I did it! I finished the Georgia Jewel 50 feeling like a million bucks, which officially makes me a 50-mile ultra runner.
This post will be long, because 50-mile races are long. If you’re too busy/important/ADD to read the entire post, here’s the Cliff Notes version:
Finished in 13:48. Rained all day. Loved almost every moment. Felt great at the end. Ready for my 100.
If you’re dying to hear more (you know you are), here we go!
I was a mixture of nonchalant (just a supported long run, not a race) and freaking the fuck out (it’d still me my first official 50-miler) leading up to Jewel. My plan was to go nice and slow and maximize time on feet. I saw it as a chance to push past my current longest run of 12 hours plus spend 50 miles discovering my strengths and weaknesses. And it worked! The course wasn’t as difficult as I had expected and I felt good, so I kept up a good pace and finished in 13:48—a good bit ahead of my 15-18 hour time goal.
The race itself was low-key, but fun. I can’t express how much I love point-to-point races. You never see the same thing twice, you feel like you’re actually getting somewhere, and you have way less of an option to quit. The course was a mix of single track, fire roads, and road roads. And it was beautiful. Leaves were starting to change colors, and the fog and mist and rain made it feel like I was running through a fairy tale all day. I honestly felt like I could have kept going forever.
“I call BS, Tanya. You couldn’t have been happy the entire time.” You’re right. Some parts sucked a little bit. Like the never-ending power lines in the beginning of the race. Or the last five miles that were a soaking wet rock garden that threatened to snap your ankles. Add in the rain and dark and uphill, and it was less-than-stellar. Great mental training for Pinhoti!
Zack was a great sport and crewed and photographed me all day on muddy backroads. Another lesson—Pokey cannot come along to Pinhoti. She’s too dainty for off-roading. And as always, I loved having my virtual crew sending me words of encouragement and entertaining me throughout the race. Some people get on trails to “disconnect.” I say fuck that, I like having my people with me! Much love to you all!
Jewel was essentially a dress rehearsal for the Pinhoti 100. I practiced fueling and nutrition and clothing and hair and shoes and makeup…oh wait, wrong sport. For serious though, the race gave me a great idea of what does and doesn’t work for me, so now I can make adjustments for the Big Day.
Here are five lessons that I ran away with (I’m so punny):
Doggie-bag it—A wise runner taught me to shove aid station food into ziplock bags and eat as I keep moving to save time. Brilliant! With 18 aid stations at Pinhoti, I can’t be hanging around eating a leisurely meal.
Don’t tie shoes too tightly—Take the time to stop and adjust any little thing that nags you. One minute now will save you 13 hours of discomfort. Spoiler alert—even a measly 8 miles with a too-tight shoe will bruise and hurt like a mother.
Don’t judge a race by the first mile—Miles 1 and 2 started straight up power lines that just kept rising higher and higher out of the fog. Add in some Jaw-Jaw clay sticking to my shoes, and I was seriously questioning my ability to run 49 more miles. But after yelling, “Fuck this! I’m done!” a few times and drawing laughs from surrounding runners, I felt better.
Have good gear—Some things you can get away with skimping on. Other things are kind of necessary. Like shoes. And a headlamp. I learned two important things at Jewel: my Cascadias were too old to cushion my pretty little feet, and my headlamp isn’t very bright. Add in some thick fog, and it was essentially useless. Which leads me to…
Find a friend—Once night fell and the fog rolled in and I couldn’t see the trail for shit, I started cursing my lack of lumens. So I caught up to a runner who I had been playing leapfrog with all day and asked if he wouldn’t mind sticking with me until the end of the race. He readily agreed, and between our two headlamps we were able to make our way off the mountain. Luckily, at Pinhoti I’ll have pacers to help me through sticky situations.
Five more weeks until the Big Day. Ready or not Pinhoti, here I come!
More shots from the race: