how not to run your first ultra

I was ready! My mileage wasn’t super impressive in the lead up to this, my very first ultra run, ever. But, I was running the 50K, so I figured, its only a few more miles than a marathon – check it!

I signed up for Leatherwood Mountains Ultra before I realized that making a mountain run your first ultra might be a bad idea. Ahem, how not to run your first ultra rule 1!

Before we started, I was SO NERVOUS. But, I also already liked it. The start was much calmer than a half marathon or marathon start, no loud music or people screaming. And we started off at a nice, steady pace, which felt amazing.

What could be a better sport than one where you can wear a backpack and still look cool?

I started off strong, and quickly was in a group of 5 or 6. We walked up the hills… I mean, mountains… and ran the rest.

The day before it had POURED, so the trails were a mess. I promptly lost my footing and sat in the mud.

My fellow runners proceeded to make fun of me the rest of the day. It was awesome.

I ran by my mom who screamed, “DID YOU FALL?” Geez, its just mud, mom!

I felt good, though my legs had obviously never run such elevation before – and I was about 5th or 6th for women – Amazing! My goal had been to enjoy it, but, hey, if I could do well, I was pumped.

I was by myself when I got to the first major stream crossing. Only, I didn’t consider that it might be the first of many, so I sat down and took my shoes and socks off. Hey, cold and wet feet suck right?

Well, all I did was lose time, and I watched other runners plow right through the stream (more like a river – hey I was up to my mid-calves here!).

How not to run your first ultra ever lesson 2: don’t take off your shoes. Because there are always more stream crossings.

So I ended up with wet, cold feet anyway. Because I learned my lesson and plowed through the next two stream crossings.

Also, compression socks are hard to get on and off easily.

I hit the aid station at mile 15 and felt awesome – half done!

I ended up running along with a guy who was in the 50 mile race. He made fun of me for falling on my butt. Oy.

We got to a split where he had to go off and run more miles – take that 50 milers! And I caught up to the woman in front of me. She was nice enough to run with me even though she was killing it.

Then we got lost. We had many conversations about which way, where’s the ribbons, a little further and maybe we’ll see one.

Turns out we were only a mile from the start/finish where we would then be off on the last loop.

But we ended up backtracking on ourselves, and started the first loop over again – really, how does this happen?

We came to an abandoned aid station and met up with another runner who had found a map.

How not to run your first ultra lesson three!: Try and take a map.

We all came to the decision that we were pretty much done for the day, so we backtracked once more and then found the main road, where we were promptly rescued.

All in all, we ran about 25 to 26 miles. I seriously contemplated doing the final loop of 11 miles anyway, because gosh-darnit, I had trained so hard and I wanted to FINISH. But, my legs were toast, my family was upset I got lost (sorry guys!), and I knew that running 37+ miles for the day wouldn’t be heroic, it would just increase my time in getting back out there.

So, epic fail? Or life lesson?

Searching for the next one – hopefully I can get back out there soon! 🙂