Yesterday I ran the Pinnacle Ultra Challenge 50K in Newport, NH. This was an “unplanned” race for me in that I first thought about running it about two weeks ago and didn’t actually decide for sure and register until 3 days before the race. And because it was unplanned, I didn’t do anything “right” in preparing for this race–I didn’t have a big base of long runs under my belt (only two 20+ milers recently), I didn’t taper (70 miles the week before!!), and I was injured (Achilles tendon strain). I know, you’re wondering why ON EARTH I raced in this condition. I really don’t have an answer that makes me sound like a reasonable person. 🙂 Mostly I just really wanted to run a race because it’s been 4 months since my last one!
So I found myself at the starting line on Sunday morning, not even sure if I’d be able to finish the race, but ready to give it my all! We started the race by running through the Corbin Covered Bridge, then down a short section of paved road to the rail trail. My best-case-scenario goal for this race was to be the first overall female, so I set out in the lead pack, determined to maintain a fast pace and make sure that I kept all the other women behind me. We did an out-and-back route on the rail trail, during which we ran through 2 railroad covered bridge (2 of 8 in the country, as we were proudly informed!).
During this section of the race, I ran with 2 guys, Greg (green shirt) and Chris (purple), who made the miles pass [almost] effortlessly with jokes and funny stories. I thoroughly enjoyed their company!
I was also hugely encouraged to see three of my biggest fans (Peter, Jaime and Joy) multiple times along the rail trail, and they kept my mental energy high.
Just as we were finishing the rail trail section, I was passed by another woman for the first time. She looked great, and I thought to myself that she was going to be tough to beat! We passed through the finishing chute for the first time, and I quickly re-tied my shoes (they were loose) before setting off for a 9 mile loop in the forest.
I could still see the other woman ahead of me, and I hoped that I’d be able to catch up to her on the forest trails, where I would be at my best on the hilly, technical terrain. The first three miles or so were tough as we headed up to the top of Pinnacle Mountain and then Coit Mountain. My legs were tired, and I felt like I didn’t have much power.
A couple of highlights: on the way up I was treated to a meeting with a BIG porcupine, who promptly scrambled up a nearby tree! Then, as I was nearing the top of the Pinnacle, I heard bagpipe music, and sure enough, there was a man standing under a canopy at the top piping away!
It was a huge relief to finally reach the top of the second peak and know that I had a good 6 miles of mostly downhill ahead of me. I felt like I was flying during those downhill miles, but I never saw that speedy woman ahead of me!
When I got back to the finish, the time on the clock was 3:30. With only 9 miles left, I knew I was on track for a major PR even if I didn’t get first place, so I felt really good about how my race was going.
I decided to quickly change my shoes while Jaime refilled my hydration pack. My feet were hurting, and I hoped that switching to my Hokas would make me feel better.
I set off a couple minutes later for my second lap through the woods determined to keep running strong. I knew the hills were going to be rough, and they were–I walked a lot more this time up, and my Achilles started bothering me. I probably should have gone without the Hokas, as they have been plaguing my Achilles all summer. :/
I pushed through the climbs up both mountains, but did not find the expected relief on the downhill side. I was low on energy and my legs were hurting too much to descend with any agility and speed. When I got to the only aid station in the woods, I decided to eat a pb+j because I was out of gels and feeling really hungry. I gagged on every bite, and it was all I could do to get half a sandwich down. Unfortunately, I felt sick for a few miles after that, and it was slow going. I finally perked up again with about 2 miles left and ran hard to the finish.
I finished in 5: 25, which was good enough for second place AND a PR! I was extremely happy with my results given the spur-of-the-moment nature to this race, and I know I gave it my all. I’m not sure I have ever run so hard before!
As a finisher’s memento, I got a railroad spike was the words “Pinnacle Ultra” engraved on it.
It felt SO GOOD to stop moving!
I definitely didn’t do my Achilles any favors by running this race (yes, I know you all saw that one coming a mile away!), so I’ve got some serious rehab time ahead of me now. I have three weeks until my next big event–pacing Jaime as she runs 100 miles at the Ghost Train Race–so I’m hoping I will be fully healed and ready to run LOTS of miles by then!