The word ultra gives a significance to a marathon that almost makes the marathon distance of 26.2 miles seem…”easy.” In November I ran my first ultra. It was a 12 hour endurance race and it was maybe the hardest thing I have ever done aside from giving birth to my two boys. It was drizzling when we got to the park at 9am and it stayed rainy the entire time. One thing that sticks out in my mind is at the marathon mark (about 6 hours into the ultra) I was tired, to the point of almost being done. The good thing is that Liz and I paced well. We ran 2:1 intervals the entire time with the exception of when her dog Avery joined us. Since Avery paces faster Liz was ahead of me and when the dog would stop to sniff or pee I kept running so I was just a few steps behind. However, that took a toll on my legs because continuously running like that after hours of on my feet really exhausted me. It was a 2 mile loop and I think with the dog with us we ran 2-3 laps continuously. Ultra running is a whole different animal. It’s not about pace/speed per mile or running non stop. It’s really about endurance and time on your feet.
Erik and the boys and Jon, Liz’s husband saw us off in the morning. Erik took the boys home after an hour. He came back around 1pm with a cooler, the canopy, a book…I swear he packed like he was camping out which was really cool cause he was there to add support (charge our watches, hold our sweatshirts, water bottles…etc). The wind began to blow hard and it felt like we were running in place. When we looped around we saw that Erik’s canopy was gone and he was chillin in the back of his SUV reading a book. When we approached him we noticed he even had his little gas stove and was preparing something to eat. The warmth from his little pseudo campfire made me laugh…he was camping out of his truck while we were doing our ultra…it was pretty fantastic.
There was a tent with hot food (fajitas, sandwiches, fruit…etc) and snacks so as we lapped around we were able to keep hydrated and fueled up to sustain us. I welcomed the little breaks especially when it was pouring down rain. There was one point after it got dark that the rain was coming down slanted and it burned my face. We were about 30 or so miles in and Liz and I were giggling and laughing at ourselves. It’s just insane!
We had a goal of 50 miles for our first ultra 12 hour race. As we went around there was a tent with a monitor and we could see what our chip timer registered. According to our gps watches we were at 44 miles and we had an hour to go…we were going to make it! Then we saw the monitor and the guy said, “You have to subtract a lap you are at 42 miles.” We were like “What the damn hell!” So now anger set it, Liz more than me because she took off and was seriously determined to get her 50 miles. I on the other hand let it sink in that I probably was going to get less than that and you know what? I was OK WITH IT! We continued on…Liz was ahead of me and I think my brain just told my legs to be done because I slowed down so much and I started walking more often. Then I picked it up again. I ran another lap and told Erik the next one was my last. I saw it was 8:45 and I knew I could not get another 2 miles in 15 minutes. For the 6 and 12 hour race they didn’t give partial credit. I stopped at 8:49 and met up with Erik and Jon. Liz already proceeded to get her final lap in she didn’t care if the time was up she was going to get her 50miles done. My total was 48 miles and Liz got her 50! I am so proud of her. She only started running like in 2013 and she met her goal. I was happy with mine too. Especially in the slanted rain.
Prior to all this mayhem, I had submitted my application to sit for the Exam for psychologists with the state board of Texas. Not only did I have that pending and was waiting for an answer but training for this helped me put it into perspective. My running journey and my career are similar in that it’s been like this long drawn out marathon. So as I am writing this now 2 months after my first ultra marathon, I have the letter in front of me stating that I am approved to sit for the board exams as I have satisfied the requirements for the Psychologists’ Licensing Act. I graduated with my Master’s in Psychology in 2010 and have been working non-profits doing crisis/trauma counseling since I was a graduate student. I’m ready to move forward and get my license as a Licensed Psychological Associate. Studying for the exams is my next marathon and I have a plethora of study materials (books, flash cards, apps, review tests).
….to be continued…