>I have to say, it’s a pretty cool thing when you can find 200+ people willing to meet early on a Saturday morning shortly after NYE binges and the like, to run anywhere from 12-31 miles in the cold. Before I even got to the Fair Hill area, I stopped at what is probably the sketchiest gas station/subway/reststop thingy I have ever been to in my entire life. I walked in, and I got the feeling I was in a scary movie and was never going to make it out alive, so I left and opted to pop a squat in the woods. When I got to the park, I ran into a quasi-friend Randy, a man who I ran a good potion of Highlands Sky with last June. We started out the run with numb fingers and toes as it was pretty chilly and it took awhile for us all to mobilize and get signed in. The first 15 miles of the course were awesome, several challenging hills but everything was runnable and I was making good time. After that halfway point, however, it was clear that the course was going to take a turn for the difficult. It would be pretty impossible to rerun this course on your own without any markings, as we often found ourselves running willy-nilly through fields and haphazardly bushwacking up and down the sides of hills that had no semblance to trails whatsoever. However, that’s the fun of an ultra.
They handed out maps to us before we had started, which made me a little nervous but the first half was pretty clearly marked so I had forgotten about that. I heard people chatting behind me for awhile, so I knew I was on the right track even though our larger group had slowly whittled down. Then, the chatter stopped. One of my better-known lessons from these races is that if suddenly the group that was behind you is not there, it’s most likely not because you’ve sped away. Sure enough, I went another half mile or so and found myself at a part of the course I had already run. Shoot. I turned around, and found where I had missed a turn, continued on and actually was able to catch up to that same group again. At about the 27 mile mark, I came to a fork in the trail that was unmarked. Uh oh. Again, I was all by myself. Option A, to the left, was indeed a trail, but in the 100 meters up it that I ran, I couldn’t find a flag anywhere. Option B, the right, was a knee-deep stream crossing. Across the stream was a post with a flag tied to it, but I wasn’t sure if it was again a part of the course I had already ran. Tired and ready to be done running, I didn’t want to get all wet and cold crossing the stream, but I also didn’t want to add another mile onto this run. So I did the best thing I could think of: start yelling “HELLOOOO?” to see if anyone was around. After about 3 yells, I heard a voice! I was saved! yay. So anyway, that dude and I stand and stare at our options, and he goes “well I know we need to head West now to get to the finish.” West, eh? So I used my girl scout training, found the sun, figured out what was west, and we decided to go with Option A. About 10 minutes down that trail was another flag, bringing some much needed confirmation that we were correct. I pushed out the last few miles and finished in 5:27. This is 13 minutes off of my 50K PR, and considering all the getting lost, in addition to all the drinking I accidently did the night before, I’m pretty pleased. I’m not sure how that put me overall, as many people did the marathon option, but I believe it put me as the second female which again, is nothing for me to complain about. I am happy to have it as a benchmark for me this spring as I plan to run at least another 2-3 50K’s before Western States.