It’s been three weeks since I ran the Tranquility Lake 50K, so I guess it’s about time for a recap. I’m always late on recaps; has anyone else noticed? Oh well—better late than never.
Tranquility was my second 50K (not counting my 30-mile jaunt at Pinhoti), and I loved it. The entire race reaffirmed my passion for ultra running. I was so happy. Like, giddy-the-entire-race happy. There were times when I wanted to just sit down and enjoy the fading fall colors and crisp weather, and then I’d remember it was a race and I had to run. There were leaves falling and hitting my face—is that not storybook-perfect? Sigh.
Totally unlike my first 50K at Mt. Cheaha, I put almost zero thought into this one. I wasn’t even sure that I’d run the race until that actual week. So that didn’t leave me much time to prepare—or worry. It helped that I had just run 30 miles, but pacing and racing are two different animals. I wanted a PR and hoped that the easier course would make for one, but my main goal was to have a good time.
And that I did! Tranquility was the final race of the Southeastern Trail Series, and as always David and Mary Jo Tosch made it phenomenal. It was a double loop course at Oak Mountain with 7,000+ ft of elevation gain, and it took us on some of my favorite trails, as well as a few others I’ve never been on. And while we didn’t do David’s favorite dip in and out of Peavine Falls, we did tackle a monster of a hill that left me cursing him with what little breath I had.
Without actively watching the time or my pace, I smashed my previous PR by 38 minutes, coming across the finish line at 6:44:48. Not too shabby. While it was a good run, I definitely walked (ok, hobbled) away with some lessons. Here you go, learn from my mistakes:
Feed the Beast—Irony at its finest. I was hell-bent on proper fueling and hydration at Pinhoti, but completely ignored it at Tranquility. I reached mile 7 with an almost-full handheld, forgot to refill it at the aid station, then lost time refilling it at an unmanned station two miles from the halfway point because I was so.thirsty. My reward for my absentmindedness? Angry intestines for miles and miles. And eating? Oops. I only grabbed a handful of chips at the aid station, didn’t take a Gu until mile 11 when I slammed face-first into The Wall, and finished the first loop dizzy and falling down way too often. I cleaned up my act though, refueled, and had a great second loop.
Master the Art of the Aid Station—If you eat and drink properly while running, you should be able to blow right through an aid station. Refill your fluids, grab some junk food, and go on your merry way. But if you’re like me and neglect to put any calories into your body, an aid station seems like a safe haven to stop and sit a spell. No! Bad runner! Move yo’ ass! I wished I had timed how long I loitered at the aid station between loops—my friends were there drinking beers and having fun, and tackling that hill again didn’t sound too appealing. Once I stopped seeing double I moved on, but too much time was lost. My goal is to be more like my fellow BUTS and Resolute Running friend Lisa (who is also my blogger idol); she’s an aid station ninja—in and out in the blink of an eye.
Focus, Focus, Focus—Don’t let a flat(ter) trail lull you into a false sense of security. You’ll bust your ass. I promise. Every time. In this race, I had just climbed that monster hill and picked my way through a rock garden, and was enjoying a nice stretch of trail while happily chatting with Lisa and a group of guys, when It happened. I tripped over my own two feet and slid arm-first into a rock. If it were baseball, I would have been safe for sure. Of course, everyone stopped as we tried to assess the extent of the injuries. But no broken bones means shake it off and make up for lost time! Moral of the story—pay.attention.
Push It—Yes, you’re tired. Yes, that hill was steep and your legs are jello. Yes, it’s easier to swallow water while standing (or sitting) still. But that’s no reason to walk. You didn’t come to the race to leisurely stroll through the woods. There were far too many times when I slowed down to walk for a moment, then ended up walking a few minutes longer than I actually needed to. Long distance laziness strikes again. This is totally mind over matter, and I need to practice pushing myself to the point of discomfort. Walk breaks are fine in an ultra, but I need to hurry my little ass along more.
All that being said, I’m still really proud that I went from a newbie trail runner to completing three 30+ mile runs in a year. Now let’s see what 2014 brings!
More shots from the race: