Will and I had planned to kick off our bus trip by running a 50k in Issaquah, Washington. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get the bus finished on time and didn’t make the race. When the opportunity to run in the first Hideaway 50k in Winter Park, Colorado, came up, we jumped on it, even though we hadn’t really kept up with our 50k training over the last few months.
Will started getting nervous the Monday before the race. He mentioned it enough times that I needed to tell him to stop talking about it, because I wasn’t nervous yet and didn’t want to think about it… there wasn’t much we could do in the way of training at this point, so we just needed to rest up and think positively.
As the week wore on, our roles changed and I became the nervous one. My nervousness made itself known through incredible bouts of nausea that would start any time I thought about the race or tried to do anything physical.
We spent the week leading up to the race camped in the parking lot at the Winter Park resort. It was a great spot, full of other #vanlife people. It’s always nice to go to bed without having to worry if someones going to knock on your door in the middle of the night asking you to move!
On Saturday we moved the bus down to Hideaway Park, where the start / finish of the race would be. The oh-so-cool city of Winter Park had okayed the use of the park parking lot for racers who wanted to camp; how great is that?! We pulled up in a long line of campers along the street, leaving the dirt area for tents.
With our race to start early on Sunday, we spent Saturday doing some errands downtown. We ate a leisurely breakfast at Rise and Shine Bakery, one of our favorite spots, headed over to Winter Park Trading Company to pick up our numbers, and stopped at every Labor Day ski shop sale we passed. (Our wallets were happy, there were no screaming deals to be found.)
All the while, I got more and more nervous. I spent the afternoon packing and repacking my bags and trying on my clothes for the next day. I also PERFECTLY lettered my drop bag (bib number, name, and aid station) – maybe missed my calling as a kindergarten teacher? I also texted Jenna to see how exactly I should pin my number… god forbid you put it in the wrong place or something.
What I packed:
Ultimate Direction “Jenny ultra vesta” (the coolest pack for lady runners)
- Two mis-matched bottles of water because I lost the ones that came with the Jenny
- Patagonia alpine houdini rain jacket
- ziplock of 3 baby wipes in case of the worst
- 4 pepto bismol tablets, same reasoning
- 3 Aleve tablets, in case I got sore
- 3 VOKE caffeine tablets from Garage Grown Gear (really, I only needed one)
- 3 GU gels
- 1 package of PowerBar chews
- 1 Honey Stinger waffle
- Suunto Ambit2s sport watch + heart monitor
in the Drop Bag that I would pick up at mile 17.8
- Pair of Hoka One One Challenger ATR shoes, in case my feet were getting sore
- Shorts, in case it was hot
- All manner of blister bandaids, even though I rarely get blisters
- Kate’s Real Food tram bar – omg delicious, tastes like Muddy Buddies from my childhood (courtesy of Garage Grown Gear)
- Cliff Bar, extra gu, powerbar chews, shock blocks, honey stingers, basically just dumped our snack supply into the bag
Around 3:30pm I set to cooking us an ambitious dinner in our tiny oven, a Sweet Potato and Gnocchi casserole. As dinner bubbled away we headed out to the pre-race informational meeting that was both “mandatory and highly encouraged.” Interesting! Along the way, Hilde saw something shiny on the side of the path and jerked me unexpectedly. I reacted and scraped my left big toe along the underside of Will’s shoe, resulting in a majorly ripped up toenail.
Shit. How was I supposed to run THIRTY ONE MILES with a broken toenail?! This was obviously too much for me. I’ll admit it, I cried a little bit (that toenail hurt!) but pulled it together to get to the meeting. Will looked at it and assured me that we could deal with it later.
The meeting was super informative. We got info on the course, the cutoff (8 hours, or you’re out!) and the weather. It was looking like a cold, stormy night with the possibility of snow at higher elevations… yikes. I decided to swap my shorts and t-shirt for tights and long sleeve over a tank top. Hilde probably had the most fun at the meeting, because there were lots of people and dogs who wanted to play with her. We wouldn’t ever make any friends without her!
With the meeting all wrapped up we headed back to dinner and a movie, St. Vincent. Will convinced me to have a glass of wine to cool my nerves, and I’m so glad I acquiesced. The oven worked great and dinner was tasty – I love the idea of the sweet potatoes and the gnocchi, but the goat cheese was too intense. Next time we’ll stick with parmesan!
After dinner I set to work on my broken toenail. Luckily it didn’t break too far back, and once trimmed and filed was just a bit tender. Crisis averted. We went to bed pretty early, though I think we both had a tough time falling asleep.
The alarm went off precisely at 2am, per our ultramarathoning friends’ suggestion that we eat early enough to start digesting our food before the race. We cooked up a big breakfast of sausage, eggs, oatmeal, and coffee to fill our little bellies. I have a really, really hard time eating breakfast, especially on days that it really matters. I made it through a bowl of oatmeal (with butter and half n half) four sausages and a cup of coffee before making it to the egg. I tried to choke down the first bite but my stomach said “no way, no how.” Will ate it instead.
With breakfast done at 2:30am, we had a few hours to kill before the race started. I briefly considered taking the “early start” at 4am, but I’m happy that I didn’t. We bundled up and headed out in the cold to make sure Hilde got a walk as she’d be holed up in the bus while we raced.
As we walked around the quiet park I became very aware of how lucky we were that we got to wake up in a warm, cozy bus. I wasn’t 100% on board with installing our propane forced air heater (it was such a pain!) but man, was I glad to have it that morning. I can’t imagine how much more squirrelly I would have been if I had to sleep in a tent the night before the race. I love this bus!
We did a few laps with Hilde then came back to the bus to warm up again. I – surprise, surprise – double checked all of my stuff and threw in my phone (for music) as a last minute addition. Eventually the time came. We said goodbye to little bear, ditched our jackets, and headed out into the cold.
The other racers were there in jovial spirits, bouncing around to keep their muscles warm. I didn’t know what wouldn’t make me look dorky so I just jumped in place. I probably still looked goony. Around 5 they crowded us all into the corral and counted down. I had said goodbye to Will earlier and knew I wouldn’t see him again for a while. The gun/siren went off, and we were moving!
We started running together, a pack of headlamps cruising down the bike path in the pitch black. Nobody was talking. We stayed together for the first mile, until the trail crossed the creek and headed up the hill. As the faster runners pulled ahead I hung back, not wanting to get sucked into running too fast and burning myself out. I could see all of the headlamps bobbing out ahead of me, and it was so gorgeous. I’m always so moved when a group of people get together to do something cool and adventurous like this… a happy tear or two might have sneaked out. Then I pulled myself together and put my game face on, glad that nobody could see me getting all mushy.
I wouldn’t have guessed it, but I was so glad that the first few miles were in the dark. I was able to focus solely on my little pool of light bouncing in front of me, bopping along to the Wild & Free playlist in my right ear. I couldn’t see the other runners, so I wasn’t worried about them.
The night before I had been worried about trail conditions, because we had been expecting rain overnight. Everything was damp and frosty, but not too muddy to make an impact.
I ran with the same group for a while, following a guy who kept making wrong turns. Eventually, someone behind us shouted up, “Hey, can’t you just let her lead for a while?!” So I hopped up and led the crew. Luckily, I didn’t make any wrong turns.
The first 3 miles of the course were relatively flat before turning uphill to reach the first aid station. This let me get warmed up and comfortable without stressing about time and pace, which really set me up for success later on. My watch alarm beeped at 30 minutes in, my first snack reminder. I choked down a few powerbar chews and literally choked on my water – it was a new bottle that sprayed with a lot more force than my Ultimate Direction bottles, and I breathed some in. Then I coughed for the next 5 minutes. Note to self, next time try everything before race day.
I pulled into the first aid station (named “Twisted Ankle,” how twisted is that) at mile 6.2 around 7:12. Never having run any sort of race before, this was my first aid station experience, and it was awesome. They treat you like a king! I was grabbing pretzels, Gu, juice, trying not to overdo it but loving the smorgasbord all the same. After a quick break I was off again, this time charging up, up, up through the trees.
I was able to run most of the second section, but did some hiking too. I realized that the hiking was one of my strong suits – as lots of people slowed down to hike, I could keep most of my speed while not stressing my heart too much. Something in the back of my brain was whispering “keep moving, you can beat these people.”
The second aid station(Mile 9.9 – Broken Thumb! Who was naming these things?!) came up quickly, but I didn’t stay as long. I heard them shouting about someone who had gone the wrong way, and carefully followed the markers to the road that we’d be running up. After a few minutes I rounded a corner and saw a gatorade yellow-green backpack bouncing 200 yards ahead of me. It was Will! I wanted so badly to catch him, just so that he would know that he hasn’t totally lost me. I pushed with all my might (really, it wasn’t that big of a hill) and caught him in a minute or so. It turns out that he was the one they were shouting about, who had taken the wrong turn and needed to backtrack. He was surprised to see me, but couldn’t understand why I’d wanted to come say hi. Dudes.
Of course, sprinting uphill to catch Will meant that I was beat, so I let him go on as I dropped back a ways. He didn’t care, but I was stoked that I was so close to him. I spent the rest of the road climb taking it easy, enjoying the scenery.
Next up was Trestle Aid Station (mile 13.3) and it came with an actual Trestle. I knew that we were nearing the top / turnaround point, so I stopped for a second to eat some delicious oranges. The smiling volunteer told me it would be 2.3 miles to the top, then 2.3 back to him. Easy, peasy.
I set out with orange in hand (mistake, I had to carry that orange peel for four miles) and immediately fell in with a long line of walkers. The grade wasn’t too steep, but the air was thin and people weren’t moving fast. I was hiking quickly and was able to pass quite a few people on the way up. My strategy of starting out last was working, passing folks was a huge ego boost! This section of the trail was gorgeous but dangerous – lots of loose rocks in the scree field meant I was constantly worried about turning my ankle.
As I headed up, the fastest runners were headed back down. I quickly realized that I was probably in the top half of the race (or pretty close to it) and definitely in the top half of women. If my competitive spirit wasn’t on before, it was now.
Will passed me on his way down a few minutes before I hit the top and let me know exactly where the turnaround was, as apparently the group he was with had had some confusion. There were supposed to be bracelets to prove you’d made it all the way, but they’d all blown away in the wind.
I reached the top a few minutes later and just couldn’t believe the scenery… the day was clear as a bell and we were at the top of the divide, looking over Winter Park and Indian Peaks. What a reward for that grueling 3600′ climb!
I turned around without wasting much time (pictures?! Who has time for pictures?) and started jogging back down towards the Trestle aid station. The scree made it tough to move quickly but I made good time and nobody passed me. When I got back down to the aid station I found my drop bag and considered changing my shoes. My feet were feeling pretty good and I really didn’t want the woman I shared the summit with to pass me, so I just dumped my rain jacket, head lamp, and hat (mistake) grabbed some snacks, and jammed out of there.
I cruised down from Trestle back to Broken Thumb pretty easily. One guy passed me, but he was the only person I saw. The road section was a lot longer and harder than I remembered, and a weird craving came over me. I’ve always been one to crave very specific food items, but this time I was craving A BANANA. Banana. The most vile fruit on earth, that I hate with a fiery, burning passion.
I pulled into Broken Thumb and was met by a whole crew of smiling volunteers. Not only did I get my banana (gross) but I was the only one there and they wanted to know, how was I feeling? Good, but crampy. Solution: salt tablets! Yum. Did I want some electrolyte water? Yes, but only if it doesn’t have the effervescent tablet taste that nuun and emergen-c do. She tasted it for me and confirmed that no, it did not. How was my stomach? Surprisingly good! Oh no, now I’ve thought about it. They encouraged me to take some gingersnap cookies, which were delicious.
The last thing these people said to me before I took off was, Hey, you’re right up there with the top women – third or fourth to come through. Keep it up!
Third or fourth! That was so cool. I started really running the downhills (and hit my fastest pace of the day) to hopefully keep my top place.
I caught up to a married couple just before the final aid station, with only 6.2 miles left to go. As they stopped and chatted with the aid volunteers I grabbed my snacks and got out of there – another one passed! I’m addicted. This is amazing and terrifying all at once.
The rest of the race was a blur. We had a long fire road hill climb followed by some really sweet downhill singletrack that wound through a gorgeous forest and made me really, really sad that I didn’t have my bike. Eventually I got a good view of the park – I was so close! My right toe was starting to hurt but otherwise my body felt great. Nobody had passed me on the way down except for that one guy between Trestle and Broken Thumb. Once my watch ticked off 30 miles, I resolved not to look at it again until I was finished.
Crossing the finish line was incredible. There wasn’t a lot of fanfare (I really wanted a balloon arch!) but Will and Hilde were waiting for me and Hilde gave me the absolute best greeting anyone could ever ask for – rolling, leaping, licking my face and hands and armpits and knees and acting like she hadn’t seen me in years. I love that dog! After she calmed down I splayed out on the grass. Will fed me a piece of pizza and a cup of water, and told me that I’d finished a mere 15 minutes behind him, on my goal pace of 12 minutes per mile.
Not wanting to burst my bubble, he let me bask for a few minutes before telling me the bad news: Hilde had decided that this would be the perfect moment to give us a little taste of parenthood. Now, Hilde is a great dog. As a puppy she never (not once!) pooped in the house and it didn’t take long to teach her to pee outside. Unfortunately, she must have been feeling the nervous belly as well because she had terrible, foul diarrhea all over the floor in the bus.
Of course, cleaning up dog diarrhea was not on the list of things I wanted to do after running 33 miles, but it had to be done. Such is life. Hilde, bless her heart, got most of it on the floor with a few drops on her own bed. I am SO HAPPY that she didn’t go on our bed or couch… that would have been a nightmare! Somehow, though, she did get little drops of poo everywhere. We had to wipe down the entire interior with antibacterial wipes, exclaiming every time we found a new area how insane it was that she was able to get it there. The poor girl must have felt so bad – there’s no way that we could be mad at her!
So, that’s that. First race, done. I loved it, and will definitely be back for round two. Here are a couple more thoughts that I had during the race:
What went well:
- Wine the night before. Just a little, to soothe the nerves.
- Nutrition schedule was great. A lot of people (like Will) like to eat on the hour but I have a hard time eating a whole Gu or bar at once. Every half hour meant that I could just take a few bites and wash it down with water.
- Clothing, shoes, pack were great – got lucky on that one!
- Heart rate monitor was great – I worried that it would distract me, but my heart cooperated and it was nice to see that I wasn’t pushing too hard.
Things to Improve:
- I briefly thought about packing gloves, but Will persuaded me not to. Next time, I’m packing gloves.
- Get someone to watch Hilde, obviously
- Didn’t need two waters, especially because it was cold out
|Location||Mileage||Elev Gained||GPS Link|
|Winter Park, CO||32.6 Miles||4,286ft||Strava »|