I’ve got something super awesome for you all today. My badass training partner, dear friend, and all-around wonderful person, Julia Griffith, ran her first 50k on December 6th and I’ve asked her to recap all the dirty details that happened. Considering that the 50k distance (and trail running in general) is way out of my league at this point, I thought it would be fun to read something a little different and muddier. Julia’s report totally inspired me, and I’m pretty sure it will elicit some trail-running interest from you guys as well. Take it away, Jules!
Robyn asked if I’d be interested in posting a recap of my first 50k at the North Face Endurance Challenge Series in California (ECSCA). So, I wrote this long detailed post that included information about my training and the trip to California but it was all boring and what really matters is what actually happened on race day. What happened on race day was magical. It was the best race of my life and I truly loved almost every minute of it. The trails were absolutely gorgeous, the people were amazing, and I blew my goals out of the water. If you love mountains and to run for a long time and be outside and play, you should think about doing a 50k.
Just a little background first. ECSCA was held on December 6th & 7th in the Marin Headlands, just north of San Francisco. The week of the race, NorCal experienced some exceptionally heavy rainfall which left muddy trails and the need for a slight course modification to the 50 mile and 50k races. The 50 mile race was the championship of the entire series and attracted a really awesome elite field. There are a ton of amazing, inspiring ECSCA 50 mile recaps out there that you should read if you want to learn more about the series and what the scene was like that day. The series also included a marathon relay which attracted 100ish November Project tribe members from across the country. The NP community is unrivaled and having the group there turns race day into a party. I traveled to the race with about 10 friends from November Project – Denver, including my boyfriend, Dan, who also raced the 50k.
My goals going into the race were: a.) to love it. To have fun and finish feeling proud of myself and my effort. b.) To feel like I was racing (at my level), and not be out there just to finish. c.) If everything went well, to finish under 6 hours but to not be hung up on paces during the race.
With that, here are a few highlights:
- Running up Cardiac. Cardiac was on every racer’s mind as it was the longest climb up the day, starting around mile 14ish and going up to 18. It was a single-track trail (with a river running down it) turned into double-track for the day because of the course modifications. There was an aid station at the top and even though this wasn’t truly the halfway point, I thought of the trip down Cardiac as starting the second half of the race. As I was climbing (aka trudging through mud), I saw the first 50k runners start to make their way down which meant I was on the lookout for Dan. I spent all my time watching for him and as soon as I saw him (in 6th place), I yelled out. It was so great to see him on course and I wanted him to know that I was having a good day. Also during this time, the elite 50 milers were making their way down. I casually cheered for Sage (in 1st place) and Timothy like they were old friends.
- Running down Cardiac. Running up was muddy and all, but running down was a shitshow (in the most fun way). Shortly after the aid station (which was my favorite of the day), I saw three friends. I’ve given a lot of high fives in my life and the ones I gave to Twig, Malone, and Sophia on Cardiac were three of my favorites. Two other women and I naturally grouped together during the descent and it was so nice to have people to talk to, though most energy was spent trying to stay upright. The trail was so slick and muddy that for those running down, you had to let go of any hesitation and just GO. Fortunately, almost all of the racers running up moved out of the way for us and many cheers and thanks were exchanged. During this time, I was pretty vocal about how fun it was and how much I love trail running and runners. Near the end of the descent was where I took my one fall of the day. I almost lost a shoe in the mud but nothing was hurt and I quickly got up and kept moving.
- Resilience around mile 27. I had been focusing on the word ‘resilience’ and how being resilient means to keep pushing forward when you’re tested and you’ve been challenged. I knew that accomplishing my 50k goal would take more than just enduring and it was right after the mile 26.3 aid station when I proved to be resilient. The 26.3 station came after the toughest hill of the day and my legs were feeling pretty beat from both the ascent and descent. It was the first time during the race that I actually wished to be done; I should also note, it was probably the only time I didn’t smile. As I left the aid station, I gave myself a mental pat on the back for my brand new personal distance record but looking at the hill ahead of me, it was hard to want to keep running. I was with Amy, one of the women I befriended coming down Cardiac who also happens to be from Denver, and we were both feeling a little beat up but also determined. As we were trudging along, I said something to Amy about how it was the time to be resilient and saying it out loud was like flipping a switch for me. I started running again with a second wind that carried me through to the finish.
- Final aid station and seeing relay runners. The last aid station was at mile 29.2 and I knew after that it was just a cruise down to the finish. I also knew this was the course for the relay runners so I would start to see some familiar faces. With every NP runner that passed me, a “Yeah, NP!” was exchanged. Brogan (co-founder of November Project) ran by and yelled out “Proud of you, dude.” right after another tribe member I’ve never met reminded me to be present in that moment right then. Amazing, yes. I pulled into the aid station already fighting back happy tears. I stopped for a few seconds to eat an orange slice and drink a cup of Coke and as I started out, Lauren (leader of NP San Diego) caught up to me and told me that Dan crushed it. As if I needed any more motivation to get to the finish line, hearing how well he did was it. Lauren, thanks for he update and telling me I looked good – you helped me push those last couple miles! All fired up, I felt like I was flying down that hill and then I noticed a familiar woman up ahead – it was the other lady I was with coming down Cardiac; we had been leap-frogging with each other all day. So, I caught up with her and passed her for the final time of the race with a “hell yeah! go get it” exchange.
I finished in 5:38, muddy and tired but completely in-tact, with a massive smile on my face. There are no words for sharing a feeling of such accomplishment with people you love who are celebrating too and I’m so grateful for the friends I got to experience this with. I’ve been racing for a few years now and many of my recent races have ended with me feeling beat up and defeated. I walked away from this race feeling energized, excited, and proud. I’m fired up for the next one and after a little bit of a break, I’m ready to start training again.
All of this really doesn’t mean all that much without people to experience it with. Without November Project, I wouldn’t have this community that’s become my family made up of badass, inspiring, caring individuals. Huge thanks to Dan for running up mountains with me on the weekends (among a million other things I’m grateful for that contributed to this day). And, many, many thanks to Robyn for being the best running partner I could ask for! It’s been so special to share this training and race cycle and to truly feel like I have someone who is experiencing it all – the hard work, the tough times, and the achievement – with me.