A few weeks back, August 7th to be exact, I participated in my first ultramarathon. The HURL Elkhorn 50 Mile/50K. I ran the 50 K portion - not quite yet up to a 50 mile run (but something to aim for in the future). The race is held just outside of Helena, MT - nice town, gorgeous area, and friendly people.
I had previously run the Powderface42 - my first trail marathon a few weeks earlier (on July 17th). I was a little achy for a couple of days after the race (mostly struggled with stairs as my quads and hamstrings had taken a bit of a beating). However, as the endorphins were still flowing freely - I had the idea that I should do another race. Another trail race and even look at going a bit further. Dangerous ideas.
In researching dates, locales and how they fit into the summer schedule - the HURL event was chosen. It was reasonable distance, so driving was possible - and gave a chance to go somewhere new. The initial challenge would be to change my thinking from seeing Powderface as my target race, to being a training run in preparation for HURL. Going 50K versus 42K (marathon distance) didn't seem that daunting, but adding in 2000 more feet of climbing and you start to wonder.
In preparing for the event - most of the focus was in recovering from Powderface and then building up some energy for the ultra run. Shorter runs, biking and taking it easy for a few weeks. Longest run in between the two events was about 10 miles.
The night before the race, a carb-loading and racer briefing was held at site just outside Helena (part of the park where the race was being held). The day was pleasant, but as night approach it started to cloud over and during the outdoor briefing the rain came down (and down). There was a small shelter that was used for the briefing - it had a roof, but no walls. Kept us dry, for the most part, but the rain was loud on the roof. The hope was that the weather would pass, the course would be somewhat dry and wouldn't be a factor in the run.
Day of the race was quite nice. No rain - some cloud and stayed cool for a good portion of the run. For the 50K portion of the race, we started at 7AM - the 50 Milers had already been out for 2 hours before we started. The run went through a number of mountains, through the forest and through a number of streams. Some of the forest had previously had fires, so it was a bit eerie to be running through and seeing the scorched trees.
One of my favorite parts of the run - especially as things started to get achy - was the stream crossings. The water was freezing cold - refreshing and energizing. The toughest part was the climbing. In particular - I struggled with the climbs at the 20 and 21 mile mark. Was getting to be later in the day, was getting hot out and was already getting a bit tired. But having to climb for a couple of miles at that point took a lot out of me. After that point, even going downhill became tough as I didn't trust that I could react if the ground was uneven, there was an obstacle or I lost balance. So I ended up slowing down quite a bit.
Here's a view of the elevation profile for the race:
There's about 2000 feet difference between the two races - but there's also quite a difference in how the climbs occur. Not sure if one was more difficult/easier - in the end you still end up climbing a lot.
One more picture - here I am in an action shot. Tried a new color for the running shirt - told I was too hard to pick out of the crowd as I passed the different points in the race - thought yellow would be a good way to stand out.
Now - I'm trying to figure out what's next. Maybe another race yet this fall? Not sure yet. In the meantime, trying to heal a bit (hamstring has been achy for a few months now) and mourn the loss of a couple of toenails.