I had an amazing day today! A couple of weeks ago I stumbled on this website about the Vegan Power Ultra 50K in the Berkshires about an 80 minutes west of where I live. I was in no way ready to consider a 50K trail race, but there was also a 25K option which is about 15.5 miles. I’m an aspiring trail runner. I love to hike, I love to run and trail running to me is a beautiful combination of both. I really want to learn more and do more trail running, but the truth is I’m apprehensive to hit the trails for more than a few miles alone. I haven’t done much trail running as a result. So I was going into this race prepared only in the sense that I knew I could cover 15.5 miles, but unprepared as a trail runner. Sometimes the best way to introduce yourself to something is to just jump in with both feet.
I drove up to the race site last evening to pick up my packet and to hear Kathy Stevens from the Castksill Animal Sanctuary speak.
Sadly I arrived a bit late and missed some of her talk. I’m not all that vocal here or in my life in general about my plant based diet. I mention it, but definitely do not push it on anyone. This was the first vegan running event I’ve ever attended. I am not part of any vegan group in my area. I’m honestly not sure if there are any. None of my friends and no one in my family is vegan. It gets a little lonely sometimes. Anyway I’m hoping to share more about the vegan side of this event in a second post, but right now I’m just full of excitement over the run.
I had one major goal for today and it was to not get injured! The 25K runners lined up around 10AM. We were to run the just over 5 mile loop course 3 times. As we set off on the trail we merged in with the incredible 50K runners who had been running since 7AM. I was in awe of how some seemed to sprint gracefully past me. I began at a very conservative pace and quickly fell to last place. I never race with my Garmin or turn on My Fitness Pal. What will be will be!
I ran the first loop with a very patient and kind runner, Marie. We chatted here and there. I was so focused on not tripping that I barely looked up for that entire first loop. There was an aid station about halfway through the loop in the forest and another at the start/finish area. I wore my Camelbak so I didn’t need to stop for water. The aid stations had watermelon, honeydew and an orange slices. I’ve discovered I prefer a fruit salad over gel during a race. It tastes so refreshing. I can’t quite stomach my Vega gels anymore. Vermont City and this race have spoiled me. I’m pretty sure the Hartford Marathon aid stations will not have watermelon.
Loop one was great. I ran at a slow, steady pace the entire way. It was exhilarating in a way that road running is often not because I always have my music playing. I was very internally focused and yet in tuned to the sounds around me. This was a nice change for me.
After grabbing a few pieces of watermelon, Marie and I started the second loop. I stayed behind her. I think there was some comfort in letting someone more experienced lead the way. I tripped and fell not too far into the second loop. It was pretty much inevitable. I had evaded it numerous times throughout the first loop. My monstrous size 9 feet inside my even bigger size 9.5 shoes are not exactly ideal for trail running. I fell on my left hip which I guess in this case, fortunately has some cushion to it. I jumped back up, brushed the dirt off my hand and kept going. My footing felt a little better after that and I began to get in a zone. I took off from Marie and really spaced out for a while. I felt a sense of freedom and peacefulness that I don’t feel on the road. I wasn’t deep in thought or harping on the 8 million things I always think I have to get done. Dare I say it was almost meditative? For most of loop two I was completely alone save for a 50K runner passing me here and there.
My mouth was literally watering at the thought of the watermelon and honeydew awaiting me at the aid station as I completed my second loop. There were friends and family of the other runners hanging out at the start/finish. They cheered for every runner coming through each loop. It made me smile. I missed having my guys there, but Carlos had a birthday party this afternoon. Orlando was awesome enough to ditch an entire day of side work to take him to the party so I could run this race.
My legs were getting heavy by the third loop and I felt clumsy. I had more than a few slips and trips but luckily no falls on the last loop. I walked up most of the inclines and through the muddy areas. I ran and walked. I pulled off the trail for a pee break. Seriously, better than a port-a-potty any day. I stopped to take a few photos. I moved to the side so other runners could pass. I basically hiked the third loop. I loved not giving a damn about my time or pace. I enjoyed soaking up the experience. I loved every freaking minute of today.
I completed the 25K uninjured in 3:46:12. I pushed myself way out of my comfort zone on a few different levels today. I met some really great people including the 25K female winner who will be running the 50 mile North Face Endurance Challenge in Utah this September. She’s young, full of energy, and self-motivated. It was so inspiring to spend time chatting with her. I absolutely love to see young people going after unique opportunities as well as traveling and exploring the world at the same time. So refreshing!
Trail running is challenging. It requires agility and quick thinking while demanding your attention to your surroundings. It is so different from road running. I am a complete novice, but I went into today with a positive respectful attitude and as a result I received a great deal of learning and support along the way. I truly admire everyone running and spectating today. It was such a polite, kind and supportive group.
The race was put on by Berkshire Ultra Running Community for Service (BURCS) and the profits were donated to the Catskill Animal Sanctuary. BURCS was founded by three distance runners from the Western Mass area. This is more than just a running group. It is a vehicle and voice for bringing awareness to social and environmental issues as well as seeking a way to bring about positive change. The group also strives to make running events enjoyable and they definitely did that today.
I am putting this race on my calendar for next year. I’m not making any bold statements right now, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit to having a thought or two about running the 50K. I’ll make that decision next year. For now I am just lounging on the sofa with a huge smile across my face as I think about this truly spectacular day.
Is there something you really want to try, but you’re nervous, scared, afraid to do it alone? Well do it anyway!