Thursday, June 16, 2016

Nut 50k. Half a nut, but twice the run!

When I signed up for the NUT 50k I knew that it was most likely going to be the hardest I've done.

It's strange to think that now I have done as many ultramarathons as I have road marathons. 

If you'd asked me five years ago if I would ever run a trail ultramarathon, I would've looked strangely at you. Similarly, if you had told me even a year ago I would ever run a 50K that was all uphill, I would have laughed. It never was something I saw myself doing.

My how things change, and I'm glad they do

The truth is, maybe because of my road background, I'm still trying to get over the mindset that races need to be faster in order to show running (racing) improvement.

So many elements can come into play in an ultramarathon, such as terrain, weather, fueling, and participants on the course. These variables can lead to a slower race even on the same course. I'm not a pro, but I'm starting to get this. It's taken me a while…

Pushing myself harder without getting faster at what I'm doing is most certainly "stepping out of the box" (so to speak) for me. taking on an uphill 50k was saying to myself, "It's OK to do your best even if it means you run a personal worst." 

In a way, I feel like it was the first time I ran a race for myself and with no real idea of how long it might take to finish.. Just a broad idea of 5 1/2 to 8 hours. 


Getting to the start line was a challenge in itself. I had camped at the Susan Creek Campground the night before. It's about an hour drive from there to Lemolo lake where the finish line is, and the shuttle to the start was waiting. 

In typical Raina fashion, I drove in as fast as I could to the parking lot, meeting the bus as it was idling, seconds before it was to leave. 

I had thought that I could take a different shuttle, but when I found out there was no way back to it, I had to drive like crazy to the finish line.

Grabbing my red gym bag (and OM pack that had almost all of my stuff in it), I sprinted to the bus. Before we had left the parking lot, I realized that I didn't have contact lenses with me.. Somehow I convinced the bus driver to stop at my car while I hopped out and got my contacts. I'm so glad I was able to get them! 

A few short miles later our bus was sitting in front of the highway where we were to unload and go to the start line. 

Immediately I saw a few people I knew and gave some hugs out and wandered around looking for Band-Aids. There was a little owie on the top of my foot due to flip-flop abuse that I wanted to protect from my sock. Not a major injury, just something I didn't want irritating me for 31 miles.

We seemed to have a long time before the race actually started so I had a cup of coffee, and thought about having left my oatmeal in the car. 

Luckily I had eaten a McDonald's breakfast burrito (no cheese) that I purchased the afternoon before and left somewhat dried and crunchy in my car.. It wasn't half bad, and I have a stomach of steel. These were my breakfasts before most of my long runs in training for this race. Coupled with coffee and a couple of packets of sugar, I was good to go!

I left my key to the car in my drop bag which was going to Tokatee Lake aid station. In my bag were extra shoes and clothes and food.. Just in case!

We were given the short race talk which had some very important information in it regarding what to expect on the course. Racers were told we would cross a damaged bridge, (carefully), so there was no need to reroute the race. 

And then we were running!

Miles 0-6
It felt as though most of the runners went ahead of me and I settled in a comfortable jog with a friend whom I have met only once before. We were all single file in a long line. There were a few jostling around, but I don't think I asked to pass anybody until after mile 2. 

Somewhere in this first segment I told my friend I wasn't sure if I was running too fast, or if it was just my imagination. He is assured me we were going too fast so we both slowed down. I was thrilled to be running a beautiful section of the North Umpqua trail that I had never ran before! 

We climbed up, and up and up. There was also a section of fire road in here where we went up and then down again. I had tried not to burn myself out on the uphill, and it felt good to let my legs fly on the downhill. 

Before long we were climbing again and then came out to the open road and the Medicine Creek station. (mile 5.9) . This station had my favorite goodies: Coke, Pringles chips, and watermelon slices. I took some of everything, even though I had been drinking from my water bottles a little and ate a half a package of Honeystinger grapefruit chews. 

Miles 6-13.3 or so
Then we were off, and I was climbing up Deer Leap, which is incredibly uphill for a few miles. 
At the top of this section, in the middle, there is a beautiful viewpoint if you step off the trail. A couple of us decided to make the run worth it and took a few pictures. It was a good choice. I had been looking forward to taking a break here even though there was no aid station. 

Just a bit more climbing and then we had a long rolling run to the Tokatee lake aid station (Mile13.5). Somewhere in here I passed a really nice guy who was obviously suffering with his knee. We chatted for a minute and he let on that maybe it was an  ITB issue. There's no doubt in my mind that if anyone was having ITB issues, this course would tear them up. I saw him later at the finish line though, and somehow he must've toughed it out. 

At Tokatee lake I got a refill on my bottles with glukos (energy drink) in one and water in the other. I also grabbed another handful of Pringles chips to eat as I ran down the trail.

 Here, I took one of my Salomon Speedcross Pros off and shook a small rock out of it. This little pebble had been in for maybe 2 miles. (It would've been completely preventable if I had worn gators, but I had forgotten to attach Velcro strips to my shoes, so the gators would not stay in place.) If the pebble hadn't been there I don't know if I could've gone a bit faster on the downhill, but I was cautiously guarding my foot trying not to grind the pebble in.

At this station I realized also that I was probably not going to make it in to the end of the race by six hours. I tried to do some math in my head and estimate how long it would take me to finish. We all know that running math is never good though.

Whether or not I could've ran faster is unclear, but in that moment I expected I would go slower for the second half. This was when it became a conscious decision that regardless of how long it took me, I was going to finish and I was going to have a good day.

 I took the time to stretch out a bit, as my glutes and hips on both sides had started to fatigue. I have a really odd yoga pose that I made up for this and I'm sure it was entertaining for anyone, especially since I had some music coming out of my phone. 

Even if this cost me time, stretching out was a good choice because afterwards I didn't have any issues with my glutes; maybe I should've done it back at medicine Creek.

Mile 13.3- mile 21
This was a long-a$$ section.
My friend had gotten ahead of me, but waited at the aid station, so we took off again together. Part of this was another new segment for me, and I enjoyed running some new terrain.

Thank goodness there was good flagging for the course in here. There was at least one possible place to get confused with a gravel road intersection, but luckily I knew the route and saw the orange flagging.. We saw another runner that was not so lucky. She had ran an extra 3 miles, and seemed to be trying to make up time for it. She passed us going uphill on gravel. And somehow we passed her again, then she passed us. 

We went through a cool waterfall where the water was actually going over the trail. It was shady in there, but it was also slippery! Shortly after that I lost touch with my friend again. I basically ran solo for the next 10+ miles, except for a brief moment at the next aid station.

At mile 21, I ran into the woman who had passed us and I asked her how she was doing. She remarked that she was not sweating at all anymore, even though she had drank two containers of water. I offered to tell the next aid station, and she thought was a good idea.

Less than a quarter-mile after passing her, we were there.. 

Mile 21-26.9
At the aid station I let them know that there was a woman behind me who said she thought she might drop. As I was filling up my bottle with water and glukos (half way) she came down the hill into the aid station. I got her a pickle from the jar there and then the volunteers told me to go ahead and go - they would take care of her :) 

Apparently, my friend had ran through and waited for a while, but continued on. This section of the race was extremely hard mentally.  It seemed to go on forever, but fortunately there was one enormous waterfall to admire, as well as native plants that were all in bloom.

I didn't remember the "dread and terror" segment being this long, and kept thinking that I was almost to the bridge station. Every time I went downhill I anticipated it, only to have to climb again! 

When this happens, you're faced with the choice. Unlike in the Swiftwater 50K, I decided that the time out there is just part of the race. I ran into a pile of brush that had not been cleared off the trail, or had been cleared as best it could be at last minute, busted out my phone and took a couple of pictures. I drank some more of my drink, ate some more honeystinger chews, and crossed over it smiling.
God bless the person who marked with orange flags!

 I wondered what Max King thought when he came across the same pile. Maybe he got mad… Maybe he just had a good laugh! I have no idea-- but, I would like to see that video! 
How does an elite cross a pile of brush? Just like the rest of us.

Finally, one of the downhills ended up at the North Umpqua river bottom, now a much narrower and colder version then when we started the race. 

Mile 26.9-finish
I still hadn't seen my friend since about mile 16, but, I was ready to cross the bridge, which was slanting heavily to the right and had a tree down across it. 

Although I am a pretty practiced person at running on strange terrain, I almost lost my balance on the bridge! I knew this was the last aid station, but this last section of climbing is a doozy. Having been here before, I knew there were two phases of climbing out to the next trailhead, and I did my best to get up quickly. 

There were several beautiful waterfalls in this shady section, and lots of water coming out of the sidewalls onto the trail, making mud or slippery rocky sections. 

A little bit later I found my friend again and I was overjoyed to have caught up. Apparently he had waited for me at an aid station and decided he couldn't keep waiting because he wasn't feeling well. We took turns running and hiking fast up and out of dread and terror.

At the end of the segment we crossed the road, and I didn't know exactly how much mileage we had left to go, but I knew it could not be a whole lot of climbing to get to Lemolo lake now. I tried to push myself, but the biggest incentive was probably the mosquitoes, which would've carried us to the finish line had we not been running! 

And then, there was this crazy tripod of sticks with the sign on top that pointed "Lemolo lake / finish line". With no trail, we had a very short scramble over some brush to get to a road which would take us across the dam. 
And I fairly sprinted! 

In the clear blue skies of the afternoon, Lemolo lake was quiet and stunning with Mount Thielsen in the backdrop. I regret not taking a photo of it, but it's in my minds eye. And I was too dang anxious to get to the end to stop at this point. The final mile was a tiny little single track trail with multiple options, but orange flagging going down the correct one. 

The finish line was quiet, with racers soaking in their victories and drinking their craft beers or sodas. The Go Beyond racing directors greeted each finisher with their name announced, and a special finishers glass. I got a hug from RD Renée, which made the day feel extra special. 

Shortly after that, I was nibbling on Skout bars and visiting with friends as they came in one or two at a time. I especially enjoyed talking with Laurie and Heather who are now doing 50ks as training runs for 100 milers, and Rachelle from Skout, as well as the team from Bibchat. 
Post race 

My legs always feel trashed right after and ultra, but spirits were high. After getting my drop bag and eating half a burger, I headed out to my favorite recovery spot.. right across the river from one of the photos above.

I don't know when I'll do another one of these. I keep saying this is the last one. I am definitely only HALF nutty, not 100k nutty...

To get really good at ultra running I think one needs to enjoy doing the long run enough to run long back to back once a week. Right now, that is not in my repertoire or in my family's calendar. So, I will savor this experience and be grateful for being able to run for six hours and 55 minutes, and climb somewhere over 6000 ft (garmin said 7300, strava said 8400.. who knows!), without injuring myself.

Finishing sixth woman isn't bad. I'm satisfied to finish 2 1/2 hours after the likes of Max King and an hour and 40 minutes behind the likes of Rachel Drake. It's humbling, and I could probably use more humility in my life! 

Now, if I ever get crazy enough to do another ultra, I probably will do this one again (probably not the 100k option though!)--Just to see if I can do a little better, (or a little worse), but have an even better story. 


  1. Well done Raina and a good story. Pleased you had time to stop for photos - shows what a beautiful course it was. You should watch the Barkley 100 documentary (which is 160k!), the race that has very few finishers. Then perhaps 100k on a marked trail will seem an option :)

    1. Hi Ewen, and thanks! I did see the Barkley.. It's absolute insanity. I'm all for having course flagging. I love maps and geography, but trying to sort them out and run at the same time is beyond my abilities, haha! But for you.. It might be fun! Go for it :) 100k would certainly give me more opportunity to have fun. I'm not sure I can be tempted though!

  2. Great recap!! I aim to do a 50k after I meet my IM goals! I'll be hitting you up for advice!! You totally inspire me!!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Jill! You are an inspiration. It'll be fun to see you run 50k. Please let me know if I can help in any way, but I'm still learning myself! 💜

  3. Well done Raina. That is just SO long and SO hard. It's ridiculously impressive that you can do it. Proud of you.

    1. Thanks Jodi! I enjoyed my trading run with you.. I really think you'd be great at a 50k. The recovery is so much easier than for a marathon!

  4. Great race recap and congrats on your finish! Sounds like a fun course. And you never know, a 100k could be in your future much further down the line. I look forward to reading about your next race!

    1. I'm not sure I could handle doubling the run and the fun, but never say "never", right?
      Thanks for reading and also sharing your thoughts Keilynn!

  5. You are a CHAMP. Seriously. It was fun following your training on IG.

    1. Thank you so much for coming over from IG to read, Carmy! I'm honored ❤️

  6. I liked the race recap, a good summary of the ups and downs of the race. Well done Raina, and for sure you can start dreaming about more demanding challenges

    1. Thanks Benjamin! I always appreciate your encouragement. There are plenty of demanding challenges out there to choose from :-)

  7. You did amazing! Congrats on the fantastic finish time. You have a strong set of legs Raina, blessed for sure :) I love all the views you share. What an incredible experience.

  8. I really enjoyed reading your race recap and your story made me visualize that I was really there. You are a great runner and writer as well. Congratulations on not only just finishing but finishing 6th place woman. I hope to run part of NUT someday.

    1. Donny, I hope you can go run the NUT. It would be a great trail on its own, but having Crater Lake nearby gives even more excuse to go! Thanks for the kind praise :)


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