Saturday, March 30, 2019

MURCA 50K - an urban virtual ultra-marathon

St. Patrick’s Day weekend I made the decision to do the Virtual MURCA 50K. I had twenty-four (24) hours to run, walk, or even crawl thirty-one (31) miles for the Marine Ultra Runners Club of America to help raise funds for The Warrior's Keep's Vet-Ex and Vet-Rec Outdoor Therapy Programs. Hey! And even better reason to celebrate with a pint of Guinness.

I got up Saturday morning, March 16 knowing I was going to attempt this virtual 50K and started getting ready. Had my coffee and spoonful of peanut butter. Yup! I was wanting to start off by burning fat.
The MURCA site suggests making the Virtual 50K epic. Hm. How do you make a virtual event EPIC?

Think about it. It’s solely up to you. There are no other runners. There are no aid stations with happy and welcoming volunteers. There is just you and whatever route you choose to take. And I live in Nowhere, New Hampshire.
I packed my back to the weight of fifteen (15) pounds and was going to use today as part of my training for The Tough Ruck for the Fallen marathon that takes place April 14.

Yes! Some people call me crazy. This would be part of my EPIC adventure. How far would I go with that 15-pound backpack?

At approximately 8:16 AM I was out the door and on my MURCA epic adventure. The temperature was 30 plus degrees so that meant layers. Hat, mittens, fleece top, wool underlayer, then tights, jeans, Darn Tough socks, and a pair of Altra Paradigm shoes.

At no time did I plan to run. Having bronchitis for over three months killed that idea. Not to mention that 15-pound backpack. It was a pretty lofty goal just to complete the 31 miles. But what the heck! No pain, no gain. No dream, no achievement.
So, me, my backpack, my Garmin watch, and my music were off.

My plan was to use the rail trail and hoof it from Salem to Derry. Then pick up the bike trail in Derry and snake back to the rail trail and head back to Salem until I hit 31 miles.
How’s the saying go? “Best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.”

I walked through my neighborhood to get a couple miles in before I get to the rail trail. The early section of the rail trail was nice and then became a sheet of ice in other sections. In one part I had to hold onto the wooden railing to get past the ice. I was NOT going to fall on my hiney with a 15-pound backpack attached to me. Can you imagine that thud?

I managed to go nine miles before needing to grab real food. One benefit of an urban virtual ultra-marathon…built in aid stations. After breakfast I wound my way back to the house, AKA my start-finish line.
I was at mile fourteen (14) at this point. It was here I dumped the backpack. Thank goodness!Fifteen pounds is the equivalent of carrying around my chubby cat, Mischief on my back. Nice at first, but dang heavy after a while.

I took advantage of my home aid station to change socks, shoes, and grabbed a salty and fatty snack on the way back out. See my video of chips and almond butter. Salty chips really do hit the spot and they help with extremity swelling.
I was off again for a more leisurely (less heavy) walk. I was feeling good and had a nice spring in my step with fresh shoes. Woohoo!

Wind started to pick up even more about this time. I think we had like fifteen (15) mile per hour winds that afternoon, but I kept my head down and kept moving forward.
I made it back to the beginning of the rail trail near me and at mile 18 I passed a Dunkin’ Donuts.
For those of you that don’t know me…I am gluten intolerant. A donut is a complete no-no. BUT…a girl has to do what a girl has to do when she is in the middle of an ultra-marathon. At mile 18 a chocolate frosted donut never tasted so good!
There’s something about a chocolate frosted donut that makes everything feel better. It also gave me a nice energy boost so when I hit the section of trail that was ice the last time, I was ready for it.

To my surprise, the sun did its job and when I hit the trail further down there was extreme melting going on, so I didn’t need to skate across the trail.
It’s fun to discover nature after winter. To see grass after months of it covered in white puts a smile on your face. There weren’t many people out on the trail that day but there were a few and those folks were just as happy as me to be outside.

When the wind picked up, one gentleman I ran across warned me not to get blown away. It was THAT windy!
When I hit the trail near the breakfast spot I decided to not go there as there was still too much snow. I passed the restaurant via the sidewalk thinking maybe I would walk to Derry on sidewalks.

Again, a very short-lived plan. The sidewalk doesn’t go that far, and I am not a fan of busy roads with narrow shoulders. I turned back and took a side road that hit the section of the trail that I bypassed from the other end and took it back. Not great footing but not bad. As a matter of fact, part of it reminded me of a snow cone.

At mile 22 I was back at my home aid station. My feet hurt. I changed shoes again and grabbed a vest and a different hat. Fed the cats, grabbed a bag of chips and was back out again.
I was considering staying in my neighborhood and walking in circles for the next nine miles. By the time I finished the bag of chips and some Gatorade I decided circling the neighborhood was dizzying. And there was one spot I walked by that had this loud whistling noise, courtesy of the wind. That was enough for me.

After two miles of that I headed back out with a bottle of Califia Farms coffee and almond mile. YUMMY! I needed caffeine.
When I hit mile twenty-five (25) it was as if the energizer bunny’s battery inside me died. And instead of smiling and playing his drums, he grimaced and slowly moved his arms but the only sound that came out was a whine.

I have a video of the whine. I sent it to sister and aunt and a girlfriend. All of whom immediately responded with words of encouragement.
“Only six miles to go!”
“You got this!”
“You can wine later!

Yeah, okay, it was only six miles. “Suck it up, buttercup.”
It wasn’t like this was my first 50K. It was, however, the slowest. But I wasn’t going for speed. I wanted the time on my feet.

Sometimes you have to remind yourself why you are doing something to put the pain and mental anguish back where it belongs. When I hit the marathon distance, I marked that as a mental milestone and sent my virtual support crew a text. “Yea, me!”
Five miles left! Then the thought of dinner hit. FOOD! Real food.

A new plan emerged. Walk to get dinner. This is something I do in the summer on a regular basis. Why not now? The idea made me feel better.
I walked to my favorite pizza and sub shop where I ordered my usual grilled chicken in a bowl. My diet is so unexciting. 😊 But I had already been bad with the donut, so I needed to stay on the straight and narrow or in this case, back on the food wagon.

When my order was ready, I realized they put the food in a paper sack with no handles. More whining could have occurred, but it didn’t. Easy fix!
Two doors down from Romano’s was a pharmacy. No, I did not get any pain meds. Although, good thought. I don’t take them. However, caffeine is a different story. I bought a nice bottle of cold Coke.
Two of my favorite things for an endurance even are potato chips and soda.

The cashier at the pharmacy, a very friendly girl offered to give me a big bag for my bottle of Coke and my chicken in a bowl. SCORE!
With food, caffeine, and a bag, I was ready to get this 50K finished. I walked back the direction I came then veered right for a change of pace and scenery. I passed the donut shop on the other side of the road and when I crossed over for my turn, I considered getting another one.

See what foot pain will do to you? The mind is evil! Bad. Very bad! Nope. I only had three miles left and I had food ready to eat as soon as I got home.
The sun was hitting its downward arc and it was chillier. I pushed that out of my mind and reminded myself that I wanted to finish before dark. Then I reach home and looked at my Garmin watch.

Some evil spirit was screwing with me. It was as if someone had deflated a balloon or a tire went flat.

Defeat was THAT close.
It’s funny, I read all kinds of stories about endurance athletes and I have always wondered how anyone could quit with ONLY a mile to go.

I finally get it. I was literally at my home aid station. The start-finish line and still had a mile to go. My feet hurt. I was tired. And I wanted to eat real food. And it was getting close to being dark.
Wow! Do you hear that whine?

I put my chicken and Coke in the garage refrigerator and turned right back around and headed out in the cold and wind to that neighborhood route.
I was a tenth of a mile into that last mile when my cell phone rang. Hey. You bet I carry my cell on an adventure. Even close to home you never know what can happen. Besides, how else do you record your epic adventure?

The call was from my mom. Now, my mom never calls my cell phone. I was surprised. Pleasantly surprised!
The first word out of mom’s mouth, “Where are you? I’ve been trying to reach you all day.”

“I’m doing a 50K and I’m on my last mile.”
“What’s that?”

“Thirty-one miles.”
“__________” SILENCE.

You just have to smile at that reaction.
“Are you okay?

“Yup. Just tired and hungry. I’ll be home in twenty minutes if you want to call me then.”
The best part of that call, aside from talking with my mother? It totally took my mind off the pain and fatigue. I no longer thought about the aching feet and sluggish legs. I forgot about my growling stomach.

I finished the 50K by walking short loops in my driveway.
My neighbors were probably wondering if I had lost my marbles. BUT then they know me.

I completed the MURCA 50K just before sunset.

Afterwards, I went inside, dumped the outer layers and those shoes, grabbed my chicken in a bowl and the Coke then proceeded to get comfy.
My mom did all back and we had a nice conversation where she told me “I worry about you doing these things.”

‘These  things.’
Gotta love my parents. No matter how old or how far away you are, they still worry. They still care.

My response? “I gotta do it while I can. For as long as I can.”
The best part of this event for me on a personal level?

NO BLISTERS! That's a record for me.

Now, if you wall wanna do your own virtual ultra-marathon and support or Veterans, you still have time. Check out this link.


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