“Have you ever ran a marathon before?” I got this question a lot throughout my training for my first 50k. The answer to that question is “No.” I never ran a race longer than a half marathon up until that point. I’ve been itching to run a particular 50k race and decided to pull the trigger. Back in November, I registered for the Badwater Cape Fear 50k. This race offers two distances, a 50k and a 51.4 mile race.
I started training immediately. I started off well, but ended up getting sick for a couple weeks in December. Once better, my long runs started going really well. Until I was in a car accident in early February. I got hit by a drunken driver and got side lined for two more weeks. This created a push for training in the last couple weeks before the race. At this point, my Iliiotibial (IT) band was giving me problems. With all this, I debated on pulling out of the race but decided to forego my long runs and focus on rehabbing my leg.
The Badwater race is held every year on Bald Head Island, NC. The island is only accessible by ferry. I headed down on Friday, it's about a 4 hour trip from where I live. With the ferry running late, I made it just in time for packet pick up. After a mixer (to meet the other runners) and a ferry ride back to the mainland, it was time to get all my stuff ready for the race on Saturday.
The next morning started at 4:30am. I grabbed the two drop bags I made the night before and headed out of my hotel room. I delivered one drop bag to where it needed to be and headed towards the ferry. The 6:00am ferry was packed with runners. There was still quite a bit of time when we docked, so this was the time to make sure we had everything in order before the race. All the runners that were on the ferry congregated in the small coffee shop on the island while we waited. It was there that we sat around telling stories of kids, jobs, training and other races.
A little after sunrise, it was time to head to the start line. On went my hydration pack. And after a couple pictures at the start line, it was time. The first 10.5 miles of this race are on the streets (although there are no cars allowed) on BHI. Then there's a 1.5 mile section on a trail through the Maritime Forest. And the rest is (you guessed it) on the beach, about 20 miles.
At mile 12, my calf started cramping and didn't let up for the rest of the race. My mid race slump came between miles 18 and 22. The sand was soft, my IT Band was acting up and my leg was cramping. My pace had slowed considerably. At that moment, I swore this was my first and last ultra marathon.
I made it to the turn around at mile 22. I was really unsure of how I'd finish. I managed to take some ibuprofen for my knee, some electrolytes for my cramping and some water. After a quick bathroom break, I was on my way back down the beach. About a half mile away, I realized that I didn't eat anything at the turn around. I had some food with me, so I wasn't completely worried. It was at this point that I realized that the sand wasn't as soft as it had been before. The tide was going out! I assessed my situation. I asked myself, “what hurts?” And “am I able to run at a decent pace?”
I got into a good groove of running and power walking. I popped my earbuds in for this last stretch of the race. My spirits were lifted and I had no doubt in my mind that I'd finish. I was able to enjoy running the beach that had previously dampened my spirits. As I was about a mile or two away from the finish line, I saw several people that I had met that weekend (they were on their second beach loop for the 51.4 mile race). I shook hands with them and they congratulated me. That's when I knew it was real. There wasn't much that could happen that could wipe that smile off my face.
After dealing with my IT Band syndrome, a calf cramp for 20 miles and sustained winds of 25 mph, I crossed the finish line with a time of 7:39:45. While this is much slower than I had anticipated, I feel like I earned that finisher medal. Badwater and AdventurCORP put on a great race. There's a reason why they're known for putting on some of the toughest races on the planet and this one was no exception. I can't wait for the next one!