Wednesday, April 25, 2018

My first Ultra Marathon - Fonta Flora 50K Race Recap - You need to carry the sunshine with you!

Well dang it!!! I may have jinxed us. Maybe you don't post about ultra-running until after the ultramarathon... Should have done the cancel cancel clear thing... Lesson learned!

So Kim and I haphazardly (sort of) decided that, since we were super bad ass runners, we'd sign up for an ultra. Actually we started out looking for another marathon but didn't find one close enough. I'm super good at peer pressure but I am also a sucker for peer pressure. This time this craziness was all Kim's idea!! She did have a good point though, I mean we had already logged most all the training miles building up to the Asheville Marathon so might as well get another one done while we were at it. 

In all our searching we landed on the Fonta Flora 50K feeling super bad ass lol! 

Kim and I met at Fonta Flora Brewery the night before the race for packet pick up. We got our bibs, pins, a cool Tanawha Adventures Sticker, some awesome Fitsoks and a super comfy Race T-Shirt. 


We asked a few questions about the trail since we got lost the weekend before a little and we suggested starting the race earlier to miss more of the incoming storm. It seemed as though they might take that recommend but they didn't. 

In the days approaching the 50K the weather was not looking so good. By Friday I honestly thought they would re-schedule it, it looked like some pretty gnarly storms were coming in. 


Later Friday evening I carb loaded on pasta.


I laid out my flat runner and got all my gear together that I would take that evening as well. 


We decided to get to the race early on Sunday just in case they decided to let some people get a head start. Also a no go lol! 


It was overcast and cool and so I debated on long sleeve or tank for a bit. We also hit up the porta potties and then met up with a girl I knew from Kentucky! How fun is that! We talked to a few other ultra-runners and lined up at the start. 



The race began when the director began playing his banjo. It felt very Barkleyish...


It was quite gloomy and the race director had emailed out notice the day before that if there was lightning the race would get stopped. There was no doubt there would likely be lightning, based on the forecast, but it looked like it would be later in the day. Sometime between 1:30 and 3:00 pm. We planned to finish by 3:00-3:30pm so I kept thinking we may make it through! 

I had recently listened to a podcast where the person said sometimes you have to carry the sunshine inside of yourself and that is what I fully intended to do this race! Gloomy, rainy no matter, I had sunshine on the inside!



There were aid station cut offs we had to make and so we kept track of our time as we ran.

Aid 1: 2.2 miles - no cutoff 

Aid 2: 9.5 miles - 10:40 am cutoff

Aid 3: 13.4 miles - 11:45 pm cutoff

Aid 4: 20.0 miles - 1:40 pm cutoff

Aid 5: 27.3 miles - 3:40 pm cutoff


I carried my fuel and hydration with me and felt great for the first 6 miles. I have been careful with my nutrition and staying pretty close to the 10-30-45 plan. So at 10 minutes, I take a sip of my hydration mix (water and Nuun), at 30 minuets I take in some salt (from a packet), and at 45 minutes get in 100 calories of  fuel. I carried some Cliff Shots, Gummie Bears, Sour Patch Kids, Pretzels, Pickles, PB and J sandwich, a PayDay bar and Watermelon. At about mile six, however, I tried something new and maybe I shouldn't have. I had a few pickles and a couple of pretzels. Something did not settle well and my stomach twisted into knots. Oh mercy I was miserable the rest of the race. I have had pretzels before during runs but not pickles. I am not sure which of these if any of these was the culprit but I spent the rest of the race wishing I could just throw up. (Except I hate throwing up sooooo much that my body probably worked hard to hold it all in, yuck!!)

Miles 10 and 11 I felt a tiny bit better. I drank some ginger ale at an aid station and that was the ticket I'm telling you!

Between Aid Stations 2 and 4 we kept hearing about runners who had dropped out.



At Aid station 3 we saw a girl who had breezed past us earlier that had dropped out. We were so surprised. Many of these runners that were dropping seemed super stealthy and so for them to drop was almost shocking. We kept going. It was tough but we knew we could do it!


The trails were all single track. 


We were to follow the blue and white ribbons hanging in the trees.


Shortly after we left aid station 3 the thunder began to roll. It was earlier than expected. Not long after that lightning began to illuminate the sky in close proximity and short intervals! Up ahead we saw a guy waving a bit from a cliff and my heart sank. I felt certain they were calling the race. Luckily he was only the photographer. I asked if he had heard if they were going to stop and he had not yet heard. As we past him another loud boom and strike across the sky. 


Shortly after we passed the sky opened and what felt like a monsoon ensued. I have run in the rain before but never anything like that!! At one point I recall giving thanks to my hat which kept the waterfall off of my face so that I could see just a bit in front of my face. The wind whipped, the rain and a bit of hail persisted, the thunder continued to grow louder and the lightning more severe. I prayed and ran. I have never been so scared on a run before in my life. At one point I was so startled that I reached for Kim so we wouldn't die alone... We found ourselves looking around for safe places to shelter ourselves in case we needed one. 

My friend Renee from KY posted this video of the "calm" before the storm. 

We met up with a couple other runners and then approached the creek that we anticipated. We had originally fully intended to traverse the vertical hillside as we had the weekend before to get over the creek but at this point on the course we were soaked to the core already so crossing through the water became a non-issue. Upon quick survey of the creek I elected to cross where it looked a bit shallower.... Big mistake! I sunk to my knee in the sandy creek bottom.... Ugggg.... Now I began to feel all the sand and rocks INSIDE my SOCKS!

As we emerged from that section of trail, close to mile 17.5 or so Kim's husband had driven up to this section of the route which was the highway section so he could see her. The down pour had let up for a bit but we were exhausted. 


We were then approached by a truck with a race official inside. At that point they were driving around to pick up those that had dropped but were letting people keep going if they wanted. We were in the clear! We were still making good time. The race had a 9 hour limit and we were looking to finish in 7-7 1/2 hours. Whew, what a relief I felt!

My stomach was still a wreck! I'm not sure I have ever felt that sensation before. It was like a muscle cramp in my stomach... I get leg cramps and that's how I would explain it. I felt as though a section of my stomach was seized up and twisted into a huge knot. I hate throwing up so bad but I wanted to throw up so bad too!! I feel so bad for Kim, she had to listen to me whine the whole time about it! (When I am sick for some reason I feel the need to tell you how bad I feel over and over and over and over... So sorry Kim, I'm a cry baby when I feel bad.)

Because I felt like we were in the clear and the race wasn't going to get cancelled I asked Kim to walk a little bit in hopes that the stomach cramp would subside. We were good on time, we'd make it to the 20 mile aid station by 1:00 and we had until 1:40...

Mother Nature however had other plans.... At about mile 19.5 the truck came back by and the race official told us the race had been cancelled due to a tornado warning and also that a flash flood warning had been issued. Ugggggg!!!!! He told us we could hop in the truck or he'd let us keep going to the 20 mile aid station but we wouldn't be able to go any further. I felt so deflated and a bit defeated! We were absolutely not getting in the truck though. We, being the aforementioned bad asses that we are, kept on going to the 20 mile stop! We made it at 1:00 pm as predicted. 




I have to say I was devastated! The last bit of the course was going to be a breeze, we expected it would be a bit of downhill coasting. We had done all of the elevation already! We for sure would finish as expected somewhere between 3:00 and 3:30 pm with hours to spare! 



Because the race was cancelled due to the CRAZY weather we did receive our finisher awards. We are also told they are making a new event for this race as the 20 miler so our finishing times can be recorded. There were so many of us that didn't get to finish and collectively we are all I am sure feeling the same way.



After the race there was great food and beer but the rain made it a little less than enjoyable too! We ate and then headed home. 

Once home I crashed on my couch and slept the rest of the day. My stomach did not feel well until about two days later!!

Overall the event was incredible. I had an amazing experience. I feel like an extreme bad ass runner girl having gone through all that!! The Fonta Flora 50K was top notch! Great community, awesome runners, super cool race officials, wonderful aid stations.



 I will certainly do it again. Next time though I hope the sunshine will be both on the inside AND on the outside!!


Here's to many more adventures to come!


#KimandDeanne LOL!!


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