Virgil Crest Race Report–Part 3: The Aftermath

27 Sep

For the pre-race prep report, see here.

For the full race report, see here.

I can’t believe it’s already been a week since I ran my first 50 mile race.  At this time last weekend, I was hobbling around the house eating ibuprofen like candy…and today I am itching to go for a run (but being smart and going for a hike instead).  In the aftermath of the race, some thoughts about my personal training/race:

  1. My training was pretty spot on.  I suppose I could’ve practiced more steep, long climbing down at Hi-Tor or on the ski slopes at some area ski resorts.  The problem is those places are FAR from us.  So I never really did.  I instead opted to just climb here as much as I could, which meant finding and running hill repeats during long runs at Durand (which is not, as people like to claim, flat), doing multiple loops of WTF (with the ski slope section forwards AND backwards for good measure) and a double SPF stint (I still hated it the second time around).  None of this was even close to the elevation change I faced at Virgil.  But I was fine, and I think the stuff I did prepared me very well for the majority of the course (minus the alpine section).  It may have helped me do better on some of the climbs to have practiced more steep stuff.  Otherwise, I put in the miles and I did a LOT of climbing, and it paid off all day Saturday.  I doubted the training because I didn’t know what to expect since I’d never gone 50 before…now I know that when I do another one, I would stick to the same type of training plan.


2.  Ultimately, Saturday was a day of near-perfect race-day execution.  A few different times, I started to get distracted by things, particularly people who I wanted to stop and chat with.  But it was never for long.  I was laser-focused on getting through each section in a certain amount of time.  If you were there and I came off as rude or brushed you off, I apologize (because looking back on certain interactions, I realize it may have been kind of rushed/rude).  The only 3 sections that I didn’t make my time goals were the three sections where I literally never thought about them–on the alpine loop (both times), I was just holding on for dear life, rather than being super focused on my time.  And on the second to last section, right after the alpine loop, I was so tired, I let my focus wander.  This is not a good excuse, and I am still a little upset with myself for not focusing better in this section and hammering it home.  Don’t get me wrong: I am insanely happy with how things rolled out.  But if I could pick one “mistake,” it would be this.

3. Thinking about the distance between each aid station kept me focused and kept me from thinking about how far I had gone or how much I “should” be hurting.  I didn’t even think about running farther than I’d ever run before until I was almost to mile 40!  That means I went almost 9 miles without thinking about it/realizing it.  Because at that point, I was thinking about how many miles I had to get to the next aid station.

4. When you’ve trained well, you learn to manage your pain…or you make it hurt less? I’m not sure which was the case for me, but I was surprised by how little “pain” I felt over the course of the 13 hours.  I had anticipated immense amounts of pain and stretches of disastrous dark thoughts to work through.  I didn’t experience much of this–when I got “lost” in section 2, I started to feel weak, physically and mentally.  I immediately quashed those thoughts by reminding myself of all the training I’d done and how there were going to be lows and I could dwell in them or just push through them, because I KNEW that better times would be just ahead.  There was also a point where I realized my back was really starting to hurt (my lower back always hurts in these long races, and my upper back where my pack sits was bothering me, too, this race, since it’s the farthest I’ve ever run with a pack on).  I somehow stopped really thinking about the back pain, though.  I was oddly cognizant of the pain, but not thinking about it or focused on it.  Other than that, I’d say the only really dark moments were in the alpine loop, and I’m not sure those were “dark” moments so much as just extreme annoyance that anyone would think this was an acceptable “run” course.  Reminding myself that people come to Virgil specifically for this signature torture, though, helped a bit.  I never really hurt any more than I did in a 50k.  I’m not saying it was all rainbows and butterflies out there–just that it felt like the hurt of the last few miles a 50k…but for about 20 extra miles. haha.

5.  I am not the same girl I was before.  I think that every race changes you, no matter the course.  For this race, my change comes in the form of my outlook on climbing.  I am not a fan of hills, and I am not a strong climber by any means. That was part of the challenge of Virgil–12k (10k +??) of climbing is no joke.  But I found this course, minus the alpine loop sections, to be completely manageable after my training, which just gives me more confidence in my ability to handle hills.  I felt in control, even at the end of the race, when climbing became a challenge because of fatigue and muscle soreness.  I was able to power-hike the ups and run the flats and downs very effectively.  I am proud of this.  I am proud of my hill work during training, and proud to say that I no longer shirk hill runs but rather look for things to climb to make myself stronger.  I’m still not great at it, and I’d still much rather be doing what I’m good at–running flat or down–but I will do the hills.  Because doing the work works.

6. I didn’t actually hurt all that badly overall either.  I was able to really crank out the downhills at the end of the race, and Saturday night I was sore/stiff when I first got up, but then I was fine.  Sunday morning, the same.  As the day went on Sunday, the DOMs started to set in.  Sunday night was the roughest patch–I hurt.  Badly.  I was taking 800 mg Ibuprofen every 4 hours and still barely able to move around.  After my first marathon, I was this sore.  I was miserable.  By Monday night, I felt better.  And although it was a bit miserable for a day or two, I was mostly just proud of the pain.  This hobble was full of swagger.

7. I am not invincible.  Leading up to the race, Eric encouraged me to take a personal day on Monday to recover.  I insisted I’d be fine.  I ended up sheepishly calling in Monday morning.  I hate calling in, and I amused myself by thinking about how if I’d called off because I drank too much this weekend, I’d have a problem, but since it’s only because I ran too much, I’m probably still ok.  Maybe???

8. As much as I’d have liked to go sub-13, I am crazy proud of my finishing time and the way I handled my first 50 on a super challenging course.  I was 6th female.  Of those 5 in front of me, only 1 (I think but I’m not positive actually that she hasn’t) has never completed a 50+ run.  One of them even did Eastern States!

9.  I really want to do another 50, but it just feels so selfish to me to take so much time training and then running, and have Eric following me around to crew.  I think about what I could do at a 50k if I really sunk my time and energy into a shorter race, and I am curious.  But I’m also curious what kind of times I could lay down on a flatter, reasonable 50 mile course. And CT50 is the most beautiful course in the universe. Also, looking at my times on different sections of the course, knowing what I know now, remembering some of the times I slowed down or hiked that maybe could’ve been run…I think a sub-13 finish was completely reasonable this year, which means in the future it would be too. I want to compete against myself, on this course, and on other courses.  I want to see how much faster I could be.  So we’ll see.

10. 100 miles is insane.  I still have no desire to attempt that distance.  Watching people whose bodies are completely shutting down, seeing them incoherent and completely reliant on pacers and aid station volunteers is a freaky thing. Knowing that sometimes, even though you put in the training, you still have to drop because your body says nope and forces you to quit…I don’t want any part of that. Maybe someday I’ll change my mind…but for now, there is no part of me that thinks 100 miles sounds anything other than batshit crazy.  [Telling people at work this thought, I was told, “uhhh 50 miles isn’t batshit crazy to you?!?!” So I know it’s all relative.]

11.  At the risk of sounding cocky, we do not know hills or climbing here in Rochester.  Hearing people talk about the hilliness of the new marathon course makes me chuckle.  Thinking about how Mendon used to be some un-conquerable demon in my head makes me die laughing.  I will likely not complain about “hills” here again…for at least 2 weeks (before I forget and go back to complaining again…have I mentioned that I really dislike climbing???)

12. I didn’t eat a ton on Saturday–some Fruit Roll Ups, a handful of candy corn, a half a salt potato, a sandwich baggie of potato chips.  I also used Tailwind (that shit is amazing) and had a couple small cups of flattened coke.  I didn’t really want anything post-race…my appetite came back sometime Monday night, when I woke up in the middle of the night to get a snack.  I spent the next 48 hours eating every 2 hours and still feeling hungry.  I hate the post-race un-rungries and the subsequent crazed-monster-gorge-fest.

13.  Crying is the new puking?  Prior to longer distance runs, I started puking after races.  I have no idea why.  It’s gross.  My new thing is apparently crying at long distance races.  At the start, at the finish, on the course when I realize how far I’ve gone or I see something particularly poignant…  I would rather cry than puke, so I guess I’m going to stick with the longer-distance races for a bit. 😉

14.  I had a genuinely good time on Saturday for probably 95% of the day.  A few people have said how great I looked or how much I was always smiling.  No sham there…I really was smiling and happy for most of the race.  I just kept thinking about how well I had trained and how it was all paying off, how the trail was so beautiful, the people I was meeting were so cool and experienced and just wealths of knowledge about races and trails and life…I was tired and sore, but having the absolute best time just out doing what I love to do.

SO what’s next?  Mendon 50k is in 5 weeks.  I took this whole week off from running, but I’m ready to ease back into it slowly this week.  That leaves me about 2-3 weeks of training time for Mendon, then a short taper.  Of course, this is all based on feel, and I have no intentions of pushing myself too hard, since the training I’ve done for Virgil should really suffice for Mendon…but I am pumped to see what I can do at Mendon now that I’ve seen “real” hills.

To everyone who emailed, PM-ed, texted, called, Facebook posted me about this race, THANK YOU!!! When things got tough out there, I could just think of everyone waiting to hear how it went and soldier on.  Your support means so much.  Having some of you actually there was amazing.  Getting texts mid-race was amazing.  ❤

And to Eric:  Wow.  I keep saying it because I don’t know if I can say it enough times.  Anything positive that happened last weekend was a result of not just my hard work, but yours too.  Thank you for supporting me, for believing in me, for helping me achieve my goals.  From the get-go, you’ve been the one saying “of course you can do that” when I said I didn’t know, you’ve been the one pushing me to be better, faster, go longer.  Bet ya didn’t think that asking me to run on the track way back when we first met would land us here, did you? haha. Without you, none of this would’ve happened.  I love you.


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