I usually come across as a strident, overconfident, self-righteous windbag. So, it seems safe to assume that after running 50 miles, my chest-thumping and peacocking would be completely insufferable. And yet, I just can’t seem to come through the gates with my usual bravado.
After spending an entire day with myself, I became intimately familiar with how very human I am. Strong and willful but also sweaty, hideous, blistered, fallible, and exhausted. Mortal but alive. When I crossed that finish line, I felt so accomplished. Thirty minutes later, I got light-headed and almost passed out on a cafeteria floor waiting for a burrito. Now that’s a heckuva day.
So, before I get all romantic and start calling this a personal journey or something else equally soft-shelled and bullshitty, let me answer some basic questions about this masochistic adventure in jackassery.
Why would you ever want to run 50 miles?
Because I’m an idiot? Because I’m unfulfilled personally and professionally? Because I’m procrastinating from writing my novel? Because I can? Because I hate fat people? Because I’m fascinated by how hilariously small my boobs have become?
Now, I’m going to ask you something, and I want you to be real with me. Does this seem out of line from any of the other weird things I do?
How long did it take you?
What was it like?
It was hard. It was long. It was circumcised?
The chart below shows the elevation of the JFK 50 Mile. The first 15 miles are along the Appalachian Trail, which means runners scale a lot of hills, over rocks and leaves, maybe twisting an ankle or chipping a tooth when falling into a tree face-first. My more experienced friends agreed: Don’t be a hero. Unless you’re winning the race, walk the uphills. While it’s a bit of a buzzkill to start by walking (especially when it’s 29 goddamn degrees and you’re in shorts), it’s also a helpful reminder to not burn out like Amy fucking Winehouse. By the time I was down all all the switchbacks and hit the C&O Canal Towpath (see above, the 26+ miles of flat terrain), I was ready to ball out. So, I locked in at my forever pace and grinded it out like guac in a molcajete.
At Mile 38, spectators lined both sides of the trail with posters and cameras and words of encouragement. By this point, a lot of runners were beginning to decompose, their posture slumping and legs shuffling. I have no idea why or how, but I felt terrific. I was a majestic pony. So, I put on a bit of a show, firing off finger pistols and hamming it up for the crowd. I’m not going to lie; they ate it up.
By far, my biggest surprise was that I didn’t even feel fatigued until after mile 42. I was just feeling it. But let me tell you. Once I got off the towpath and hit the rolling hilly streets, it was pretty friggin hard. The good kind of hard, though. Like a math problem that you know how to do, but there are a lot of steps. So I just kept going.
By the time I hit mile 47, my legs were heavy and sad, but my brain was like “Yo, legs, I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention, but we’re doing this. Period.” Before they could protest, I savagely threw a handful of Skittles into my mouth, and — as you might have guessed — kept running. And that’s how it happened. Step By Step, like Frank and Carol Lambert.
What did you think about the whole time?
Want to know some shit? No headphones allowed. Just me and 50 miles of leaves, twigs, and heavy breathing. Adam and Eve getting their sweat on.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t hear music. First there was the weird guy who rode by on his bicycle while wearing an Incredibles costume and blaring “I Will Survive,” the abominable dance classic that divorced aunts love to dance to at your friends’ weddings. And then, there was Bruno Mars, singing the first bars to “Locked Out Of Heaven” on loop in my head while I dissected how much that song sounds like Roxanne found a Message in a Bottle.
I passed the time by encouraging people as I passed them, hoping they’d return the favor and make some conversation. Otherwise, I didn’t really think that much. Running is weird like that. It’s only time I can be simultaneously present and absent.
You’re so weird.
Thank you. Dick.
How do you train for something like this?
Are your eyes rolling yet? The training was my favorite part.
I hadn’t run more than a marathon in a single day, so toeing the start line at JFK, I was attempting almost twice my longest distance ever. It’s a mindfuck, but you just have to trust that putting in work each week is going to get you there.
Twenty-two high mileage weeks, including back-to-back hard days almost every weekend. It goes a little something like this:
- Monday – cross-train (i.e., don’t sprain your ankle playing soccer)
- Tuesday – 6 miles
- Wednesday – 8 miles (then, mash some idiots in softball)
- Thursday – 6 miles
- Friday – Rest
- Saturday – 18 miles
- Sunday – 10 miles
Those back-to-back hard days are the keystone. They prepared my legs for running when they’re tired or don’t have glycogen reserves, making me more efficient in using fuel and energy. They also ensured that my hammies and quads are the size, shape, and density of cannons. BOOM, bitch!
Kelaine, I don’t think running that much is good for you.
Forgive me if I don’t take running advice from arthritic, pear-shaped turds with “knee problems.”
And just like that, Stella got her rude back. Now, apologize and let me get on with my sermon.
What did you eat? And, like, how?
I took some clutch advice: eat early, often, and a lot. The last thing I wanted to do was bonk out because I didn’t fuel properly. I started with my usual Shot Bloks, which taste like fruit snacks and fit conveniently down my sports bra. Did you just say “gross?” I’ll bet if you asked around, 70% of female marathoners do the same. Not sure that makes it any better, but at least you know.
Because the idea of only eating gelatinous items for nine hours sounded particularly cruel and revolting, I moved on to real food. At each aid station, I’d claw for pretzels and bananas, eating them as I ran. In total, I probably ate 20 pretzel logs and 5 full bananas, which wouldn’t suffice for a full day NOT running 50 miles, but does just fine when you’re in-flight.
I ran with a fuel belt, which made me look like a fanny-packed nerd but allowed me to carry packets of this crazy ass Hornet Juice for dropping into my water bottles.
Science is crazy. I drank hornets’ amino acids that allegedly tap into your fat stores, instead of glycogen, so that you get a low slow burn that lasts and don’t collapse into a pile of calf cramps and misery. Listen, I don’t know that it works, but I also know that it doesn’t NOT work. I finished, didn’t I?
Yo, 50 miles. Didn’t that shit hurt?
It didn’t hurt as much as you’d think. I got through without incident. I only experienced a few issues:
- A blister on each of my big toes. But, I keeps it real, so I took off each shoe, used the pin that had been holding my race bib, and popped that motherZuckerberg. It’s not a problem if you solve it. It’s math. Problem – Problem = NO PROBLEM, SUCKA.
- Under my nose got chapped from snot-rocketeering. The doctor says I’ll live.
- The fifth metatarsal on my left foot was completely fine during the race, but for a few weeks, it felt like all the new moms I read about on the Facebook — stressed and tired and using CAPS LOCK TO DESCRIBE ITS FEELINGS.
Otherwise, no joint pain. Muscles were fine. No chafing (Body Glide, you’re a real pal!). I’m not saying it was comfortable, but there was no point during the race where I thought “I need/want to stop.” To me, that either means I did it correctly or left something on the table.
Are you nuts? What could you have possibly left on the table?
Here’s what I know. No matter how stupid or crazy or tough you think I am, Mosi Smith has me beat by about 90 degrees. Dude is a monster. Just look how many races he’s done this year. And if the quantity doesn’t get you, then maybe take a look at the quality. Not only did he finish Badwater (135 miles in Death Valley in July), but he just won and set the course record for the Cajun Coyote 100-miler. He’s the hot one, no udders.
Not only that, but Mosi never flinched when I grilled his cheese with millions of questions about the JFK 50. He’s the best, the greatest, and my #1 crunsh. Tell your autocorrect to pump the brakes; that’s not a typo.
So, what’s next then, shawtay?
Harder and faster.