What better way to celebrate my birthday than to run 56miles? I guess technically I should have done the 50k (31 miles) to celebrate my 31st birthday, but why bother with a 50k when there's a much more fun 56miler!
I headed up to the Peaks Ultra race, which was advertised as 50, 54, 53 miles, but I was told by someone it's actually 56. Who cares? It was fun, however many miles. There were really steep hills and giant mudpits and bugs eating my scalp and more mud and some bushwacking and more shoe-sucking mud pits and 14,000 feet of elevation gain/loss and mud. The course is mostly runnable, with some sections requiring walking, and it was absolutely beautiful. And yes, it was fun.
I ran with Phil nearly the entire time. I picked his brain about his run across America in 2008, about Badwater, about his 38 100 milers, and some of the other insane ultras he's done. We talked about hill running (his tip: lean slightly forward, short, light steps on the front of my feet), about chafing, about getting lost in races. Phil struggled with his breathing a lot in the beginning. I felt great most of the race, but after mile 48, I started getting dizzy and getting a little delirious - just slightly. It was kind of fun, actually.
The mud wasn't as bad as it was in years past at Jay, but it was pretty gross. Our shoes got heavy and stupid me forgot my gaiters so I had to remove my shoes and socks to dump and scrape mud out a few times. When I changed my socks at mile 38 to clean, dry socks, I felt wonderful.
The organizer, Andy, was super friendly and the aid station volunteers were great. At one aid station, Iliana had told them it was my birthday, and I came in running to hearing them sing "Happy Birthday." It really was a lovely birthday. I didn't think about wrinkles or my future or getting old, but instead thought about, "Can't wait to get to the next aid station for some good food," or, "I'm almost out of water. Should I fill up in this creek and risk giardia?" (I didn't, but Phil did.)
It was very humid and poured the first two hours. The weather cleared up the rest of the day, though the puddles and occasional rumbling of thunder reminded us of what else was out there.
There were a lot of switchback sections, including "The Labyrinth" which was almost completely dark - full of trees and crazy switchbacks.
After we finished, showered, and ate, we sat under the stars by the campfire, waiting for the final runner. Everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to me again and Iliana and Phil got me a pink cake. Yay!
The final runner had a weak headlamp and got extremely lost. He decided to go to sleep on the trail, and after a very thorough search, he was eventually found, around 2am. Finally, relief.
Today - little pain. My shins ache a tad, and the blister under a callous on my pink toe hurts - but I'm fine. I can't wait to do it again!