Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Corner Canyon Ultra Trail Race-My First 50K

This recap may just be all over the place.  I don't feel like I can even describe the emotions and feelings I've had about this whole experience but I will try to put it into words.  But just trust me that talking about it and experiencing it are two completely different things, as is with anything experienced in life.  You've got to experience it to understand it:  the joy, pain, excitement, nervousness, love of the outdoors, etc.   I will try to expound.

When I first found out about this race I learned there were two different lengths to run, a 25K and 50K.  I knew instantly I wanted to run in Corner Canyon again.  It's so far been my favorite trail running place.  So to be able to run another sponsored race here was a no-brainer.  I WAS IN.  Now the tough decision came as to which length to run.  I knew I could handle the 25K because I had run a 15 mile trail race here back in May with Josh and Julia.  That was a great experience then and so I was so excited to get another opportunity.  I also needed exactly 16 miles for my marathon training schedule and the 25K was going to fit that need perfectly.  But I wanted so badly to run the 50K but was so afraid to be out there in the mountains alone.  So after mulling it over for a couple weeks I just settled and signed up for the 25K.  I threw the idea out there on Facebook and asked if anyone wanted to join in on the adventure, thinking there would be no takers.  Josh already had a race he was doing that day and Julia was already moved to a different state, so I thought I would be running solo.  Well, out of the blue comes a comment from good old Mr. Cory Reese saying he was going to be running the 50K.  Now this was going to change everything.  I just had to work up the courage to beg, bribe, ask nicely if I could join him on the 50K.  I knew I wanted to be challenged and upgrading to the 50K would be the perfect solution.  I ever-so-nervously asked and he was so kind to agree to pace me.  I told him if he could at least get me 1/2 way up and down this mountain then I could probably manage to get myself back to the finish line and then he could run at whatever speed he wanted. Well, he was way too kind at even that suggestion and told me he would support me 100%.  Who does that?  I'll tell you.  Super kind, running idols and heroes, and that would be Cory Reese.

Race day came and I was up early at 4:15 am to take care of all the pre-race things a runner does.  The night before I had set everything out and had them in drop bags for Mark to bring to the aid stations he would be visiting at mile 19.6, mile 22.8, and mile 24.8.  Mark is so supportive and patient with me and my crazy running endeavors.  He will go to my races and hang out for any amount of time to see me run in.  Or he will sit at aid stations for hours on end waiting for me to get there.  He also doesn't mind the out of town trips because then we get a little vacation together.
Here is Mark after waiting about 2 hours at mile 19.6.

I really over-packed and actually ended up not needing a single thing.  I even unloaded a bunch of stuff that I was carrying and left it with him.  That just shows how great of a race this was.  It was so well supported and stocked at all the aid stations.  Without having run an ultra before I didn't know what to expect and I was just super impressed with the volunteers, the food, the drinks, the ice, who knew that ice could feel like manna from heaven? and the great enthusiasm that everyone had.   But, I'm jumping ahead a little bit.  

I got myself out the door a little before 5:00 am and got to the starting line to check in and get my packet.  Oh boy! Did I ever have pre-race jitters!!  I got my bib on and made a pit stop and then just walked around the parking lot trying to take nice, slow, steady breaths.  Cory was here and talking to other runners.  He seemed as cool and relaxed as an early morning Summer breeze. I didn't feel like I could visit the small crowd gathered and so I just continued to try to calm my nerves and relax by walking and walking.  A few minutes before time to start they had us gather to share information about the course and to talk about Johnny Runner.  He was the reason we were all here to run.  He has cancer and this race was put on by his trail running buddies to benefit his family.  There were some tears shed as he spoke to us but yet a strength in his voice that he was going to fight this and win! I sure hope he does! What an incredibly genuine, nice man.
A picture of me and Johnny Runner after the race was over.  He was such an inspiration to me to go after my dreams and don't give up! EVER!

The race started right on time at 6:00 am and we were off, with it still being a little bit dark, all 26 of us for the 50K.  There would be 60 people running the 25K which started an hour later.

Very early in the run a fun gal just a couple years younger than me named Misty, hung out and ran a few miles with us.  She was definitely a hard core ultra-marathoner with this race not being her first rodeo.  It's so fun to hear other people's stories of running and races they've done and future races planned.  At the first aid station, mile 3.6, called Orson Park, we checked in and told them our number (they wanted to keep track of everyone out here) then got some drinks and headed off again.  Misty didn't stop and that would be the last time we ran with her.  She was speedy. 
This was just some of the beautiful scenery we enjoyed along our journey.  It had rained the night before the race and so the morning air was cool and the trail seemed to be a little moist and less dusty.
We climbed a nice ascent and was well above the city and enjoyed some nice views of some hot air balloons and was still enjoying some cool canyon breezes.  At aid station #2, mile 8.7, called Ghost Falls, there was a nice spread of treats and drinks and we indulged.  I was feeling great and still felt like I was just floating on cloud 9.  I may have been running with a plastered smile on my face for the first 14 miles.  I just couldn't believe what an awesome experience this was and what a feeling of appreciation for the mountains and trees and trails I was feeling.
I think Cory was on a little runner's high as well.
At the third aid station, mile 11.9 there was another huge spread of goodies to enjoy.  And, I of course love goodies.  I wanted to make sure I was fueling my body properly with enough calories to keep me going with enough energy but without feeling too full.  This was challenging to find the right proportions as I would learn throughout the day. 
 Potato Hill at mile 11.9

It was also at this aid station where I saw an old neighbor friend of 19 years, Lester Muranaka, who lives in the Draper Hills area and was out walking his dogs this morning.  That was a pleasant surprise.
After the wonderful refreshments and the volunteers filling up my hydration vest for me we were off again. 
Cory was such a great companion runner.  Most of the time he let me be in the lead but really I just wanted to follow him and try to maintain his pace.  One time while running I pulled out my camera and snapped this photo without even looking back.  A little blurry but not too shabby for not even looking.
Everything was going good except for the heat was getting a little more intense.  I just kept staying as hydrated as I could without feeling sloshy in my tummy.  Cory reminded me to take my gu's.  Around mile 13 Cory pointed out a dragonfly.  Little did he know the significance of this.  Immediately I was reminded of my sweet Porter and I had a little crying moment while running.  That's a hard thing to do and maintain your breathing.  I tried to dry it up quickly.  It seems anytime I'm out running I will have a Porter moment and be drawn to thoughts of him and my precious memories of him.

At mile 14.3 is where things would change drastically!  I had studied this course up and down, in and out, and had written down the exact places where the elevation gains would be happening so I would know when to be ready for them.  I knew this next part of the course was going to be killer but I didn't realize how bad until trying to climb this beast of a mountain how bad it really was.  There is a person about 2/3 up this hill.  Can you see him?
Oh, there he is with my camera zoomed in.  This hill wouldn't have been quite so bad if the top of it would have been the end of climbing.  Oh no!  We had exactly 2.8 miles of intense climbing to accomplish this task. There was still more mountain to climb behind this hill.  Ugggghhhh..... My friend Annaleesa texted me somewhere in the middle of this to see how I was doing and all I could text back was "Can't breathe, climbing steep hill!"
 The heat was not fun and we had absolutely zero shade.  Good thing we had plenty of water though.
Cory kept track of the time it took for this section and we were averaging about a mile every half hour.  That's some pretty slow rough climbing if you ask me.  I knew Cory had more strength and energy to get up this hill and could have done it faster. He took the lead and threw down an imaginary rope for me to pretend like I was holding on to.   Sadly it didn't work.
We were admiring that cool, refreshing looking pool at the bottom of this hill we just climbed during a much needed rest moment.
You can see the trail by Cory's hat brim as where we started this climb.  Another friend of mine asked if there were any switchbacks in this section and sadly there weren't any.  Basically straight up!
Don't know how I'm managing a smile right now.  Maybe because I got a moment to rest?
This is another angle of the mountain we had climbed. It was taken later on as we were descending the mountain.  Seriously, why did we just climb this mountain to turn around and come back down?? I'm still baffled over that one.   Just follow the horizon from the right to the left and that was maybe a third of the climb. (not the carved out trail below)  Pictures really don't do it justice.  Just please go climb this mountain and feel the pain yourself.

OK, enough of my whining.  We would finally master this mountain and get to the top where an unmanned aid station, number 4 would be set up for us at mile 17.1 called Mack Hill.  This is where it felt like a gift from heaven had been dropped into our laps.  This was the most beautiful sight ever!  An ice chest filled with ice and we got to dive in to our hearts desire.  OK, well, we did have to save some for the people behind us.
We loaded up our water bags with ice and water from a couple of coolers that were there as well.  I grabbed a few handfuls and washed my hands and arms and put it on my neck.  Words can't describe the joy I was experiencing with just some simple ice cubes. 
Time to continue our journey.  Mark had been waiting a long time at aid station #5, mile 19.6.  I had no clue that mountain was going to take so long to get up and down.  But we were making our way there eventually. As we were getting there we saw this yellow caution tape.  There was actually tape all along the course and at the beginning of the race the directors had told us to NOT cross the tape or we would be disqualified from the race.  Shhhh........ I was being a rebel, don't tell on me. 

Well, at last I got to see my sweet hubby.  I gave him a big ole sweaty hug and squeezed him tight.  He knows he loved it.  We visited for just a little bit while I chowed down on some more treats.   I also got to meet some new Facebook friends from a group I belong to called Runners Anonymous.  Kevin Papa Kunz and his cute wife Elise Kunz, whom I've not met in person before dropped by with a gallon of cold chocolate milk for me.  It's so much fun to meet new running people.  They have organized a Wednesday morning run which I may be participating in pretty soon.  At this aid station we had an out and back section of only 3.2 miles and so Mark stayed here until I would come back.  At the furthest point was a box with stickers in it and we were required to put a sticker on our bib to prove we made it to this point.  You can believe that I may have put 4 of the largest stickers on my bib.  I needed extra smiles to keep me going.
  At mile 22  (almost)

As we were heading back to the aid station it was so incredibly hot and I was doing everything I could to get any hint of shade as we ran by the trees.  It probably wasn't doing any good.  I made a tiny mistake in this part of the trail by not keeping my water bag filled.  I had run out of water with about a quarter mile left to get back to the aid station.  Pretty sure I wouldn't make that mistake again.  I didn't realize I was so low before we headed off on the out and back.  Mark had brought me an ice cold Powerade that he had frozen and had in an ice chest.  It was like drinking a lemon-lime slushy.  I downed half the bottle and then took it with me on my run.  That was a great treat.  So after seeing Mark at mile 22.8, aid station stop #6 at Suncrest Deer Park, and filling up my water bag with ice and water and enjoying more snacks we were off again.  I would see Mark again at the last aid station, #7, at Potato Hill, just 2 miles later at mile 24.8.  It was all downhill to there and so he wouldn't have to wait long.
From here things start to get a little hazy.  I don't remember when I took this photo.  I do know it was sometime after the last aid station but I like the temple and it helped put things in perspective of how close we were. I knew that the finish line was a little over 5 miles away.  When we arrived at the last aid station, Mark was there and I was happy to see his cute face again.  I thanked him for supporting me and being there.  He was heading home now and I would finish my race and drive home on my own.  My water bag was plenty full.  I downed three cups of coke with tons of ice in them and was totally not in the mood for any food.  There were some salt tablets available there as well and so I took one of those.  Cory had also shared a couple of salt tabs throughout the day.  That's definitely something I need to get for myself for longer runs in the heat.  Well, this was it.  Time to face the final frontier!  We had the final stretch of about 5 1/2 miles left to go.  I felt pretty good for only a little while and when the next and final uphill stretch started at mile 25.7 I BONKED!  I couldn't run, and my walking had slowed way down.  I kept getting cramps and I would have to stop and let it pass and take slow deep breaths.  This little stretch of uphill lasted for 1.6 miles but as far as I was concerned it felt like 10 miles!  Cory suggested I ought to get some more calories in me.  He was even having some stomach issues and forced himself to eat a gu.  He told me to have the camera ready because this may be his first mid-race upchuck.  The heat was really taking a toll on our bodies and we were just ready to get this race done.  Eating a gu was the last thing I wanted to do but I realized that at the last aid station I had only drank 3 cups of coke and a salt tab.  I had forgotten to eat any food!  That is so not like me.  Mark even told me later that he noticed I didn't eat anything and wondered why? It must have been the heat.  So I forced one down and about 10-15 minutes later I felt a little better.  The last climb was over and it was time to start heading down hill.    
I love down hills.  I feel like sometimes I just can put it on cruise control and keep going all day.  Here we are crossing a little bridge about mile 30.  We were literally so close! I am just so tired and hot, and Cory is looking like an eager beaver ready for another 50 miles.  We got to the end and started running in, only to have them tell us we missed a turn and needed to come in another way.  I looked at Cory and thought "seriously? we have to go back?".  I didn't say it but I think he knew what I was thinking.  It was my fault though because I knew where that parking lot was and I headed straight there like a horse heading to water.  The yellow caution tape had been pulled away at the last intersection and we didn't see it.  Shoot!!  Well, we weren't going to come this far and not finish the correct way.  We headed back across the road and under the bridge and came in the right way to the finish line. It probably only added a little over a quarter mile to our distance.  But that's quite a bit when you are so ready to be done.
 I finished my first ultra marathon trail race 50K (31.10 miles) in 9:46:17 with the very awesome Cory Reese as my pacer and friend.
Now it was Cory's turn to be feeling pretty lousy.  He may or may not have thrown up.  He couldn't stomach any after race treats but I could.  I had some luscious watermelon wedges and then I ran through a sprinkler.  Actually, I didn't run through it, I stood in it for a good long while and let the salt and sweat wash off of me and to cool my body temperature down.  It was an awesome thing to have set up at the finish line of a race.

After visiting with a number of people hanging out at the finish line I thanked Cory for his help today.  I just kept wondering how I would have handled doing this all alone?  It would have been boring, lonely and even a little scary.  Even though we didn't do a ton of talking out there on the course it was just nice to know there was somebody there in case anything did happen.  For that I will be forever grateful. 
The race director handed me this hat at the end and said I won it.  Cool!  Too bad I didn't have it at the start of the race.  That would have been even cooler.  The medals are pretty sweet, a big heavy chunk of medal with Johnny Runner welded out of it. And a pink shirt.  It's the first pink shirt I've ever gotten from a race.  I like it a lot. 

This was a superb race and one I wouldn't mind doing again next year if only they take out the 2.8 mile climb up Widowmaker mountain! The volunteers were super friendly.  The trail was marked so perfectly.  There were pink and green ribbons everywhere.  I'm just glad I didn't have to go retrieve them all when it came time to clean up the course.  I think if a person were to get lost on this trail then they were probably snoozing while running.  The race directors even told us at the beginning that the trail was over marked, and he was right.   It was perfect.
I loved this whole day, even the ending when I bonked.  It helped me learn a valuable lesson about the importance of fueling even when your body doesn't want it.  I also learned that ultra runner's are just average everyday people who enjoy running and love being out there on the trails too.  I learned that leaning on others for support is a good and necessary thing and that this race couldn't be done all alone without aid stations, a supportive hubby and friends.   This whole experience just made me a happy person and I'm so thankful I got to experience every minute of it.  A HUGE THANK YOU again to Cory Reese for your willingness to get me through this.


Julia said...

This is unbelievably amazing!!! im so proud to know you all...both such strong incredibly inspiring people! thanks for sharing your story! im so excited you conquered this and are an amazing ultra marathoner on some crazy tough trails! and what an amazing reason to run for! Johnny Runner sounds like an awesome inspiration! CONGRATS!

Gina Horkey said...

A great read; you've got huge kahona's my friend! What an experience:-)

Christy said...

Wow, you're amazing! Over a 30 miler ultra. Loved reading your journey!

Doran & Jody said...

I can't even begin to tell you how proud I am of you!!! I am emotional with just reading about this whole experience. When I am having a rough run I pray that I will have my "dad" experience again. If not to "see" him again, have him send the breeze to know he is there.

I think EVERYONE needs a CORY!!! What an AWESOME friend you are Cory!! Thanks for taking care of Susette for us!

Jerilee E. said...

Well, I am just going to echo everyone else and say that you are AMAZING!! I absolutely loved reading your recap and am SO impressed! That was some awesome ultra racing- congratulations!!

Jay said...

Not sure exactly how I came across your post - but it is inspirational and motivating... Congrats on completing your first of what I suspect will be many ultras!! And, Cory rocks - what a great ambassador for the sport...

Brittany said...

Susette, I already know that you know, but you are crazy!! You make all these runs look easy but I'm pretty sure they are far from it.
I just wanted to say you are amazing, GOOD JOB!
Also, I'm still waiting for you to say that you will take me to the Bear Lake one :)

Jen said...

Seriously, who does this?!!! You ran an ultra before you've even run a marathon!!! You really are incredible. I'm so excited for you and proud of you for being so brave. What a great accomplishment and a great day. And so great that you got spend it with Cory!

Jessica said...

I found your blog from Cory's recap, and you are such an inspiration! This sounds like an awesome race and I loved reading about it! I'm excited to keep following along with you on your blog!

Jess's Journey to the Land Of Skinny said...

Nice Work!! What a crazy, fun, exhausting, fantastic run. It looks like a very pretty trail but that Widowmaker looks scary and I even like hills! This looks like a race I will have to put on my to do list...we could even do it together. I would probably talk your ear off though.
Cory is great to run with and I am so glad you had the chance to run with him!

Arica said...

What an awesome recap and amazing job!! You arey running inspiration right now lady!!

Heatherlyn said...

You do an amazing job of describing your races. I find it fascinating that you would want to run that many miles. It's crazy to me and yet also inspiring. GREAT JOB!!!!!

Runningmyspace said...

I just came across your blog and was really loved reading your 50K journey! I just recently finished running a 50K in November for my 50th and what an exhilarating experience! Congrats to you and Cory, even though it's a little late and cheers to you and your 2014 goals!