This is the year of checking items off our bucket lists! We crossed off “Run a 24 hour relay” when we completed the Blue Ridge Relay in early September and we can now proudly say we can cross off “Run an ultra” after we finished our first ever 24 hour ultra running event, Crooked Road 24 Ultra. The beautiful course is nestled in the outskirts of Rocky Mount, VA at Waid Park. The mostly flat .96 mile loop featured 3 sections of different types of running surfaces, the cinder path (our favorite) to a section of pavement that we ended up walking nearly every time. The course ran along a creek with a pretty waterfall overlook that brought us many laughs as we made comments about it when we passed by with each loop. (“Is that a waterfall?”, “Did they just put that there?”, “Look, a waterfall!”…you get the point!) We had several other friends (Cindy, Iris, Josh and Dena…yay!!) who were also running the event, which added to the whole experience. All the runners were just amazing, so nice and encouraging. The volunteers and race directors were supportive when we would pass through the check point or refuel at the food table. This is definitely an event that we look forward to doing next year.
Here are our individual recaps of our experiences, goals, and thoughts about the event:
Crooked Road 24 Ultra was just awesome! Going into the race, I had several different goals ranging from just finishing my 20 mile training run to can I maybe run 40 miles? It was the first time I ever showed up to a race not nervous because all I was going to do was run, simply run. It didn’t matter what time I finished my miles, how long I took breaks, and there weren’t lots of other runners all pushing towards a finish line. There wasn’t even a finish line, just a starting line. I decided when I was done, not some giant balloon creating a tunnel over the road. This was already my favorite event before I even started running. Miles were the only thing that I had to worry about and how many miles could I possibly run.
Nathan, Katie and I drove up from Greensboro to the race, arriving around 9am. Once we picked up our packets and set up our “camp”, we were off! We all started together, running and walking along the first lap. We stopped to take pictures along the course and made our way up to the shelter where our first lap would be counted. It was fairly comical too, until we got our body temperature right clothing-wise, we made several pit stops back at the car to drop hats, gloves, and long sleeve tees. After the first few laps, we settled into our training paces and agreed to meet back together after mile 10 to stretch, snack and check in.
I had to mentally break up the mileage into 10 mile increments. That was an easy way for me to wrap my mind around running past my 20 mile training run. Because the course was almost a mile loop too, it helped to know that I was never far from a stopping point, if I needed it. After mile 10, I felt pretty good. Just another long running day, just a different course. We all took a little break then headed back out, agreeing to stop again at 15 miles (Daniel arrived and he started on his first lap), 20 miles and 26.2 miles. We kept up a good mix of running and walking up that big ol’ hill and the pavement section, stopped at the food tent to snack on pretzels, M&M’s, PBJ sandwiches, McDonald’s hamburgers (yes, I had 2!), pizza (2 slices for me!) and to drink water and Gatorade, when needed.
Once we all reached 26.2 miles, I knew that I had personally completed 2 of my 4 goals (1. Run 20 mile training run and 2. Run a marathon) and I was close to my 3rd goal (3. Run a 50K, 31 miles). At this point, Nathan, Katie and I all decided to stick together and run the cinder section and walk the pavement and gravel section, each about .5 mile long. Oh, and walk up that big ol’ hill still! Can’t forget that hill! We were also quickly losing daylight by this point and since I had a headlamp, I was the lucky one to wear that for our little running posse. We encouraged each other to run, talked a lot when we walked and cheered each other on with each lap we made, closing in to that 31 mile mark. Finally after a few more laps, we did it! We completed our first 50K together!
We all made it around another lap or two, cheering Daniel on as he finished up his last few laps, but we pretty much decided after that (and a yummy cup of chicken noodle soup), we were finished and we were getting cold and hungry. After all the laps and trips to our “camp”, I had completed 34 miles. I didn’t meet my 4th goal (4. Run 40 miles) and I’m totally okay with that. I finished when I wanted to, stopping while I still felt good, and I have absolutely no regrets. I just have a goal now for next year. 🙂
Through this whole experience, we never lost our sense of humor or our positive outlook and I think that truly helped us to never take this whole thing too seriously or to lose the focus that this was supposed to be about being fun, spending the day with some of our favorite people and encouraging each other to do our best. I spent as much time laughing as I did running. The most important goal met! (5. Smile and have fun!)
I am appreciative and thankful for my friends who were with me out there at the race. Without them, I wouldn’t have nearly as much fun or accomplished as much. Love to my friends and family at home who were cheering for us the whole time. Their love and support was felt often throughout the day (Love to Nick and Hayden).
The night before the race was just like any other pre-long run evening – delicious stir fry filled with saltiness, carbs, protein, & veggies followed by a fairly early bedtime. What followed for me was a series of incessant dreams about the race. This being my first ultra, I had no idea what to expect aside from tips from our dear cat-loving friend, so the dreams ranged from flash mobs of burly bearded men to cursed stress fractures to unrealistic goals of hitting the century mark during my run.
The reality ended up being some mash-up of all of these things. Like Melanie, I started the day with several distance goals in mind (not including the century mark) – the prescribed 20 miles for my marathon training run, 26.3 miles so I could say I’m an ultra marathoner, 50K (31 miles) so I would feel less guilty about calling myself an ultra marathoner, and 40 miles so I could say I’m a badass ultra marathoner.
For me, the most challenging element of this whole thing was to alternate between running and walking intervals and to move slowly during those running intervals. In the end, this was one of my favorite things about the race. The culture is so different among ultra marathoners than those running a 5K/half marathon/marathon. It’s all about distance and endurance rather than time and speed. The only pressure you feel is that which you impose on yourself. I love that.
It’s all about distance and endurance, but I suppose we also made it about food. If you know anything about the Woo Hoo Crew, it’s that we run to eat, drink, and be merry! If we were to ever get running sponsors, I suspect they would be from companies like Five Guys, M&Ms, and Bell’s Brewery. But seriously, we put a hurtin’ on some PB&J, sports gels, burgers, Gatorade, M&Ms, pizza, pretzels, Cheez-Its, and so on throughout the day. And we’re okay with it.
I’m grateful to have been surrounding my some of my favorite people for the 10 hours we were at the race. True to form, our typical jackassery ensued. I typically only see Katie once or twice during a training run, so it was lovely to see her over and over and to run with her for the final 11 miles.
We will return to this race. We will run farther next time. We will bring more friends. We will have even more fun. We might even eat more food.
I went into this event nervous. My ultimate goal was to finish a 50K, but I really just wanted to run for as long as I could feeling well. After having surgery earlier this training season, I just haven’t quite gotten to the point I wanted to be before getting to the pinnacle of my training plan. So, I knew I absolutely had to make it to 20 miles, but I really wanted to make it to the magical 31.07.
The first ten miles of the day were tons of fun for me! I got to do the first mile with Nathan and Melanie, and spent a little time going around the course with our friends Iris and Cindy. I was happy in the middle of my 11th lap to find Nathan and Melanie waiting for me. We made our way around one more time and decided it was time for a quick stretch and snack. After that, we struck back out with an agreement to touch base at the 15 mile mark (when Daniel would hopefully arrive).
The next five miles went well and when we stopped again I took a few minutes to break, but didn’t stretch as much as I had during our 10 mile break. Not surprisingly, things got pretty painful for me during miles 15 – 20. By 17, I found myself limping because the pain from my sciatic was flaring up pretty badly. As I came around to our car again, I decided it would be the best decision to stop and spend a few minutes with the stick to roll out the knots. I’m not going to lie. It hurt. But, as I rolled, I felt the tension start to release, and I finally felt like I was able to start again. I blame the hill that Melanie references in her recap. At any rate, I wanted to make sure I continued to feel relaxed, so I took a few ibuprofen before I went back out to finish up the last of my first 2o miles.
By the time I got to the 20 mile mark, I was ravenous. The race folks had brought in hamburgers from McDonald’s, but I’m not a fan, so I went for a tuna salad kit we had bought as part of our supplies for Blue Ridge Relay. It may have been the best tuna salad I have ever eaten. Nathan and Melanie had been waiting for a while for me to finish, so I downed it quickly while they started their next lap so I wouldn’t keep them waiting too long. By the time I got back around to the car, they were there waiting for me and we set out to get to marathon distance.
I have to say, that as we reached that distance, I realized that there would probably never be another time in my life that I would find it so easy to get to that point in a race. We took a quick break and struck out again with just 5 more miles to get to my goal, a 50K. After a few more laps, darkness set in, so we swung back by the car to grab Melanie’s headlamp and finished up our 50K about 15 minutes after the pizza (which I definitely ate!) arrived.
After downing a couple of slices, we set out for me to return to the car to grab my change of clothes so I could relax a bit while Nathan and Melanie went out for a few more laps. I got my stuff together and as I walked away from the car, I found our friend, Cindy, again. She explained that she was just walking (the woman is no joke, she ended up finishing 75 miles in less than 24 hours, so I decided to join her. I ended up walking the rest of that lap and one more with her, which put me at 32.3 miles!
WooHoo! What a great way to spend a Saturday!