Monday, November 24, 2014

Lakefront Ultra 50k - Race Recap

(Disclaimer...hugely long race recap with lots of crying ahead...)

I did the Lakefront 50k on November 1st, which marks the second year in a row I've done this race.  They have a spring option but for fear of horrible winters and training, I've decided the fall one is the way to go. 

Yes, it's been almost a month since I've run this race. There is a good reason for that. It really just did me in this time. I mean, I didn't even want to run after running that race (this year). And I'm still not HUGELY interested in running even almost a month later. 

First of all, my friends had a good time. It just did ME in. It happens. Not all races are good ones. This one wasn't mine.  It's ok. I finished the 50k for the second time and that is a huge accomplishment. Ok, on to the recap...

First of all, thanks to Melanie from See Mommy Race for the photos. I was struggling to survive and then my phone "broke" on me. So yeah...

The race was on November 1st, which is a Saturday. The Friday before the race, there were severe winds in Chicago along the Lakefront, so much so that the trail was closed in spots because of the high waves washing up on the trail. I figured our race on Saturday would be fine because we were further south from the city, and for some reason...I thought that was reason enough (??).  I don't know.

The race starts at Jackson Park around 63rd Street and Lake Shore Drive. The 50k (31+ miles) travels north along the lake for just over 5 miles, turns around and goes back to the start. We do this "loop" 3 times. From my experience last year (read about it here), I found that I really like this setup. I didn't think I would but I like it because you know where all the aid stations are, where all the bathrooms are, and you think of it more in terms of "3 loops" instead of 31 miles. It makes it much more manageable.

I drove down to the race with Melanie. Parking is right near the start line and packet pick up. Due to the high winds the day before, those winds were still pretty fierce that morning. The race people couldn't set up the tents like normal so everything was out of vans. We got our bib out of the van and waited in the car for a bit. Finally it was time to head to the start line.

Let me back up a bit for a minute. I knew the temps were going to be about 35-40 degrees for the race. Pretty good actually. But because of the high winds, it was much colder than I anticipated (real feel temps were about 25 degrees). At the last minute, I decided to wear an extra long sleeve outer layer (so 2 layers and gloves).  I was freezing with that wind.

Me and Melanie
Melanie's mom came for support (super sweet) and we started and she took this shot at the start of the race! Thanks Melanie's mom!
Melanie in Gold and I'm in Pink
As we got to the Lakefront, the wind was straight to our faces and it was strong. I joked to Melanie that I felt like I was a part of some extreme sport!

I didn't really have any running plans in mind. I set my watch for a run/walk interval but planned on running the first full loop of 10+ miles. Then possibly start the run/walk interval for the remainder.  While running, I got word from a friend that part of the trail was not runnable and we had to run on the grass and the trail was pretty tore up in spots.  Luckily Melanie is the true blogger here and took some pictures of the "devastation"... (Photo credit for ALL the photos below are from Melanie!)

The trail was all tore up in spots from the wind and water

This was supposed to be our route but we got routed over a large hill to the left instead
(the trail was literally gone)

All those rocks and rubble...that "was" the trail

Full disclosure - Melanie got wiped out by a wave taking this photo
So as you can see, it was pretty brutal out there. Not only was the trail not runnable in a couple spots, we had to run on the grass for a bit and got detoured and had to run over a large hill.  Out and back... X 3!  It was just...not fun.

To move things along...the way out was much windier than than the way back. It was like a breath of fresh air after the turn around. But I knew that every time I got back by the start, I would have to face 5 miles of huge wind and cold directly into my face. It was mentally and physically draining for me.  Just knowing I had to do it 2 more times...  Running into the wind is clearly the thing that bothers me the most.  It's my kryptonite.

After the first 10 miles, I turned around to do it all again. I had run ahead of Melanie but I knew she wasn't far behind. That's also the beauty of this 3 - out and back - course. You see everyone so many times, which is really helpful and nice.  Especially when you really don't have any spectators there cheering you on.  The runners are your spectators.

By the half way point, I saw Melanie wasn't far behind at all and decided to wait for her. I figured it would be better to run with someone than alone. My leg (IT band) issue from the Grand Rapids Marathon (recap here) 2 weeks before started bothering me by mile 10 and I was having a hard time shaking negative thoughts off.  Melanie and I started running together for a couple minutes, but I knew I wouldn't be able to hang. I told her I need to start doing my run/walk intervals or I will never make it through. To my dismay, I let her go ahead. I didn't want to hold her back.

Running back on this second loop, all I could think about was the pain in my leg and the fact that I will have to turn around and start that windy 5 mile run back out soon. (In fact, thinking about it now, it's bringing tears to my eyes). I was really struggling mentally. So much so that with a couple miles left on that second loop (so about mile 18), I decided I was going to quit when I got to the end of the second loop. 20 miles and I would be done. I literally WANTED to quit. I even said in my mind... "I don't want to finish."  I didn't WANT to finish. I didn't want to do that wind again. My leg was bothering me and my knees were bothering me. I was so mentally and physically done. I guess doing that marathon 2 weeks before, well, I knew it didn't give me enough recovery time. And I PR'd that marathon. I pushed it. I needed more rest.

So in my mind, I was quitting at mile 20, and I didn't care. I got to the end of the second loop, hit up the aid station, smiled at people cheering and started walking the 3rd loop. I tried running for a minute but continued walking.  While walking I realized I "forgot" to quit!  I got to the aid station and turn around and just did my thing. I forgot. Literally forgot because I was 100% certain I was quitting. Well it was too late now. I was on my 3rd loop. 

While walking, I texted Derek (who was working) something like.... "I don't think I can do this. I'm walking so much." I wanted to cry. I wanted to be done. The wind was hitting me directly in the face yet again. I'm sorry if I seem like a huge baby. I'm not sure if you all have been there during a race. The loops were taking me forever to finish and I thought I didn't have another 2+ hours in me of this race.  Well, after I sent that text to Derek, my phone went dead. Nice. Derek would probably think I jumped in the Lake after that text I sent him. 

About 2 miles into the 3rd loop, I said that I was going to quit again.  I wanted to quit with like 8 miles left in the race. But at this point, I didn't know how. I would have to go another 1.5 miles to get to the next aid station! What was I going to do if I quit now?  I had no where to go. Damn... I had to suck it up.

I figured that I just wanted to finish under the 7 hour time limit. I didn't care how much below. I was walking a lot. I tried to walk up the hills. I tried to stick to some time of run/walk plan to keep me going. It was tiring to run but it hurt to walk. And starting up running after walking...the pain in my leg made it so difficult. I kept trying to calculate how much time it would take me to finish and if I would make the time limit. I knew I would but I absolutely had to keep moving forward. Walk... run... just get to the finish.

Finally I knew I was almost done.  I saw the finish hill (yes, there is a steep hill at the finish that we had to run up 3 times...after each loop).  With all the pain in my leg, I didn't care. I needed to run up that hill to the finish. I saw Derek at the top of the hill taking pictures.  I crossed the finish line. Derek came up to me and I just started crying... "That was so hard!" 

Running up the start of the hill at the end

Still running up the hill - eyeing the finish line
About to finish the 50k! I busted out a smile.
My friends Melanie and Jan came over and I felt like a huge idiot. They both had a great time and Jan rocked out her first ultra!  I stopped crying and talking to them made me smile again. I was done.

Derek told me that when Melanie and our other friends finished, they all said I was looking strong and looking good. Derek was like... "That's not what she texted me!" lol.

Well earned medal
Jan, Melanie, Me - 50k Finishers
I got my red beans and rice (so delicious) and chit chatted a bit before we all headed home.

I finished. My time was 6:40. (My previous time was 6:22).  So I didn't PR.  But that didn't matter to me for this race at all. I wish I had a better time. I wish I didn't have all the negative thoughts. But I have to give myself credit where it is due. I didn't quit (even though I tried!). I kept going when the going was tough. I smiled at my friends (ok it was all a lie in a smile...but I tried to be positive).  Long distance running isn't easy for me. I'm sure it's not easy for most. That's why I like it. It challenges me in ways I would never be challenged. It makes me realize that I have determination and heart and I can accomplish things I never thought possible. I'm no athlete, I never was. So to accomplish these things...even when the weather/race isn't cooperating with you, that takes guts. And I recognize that. It's definitely something to be proud of.  And I'm proud of myself.

Hop on over to Melanie's blog post to read a much happier review of this race!


  1. Yes, it takes guts and you should be proud of yourself for staring down all of the adversity this race threw at you and overcoming it! Nice job and you deserve a little downtime from running. Congrats on the finish! :)

  2. Thanks Pete! Btw, I was trying to email you but not sure it went through. I have samples of that pickle juice from the people that supplied it for grand rapids marathon. I could mail you a couple if you want! Email me the address you want me to send it. (

    1. Thanks, just sent you an e-mail. Looking forward to testing it out! :)

  3. Congrats, Amanda! (BTW, I LOVE your top!)

    1. Thanks! It's from Oiselle. Got it on sale!