Gettin’ dirty…German-style…The Dirty German 50k

21 May

I have been kicking around running an ultra for over a year now.  As with all big decisions, I struggle to actually MAKE a decision.  I am always worried to make the wrong decision and will over analyze everything in my attempt to figure out what is the best decision not only for today but for the future.  I mean, an ultra is months of commitment.  So I really prefer other people to pull the trigger for me on big decisions.


So when Liz and Kevin met us out for a beer and some live music, and she started talking about this cool ultra she found that we should “think about running someday,” I started researching and plotting.  We’d only have 11 weeks from the day she mentioned the race to the actual race.  Most ultra plans are 16 week jobbers (if not more).  We’d only been running about 8 mile long runs (and about 20 miles total for the week), and most ultra plans have you starting post-marathon (so your long run is already double digits) and running 40-50 mile weeks.  We were coming off the worst winter imaginable, so we’d been hardly running, and when we DID run, it was a struggle.  The odds were stacked against us.


As ill-advised as it was, Eric registered us for the race one day after we’d talked about whether it was feasible or not to actually complete a 50k in 11 weeks.  No backing out now.  We texted Liz and told her to sign up, she did, and it was on.  I made a training plan based on the plans I’d found online and named it the schnitzel and sauerkraut training plan and we got to work.  I have said it before, I’ll say it again–the best part of the feeling of accomplishment you get after a long-distance race is knowing how hard you worked to get your body prepared for it.  The day-of is pretty cool.  But knowing that for weeks you sacrificed, you got up early, you ran for hours at a time, sometimes alone, sometimes with amazing friends, you suffered, you laughed, you felt good, you were hurting…knowing all that you overcame leading up to the big day is where the real joy lies (at least for me).  I was a little nervous with our training–I’d only run 2 20 milers, and neither felt good because I’d done 10 the day before each. But it was what it was, and I decided that even if we ran 20 miles and had to hike the last 10 or so, we’d have done well.


We drove down to Philly Friday night after work.  We spent the whole day Saturday sightseeing in Philly.  I had never been, and I LOVED it.  I’ve always said if we had to move somewhere, I’d want to go to DC.  Philly was a lot like DC, but much more walkable and “homey” feeling.  We wandered the Reading Market for a while, marveling at all the different foods and people.  Then we hopped onto a double decker bus for a city tour.  We got off the bus, wandered for a bajillion hours to try to find a pizza place (we’d driven by one on every corner on the bus, but once we were off, there were none to be found).  We finally stumbled into a little place called Paul’s Pizza right on jewelers’ row (or something like that–just diamond stores everywhere except for this one little pizzeria).  The pizza was so good.  I mean seriously the best pizza ever.  We finished up and then wandered the city some more, went to the Rocky statue and ran the stairs to the art museum.  We got back on the bus having walked over 7 miles.  Possibly not the smartest way to spend the day before an ultra, but an amazingly fun time nonetheless.  We drove down to the park to check it out, but once we got there, we realized that we weren’t really interested in walking around any more.  We went back to the hotel, I took a nap (unintentionally), and then we went out for dinner.  I had french fries, which is clearly the best option for a pre-race meal.  They were delicious.


I woke up feeling mostly really calm.   We got to the park around 7ish, an hour before our start time.  The 50 milers were set to go off at 7:30.  We watched their start, picked up our packets and hopped in the porta potty line.  There we realized 2 important factors:

a.  people in PA know how to use a toilet.  As a relatively fast bathroom-user myself, I appreciate a porta potty line that moves along because people are in and out pretty quickly.

b.  ultrarunners in PA love them a big mustache.

Team Me, Shme and Thee ready to take on 31 miles

Team Me, Shme and Thee ready to take on 31 miles

We lined up for the start at 8 AM, were started by 8:05.  Game on.  Eric’s plan leading into the race was to start SLOWWWWW…10:30 miles.  I said maybe 11 was a better choice, but he insisted.  As we cruised through mile 1, we were stuck behind a lot of people.  I felt like we were really moving, but at one point Eric checked his watch and said, too slow we gotta go around they’re only doing 12s.  WTF.  I felt like we were flying.  We have to run FASTER????  We passed a bunch of people and set it on cruise.  The course was really beautiful (the most scenic course I’ve ever seen), running next to Pennypack Creek for a good chunk of the race.  It was mostly singletrack.  There were a lot of different types of running surface–we started out on dirt/mud, found some sandy areas (luckily nothing too long), and there were a ton of rocky spots (which felt terrible on my feet).  There was also a section of about 2 miles of paved bike trail, which was by far the most tedious part of this race.


Anyway, we cruised on to aid station 1.  I grabbed a twizzler and refilled my water bottle, happy with the fact that in 3 miles I’d drank half the bottle already.  Then we kept moving.  We ran for what felt like forever before we got to aid station 2 (7.5ish miles in).  By that stop, I needed water pretty badly.  I drank a bit, ate a few of my honey stingers, then we moved on.  At this point, we were on the dreaded bike path–apparently Liz and I were running 9s.  We were feeling ok, although the pounding from the pavement was really starting to hurt my hips and knees.  I was thankful when we got back on some softer single track.


Around mile 10, I started to get cranky.  The course, which is advertised as fast and flat, is extremely runnable, but not exactly flat, particularly the back half.  Now, by ultra course standards, it’s not a bear or anything.  But there is as much elevation (a little more actually) as there is in the Mendon 50k–about 5,600 feet of climbing in all.  I do not like hills.  I am a huge wuss.  I do not like to be uncomfortable.  Part of my draw to this race was the “flat” description.  So I was pissy for a couple of miles as we climbed, then descended, then climbed some more.  At one point, we were running up a hill, I got to a bend and saw it just kept going up and said “fuck this shit man” and stopped to walk the rest of it.  It was at this point that Eric told me that he’d already seen the elevation chart and compared to Mendon and they were pretty equal.  Oh brother.  It was around here where I took my first electrolyte tab because I noticed some tightness in my calves.


We hit some windy single track and it was so nice–the constant twists and turns kind of slowed you down a bit, but it felt really good to do the turning (my sides and hips were a little tight, and this somehow stretched them out).  We crossed the creek, and there was no way across but straight through.  The cold water felt like heaven on my feet, and I made a mental promise to myself that when we finished the next loop, we’d go sit in the creek and “ice bath”  our legs.  We crossed through the finish line in 2:50:xx.  I thought about changing socks and shoes, but decided against it (mostly to save time).  I grabbed a cup of coke on the way through the aid station, drank it, ate a few more gummies and we were off again.




A mile into the second loop, I noticed a hot spot on my foot.  Shit should’ve changed shoes.  It was too late for that, though, so we kept going.  We hit the 1st aid station and I took another electrolyte tablet.  Eric’s stomach was not doing so hot, but we’d made it to 18 miles without incident, which is amazing considering around 10 miles is when previously there’d been issues.  He was even able to eat a few gummies and drink water.  However this is where he started to notice he wasn’t sweating very much anymore (which is WEIRD for him) and his stomach started cramping really badly.  One of the things that continually amazes me about Eric is his ability to push through the pain and to run without eating.  When I’m running long, I want to eat every 30 minutes or so (just something small–a couple of gummies maybe).  I don’t really know how he did what he did on Sunday on about 160 calories of food.


We told Liz to go on without us several times before she finally did.  Here would be a good time to talk about Liz.  We met her through trail running, and I love her.  She has a very peaceful, calm aura about her.  She is also the most amazing runner.  With little speedwork, she had just recently run a super-fast half marathon.  She finished long before us and ran so well–super proud of her, thankful for her finding this race, and really excited to have gotten to know her so well over hours of running.  Liz is my sweat sister for sure.


And of course at this point I have to make a side note about Liz’s amazing husband, Kevin.  Kevin drove us around, packed up our shit, took pictures and cheered.  He sat outside in the park for over 6 hours, most of that by himself, waiting for us to come back around.  This is how Kevin is.  He is one of the most supportive husbands (and friends!) I’ve ever met. Liz and I have spent many hours running together, and our conversations often turn to how lucky we feel to be with men who support us and are there for us.


Thankful to have 2 amazingly cool people like them in our lives!

Thankful to have 2 amazingly cool people like them in our lives!

So back to the race, at this point, Eric is super cranky. This was good for me–getting a taste of my own medicine.  Normally I’m the grumpy one and he’s the one who has to ride out the storm with me. There was a lot of negative self-talk, and I got nervous that I was going to be cranky soon, too, and then we’d have a miserable last hour or so.  Luckily, I felt really good the whole time.  So we stopped at aid station 2 for a bit, thanked all the volunteers (this ALWAYS makes me feel better in a race), then kept on going.


At this point, we were mostly walking the course, and I kept doing math in my head to see if we could finish in under 7 hours (my goal…my A goal was under 6 hours, but that train passed a long time ago ha).  If we were walking the whole rest of the course, it’d take us over 7 hours.  Luckily, Eric’s stomach finally felt ok to jog.  We spent the last 5.5 miles doing some walking and some jogging.  I tried to make conversation to distract.  As we ticked off miles, we talked about how many we had left and got excited as the number dwindled. I had fallen into a groove and I was kind of on auto pilot. I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s the greatest feeling, though, when you’re just going and don’t have to think about it.


We also met a lot of really cool people while out running.  The cool thing about trails and ultras is that people are SO friendly.  We ran with people from all over, most of them experienced ultra runners.  They were all very encouraging and talking about favorite races/strategies/running/life helped to pass the time.  I felt like miles 22ish through 30 flew by!


We crossed the creek and all of a sudden a guy comes flying up behind us screaming, “IF WE HURRY, WE CAN FINISH IN UNDER 6:30!!!”  Eric says “uh how close are we to the finish and how close are we to 6:30?”  Less than a half mile and about 8 minutes to go.  Suddenly we picked up the pace a bit.


Crossing the finish line, holding Eric’s hand in 6:27:00 (ish), all smiles, was the greatest feeling ever.  We had planned to run a marathon together, but then for some reason that never happened.  I’m so glad we waited and saved a long race for a trail ultra.  I love being lost in the wilderness with Eric.


We hung out with Liz and Kevin at the finish line area for a bit, then hopped in the car to head back to Rochester.  We got here and I was pretty convinced I wasn’t hungry (because I’d eaten so much candy from our aid station good luck gift from Pete and Jen!)…but Amber and Greg had a pizza delivered for us, and I devoured 3 slices before going to bed.  I am already plotting when we can go back to race this again, and even before we finished I knew there would be other 50k’s in my future.  I’m not particularly fast, but I can run for a long time if I want to.  I had a great time.  Yesterday, I was a little sore, but could walk up and down stairs no problem.  Tonight we ran at Abraham Lincoln, which is a super hilly park.  We were very slow, there was a good amount of walking thrown in there, but it felt good.  I’m excited for the next time I run 50k because I KNOW that I can nail a sub 6 hour.  Game on. 🙂


4 Responses to “Gettin’ dirty…German-style…The Dirty German 50k”

  1. bmpicc May 21, 2014 at 11:24 am #

    You guys are so great! Now I feel like I have to up my game! You ran a marathon so I attempted my first half marathon. Now you ran an ultra so I feel like I am supposed to consider a marathon… what are you doing to me lady?!?! My plan 3 years ago was to be able to run a 5k and you messed that up 😉 You got in my head, but I still love you sweat sister!

  2. Dan Lopata May 21, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

    “I had fallen into a groove and I was kind of on auto pilot. I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s the greatest feeling, though, when you’re just going and don’t have to think about it.”

    Yup, you’re one of us 🙂


  1. The post-ultra-runnin’ blues | shmeruns - May 29, 2014

    […] felt amazing last week, after the Dirty German 50k!  I was already contemplating my next 50k before I even crossed the finish line. Making it even […]

  2. scared straight: trail running | shmeruns - August 23, 2014

    […] after the Dirty German 50k, I was riding some crazy runner’s high and decided that the Mendon 50k was next on my list of […]

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