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January 07 2013 / Emily

Race Report: Frosty 50k

On Saturday morning, I ran my first ultramarathon.  Spoiler alert: it was awesome.

But if you’re reading my blog, you might want a longer summary than that.

My preparations, in terms of running, were woefully inadequate.


Week 10/22 – ran the Ridge to Bridge Marathon (total 41.2 mile week)
Week 10/29 – 2.25 mile walk
Week 11/05 – 19.5 miles run/hike
Week 11/12 – 17.1 miles run
Week 11/19 – 16.1 miles run
Week 11/26 – 28 miles run
Week 12/03 – 32 miles run
Week 12/10 – 35 miles run
Week 12/17 – 30 miles run
Week 12/24 – 21 miles run
Week 12/31 – Frosty 50k race week!

You may note that my total weekly mileage rarely exceeded the total 50k distance. Don’t think you’ll find anyone who recommends that for ultra training.  This led to me being very, very nervous about my preparation (or lack thereof).

The race was at Salem Lake, a spot I’m very familiar with right here in Winston-Salem, NC.  I’ve done the bulk of my long runs there for the past few years.  It has also been the home of many of my distance bests, as my running has built up over time.  I did my first 7 mile run there, circling the lake entirely for the first time back in the summer of 2008, as I was training for the Salem Lake Trail Run 10k 2008.  The Salem Lake Trail Run 30k race 2009 was my first run at that distance, while I was working up to my first marathon.  My first 20 miler was on roads around town but the vast majority of the rest have been at Salem Lake, including getting up to 21 miles.  My marathons have all been elsewhere but now here I was, ready for a new distance record at the 50k.

Where better than Salem Lake?  Due to all the time I spend there, I’m intimately familiar with the trail: with each twist and turn; with the major hills and the little sneaky ones that seem to get bigger when your mileage stacks up; with the smushy ground when the path crosses the far fingers of the lake around mile 2.5; with the way the sun shines down harder than anywhere at the two stretches under the power lines; with the small decline as the path leads counterclockwise away from Linville Road that always seems to provide a refreshing breeze.  No surprises there.  Also, minimal travel (about 10 minutes drive) and an affordable price tag ($30+fees) added to the appeal of the Frosty 50.

I figured, if things went awry, I could drop out near the final turnaround, and sulk back up the back hill to the parking lots.  You’ll see the race map below.  The course is a double out-and-back.  Begin at the star, run the lake counterclockwise to the turnaround point, then run the lake clockwise.  Then repeat.  I figured if I was in real pain, I would bail around mile 24 (between the words “turn” and “greenway” on the map) and take the other path up to the parking lots.

But thankfully, there was no need to have my first DNF (did not finish).

Aside from the low-mileage training, my remaining preparation was typical and careful.  Carbed up with some pasta, salad, beer the night before (though I had company this time – nice perk!).  Good night sleep – though I’ll admit that’s not entirely typical.  Oatmeal and tea for breakfast.  Covered myself with Body Glide, or so it seemed, then got dressed.  Drove over to the lake and sat in my car for a while to stay warm before the race.

One atypical thing – brand new socks.  I took the gamble and it paid off.  Picked up these silly-expensive but totally worth it Smartwool socks on Friday at REI.  My Cascadia trail shoes are a little wider than the Ravennas I wore before, so I needed a little more padding in the sock, and I also wanted a slightly higher ankle to keep the dirt out better on trails.  I think these are the specific socks: Smartwool PhD Run Ultra Light Mini.  And I got a pair of cheap cotton gloves from Target, because I knew I wouldn’t want them the whole time and didn’t want to worry if I lost them along the way.

January 5 - Frosty 50k Prep

Then the time came to head to the start.  I was hoping to run with a friend who came up from Charlotte for the race.  He had a couple other gals with him who I had spent a little time running with at Ridge to Bridge, so I figured some familiar faces would be very helpful during the long run ahead.  However, they got caught in a bathroom line and I started the race alone.

I wore RaceReady capri pants, long sleeve shirt over short sleeve shirt, throwaway gloves and my dri-fit earband, and carrying my Amphipod handheld water bottle.  Hands were cold and numb immediately in the 28-30 degree weather, but as I expected within 2 miles they were plenty warmed through.  I was very satisfied with my choice of attire.

Frosty 50k was also Frosty 50k relay and Frosty 25k.   This made for a bit of a crowd at the start and in the early miles.  Not bad, but just minor congestion.  Served well to keep me from going out too fast, which tends to be my M.O. in the first mile of the Salem Lake trail.  Around mile 4, I saw a friendly face.  It was Nathan, who I met and ran with a while at the Raven Rock Rumble, along with his friend Paul who was just ahead on the trail.  I wouldn’t have ever recognized him even though he was only like 6 people in front of me, so I was glad for Nathan needing to, um, water a tree so early in the race.  I ran with Paul and Nathan for much of the next 16-18 miles.  It was so nice to have company.  As we neared the turnaround, I saw a bunch of my other friends who were also running the race, including Steve who was in the process of destroying the 25k and we exchanged a wicked high-five.

Nothing too noteworthy through here.  Just chatting with the guys about past races, future plans, mishaps and successes.  At the Linville Road aid station on the way back, I grabbed a couple peanut m&ms.  Ultra races generally have a variety of foods out for the runners – real foods, not just gels.  I was leery of my sometimes questionable digestion, but knew I wanted to try eating some solid foods during a race at some point.  Two m&ms, big gamble, I know!  ha!  I’d removed my gloves a while back and stuck in one of my pockets, and when we got to the start/turnaround/finish (mile 15.5), I went to my drop bag and left my glove and earband, and grabbed a couple more gels.  I’d had 2 of my standard Strawberry Clif Shots during the first out-and-back, at hours 1 and 2, so my pockets needed a refill.  Also hit up the portajon more of precaution than necessity.  There aren’t a lot of options for a lady out among the leafless trees.

Miles were still ticking off smoothly at this point, as I should have expected.  We were walking up the hills and enjoying the break.  My legs felt good.  We returned to the Linville Road aid station, around mile 19 now, and I opted for an eighth of a bagel with a smear of peanut butter.  Might have been the best thing I’d ever eaten.  Amazing how that works.  I walked it out and walked slowly so I could chew and swallow.  As we continued, I noted the permanent Mile 5 marker and realized that when I saw it again on the final “back” of the second out-and-back, it would be 26 miles.  Pretty much a marathon.  I was slowing a little on the back half of this loop and Nathan and Paul went on ahead, so I was on my own for the remainder.  Saw them once more near the last turnaround as I continued trucking along.

Then, around mile 24, I had a first.  I caught a runaway dog.  In the middle of a race.  I saw a large poodle or doodle of some sort wearing a puffy vest running toward me, with a leash hanging loose behind him.  50 meters back was a boy about 6 years old, chasing after the dog, and behind the boy another 50m was what I assume to be his father.  Yes – a doodle in a puffy vest.  No – not some sort of distance running hallucination.  I considered quickly and reached out toward the dog, who looked friendly, and he slowed and looked at me until I grabbed his leash.  The owners were right there momentarily and thanked me greatly.  I was just laughing to myself.  Who catches a runaway dog in a puffy vest at the late stages of an ultra?

Another aid station was ahead, and I had some Gatorade and a quarter of a peanut butter & jelly sandwich.  Delicacy.  Last leg here.  That aid station had been my last life-line, my plan for where I would give up if I needed to.  And hell if I was going to do that.  My legs felt good, they felt fine really.  I know I was taking it easy, taking walk breaks, but I never feel so good and relaxed at mile 24 of a marathon!

It was almost here… that 26th mile.  Passed the mile marker and another 0.2 on my watch, and I’d finished a marathon in about 4:37.  Only 3 of my 12 marathon races have been faster than 4:37… weird.  Every step beyond this was the furthest I’d ever run.  Part of me wanted to ignore that, and I alternately tried to convince myself I was only running a marathon, and mentally patting myself on the back for enjoying this distance so much.  Came up to the Linville aid station for the final time and enjoyed another eighth of bagel with peanut butter.  Better than filet right then.  I didn’t have any of my Clif Shots on the second out-and-back, opting for the solid foods instead, and my stomach felt just fine.  Such a relief!

Passed a few people on the last 5k.  Then I realized it was the last 5k, which means I’d already run NINE 5ks.  Whoa.  On this last lap, I was giving myself up to 1 minute of walking break per mile, and a walk up the final hill which came with about 1.25 miles to go.  No walking after that uphill.  I finished strong with a big smile on my face.

50 kilometers.  5:26:35.  That’s roughly a 10:30 pace over 31 miles.  I thought finishing in 5:30 was the best possible scenario and was thinking 5:45 was more likely.  It wasn’t until the last 5k before I let myself realize I wasn’t going to hit the wall, and wasn’t going to bonk.

Unbelievable.  I’d finished my first ultramarathon and I felt great, my legs were just fine, and I was elated.  Accepted my medal, okay there was a little wobble there as I got used to standing still again, and met up with friends who had finished ahead of me.  Then I went and got some sandwich cookies, which as you may guess, were the best thing I’d ever eaten.  I even dropped one in the dirt and decided it was too delicious to sacrifice, so I just dusted it off.  Shhhh 5 second rule.

A few minutes later, my other friends finished.  We made plans to head out burgers and beer.  Then we got to our destination and after ordering beer (they were out of two specifically requested brews), the waiter comes out to sheepishly tell us they are out of ground beef.  What the what?  We calm our hungry 31 mile selves and order other foods.  I get a steak & cheese and some mac & cheese.  A couple minutes the waiter comes out to inform us they are out of mac & cheese.  I actually cursed at him.  You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.  (I apologized later.)  Fine, fine, french fries.  Then I got the hiccups from eating too fast and had to set my food down and look at it longingly as my stupid diaphragm spasmed and I lurched about like a punching bag.  Fortunately they passed before too long so I could scarf down some of the calories I hadn’t already made up with bagels and peanut butter and cookies off the ground.

And now, 2 days later, my legs feel great.  My feet are in good shape (thanks Smartwool!), my muscles are pretty much normal, and I’m left wondering if I made up the whole thing.  But I did run it!  And I have a medal to prove it.

fifty kilometers!

fifty kilometers!

If you just give yourself a chance and get out the door,
Your mind and body will surprise you most of the time.

Jenny Barringer Simpson



Leave a Comment
  1. Mary / Jan 8 2013 8:47 AM

    Congrats!! That’s amazing

    • Emily / Jan 13 2013 10:21 PM

      thank you! it was fun!

  2. Dana Custer / Jan 8 2013 8:54 AM

    Em your writing is so entertaining! The race sounds pretty awesome and your time is incredible! I did laugh out loud about the dog and swearing at the waiter- hilarious!

    • Emily / Jan 13 2013 10:22 PM

      Thanks Dana – I certainly find humor in some things and am glad I can convey some of it. 🙂

  3. Nathan Maxwell / Jan 8 2013 7:49 PM

    Thanks for the shout-out Emliy!! I had a great time running along side you during most of the race, looking forward to doing it again in the near future! Boogie 50miler, Hinson Lake 24 hr, Derby 50K? So many fun options!

    You did amazing by the way! Very proud of you!!!!

    I’m still working on my race recap, hope to have it done by the end of the week.

    Let’s you, me and Paul run a 50K distance at Raven Rock sometime soon!

    • Emily / Jan 13 2013 10:24 PM

      Thanks for your company along the way! I look forward to reading your post. Definitely need to do some planning for the next round of races in summer and fall. It would be fun to head back to Raven Rock for some more miles with you guys. Need to see when it would fit into my marathon training (race is March 2).

  4. Steve / Jan 9 2013 8:09 AM

    we just both seem to crush races that involve us high fiving somewhere in the middle. great job on the 50K and sounds like a solid strategy that paid off over the morning.

    • Emily / Jan 13 2013 10:25 PM

      thanks! just took it really easy throughout. I know HAT 50k is a different beast of a course, but I hope you’ll find what I did – that it’s not much different from a marathon.

  5. David / Jan 11 2013 9:14 PM

    Congratulations, great race and loved the report. Could visualize every twist and turn of the course. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

    • Emily / Jan 13 2013 10:25 PM

      many thanks! I enjoyed it much more than I had expected.

  6. Darrel Wells / Jan 24 2013 2:14 PM

    Emily, I was looking up your white chili recipe and found your F-50 writeup… I loved it! This made me remember my only F-50 (so far!) in 2009. Great job in the race! I’m way ahead of you on the Smartwools… I’ve got several pair!


  7. JoeR / Sep 19 2014 8:25 PM

    Great report. I have run the Salem Lake 30k two times.


  1. Overdue Recap « run. eat. nap. drink.

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