I’ve been enamored by ultramarathons for the last few years. Done with being a spectator, on Jan 1, 2020, I signed up for a 50k and 50mi race. Knowing I was in uncharted waters, I chose to hire a coach. I was introduced to Joe McConaughy. Joe’s not only a great person but an incredible runner. Most notably, he holds the self-supported fastest known time on the Appalachian Trail. He finished the 2,188-mile course in 45 days. For reference, it takes the average hiker 6-months.
Joe and I worked together for the better part of 6 months. Weekly calls, training plans, adapting to injuries, explaining how the body works, race day nutrition planning and the list goes on. I wouldn’t have been as prepared without his guidance and knowledge. I also wouldn’t have been able to adapt to both races being canceled due to COVID-19. After the second race was canceled, Joe recommended that I look at running a self-supported 50k on the Midstate Trail.
The Course – The Midstate Trail – October 17, 2020
Distance: 50.39km (31.31 miles)
Elevation Gain: 4,702 feet
Min. Elevation: 755 feet
Max Elevation: 1,998 feet
50km Time: 11:52:24
My morning started at 3:45 am with a quick check of the weather. It didn’t look great. Fortunately, I would only have to deal with it for a few hours. I started the run around 6:15 am. I spent the first mile and a half climbing up the side of Mt Wachusett. There was more climbing on all fours than I expected, both going up and coming down the other side. I questioned what I got myself into in just the first few miles of the run.
I carried roughly 2,000 calories of food consisting of mostly Gu’s and Sports Beans in my pack. It also held 1.5l of water consisting of two small bottles on the front of the pack and a bladder on my back. Knowing 1.5l of water wouldn’t get me through 31 miles, I packed a filtration device to refill along the course. Drinking out of streams and lakes was a first for me. The only thought I had at the first stream I filled up in was, “I’ll either be hydrated in an hour or throwing up.” I still had 23 miles after the first water point. Luckily I made it through all eight water points without incident.
The terrain, the distance, the weather, the time on my feet, it all humbled me. My expectations and ego took a hit after the first three miles. It was then when I realized it wouldn’t be ‘just 6 miles longer than a marathon’. Each mile taught me a new lesson, both physically and mentally. After each marathon I’ve completed, I’ve questioned if I’d do it again. I woke up Sunday morning pretty sore, but instead of questioning if I’d do it again, I was thinking about my next ultramarathon. More elevation? Longer distance? Faster time? A combination of all three? I guess I’ll figure it out in 2021.
The first picture is a screenshot I took at 3:45 am. After turning off my alarm, I checked a weather app on my phone. My starting location was in the middle of Hubbardston, Sterling, And Rutland. Not the weather I was hoping to have. To the right, one of the many climbs I’d encounter. This one was around mile seven. The rain was starting to disperse, and the sun was trying to peek through the clouds. I was wondering how many of these I’d have to climb throughout the day. Below the screenshot is a picture of the prize for all the climbing I did in the first eight miles. The hut was at my turnaround point. I was cold, wet, and the wind was whipping. After filling up my water bottles in a pond out of the picture, I sat in the shelter for a few minutes. I changed my wet socks, ate some food, and planned for the second half of the run. The final picture I took was at mile 26. I was mentally and physically exhausted. After taking the picture, I forced down some food, drank some water, and regrouped one last time before tackling the final 10km (6 miles)