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Dirty German 50k Race Report

Late in the evening on the night before the race, my good friend and running partner called me to give me a (slightly inebriated) pep talk about my race.

His biggest advice (that he repeated over and over and over, compliments of both his adamant belief that I needed to listen to him, and also a little bit due to the bourbon, I’m sure): “DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE. GO OUT SLOW.”

“How slow?” I asked.

“9s-9:30s, at least.”

I laughed. “Try again. I am not going to run 9:30s.”

His turn to laugh.

“Trust me Halnon, you go out too fast and you will have NO problem running 9:30s on the back half of the course.”

Noted.

So I went to bed trying to focus on this whole slowing down, enjoying the experience and breaking out of my road racing mentality.

Fast forward a few hours and Miles and I were on our way to the start.

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We had a slightly difficult time imagining how exactly the less than picturesque streets of North Philadelphia were going to produce this alleged urban oasis of trail running, but sure enough, a few miles later and we were in the middle of a gianormous, beautiful park, situated firmly in the city limits.

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We headed out to get my number after we parked the car, and on the way back I saw a guy sporting a Middlebury sweatshirt (Middlebury College=my alma mater). I have an instant love for every fellow panther I see so I immediately attacked him with a hello. (Pay attention here, this is an important part of the story.)

He seemed equally enthused to be meeting another Midd Kid and we did the whole exchange of years graduated, where we’re living now, if we’d raced the distance before and then wished each other good luck.

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Shortly after we met Dave the Panther, I ran into a friend from DC who was getting ready to do the 50 miler. He proceeded to give me his own pep talk, in which he (soberly) told me the exact same thing as runner friend #1: go out SLOW.

So I headed to the start line, telling myself over and over and over again to go out SLOW. ALL CAPS SLOW. It got time for the race to start and the RD informed the crowd of runners that we’d leave in another 5 minutes, giving people time to finish using the bathroom.

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“A late start?” I thought to myself. “Hokas, we’re not in a road race anymore.”

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Finally, it was time to go. The announcer yelled “GO!” and I went to start my garmin…only in the amount of time that it had taken to delay the start, my watch had reset to the default screen. So I let hoards of runners go past me, as I waited for my garmin, thinking, no big, my chip doesn’t activate until I cross the starting line.

And then I remembered I was at a bare bones trail race and got my ass moving. Rookie mistake number 1.

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The race starts with the crowd dashing cross country style across a big field, after which we made a sharp turn onto a steep descent and started the trail running portion of the course.

I was all worried about getting stuck in a long line of runners on the narrow trail, so I sprinted ahead and dodged my way around people to get myself closer to the front. Obviously my “go slow” strategy was off to a hell of a start.

As soon as I got on the trail, I calmed down and started to back off to the ALL CAPS SLOW speed that I had been instructed to maintain for the first loop of the two loop course. I looked down at my garmin and started to curse. After all of that satellite drama, I had carelessly failed to actually start my watch. I looked around me, and asked a guy immediately to my rear, if he could let me know how long we’d been running.

“Sorry, not wearing a watch,” was his response.

I stared at him. Flabbergasted. NO WATCH? WHO ARE YOU, YOU STRANGE TRAIL RUNNER? TAKE ME BACK TO MY PEOPLE.

So, I trekked ahead, hoping I would soon be out of his ear range and closer to someone who shared some of my race ideals (you know, like total finish time, and maybe a small hint of self competition.)

Luckily, I soon identified a couple of guys sporting watches who happily informed me how long the clock had been running. I made a mental note, and went back to focusing on the slow thing. The first few miles clocked in between 8:30s-8:45s. They felt tediously slow, but I knew my experienced ultra friends had a point, so I kept at the pace.

I was running the 50k sans music because everyone told me “trails are SO MUCH FUN. you’ll love running trials! everyone is so friendly and social!”

Flash to my actual race experience and the one conversation I’d had was about someone’s inexplicable lack of a timing device. And I’m really not sure a blank stare of a response qualifies as “conversing.”

I cursed my trail running friends for lying to me and willed the running gods to parachute down an ipod, hunger games style to save me from 27 miles of dead silence and the scary train of thought that runs through my mind during a race.

Around mile 4, we hit our first creek. As much fun as it looked to jump in waist-deep and splash my way across, running 27 more miles sloshing around in soggy Hokas sounded like no fun at all, so I delicately hopped across the creek on every dry stone I could find.

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Source.

As soon as I was safely on the other side, I saw a guy I recognized out of the corner of my eye.

“Dave!” I exclaimed. (Dave=Dave the Panther, in case you forgot).

“Hey!” he said back as he fell into stride with me.

We started running together, and, while he hasn’t actually said this to me yet,  I’m pretty sure his first thought was “who is this peppy girl in the pink sparkly headband? It’s cute she thinks she can run with me, I guess I’ll indulge her misguided belief, and let her try to stick with me for a few strides.”

Meanwhile, in my head, I’m thinking, “okay, this pace is a little faster than I want to be running, but I’M BEING SOCIAL. This is fun. I said I was here to have fun, so even if I die in the second half because I went out too fast, at least I’ll have made a new friend and had fun all at the same time! Who cares what running friends #1 and #2 have to say about this. I choose fun over smart racing!”

I was pumped.

So, we cruised along at Dave’s pace, and at the time it felt mostly good. While this course is easy by any trail runner’s standards, for this girl, who was rudely informed by my crew of trail running friends that the one place I run that I call a “trail” is most definitely not such a thing, it was tough. My legs are not used to running on such an uneven surface, dodging roots and stones, climbing up steep hills, and more critically running down steep, technical descents. The hardest thing for me about the course, was being too scared to let my bodyweight glide down hills. I definitely did a number on my quads trying to slow myself on every decline.

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When Dave and I reached our first aid station together, he came to a complete stop as one of the volunteers grabbed my handheld from me and took it away.

I didn’t know which problem to address first.

On one hand, I had this speedy guy, who apparently didn’t care about losing some of the time we had just worked somewhat hard to knock out to leisurely consume a gel and some pretzels, and on the other hand, some jerk (not actually a jerk, an EXTREMELY nice volunteer) walked off with my source of hydration. What happened to running through an aid station and precariously balancing your open bottle in one hand while simultaneously dumping in dixie cups of water with the other?

I was lost. And waterless. And holy shit, out of my element.

That aid station might as well have come equipped with a banner that said (probably all caps style) “welcome to ultra running, Emily, your world is about to get rocked.”

After I got over the aid station drama, the rest of our first loop was just…fun.

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(from halfway, not actually in the middle of the woods)

The terrain kept changing between single track, a few miles on a bike path, hills, crazy winding seriously wooded paths, single track where we were running in the opposite direction and dodging the 50 milers, but dodging in the not-at-all-annoying, rather isn’t-it-fun-to-see-other-runners-and-say-“killer running, champs!” and creeks. There were at least 4 creeks to jump across, luckily all equipped with some kind of rock path that you could hop across.

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Source

I had a blast. I soaked in the surroundings and silently schemed about future trail races. And not so silently peppered Dave with a storm of questions about anything and everything trail running. With every stride, I felt myself getting more and more hooked on the stuff.

Even after I fell. Yup, full on body-meets-the-earth fell. There was an unruly root, I tripped, and tumbled knees first down onto the path. I got up. I rallied. And honestly, when I started running again, it hurt a little and I worried the show would not go on, but luckily, the pain subsided and everything was fine. Turns out, I can fall (and immediately recover) like a champ. I have lots of practice, and the knee scars to prove it.

Around mile 14, you could start to hear the finish area (which we had to run through to start our second loop of the course.) Seeing Miles at the halfway point was fantastic. He said all the right things, shook his booty at us, and cheered us on our way to the second half of the race.

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After we ran through the field and hit the trails again, Dave checked in with me to see how I was feeling.

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“Great!” I said, which was mostly the truth…kind of.

If I’d been completely honest, I probably would have said something more along the lines of “well, these trails are a little harder on my legs than I expected, and we held a slightly ambitious pace for the first half of the race, and you know, maybe I’m not over the whole Eugene thing, but there is no chance in hell that I’m letting myself back off now and get dropped.”

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So I stuck with “great!”

Dave’s next statement kind of floored me. He told me to let him know if I needed to back off the pace, if I was feeling tired, or to tell him if I wanted to push it at all.

HOLD UP, I thought. This dude, who is clearly a better runner than I am, is just going to stick by my side? I’d assumed since our first slightly aggressive strides together, that at some point, we would part ways, so he could pick it up to this finish, leaving me behind to flounder into some kind of ultra running wall.

The selfish part of me was positively giddy that I’d gained a very fun, very motivating, and very strong running partner for the duration of the race. And believe me, I let the selfish part win any internal arguments that may have led to insisting Dave go on without me. Sorry Dave, and also, thanks.

I made a conscious decision not to check my garmin at all after I started running with Dave. 1) because I didn’t want to let someone else in on the not-secret that I’m completely data dependent and incapable of running without scanning my wrist every .2 seconds and 2) because I didn’t want to let our pace intimidate me and make me think I should slow down.

So I was completely oblivious when my garmin actually did die somewhere around Mile 15.

Mile 15 is also where I saw the first snake. First of three. The ballsy mother fucker was stretched across the path and the second I saw him, I jumped higher in the air than ever before and let out a not-so-quiet scream. That’s pretty much the exact same scene that played out with the next two slithering shits.

It’s miraculous I didn’t drop out of the race at that very moment.

The next few miles are kind of a garminless blur. We ran trails, we chatted about everything from running to Middlebury to life stories and back to running again. By the time we reached an aid station around mile 20, I was definitely starting to feel the wear of the course and pace in my legs.

We slowed down and stopped. Something that after 6 prior aid stations, I had finally accepted as the norm and stopped silently counting seconds in my head as a small funeral tribute to the race time lost.

A volunteer started filling my water bottle and said, “you know, there’s two girls right up ahead, probably only two minutes in front of you, and you look great.”

“THEY look great?” I tried to clarify.

“No, YOU look great. Here’s your water bottle, let him finish filling his, start running, he’ll catch up, you know what you need to do.”

I looked back at Dave who just nodded, his face lighting up with excitement at the prospects that lay a few minutes ahead of us.

I started running. Fast. If there’s something that will put life back in my legs, it’s the scent of competition. Having someone tell me I looked “strong” when I felt anything but didn’t hurt the cause either.

Dave quickly caught up and asked what I wanted our strategy to be for the takedowns. You see, Dave may have been playing it cool with his “I’m just here to have fun” rhetoric, but the second he got the chance to get competitive, he was all over it, even if it was for the sake of someone else’s race. (Yes, I’ve already informed Dave that he could make a killing as a professional pacer, let me know if you want to hire him for your next race.)

We decided a steady gain would be perfect for overtaking the chicks and saving enough fuel to keep us (and by “us”, I really mean me) going strong to the finish.

A mile later, if that, we saw them looming in the distance. The first one was easier to pick off. Dave was leading the charge and cheersed me, handheld water bottle style, as we got in front of her. The second one hung on for a bit, but by the top of the next hill, we had passed her as well.

We kept at our strong pace, eager to leave them firmly behind, and excited at the prospect of a respectable finishing time. After we cruised through the first loop around 2:15, I had told Dave I would love to finish my first ultra in a faster time than my first ever marathon, which was a 4:40 something. He responded with something along the lines of “no sweat,” clearly immediately picking up on the fact that sweat talk is kind of my thing.

For the final miles, our conversation subsided. Dave led, I followed. He kept calling out things to motivate me to keep running strong “C’mon Ultra Girl” "Do your Hokas proud!” “It’s a great day to be a panther” “Last big hill, dominate it”(that last one was a lie. a dirty, dirty lie.)

At this point, my legs were tired. I was running farther than I ever had before, and I was doing it three weeks after my goal marathon, without a taper. Every hill hurt. Up. Down. It didn’t matter, it wasn’t pretty. But I’ve been tired in a race before and you’d better believe I wasn’t about to give up in my first ultra, especially after informing my pacing friend early in the race that my real strength in running is my mental game.

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Finally, we hit the part of the course where you could hear the finish. I’d told Dave about a thousand times to drop me and kick it in to the finish line, to which he’d politely told me, “no way.”

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So we charged the finish line together.

Clocking in at 4:24.04 for a sweet negative split

2nd place female for me

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Tie for 8th place overall together

And an Age Group win for Dave

Dave was right, it was a great day to be a panther.

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And a great day for my first, and most definitely not last, ultra running experience.

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84 Responses to Dirty German 50k Race Report

  1. THANK YOU!!!

  2. Congratulations Emily!! So exciting! What a wonderful accomplishment!

  3. awesome recap and great job crushing your first ultra. reading that recap makes me want to go run trails and sign up for 50K’s. onward to the next adventure

  4. Way to go!

    Jeez, every runner girl needs a Panther Dave!

  5. And now that I’ve actually read it, CONGRATS!!!

  6. So you guys made out afterwards, right?

  7. I don’t comment here much, but this was an awesome recap. Amazing! Congrats on the finish (to you and Dave)!

  8. can you and dave get married and have ultra runner babies? Congrats! Great job!

  9. “i didn’t know which problem to address first.” totally snorted at work on that one.

  10. This is amazing. Congrats!

    I hope you and Dave are now married, or at least dating, because he sounds perfect. As long as he also likes to “hydrate.”

  11. I am so impressed! Congratulations on such an epic race! Can’t wait to read your future ultra race recaps!

  12. Congrats!! What a great race recap, I really liked reading this! You are inspiring. :)

  13. You continue to amaze me! Nice work and nice work to Dave too!! Amazing!

  14. What a recap – I usually just scan through race recap posts because my attention span is basically zero but I read every single word of this one.

    Huge congrats to you and Dave!

    xxx

  15. Great recap! What would have done without Dave? Dont’ think about it! I’m almost to the end of reading “Born to Run” (finally!) and feel semi-obsessed with ultra trail runs so I was especially pumped to read your recap. Not sure I’m ready for the ultra but maybe someday…congrats!

  16. Great recap, you captured many of the highlights with ultras that I’ve found over the last few (even though I’m towards the back of the pack, not the front like you)

  17. Congratulations!! This race report is awesome. I totally laughed out loud at the first aid station. I’ve done the occasional trail race and it always confuses me. Um, where is my chip? Why aren’t you guys wearing watches? And why isn’t there a real finish line?

    But anyways…loved this! I second the request for Emily-Dave-ultra-babies. ;)

  18. What an incredible accomplishment – Congrats!!!

  19. Dave sounds amazing. As does the whole experience!

  20. Awesome freaking race recap (and fantastic race). Congrats on being second overall! This is making me want to run trails even though I am a tried and true road runner. And Dave the Panther sounds pretty freaking rad!

  21. Amazing job, Emily. Congrats on bagging your first Ultra, and so fearlessly!!!

  22. Yo craaaaaazy guuuuurl. But it suits you : ) I love the recap and your abilities (mental and physical) amaze me!!! CONGRATS!!!

  23. Love it. You make an ultra seem so do-able, which I am sure is a testament to just how much fitness you actually have. I’m floored you ran a sub-3:10 marathon three weeks before this. So admirable. Also, have you ever written an overview of how you went from a 4:40 marathoner to a 3:08 marathoner? I think people could really be inspired to hear about how much progress can be made with marathon running. Congrats!

    • Congrats to you and Dave! How awesome to find someone like him in your first ultra! I second the post about your marathon story & how you went from 4:40 to 3 & some change. Considering my first & only marathon was 4:40, I could use some inspiration! Btw, this race is in Northeast Philly. I might’ve questioned your sanity if you ran an ultra through North Philly, lol ;).

  24. Best line: “The ballsy mother fucker was stretched across the path…” My coworkers had to make sure I hadn’t inhaled my water on that one. :)
    Congrats! Am laughing at all the, “are you and Dave a super duper cute couple now?” comments! So, are ya gonna tell us or not???

  25. freaking awesome.
    does Philly redeem itself now?!

  26. You are so badass. Have a tone of fun in Burlington this weekend!

  27. You never EVER cease to amaze me girl! Why is it now that I want to run an ultra?

  28. Congratulations, Emily! How kind and great of Dave to run with you. It sounds like a lot more fun running with him than alone!
    I’m looking forward to reading about your next ultra races!!

  29. You beast! Sounds like it could not have been a better experience.

  30. :)! You really do <3 sweat!

  31. How fun! And how cool that there is a beautiful park in the shithole that is North Philly! Nice job :)

  32. Awesome race, Emily! I love following your sweaty adventures in blog land.
    Do I smell a 50 miler in your future?

  33. Your race recaps are, by and far, my very favorite to read. Glad it went so well!

  34. loved reading this!! congrats. it kinda makes me want to look into trails. kinda. or maybe not. :) either way-awesome job on your first one!!

  35. fantastic job, emily! i also absolutely love your race recaps :)

  36. Congrats! Your race recaps are always so detailed and entertaining. Trails are so much fun, and I agree that they are better without music. If I tried to run trails with music, I would fall all over the place (I still do with music haha). What’s your plan or goal for VCM now that you’ve done 2 great races in the past month?

  37. I can’t BELIEVE you wore non-compression shorts for 31 miles. Can we just talk about chub rub for a second? Are you immune to it?!

  38. And, congratulations!

  39. This is your best race report ever.

  40. You are my running idol. Your recaps are so entertaining and inspiring, I can only hope you one day write a sweaty book!

  41. Congratulations Emily! 50k wow. that’s an amazing time! Good job!

  42. Awesome race! Great job!!

  43. Wow, great job! I was really looking forward to reading about your race because I signed up for a 50k ultra trail run last week, woke up the next morning and starting regretting it. You are giving me great motivation! My race is July 14th and my 1st 50k so I’m super nervous. I think you are making it sound easy, and I know it won’t be.

  44. I love this post so much! You are crazy inspiring. What a great story and it sounds like you had so much fun!

  45. You are SO my hero. Seriously. Is there a longer race in your future?? And is Dave single?? :-)

  46. What a great race story. It’ll be even better when you and Dave share it with your grand kids!!!! ;)
    Congratulations!

  47. OMG Dave sounds AWESOME!! Congrats on your first Ultra! You kicked some trail butt!

  48. This is amazing. Seriously amazing.

    And OOOOH, Dave!!! Did he really not wear a t shirt for the whole race??

  49. I seriously had goosebumps the entire time I read your post! Great job! You are such a motivating inspiration for me! I’m getting ready to start training for my first marathon this fall! Keep up the rock star work!

  50. Great race report! You are SO fast!!! I can’t believe your first trail race was an ultra. That is awesome. Are you hooked?

  51. I love that Dave commented!! Congrats to you both!

    • While I am flattered that you think I am “Panther Dave” (aka a Dave that enjoys running), but sorry to disappoint because I am Vermont Dave that visits Sweaty Emily on occasion. You may remember me from such post as: http://www.sweatonceaday.com/2011/11/going-crutchless.html. You can call me “I don’t run Dave,” because I loathe running. Though just like “Panther Dave” I do support Emily, but instead of encouraging her to run I encourage her to enjoy carbs, dance, have fun, frolic, and other general merriment.

  52. congrats again! and what better way to celebrate with a boot of beer?

  53. Hi my name is inspired.

  54. Congrats. Warning: trail ultras can be addicting. You might be scouring the internet for a 50-miler soon.

  55. Wow, awesome job. Hope you and Dave continued to sweat together post-race…

  56. Dave the Panther seems to be a pretty awesome guy. Definitely stay in touch with him for more ultra fun!

  57. SO awesome! I love trail races, but haven’t ventured anything over 26kms, the ultras still scare me!! Great work on crushing your first, you did amazing, especially only 3 weeks after your 3:08!!! I ran a 3:57 3 weeks ago, and this weekend did a 16 km trail run that was AWESOME! Obviously not at the same level as you, but I love that you are discovering the trail love as well!

    And definitely want to hear about the Dave & Emily ultra babies :P

  58. Awesome!!
    Love this!!
    Love ultras.
    Love hokas.

    You rock.

  59. Enjoyed this first (of many) ultra recaps and loved the straight up happiness in those photos! Congrats again!

  60. Is Panther Dave married?? How weird is it that you meet him at your first Ultra and you end up running it together? It’s fate. Congrats on your finish too!! You’re crazy badass.

  61. Such a funny and inspiring post! Loved every word! Congrats on the race, and I can wait to read more of your speedy adventures.

  62. […] is kind of funny to be posting this now, since you all know how the story ends, but I had to submit this last week before the race happened. So enjoy the talk about my training […]

  63. Holy amazingness … I just got the chills reading that. You are such a rockstar and I am currently researching the nearest ultras!!

  64. Congratulations on an amazing 1st 50k. Honestly my first thought was, Holy Shit! at you finish time but then I thought maybe I should edit that. Then I remembered what you called the snake so I figured it was okay. ;-) My next thought was I’ve worked for 2 years to get under 6 hours, you must be crazy strong! Way to go!!!

  65. Dang girl, great job!! Do you have any other ultras lined up? Looking forward to reading about your first miler, whenever that’ll be :)

  66. I think the most incredible part of this is the reference to your first 4:40-something marathon.

    Do you know how incredible you are?!?! To go from a 4:40 marathon to a 4:24 ultra in just a few years?!?!? I cannot even explain how inspirational this is… I just did my first marathon, and hovered around a 4:45 finish. I was really disappointed in myself…but the more I read your blog, the more I realize I just have to really throw myself into the sport and improve

    Officially hooked on your blog now. Thanks for writing!!

  67. Panther Dave here. Thanks for all the gracious comments. Just wanted to add that Emily would have owned the course even if I hadn’t been there. Don’t let her fool you!

  68. Being that I also just ran my first ever 50K I absolutely laughed at loud at the water station weirdness…. it is definitely a different type of runner! But you did fantastic and sounds like you had a blast. I am already planning my next one and I am pretty certain you are too…LOL

  69. […] really did not think I would be toeing the line to run the Vermont City Marathon on Sunday morning. Last week’s ultra left me fatigued. Fatigued in that delicious, I had a killer race kind of way, but most definitely […]

  70. That is so awesome!!

  71. […] Check. […]

  72. […] see from the above picture of my feet that the decision was a muddy one, but luckily I had all that creek crossing experience from my ultra to get me through […]

  73. […] 1) Last year’s female winner crossed the finish line in 4 hours and 24 minutes, my exact time from the first 50k I did. […]

  74. […] that I’ve been getting on the reg from pretty much everyone in my life since approximately 11:24 am on May 20th. Friends, family members, random runners I’ve met on the trail, my liquor store cashier who gets […]

  75. […] Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. […]

  76. Gianna @ Run, Lift, Repeat

    This is about to be my first ultra next week – I’m mostly excited and probably naive in that I am not too scared so it was fun to read your race report! I am no where near as speedy considering I just ran my second marathon 2 weeks ago in 4:26 but definitely looking forward to dipping into ultra territory!

  77. […] past two years, I’ve flirted with a few of these variables. I took a break from marathoning to try out a 50k in May of 2012 and then introduced myself to the 50 mile distance a few months later. Last year, I […]