Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I'm an ULTRA MARATHONER: Dirty German 50K

This monumental post of achievement is also my blogs 100th post awwww...only fitting.

But on to the real business, in case you missed it that is, it's official folks.

It (only?) took 6 hours and 50 minutes for me to become an "ultra" marathoner.

I cannot stop shouting it from the roof tops.

Sorry, I'm not sorry for blowing up your Facebook and Instagram feeds with this accomplishment. Everyone else was blowing up the feed with drinking all weekend at the beach...high five for that, but I ran 31.07 frickin miles of gloriousness. I win.

Can someone please transport me back to this most perfect and magical day?

Going in, I really had no idea what to expect.

I have run a crap load this season; and well never run trails. And here I was about to undertake 31.07 miles through the woods. Failing to taper (I took Saturday as a rest day finally) and as calm as I can ever remember. I kept waiting for the nerves to set in, but in typical Gianna fashion I was more concerned about if my outfit matched over the details of this race.

For the record it did thank you very much (and I got lots of looks like "is this girl for real?" at the start...hot pink FTW!)

So anyways. The weather was awful in Jersey leading up to the race...luckily Philly wasn't experiencing the same. And as we drove there Saturday night were greeted by beautiful sun and the promise of a great day.
The promise of sun

Always a good sign.

Hello Philadelphia.
In traditional Gianna and Tara fashion, we didn't arrive in Philly until late - 8? maybe and still needed dinner. By the time we stopped at a random restaurant (which I cannot remember the name of but was DELICIOUS) and checked in, it was now really LATE. Shocking.

We pulled together our drop bags, laid out our outfits, did a half ass foam roll (because if I foam roll my calves for a minute they will magically not be tight, right?) and then got in bed.

And still not nervous. Still no feeling of hmmm I am about to run 50K through the trails of Philadelphia setting in maybe I should be concerned?

Our alarms started going off sometime around 6am (8am race start and we were staying 3 miles away) and the two of us just kind of looked at each other like "are we really about to go do this?". Neither moving much.

Eventually though we did get our asses in gear realizing it was about 7:25 and we had to get going to pick up our bibs etc.

Insert...a very different race start. Folks we are not in road runner land anymore.

We basically got our bibs and used the bathroom and then waited for them to yell to begin.

It was that simple. And oh so foreign. And I think the casual atmosphere helped keep nerves at bay. The only time I started to get frazzled was on our way to the start when navigation to parking was giving us issues and it was now 7:40 or so. Other than than, cool as a cucumber.

And with little fanfare, just like that we were dashing across the field and into the woods. It was a surreal experience.

Our only plan of action was to take it slow. Tara needed to make sure she was staying hydrated and I am notorious for going out and bonking so it was pretty good to have her taking walking breaks out of necessity.

Immediately, I was in awe and in love with trail running. The atmosphere, the camaraderie, the pure sense of joy and lack of monotony were amazing. Miles started flying off. The only bad thing in the beginning was we both needed a bathroom and had left the TP in our drop bags at the half way point (rookie mistake) so waiting to make it to the bathroom at the 7.5 mile marker was slight torture. BUT once we got to that marker (the course was 2 loops for the 50K) we were happy little runners.
Please be leading to the bathroom...

Oh hello there sugar rush.
We took our time fueled up, hit the bathroom and were HAPPILY off and running. Not even thinking about how far we had gone or how many miles were left to go. None of that was discussed. I can confidently say that the only time I thought about where I was or how many miles in was when I needed the bathroom. Other than that, I was just running happy.

We're running!!!

Ridiculously happy.

Yup. Good luck navigating. Where is the pink flag?!
We made ourselves some friends on the course (shout out to the group that guessed the two of us were under 25 years old. God bless your souls) we weren't paying too much attention to time, pace or anything.

My only issue was that the walking breaks were too frequent for my legs liking and I wanted to go go go and each time we stopped and started my hip would get achy. Other than that it was running perfection.

But before we knew it we were at the half way point! It felt insane how quickly it came (and quick is relative since it was around 3 1/2 hours later...). They jotted down your number and time and we hit up our drop bags for what we needed and the bathroom. I also ran into my friend Jessie's boyfriend (she was running) chatted with him and eventually took off running again.
Ultra Aid Station

Me 15.5 miles in. Feeling amazing. Hair looking sexy as hell.
The one thing to note is the VAST different in an ultra versus road marathon. You spend a few minutes at the aid station, they take your water bottles for you to refill, you snack a little, do a check to make sure you are all set to go before taking off again.

Now I am sure if you are running this competitively you are not taking this much time (as we saw plenty that were not being as leisurely) but in general its more social and EVERYONE is so friendly. I cannot stress that enough.

As we began the second loop it became evident that Tara was going to need to be walking more than myself so after a couple miles, double checked with her and she gave the blessing for me to just go on ahead. I am thankful for her as my running partner and we have this understanding that if you are having the day where you are being held back it is okay to just take off.

Insert a few pictures  not totally relevant at this point because I took so many and how can I not share.

"minor" obstacles

Why have I never run trails before?
My legs just wanted to run. At this point I was all of a sudden running 9 minute miles and we are talking 20 miles into the trails at this point. My legs felt amazingly refreshed.

The course had a lot more hills than I anticipated but that was great because it forced the walking breaks (no way in hell I was exerting myself to run up hills during this - it makes absolutely no sense to tire yourself out for about an extra 20 seconds).

The other great thing was that seeing that this was my first trail run, I was not used to it and was forced to concentrate on where I was going versus the roads where you can totally just zone out and find yourself miles away...I think this is part of why the miles just ticked off without me knowing. If you don't want to break an ankle or bust your ass you better be watching where you are navigating. I had a couple of close calls with almost falling but managed to hold it together.

I was pretty encouraged when I stopped at the aid stations and they kept telling me how great I was looking. And when I hit the one at the 25(?) or so mile marker and they tried to convince me that I looked fresh enough to loop again for 50 miles...I am not going to lie, I had fleeting thoughts of "I should go for it". Happy to report...I did not. But I swear if one more person told me this, I was ready to get out and continue.

When I reached the final aid station on the course, I was actually filled with sadness. That was at 27.5 miles and I knew the end was near. And I also knew that I had no desire to be done (I know, who the hell thinks that at this point). But other than my legs being a little sore from the up and down hills they were still running great.

And I should mention I didn't really fuel after the half way because my stomach was a disaster. (Note to self, you have a sensitive stomach asshole, m&m's and extra sugar are not going to bode well for you...nor eating frozen yogurt the night before when you are dairy free...). I was kind of waiting for the bottom to fall out on that one, and had to keep telling them at the aid stations that I was eating gu's since I wasn't eating there. But somehow I had plenty of energy in the tank and was running great. Guess that bread and pasta the night before worked out in my favor at least.

Before I knew it I was back at the familiar place winding up to the final mile.

A wave of pure joy and excitement washed over me as I came out of the trails to the clearing.

I was all smiles of triumph as I finished the race feeling great.

Disbelief...that...that was it, I had done it, I had completed my first ULTRA marathon.

And I finally negative split the crap out of a race thank you very much.

And couldn't be happier to have this rock star waiting for me to see me in that moment:

Jessie puts my running adventures to shame. One day I will be on her level.
I'm 95% sure I am not conveying my actual experience into words (kind of hard to put that amount of running time into words in general...).  But, I am on cloud 9. And think that I have fallen in love with trail running. 

It was the absolute perfect way to finish this eternal season of races. FUN. I know I should be saying it was hard, but I honestly never once had a mental breakdown of wanting it to be over or having to give myself a pep talk to keep going. I was expecting a wall at some point since well, it kind of happens when running distance but I think the newness of the experience derailed my mind from going to any dark places. Plus, I wasn't RACING persay. I was playing cautious in that first half with the walking breaks with Tara so I'm sure that contributed to ending the race strong with something in the tank.

And sure my legs got a little sore while running on unfamiliar ground but it wasn't worse than anything I've put them through before. (This course FYI is considered a good "beginner" course because you can run a lot of it and there are some paved portions). I ran a shake out Monday and was feeling good enough where I had to pay attention to keep it slow and stop myself from running too far.
Sadly no medal, but we got some swag!

My first Philly cheese steak experience. Sadly I was not a fan. Womp womp.
Now, I am looking forward to some time "off" I only have a couple of 10K's on tap officially so far this summer (and will try to take down my PR) but other than that am going to run whatever distances float my boat until marathon training kicks off again in earnest in the next few weeks.


Cannot wipe the grin off my face. It's probably obnoxious.

When is the next?


  1. You are amazing. That is all.

    Well no, it's not all. I think it is so incredible how you not only ran your first ultra only weeks after your second marathon, you absolutely rocked it and had a great time. CONGRATS ON BEING AN ULTRA MARATHONER!!!!!

  2. Great job! I also ran the Dirty German 50k this weekend (it was my first ultra as well!) Check out my race report on my blog: www.trailsandcocktails.com

    Thought I had some hydration issues towards the end, it was a blast! Also - don't judge Philly cheesesteaks on Geno's, they are the worst! ;)

  3. Congrats again on an AMAZING accomplishment. Loved your recap. :)

  4. I love this!! Love that you're so proud- you should be! Just amazing.