again!
This is no regular aid station. The food was incredible. Hot food, cold food, sugar and salt. These volunteers were above-the-bar incredible.

We trucked on together telling funnies and keeping each other company. At that moment, I realized that yes, I wanted to do this again, but it’s so hard to be out here on the trail alone. I would have never started running again had I not run into these gals and have them motivate me to keep moving. I truly believe that “trail ultras” are a team sport. You NEED people with you.

Another aid station and another selfie. I loved running with these gals.
📸 credit: Shannon Andes

We were such a good team at this point. We were in the final 6-7 miles (we think). All of our Garmins were way off, by a mile, and no one at the aid stations actually knew how far we were from the base. Ha ha. We just kept going. Cherie was the amazing lead, calling out roots and rocks. Shannon was next, but we switched because I kept stepping on the back of her heels (oops, sorry), but were working together at this point to get it done.

More rocks. More roots. More hills.
The week of the race, I emailed the race director and asked if there were an elevation profile. He said there didn’t need to be one because it was flat. THIS. IS NOT FLAT.

We finished. My time was 8 hours 10 minutes. That’s with a big break in the middle and a few minutes at each of the aid stations (8 aid station stops throughout 31 miles). I loved this race. I loved the vibe, and I loved that I met Cherie and Shannon. I was so grateful that they let me hang with them. I would have died without them!

When I got home, I told Nish that I have never felt this beat up after a race. I fell asleep by 8:30 PM and slept straight through until 8 AM. Reilly came into our room in the morning and made a comment, “is mommy okay–she never sleeps this late.” Ha.

When’s the next trail race?

New group of Ultra Marathoners! What a day!
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