I ran the 50 mile New River Trail segment from Galax to Pulaski!!! This was my first 50-miler, and I'm sure it won't be my last. The weather was absolutely perfect - I started in a light long sleeve and long spandex shorts, switched to a short sleeve at mile 20. Not too windy, partly cloudy day. With all the leaves fallen from the trees, I could see past them down to the river the whole way (when the trail was close enough). I had never done the Galax to Shot Tower section (first ~25 miles); I was totally captivated by the beauty of everything around me and the new sights and it made the first half really fly by!
My good friend Kyler ran the first 9.5 miles with me, Galax to Gambetta. I was really grateful to have a friend running with me at the start. I had so much adrenaline but SO FAR to go, he did a really good job reining me in, not letting me go sub 8:00 min/mile. From Gambetta to Ivanhoe, I was on my own. Which was totally ok! I love running with my friends, but I also enjoy the peaceful serenity of the woods. But I always have a tendency to go to fast when I run alone. Sure enough, I started dropping 7:30s. Oops. I didn't want to constantly look at my watch and turn into my own pace Nazi, so much better to live in the moment. So I tried playing some chill music, thinking that would surely calm me down and make me go slower. After a few minutes, I checked my watch again. 7:15 pace. Dammit. I took my first quick pit stop (~30 seconds), and called my mom when I started running again. I was going to see her in just a few miles at Ivanhoe! Talking to someone took a little more effort, so I naturally slowed down. Thank goodness.
Ivanhoe was the first big stop. My parents were there!! I used the bathroom while they refilled my pack with water and Tailwind. My dad was just dropping off my mom and her bike, but he gave me some words of encouragement and goofiness ("have fun storming the castle!" gotta love the Princess Bride). Starting up again was a little bit rough. My pace dropped to around 8:15-8:30 min/mile. But I was good with that! Just trying to be smooth and easy. And I was so excited to run with my mom! She has biked countless miles with me on the NRT during all of my marathon training. I love having her out there with me.
Around mile 23, my friends Tim and Kyle joined the squad! Those guys are so goofy and encouraging. But also super knowledgeable about nutrition during endurance events, having done many themselves. My stomach was starting to cramp, and I did not want to eat anything at all. I took one bite of a Stroopwafel and spit it out. Tim gave me half his water which helped a ton. Probably over-sugared myself. Did a shoe-swap at halfway after belting out the chorus of Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer": Brook's Adrenalines to Hoka Carbon Xs! My ankle and shin were starting to hurt a little as well so I slapped on some icy hot and tried to keep rolling. But it was so tough. My stomach didn't feel great, and my joints were getting really stiff. I took lots of walking breaks in this section. Run two miles, walk two minutes. One foot in front of the other. I couldn't believe how far I had to go. But my super encouraging friends and mom got me through it. Kyle and Tim had to turn around at mile 32 which was very sad. But I knew I was going to see a new friend soon - my friend Kevin was planning to hop in the last 16-18 miles! Any minute now...
Sure enough, there was Kevin waiting right at mile 34! I was shocked at what a difference it made to have someone actually RUNNING, instead of just riding, next to me. Don't get me wrong, I was so incredibly grateful for my mom and Tim and Kyle, but the camaraderie of having a fellow runner was unmatched. Things got significantly better at this point. May have been Kevin, may have been the 400mg of ibuprofen, I guess we'll never know. Kevin was full of interesting stories to tell and boundless encouragement to keep me distracted. I am so thankful for all my friends who supported me through this. Both on and off the trail. :)
Final resupply was at Hiwassee, right before the coolest bridge on the trail, about 10 miles to go. My mom was heading out at this point, but she offered to bike ahead a mile out and prepare things for me. I had a tough time describing what I wanted her to do, my brain was not functioning at its highest capacity at this point, but I finally got my point across. I switched to my handheld with diluted Tailwind and ginger shot blocks (best flavor!). Kevin graciously carried some extra water for me in his pack. Now for the hardest section. The next four miles were all slightly uphill. I knew this was coming, and I knew it was gonna be so tough. I went back to run/walk breaks, trying to keep moving forward, chomping on ginger chews every time I walked. As soon as the gumminess left my teeth, I would start running again. It was so tough. Everything hurt. But I knew it would all be over soon. I tried not to look at my watch, but I knew sub 7:30 was within reach. I wanted it so bad.
My final walking break was coming through Draper, 4.5 to go!! One last hill going up past the parking lot. At least, I thought that was the last hill...more on that later. Kevin was still trucking along with me, but we picked up one more friend: Catie!! After that walk I told them I wanted to run the rest of the way, if I could. By golly they did not let me walk!! Great friends keep ya going. I knew I could get there, it was only a matter of time. But this part went by so fast. I was with a new person and a dear friend (and still Kevin!) and the encouragement never stopped flowing! With the finish imminent, I was feeling supper giddy. Definitely hitting that runner's high. My other friend Kevin came biking from the other way about two miles out, and then my mom came on her bike that last mile out. Big squad rolling in strong. I ran into the parking lot and saw Kyler - yay!! I didn't know if he would make it back in time. I looked down at my watch: 49.6 miles. WHAT?!! I couldn't believe I wasn't done yet. I thought the trail was 50 parking lot to parking lot. I suppose GPS could've gotten a little off at that point, but I wanted the legitimate 50 on my Garmin. So I kept pushing, faster and faster. And up a hill...!? Again, WHAT!!? Who put that there!? After all this time, all this flat trail, this is where I end!?! I wanted to just roll down all the way to the bottom once I finally reached 50.01 (extra 0.01 just in case). But I walked down then laid on the ground, like a normal person. So unbelievably happy with this day. And like I said before, I know it won't be my last 50. Or maybe I'll go even longer... :)