And there it was.
The waiting seemed to take forever. Matthew and I decided on running the Bull Run Run 50 Miler sometime shortly after finishing the Potomac Heritage Trail 50k back in October last year. First it seemed like forever till the January 25th opening of registration. The wait from then till the lottery selection was then an even more excruciating wait, not sure if I'd get in or not and definitely fretting over it. Then, with the knowledge that I really was attempting this, came the wait for April 10th to finally arrive; to put myself to the test and see just what I was made of. Could I really do this? Would I crack at the mid-point? Did I stand a chance of breaking 10 hours? Much less the 9 hours that Matthew and I had been discussing?
Well the day finally arrived, and my questions could finally be answered. Going into race day I knew deep down I hadn't done quite enough in the final weeks leading up to the race. Since the March 6th Seneca Greenway 50k, my sole long run was a slow and painful slog home from work that provided me my first bruised toenail and a couple of blisters thanks to what I've come to realize were ill fitted shoes. My focus began the shift to mountain biking as the weather turned nicer and I struggled to find the time and motivation to get out for a couple of final 20 milers on the weekends leading up to the race; opting instead to get out for some fun mtb rides as the trails and weather finally permitted.
So, while I wouldn't have outright admitted any of it, I was a bit scared at what the day might reveal.
At the start Matthew and I caught up just before the send off and settled in with the group of 336 starters. We found a good tempo, targeting an 9 minute mile as an average on the flats with a similar effort level on the ups and downs and did well keeping it. We alternated the lead between us, occasionally cruising with other folks before jumping out ahead, keeping our consistent pace. I'd started the day with a long sleeve shirt over top of my short sleeve tech shirt from the Cherry Blossom 10 miler last year and ditched that around mile 16. I kept my lightweight gloves on, but that really had more to do with my lack of interest in doing the work to get them off and the fact that they were the best thing I had for wiping my nose that was draining as steadily as our pace.
We chatted with some great folks out there, many of whom were returning BRR runners. The atmosphere was great, between the cheery runners and the amazing volunteers. (I really can't stress enough how great all the support for this race was!) Everyone seemed to be having a blast!
We took our first prolonged aid stop at Rob's aid station to chat until Rob yelled at us to get a move on. From there we hit the "Do Loop" which was probably my least favorite part of the course with the continuous short but steep ups and downs that never seemed to allow any rest. It was amazing and a bit surprising though to get a view of the Occoquan River, and the boat house hosting a small race on a beautiful day.
With about 7 or 8 miles to go I was really dieing off while Matthew was feeling amazingly strong, pacing off another strong runner. He dropped back to let me know he was going to blaze through the final aid station and go hard to the finish. I told him to get going and the next thing I knew he was long gone.
From there on it was a battle of the mind and the feet, which were sore from the roots and rocks. The strategy of one foot in front of the other set in and I actually caught Matthew's "pacer" a bit after the aid station. I passed him and then he took a pit stop and for a while I thought he was gone. But he, along with another runner ended up catching and passing me (soundly) with maybe 2 miles to go and I slowly made my way in solo, getting the occasional pick me up from a random hiker or bystander.
Coming into the finish felt amazing. Folks cheered me in, as was the case at every aid station, and I cruised/stumbled up the road to the finish. I got my 1st time veteran's finishers pin, a finishers fleece and the greatest thing of all time, a green Popsicle! Chatted with Quatro and a guy who lives up the road from me in Beltsville for a few minutes before topping off my water bottle with ice water and heading for the bench to swap tales with Matthew and watch the runners come in.
My finishing time of 8 hours and 37 minutes basically smashed the goal finishing time of 9 hours and most amazingly, I felt great through at least mile 40 of this race! Meanwhile at Seneca the final 6 to 8 miles of 31 were pretty rough. Here though we hit the 50k mark within minutes of our Seneca finish times, still felt strong and were running significantly slower (though steadier) miles to begin with. Obviously, one lesson learned here is to not go out quite so hard to begin the race!
I think another lesson, which I'd say I already knew, was to not drop the mileage as hard and early as I did before the big race. Just a couple of weekend 20 milers probably would've done the trick for my finishing strength, though my base certainly served me well. Next time though, my goal will be to actually finish fast, strong and feeling good. Getting dropped was tough, and so far I have not finished an Ultra with any kick left in the legs. I want to be able to be competitive at the end, even if it's just for breaking some time barrier, like that ever so slightly elusive 8:30 mark.
Congrats to everyone out there that raced; especially Matthew for kicking my a** in those final 7 or 8 miles. Gaining 30+ seconds per mile in the final few is no small feat for sure. Also, to both the new Male and Female course record holders. It was great to share a course with these super fast runners, and even get to see them streaming by on a beautiful day.
I'll post up some pictures once they start to appear but for now you should click on the image of my shirt above for a quick lesson on why Vaseline and band aids are good things.