50k Attempt -How Did I Get Here? by Rae-Anne Nguyen @RaRuns.Me
Let’s start at the beginning - Middle School and High School. I was most definitely considered an athlete. Multiple varsity sports, I lived for being outside. BUT, running was a punishment in my ‘real’ sports, it wasn’t something I would have chosen to do. In fact, I adamantly and proudly would skip soccer preseason morning sessions saying “Goalies don’t run”. If my high school self could see me now...
Fast forward 17 years. My father’s illness and death had halted my gym-going, workout, adventures for a few years, but, I was determined to get back into a good routine. I started back at the gym 3 days a week and even added 2o minutes or so on the treadmill every now and then. I felt okay! I figured I would work my way up to running a few miles at the gym a couple of times a week, but, I would NEVER be a person who runs outside, that would be weird! Runners were weird! Then, a good friend of mine suggested that I run the Sea Dog’s Mother’s Day 5k with her! WHAT??? For some reason, I heard myself saying YES! So, I started running outside after work, and I was hooked. I ran three 5Ks the first year, plus stumbled upon the Runner’s World Holiday Run Streak, which sounded just terrible enough to be fun! I have had a few setbacks and some minor injuries over the years, but am lucky to have been able to keep moving forward.
I had some grand plans for 2020 - coaching three sports teams, lots of races, lots of group gatherings. But, those things halted with the pandemic. I was not coaching, was working from home most days, and not gathering with friends. All of these things allowed me more time to RUN! Not faster, but, MORE, and I loved it! I found my local trails and felt like a kid again. Growing up in Maine, the woods were where I spent my time. My father was an outdoorsman and being in the woods makes me feel connected to him. I participated in some mileage challenges, some virtual races to support local organizations, started running with my dogs routinely, and started thinking bigger. Longer races, more miles. Goal setting for 2021 included running with my dogs, running 1500 total miles, and running an ultra marathon.
I spent all of summer 2021 training for this event - a HARD 50K at a Maine State Park. I was nervous but confident in my ability to complete the distance. I had many, MANY long runs in the summer heat, with and without friends. In mid October, I lined up in a field with 40ish other crazy, outdoor runners. We started out on a relatively easy 6 mile loop. I quickly made my way to the back of the pack, right where I knew I would be. The first 6 mile section felt great… I moved at my pace and my body felt amazing. I drank enough, but, in hindsight, didn’t take in enough calories. I met my crew at the aid station and headed out for the 9.8 mile section. I felt great until mile 13ish… then, headaches, nausea, and dizziness… All feelings I had on a previous long training run (ironically, on this very section of the race course) and couldn’t recover. I moved slowly, ate what I could, and just tried to keep going. Once I hit the aid station and my crew I did something I never do. I sat down. Changed my clothes, tried to eat some real food, and was pushed back onto the course to try the 6 mile loop again. 2 miles into that loop, I knew I was done. I couldn’t get back into the groove, and was not feeling well. I called it well before I called it into my crew. I made it back to the aid station with about 4 minutes to spare before cutoff… they tried really hard to convince me to go out for the 9.8 miles but, knowing what lay ahead on that lap, there was no way. My first 50k was my first DNF. I felt at peace with the decision at the time, then felt like a quitter, then realized that if I had gone back out, I would have pushed my relationship with running to a place that I never wanted it to go. I didn’t want to hate running again. I wanted to have challenges and adventures and enjoy being in the woods. So, I DNFd my first 50k attempt. There will be more (I’ve already signed up for one in May 2022). But, until then, I will have lots of miles with my dogs, my BRFs, and myself. I never expected to DNF, but, to be cliche, the DNF will help me be even more successful than a completed race would have.