My friend Jeff run a 50K last December.
He didn’t want me to have to run alone. Seriously. That is the sole reason he decided, with less than 24 hours notice, to run a 50K.
When I tell people Jeff is like the little brother I always wanted and never had — can you see why?
You’ll read his account of his accidental 50K , but I have one of my own stories about this epic adventure to share with you first…
Jeff KNEW he had to fuel (consume calories) to be able to endure this event. Josh and Spencer had hammered home that point perfectly. But at the first tiny taste of the Gu he had picked out the night before at the grocery store, he refused to eat his fuel.
He hated the flavor and texture.
This episode occurs like 3 miles in on a 31 mile day.
He was flat out refusing to eat his energy gels.
I start yelling at him, begging, pleading, I even told him at one point to just plug his nose and swallow the damn stuff… He just kept looking at me (all of this is happening while we were running) and saying ‘No.’ And then would lift the Gu packet to his face and without tasting it — he would make a face and gagging sounds.
After several frustrating miles, we eventually reached a compromise of sorts.
We traded gel flavors.
After some serious coaxing he finally decided to try, and liked my salted caramel flavored Gu’s. I wound up with his barely-tolerable Raspberry flavored Gu’s.
I mean only TRUE friends would give up their Salted Caramel flavored Gu’s just to help someone else through a race.
Thank you Jeff for embedding and creating such happy and cherished memories into an event that I will remember with pure joy for the rest of my life.
Take it away Jeff, my accidental ultrarunning friend…
Bets loves telling this story.
This was her first 50K, and I was privileged to share the experience with her.
Yes—on accident, I had the privilege to race with her! I was not supposed to run this thing. And, not to mention, I had not raced since high school, and even then, those were 5Ks!
So, in this single race, I ran my first 10K, half-marathon, marathon and ultra.
Bets told me “Jeff this is something we HAVE TO SHARE!!!”
Think of all the stories that would be in ONE race weekend report!”
I said “Ok!”
First thing: I DO NOT want to downplay how much work Bets put in on this race… her first Ultramarathon. She wants to be an ultrarunner and this 50K (~31 miles) was her golden ticket to becoming that runner. She worked her butt off for this race. Almost literally. 🙂 She. Trained. HARD!
Meanwhile, I was running maybe 2-3 times per week with her (on her short distance days) and she was putting in 5-6 days a week training for this crazy thing. She asked me to travel with her, mostly just as support from the start line, aid station, and finish line.
I was promised there would be little running involved.
“Absolutely, I am in.”
The idea was that I would travel to The North Face Endurance Challenge (TNF50) in San Francisco with Betsy, Spencer, Hannah, Josh, and Wendie, as their friend. Not a runner.
Wendie and I would crew for everyone else. Basically, we would load shoes, water, Gu’s, and lube in a backpack and jog between aid stations.
Sounds like fun to me!
When we flew in to California, Josh mentions he is not feeling well.
I don’t think about the comment too much, other than Josh had planned on running with Bets. I knew she might be a little nervous about going alone.
The next day [pre-race day], we drive to San Francisco and pick up running bibs. When we get back to the house, Josh, Spencer and I go out on a “shake-out” run. About 2 miles in on this slow, flat, dry run I make a comment to Josh,
“You know, if you are too sick to run tomorrow, I think I could run with Bets.”
They both looked at me with shocked faces, and then responded with huge smiles and yelling, “F%*# Yeah!” The context for their original shocked faces is that, up to this point, I was adamant to anyone that would listen that I was not a runner. Just a friend of Betsy’s who liked being outside.
The fact that I expressed interest in the run, was a little out of left field.
Bets, Wendie, and my Mother (not on the trip) did not share the exact, instantaneous, enthusiasm of the guys.
“You have never run a 10K race before, let alone a f@#$ing 50K on trails!” – anonymous
Josh did end up being too sick to run… and the teaching began. Between Josh and Spencer, I “learned” how to run an ultramarathon at the dining room table in our rented Yellow Ferry Boat.
I have never listened to anyone so intensely before in my life. I learned how to eat a Gu (NASTY- snot textured sugar packet), when to take a salt-tab, when to eat an Imodium (extremely important to keep the Gu in), how much water to drink, how to run downhill.
I listened to every single word.
Still today, I proudly quote Josh Gum before starting a long run.
Race day arrived.
We woke up early, covered our feet in this nasty paste lube and sent Spencer off on the 50 miler. Meanwhile, Bets, Hannah, and I, had an hour to sit around and process the ridiculousness of what was about to happen. I remember saying (several times),
“wait… this is going to take how long?!!”
In my head, I know I can do this. Bets and Josh keep telling me this is about mental toughness.
That is 99% true, if you have trained for your race!!!
If I can leave you with anything from this blog? Train for races. Whether you train with a coach or from a variety of online sources, it makes a difference.
This picture was from Bets and I at the “start” of the race, when I had run my first 10K (6.2 miles). No biggie.
This is fun.
We were having so much fun! Stomachs weren’t upset, we had climbed less than 1,000’ in elevation, laughing the entire way.
Life was good.
Then came mile 16ish.
Both of us may have fallen just a little behind on fuel and we had some upset stomachs.
[Short preface: Bets told me I could go this far into detail in the story.]
This is a nice way to say that we left some dignity in the bushes along the course. Apparently, pride stays in the rental van when nature calls during ultrarunning.
The trails were a slippery, muddy mess from the rain storm the day before, so people were really not paying attention to our bathroom trail side-excursions… Well, except for one poor gentlemen who followed Bets off the trail, thinking that was the course. I didn’t know what to say, so I just yelled,
“NO!!! She’s pooping!”
Let’s just say Bets was not impressed with me announcing that fact to a squadron of runners.
Then came mile 26.
This is the point where a normal marathon stops!
We still had 6 more miles – with hills – to go.
Here was my attitude at the time when Betsy asked for a selfie…
This part of the race hurt.
It hurt really bad. Every muscle ached. I was sure this was what death felt like.
She was smiling, but holy crap this was HARD!
I know at some point I laid down by a porta-potty and asked Bets if she could,
“just leave me here to die.”
After a few choice words were thrown at me, I picked myself up and onward we limped.
The trail was absolutely beautiful… In hindsight. We could see down onto the Golden Gate Bridge, out towards the water on one side and beautiful valleys on the other.
All we could talk about… Pizza and beer. Bets talked about pizza and I talked about how I could taste the beer. No more disgusting watered down sugar packets. This was our conversation for the last 6 miles. Pizza and beer.
We came across the finish line happy for the picture, but it was really time to be done.
We finished a few seconds past the 8 hour mark.
Looking back, it’s hard to think about how tough the run really was, because I keep thinking about how much fun I had running with a great friend.
We kept each other mentally strong and now have some really great stories to tell.
I would go back in a heartbeat, but NOT for a 50 miler. 🙂
Wishing Bets the best in the 2015 TNF50 MILER!!