Fifteen days before the inaugural Algonquin 50k, I clicked the seemingly glowing “Register” button on UltraSignup.com– the go-to race website for ultra-marathons– any race longer than 26.2 miles.
I had a goal to run my first 50k in 2017, but didn’t think I’d be crossing one off my list so early on in the year. When other plans for the weekend of February 10th cleared up, though, I decided to go all in and commit to 31+ miles across Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Fortunately, a few friends from November Project were also running it– though they’d been registered for months– so I grabbed a spot on the team and in their car.
The morning of Saturday, February 11th, I woke up at 2:40 a.m. before getting picked up by said friends and embarking on the long drive east.
When we finally arrived at the campground of the Pocomoke River State Park, we went to the bathroom, picked up our race packets, and then went to the bathroom again.
In little time, we had our bibs on and waited in the warm car before it was time to start. Eventually, that time came, and we were off.
Because this was my first race of more than 26.2 miles, my only goal was to finish, so I took it easy.
Miles No. 0-9 (8:38/mi, 8:45, 9:08, 8:46, 8:38, 8:31, 8:25, 9:40, 8:45)
While I wanted to take it easy, save my strength, and avoid hurting myself out of the gate, I also got in a nice groove running with a pack of others for the first quarter or so of the race. There was little (read: no) elevation throughout the entire course, but mud and lake-sized puddles did present some challenges. For the most part, things were smooth sailing as I reached the first aid station at which I decided to stop.
Miles No. 10-16 (11:12, 8:45, 8:31, 9:13, 9:08, 10:45, 14:20)
At my first stop, I grabbed some M&Ms, pretzels, and licorice. I was running with my Osprey Rev 6 hydration backpack, filled with Nuun, so I didn’t need to take any fluids in. One of the volunteers noticed I was trying to take off my windbreaker jacket and asked if I wanted her to hold it for the rest of the race. I thought that was a good idea and took off my backpack to remove the jacket. She must’ve seen that as a sign that I also wanted to give her the backpack because she grabbed for it and– not thinking clearly at all— I gave it to her.
I grabbed a piece of potato from the food table and went on my way. It wasn’t until a quarter-of-a-mile later that I realized what I did: I left my backpack, with my iPhone, Nuun, and other valuables. I could have returned back to the aid station to grab everything, but I felt compelled to move forward and do it all natural. I would be one with the course and utilize the aid stations’ offerings. Looking back, this was really stupid and a huge gamble.
I continued onwards, mostly on my own, before getting in a groove with another small group of runners– one of which was another Nuun ambassador. We ran together for a while, but at Mile No. 15 my stomach started getting angry. Fortunately a bit after the next aid station were a stable of portopotties, so I found the first available unit and took care of business.
About 10 minutes later, I was feeling better than ever, and way lighter on my feet!
Miles No. 17-25 (8:13, 8:37, 8:25, 8:40, 8:50, 8:36, 8:54, 8:38, 11:13)
Look at those splits! We hit the turnaround point, and I was passing people left and right. I ran all sub-9:00 miles until the next aid station at Mile No. 25.
Miles No. 26-29 (9:27, 8:51, 8:41, 11:00)
The course continued back towards the start and, sure I was getting tired, but not as tired as many other runners in front of me. I noticed that I passed quite a few people on the back-half of the run. At Mile No. 29 I took my time loading up on liquids and food. Never before did I think a whole potato covered in salt was appetizing. Never before did I run a 50k race, though. It was so good that I’d have another at the next stop.
Miles No. 30-32.3 (9:19, 9:05, 8:40, 7:35)
The final few miles certainly dragged on– and the surprise extra 1.3 miles left me feeling frustrated that I had more to run. Eventually the course left the trails and found its way back to the road where we started. I meandered closer and closer to the campground where I could hear the race director announcing runners’ names as they crossed the finish line. I passed one more person as I ran the final stretch.
After crossing the finish line at 4:58:54, I accepted my homemade ALQ50k mug and met up with my friends, who had finished in third and seventh place. My sub-5:00 time was good enough from 12th overall. I wonder how I would’ve fared if I didn’t spend so much time in the bathroom…
Oh, one more thing. Speaking of my second-half surge. At the halfway mark, I was in 25th place. I finished in 12th. I passed 13 runners over the final half. I never do that well on the second half of a race, maybe I should stop in bathrooms more often!