Sunday, February 12, 2012

Redemption: Mid-Maryland 50k Recap

To see a map of the course, a brief description, and read my goals visit my previous post here. Post-race I found an elevation description. Each loop was about 670 feet gain, making the whole 5 loop course about 3300.

In an effort not to repeat what happened two weeks ago and with snow in the early morning forecast (why does this only happen when I have a race?), Mike and I decided to drive down to Maryland on Friday evening. This meant that on Saturday morning we woke up at 6 am instead of 4 am and drove 25 minutes to the race instead of more than 2 hours. A good decision this was!

Fresh inch of snow on the ground
The race was held in Rockburn Branch Park in Elkridge, MD. All runners gathered at the main pavilion, which would also serve as the start line, finish line, and aid station for each 10k loop.

It was devastatingly beautiful out

I picked up my bib and also had Mike pin my bib for Sherry on my back. I actually counted 4 other runners wearing bibs for Sherry, which is crazy considering it was such a small race and none of the runners knew each other previously. Oh the magic of the interwebs!

The race director spoke to the crowd of 120 runners, some signed up to do a 5 person relay, others (including me), ready to tackle all 5 loops on their own.

Right before the start. Decided to ditch my jacket in the 35 degree weather. Good decision.
We started out right at 8 am. The race director decided to lead the first loop since the snow had covered most of his course markings.

And off we go!
I'm in the purple towards the left
Let me preface the rest of my recap by saying that I encountered three major problems during this race:

1) Shin splints in my left leg
2) Mud (oh, so much mud)
3) A surprise UTI (I'll get to this later)

Loop 1:

As soon as the pack headed off I was right behind them, intent on keeping up. I spent the whole first loop gasping for breath, but I was so eager to see what the whole loop was like, that I let myself get caught up in the quicker pace.

For all of my fears of hating the course from the get go, it was exactly the opposite. The first mile was through the fields, which wasn't great, but the other 5 miles of single track trails were amazing. The snow made it all the more beautiful. They did correctly describe the course as "tame." For all of the huffing and puffing I did through the first loop, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and began strategizing for the remaining 4 rounds.

Coming out of the woods toward the pavilion

I finished the first loop with remarkable speed: 59:xx

Loop 2:

Before heading off on the second loop I sent about 25 seconds at the aid station, exactly according to plan. I grabbed my hand held from my drop bag, said "hi" to Mike and my friend Greg who came to watch, and headed out again full speed.

I ditched the hand held and my ear warmer a quarter mile in when we made our way back around by the pavilion.

I know that for the rest of the loops there was no way I would be able to come in under an hour like I did the first time, but I figured if I added 5 minutes each time I could still come in around 5:30 which would be utterly fantastic.

My left shin started hurting a bit, but I kept going. I wasn't going to stop unless the pain was debilitating.

Second loop done: 1:05:xx, total time ~ 2:05:xx

Loop 3:

After finishing loop two I made a quick stop in the porta potty, grabbed some food, and made my way to loop 3. I knew loop three would be tough, but it would also be where I met the halfway point, and that was the mental boost I was looking for.

About 3 minutes into running I felt like I had to go to the bathroom again. Weird. I just went. I figured I'd just stop the next time around, but it sort of bothered me the whole third loop.

In addition to having to pee, the mud on the course was getting ridiculous. The combination of snow/rain the night before, warming temperatures, and about 75 runners traipsing through the same paths now 3 times, made for some muddy conditions. On the first loop there were muddy parts, but they were manageable and you could go on the edges. On the second loop it was obvious that they had worsened. By the third loop, most of those edges had disappeared and you had no choice but to slow down and walk through some parts.

Even after I hit the halfway point, I began to feel very disheartened because of the deteriorating conditions of the course. Knowing I still had two loops to go, I knew they would not get any better.

Third loop done: 1:21:xx, total time ~ 3:25:xx

Loop 4:

I made a pit stop again before starting loop 4. I knew there was a problem when I tried to go but couldn't, yet still felt like I had to. That's when I realized I probably had the makings of a UTI that began after loop 2. Seriously, who the hell gets a UTI at mile 12 in a 31 mile race? I do apparently.

I walked most of the first half of loop 4. Every time I started to run it would feel so uncomfortable that I was brought to tears. I thought about DNF-ing. I didn't think I would be able to run through it. I already knew loop 4 would be the toughest loop mentally. It was near the finish, but still wasn't the last loop.

Eventually I realized if I ran in long enough spurts the discomfort would go away. I had already lost a lot of time though. And of course the mud was even worse. At one point I thought about changing my socks, but I figured what was the point as the new ones would already be soaked a quarter mile later.

As I came through the pavilion at the end of loop 4 I saw my mom had arrived. I almost burst into tears I was so happy to see her.

Fourth loop done: 1:21:xx, total time ~ 4:46:xx

Loop 5:

At this point my 5:30 was definitely out the window, and I was pretty sure sub 6 was as well. It was the last loop though, so I was happy enough about that to keep going. I tried to run as many parts as I could of the 5th loop. By this point the snow was entirely gone. It was crazy to think that just 5 hours ago it looked like a winter wonderland.

The last half of loop 5 my spirits were lifted. I saw Mike, Greg, and my mom around mile 4 of the last loop. I shouted to them: "see you in 30 minutes or less and have a Dr. Pepper ready for me!" Home stretch!

During the last two miles I began passing people, which is always a unique experience when you start doing it at the end of a race. It was clear that some of those people were still on their fourth loop. Finally, the finish line was in sight!

Headed through the pavilion to the finish line
Fifth lap: 1:22:xx

Final time - 6:10:15

No it's not my sub 6, but it is ONE HOUR AND 11 MINUTES FASTER than my 50k only five weeks ago.

While I am positive that without the mud, UTI, and shin splints I could have easily landed sub-6 if not 5:30, this is the land of what is, not the what if's. I worked my ass off and came out muddy, but satisfied on the other side.

The aftermath
Everything I learned from the last race I took with me and used it during this race. And it worked. My biggest fear going into this race was that I would hit the same mental barrier as last time. My stomach was in knots for days leading up to it. But I didn't encounter that mental barrier. Mentally it felt as tough as any other race.

What I Ate:

Pre-race: Banana, peanut butter granola bar, 3/4 cup honey nut Cheerios
After Loop 1: Water, 1.5 Fig Newtons
After Loop 2: 1/2 cup Gatorade, handful of Goldfish crackers
After Loop 3: 1/2 cup Pepsi, handful of Lays potato chips
After Loop 4: Water, 6-7 animal crackers
After Loop 5/Finish: Half can Dr. Pepper, Reese's Peanut Butter cup

As my last point, let me say that this race was incredibly well done. The course was fantastic (though the mud made me hate it the last 3 loops) and very well marked (as the snow disappeared all the markings were revealed). For my $32 entry fee I got massive quantities of food, clean porta potties, and  two shirts (one for signing up and a finisher's shirt when I was done). I would recommend this race or any race put on by Bullseye Running. They were warm, welcoming, and definitely know what they are doing. 


  1. What a great 50k! Awesome job on the PR, even with the tough conditions and the physical hiccups. Must get you excited for your next races!

  2. Yay, congrats! Sounds like this one put you in the right place mentally and I'm sure your only going to get better and better as you keep building up!

  3. Wow way to push through despite all those issues you had. That is amazing perseverance! And a great time to boot. I've always thought I'd hate a race course that is multiple loops but this blog post kind of made me want to try one like that!

    1. Amber - I always vowed never to do a race with loops like this, but I actually really liked it. I ended up being able to count down loops instead of miles, which was kind of nice! Definitely recommend it!


I love comments like I love chocolate. Leave 'em!