Earlier this month, my boyfriend Israel and my friend Cameron set out to run a 40 mile ultra marathon! This race was the Naked Bavarian 40 miler in Leesport, PA. This road trip was filled with laughs, a lot of trail running, and good beer. 🙂 I don’t know about you but it seems like beer is the perfect combo to trail running, according to the guys. You can see behind the scenes footage and hear about the guys’ race strategies over their pre race meals above! 😉
We wake up to the sound of 3 alarms going off and decide it’s time to get moving. The room is cold and the air feels crisp. I knew that it was going to be a freezing morning in Reading, PA where we stayed. The boys layered up with their running gear and we checked out. After a night in a motel of questionable cleanliness and loud noises, we were all still feeling a little drained from the drive yesterday. However, we all piled in my orange car and headed out to the park where the real journey was to begin. The nerves were setting in and the 15 degree air was making it hard to breathe. Despite all of this, we decided to move forward.
We arrive at the park, where we are greeted by a huge lake. Bundled up, we go out to check in and pick up the bib numbers. I asked Israel is he was doing okay, and he responded with “no.” I knew this was going to be a challenging race especially with Israel’s previous injuries that he had just started to get over. Flash back to a few months ago, Israel was on a training run when he turned to look at a car coming up behind him and suddenly things went wrong. He had turned in such a way that his back gave out, leaving him lying motionless on the side of a backroad in the country. Fortunately, his dad was running with him that day and was able to run back and grab the car. Finally, Israel was able to be maneuvered into the car.
Leading up to the race he had been working on strengthening his back and was able to continue training. Knowing this, I was worried and anxious for this race as well. Luckily, there would be aid stations every 3.5 miles, where I could check in on him and supply him with the nutrition he had brought for himself.
The race was off! This race was a 20 mile loop that they would be running twice. I watched them run off into the distance and then I was on my way to the first aid station. Coming into the first aid station Cameron was looking strong and was running with the lead pack. He had been averaging 7:30 pace. Israel came in shortly behind him and he was feeling good. This was relieving to hear.
The next aid station was at 6.5 miles. When Cameron reached this aid station he grabbed something to drink and fueled up a little bit. Cameron had decided not to carry anything with him during the race. In regards to nutrition that strategy would be fine, but I was concerned about his hydration. While it was freezing outside it may be easy to think you don’t need water, but hydrating is just as important during the winter. However, Cameron seemed to be doing well and continued to run strong!
Israel came running in to this aid station, refilled his water bottle, and grabbed a few Gu’s from the stash I had been carrying for him. Aid stations at Ultra Marathons are relatively elaborate. This station had gatorade, mountain dew, coke, and water. In regards to food they had pickles, french fries, cookies, 1/4 sized PB&J sandwiches, watermelon and more. It was quite an interesting spread, but I would imagine any runner would be able to find what he/she needs for their body. A little after mile 6.5 Israel’s knee began to act up a little bit.
Moving into the aid station at mile 9.5 Cameron had fallen off the lead pack a little bit, but was still running hard. The section of the course between mile 6.5 and 9.5 was much more hilly and challenging. This was the most difficult stretch of the course. Israel was also feeling okay at this check in point. I met them both again at about mile 14 and Israel was not feeling well at all. He knew he had to at least run to the next aid station before considering dropping out of the race. He pressed on and I did not have a good feeling about it. Meanwhile, Cameron seemed to be doing well.
Fast forward to Mile 20 and Israel’s Sciatic nerve was acting up, which he previously had injured during his collegiate running career. He knew that it was not worth injuring himself or making old injuries irritated again, so he decided to drop out at mile 20. Cameron pressed on, but with morale low and taking the first 20 mile loop out way to fast, he also decided to drop as well. He concluded 7:30 pace was not a sustainable pace based on his training levels.
This is not the End.
With that, we piled back up again into our orange car and blasted the heat. Despite having a low morale, we were glad to be out of the 19 degree temperatures. Both of the boys were disappointed with their performances but I reminded them that this was not the end of their ultra marathon careers. With a little more training and fully healing up any injuries, I knew they could kill it at their next ultra. Back in November of 2016 they had both completed the Iron Mountain 30 miler, so I know they have the potential to finish a 40. It is also important to note that 35 people DNF (did not finish) in the 40 mile race. It’s a tough course, but one that will not go unconquered.
What is your favorite race? Let me know in the comments below!
PS. Israel came up with this Blog post title! 🙂