Why would you run 50 miles?

Coldwater Rumble 50 Miler

Coldwater Rumble 50 Miler

“Why?  Why would you run 50 miles at one time?”

I say, “Why not?”

I knew I could run 50 miles, I just didn’t know how it was going to feel, how long it would take me and if I would ever want to do it again.  Excited to report I am already looking at a few different 50 milers for next year. For me the lure of long distance running is so strong.  I understand not many can relate to the desire to be out for hours upon hours in nature pushing your body to the limits; but for me it is not only about pushing the limits of my own body but also doing what people see as impossible.

Having fun.

Having fun.

There is not a whole lot of training you can do to prepare for a 50 miler; especially when you decide weeks before you are going to do the ultra.   I contacted my coach, Toby Baum, with Camelback Coaching, and asked if I could spontaneously put this event on my race calendar.  I figured I could coast off of my fitness from Ironman Arizona, plus I have a very strong base in endurance running, luckily for me he agreed.  I got in three long runs with my longest being 2.5 hrs.  There was never any concern about finishing 50 miles, my only concern was setting myself up for success.  Success is finishing feeling good. Well to make that happen I needed to have a plan and somewhat of a race strategy.  My plan was to start slow and to eat when I was hungry.  That was it.  In hindsight, I will plan a little differently for my next ultra.

To help grasp the breadth of Coldwater Rumble, here is a little description.  It is a trail race of varying distances ranging from 4 miles to 50 miles and it is strictly run on the beautiful desert floor here in Arizona; meaning, mainly rocks, sand, and some packed dirt, all of which were rugged and challenging.  I fell in love with trail running in Northern California and Boise, ID, two places where trails were much softer and forgiving.  The 50 mile course consisted of a 19.5 mile loop that I ran clockwise then counter-clockwise; followed by a 11.8 mile smaller loop.  As I was looking at the course the night before I realized it was 50.8 miles.  0.8 miles may seem insignificant except after you have run 50 miles, it is NOT.  To aid in the challenging nature of this ultra there were only 2 aid stations on the big loops and 1 on the smaller loop and then the start/finish line aid station which all ranged anywhere from 5.5 – 8.8 miles apart.  Lastly, there was over 4,000 ft of elevation gained and lost. Here is the profile of the course.

Race morning I arrived to the race site at Estrella Mountain Park in just enough time to lace up my trail shoes, put on my water belt and drop my ‘drop bag’ at the start/finish line area.  It had been years since I had competed in just a foot race.  In all of 2012 I only competed in triathlons and one duathlon.  Trail races are the complete opposite of triathlons and even very different than road races.  Obviously, there is no transition area lit up with the buzz of people prepping and no chutes for people to line up in.  It is a very chill environment sans the ‘agro’ nature of triathletes.  People are there to experience something different than anything else.  Even though there were people there to ‘win’ and run hard, there is still this camaraderie that we are headed out for a long time to do something that not many do.   After getting ready  I meandered over to the start and let my intrepid feet take off on a day that they would never forget.  There was a spring in my step and pep in my voice.  My ignorance towards the day was bliss.  In the beginning as I passed people on the single track trail I made small talk and tried to leave a spirit of excitement among my comrades.

Because it was a looped course with multiple race distances there were several other runners out there to keep the spirit high and entertainment level up.  Eventually at about 30 miles into the race I stopped seeing people.  Pretty soon, the only people I saw were at the aid stations which as mentioned before were anywhere from 5.5 to 8.8 miles apart.  Ultra running can be a lonely sport but it also lends time to just allow yourself to be present to the moment.  One of the things that lures me to distance running is I discover more about myself while running than any other time in my life, it can be very peaceful and enjoyable.  In addition to mental gains that may be made while endurance running you are also definitely are given the opportunity to become very in tune with your body.  As time ticked on and the miles disappeared beneath my feet I was becoming more aware of sensations in my lower body.  My feet were beginning to lose some of their responsiveness.  I could tell the proprioceptors in my ankles were shot and I was having to become more conscientious of where and how I was putting my feet down.  It was almost as if I was running on ice.  Because of the nature of the terrain being rocky, sandy and hilly my stride was never consistent and by mile 40 my body was beginning to really ache. I quickly figured out the faster I ran the better I felt because I spent less time on the ground.  If I slowed or stopped I became very present to the pain in my ankles and left knee.  Ah-ha, now, the mental game was in full effect.  I told myself over and over again to just keep moving and imagined what it was going to feel like once I finished.  In moments of struggle I picture my kids faces and it always carries me through.  Even though the last ten miles were uncomfortable I knew with every step I was getting closer to a milestone that I had been wanting to accomplish for some time.  Finishing was an awesome feeling as I knew I had just completed something very few attempt or even think about doing. I just covered 50 miles with my own two feet.

The 3 sweet faces that get me through.

The 3 sweet faces that get me through.

I finished 10th overall and 2nd female overall in 10hrs and 50 minutes.  I was pretty proud of the fact that I finished my first ultra feeling happy and thinking of what is next.

Finished 2nd!

Finished 2nd!

 

 

Stay tuned…I am sure a 100 miler will soon be on my calendar.

Thanks for reading and until next time think about what is next for you on your calendar that will challenge you.

Thank you to Rolf’s for making it possible for me to fulfill my dreams and inspire others to get out there and follow theirs. I also want to thank Sole Sports for supporting me and providing great service as well as awesome trail shoes.

 

 

About sherianne

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is SheriAnne Nelson and I am happily married to my husband Mike. I’m a mother of three beautiful children ages 9, almost 6, and 3, am a passionate fitness professional, and a Star Diamond Level fitness coach within the Team Beachbody program in Scottsdale, Arizona.



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