50 miles of perseverance

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- For years, I had a goal to participate in a 50-mile race, but injuries and schedules always kept me from getting to the starting line.

This past December, that goal become a reality when I competed in the SunMart Texas Trails Endurance Runs, 50 mile and 50K race, not only the largest Ultra event, but the largest Women's Ultra event in the United States. It is held annually in the Texas's Huntsville State Park and has developed a reputation as one of the more challenging races in the Lone Star State. [editor's note: An Ultra marathon is any organized footrace that extends beyond the standard marathon running distance of 42 kilometers, 195 meters (26 miles, 385 yards).]

Even with all the research and all the questions asked of previous Ultra runners, I wasn't completely sure what to expect and how 50 miles would affect my body or whether I would even be able to finish.

Due to the Alaskan weather, I completed most of my training on the treadmill using a walk/run pattern.

After repeating 30-mile runs on the treadmill three Saturdays in a row, I was pretty confident I could do 50 miles on a trail. My number one goal was to finish; the second was to do it in 10 hours, although I was apprehensive I wouldn't make it in before the 12-hour time limit.

The day started with a hearty breakfast of French toast, eggs, corn dogs and coffee. Us athletes have to eat healthy you know! Promptly at 8 a.m., we lined up at starting line, ready to go. The first 12.5-mile loop left me wondering what I had gotten myself into. The second loop finished with a dose of Motrin - trail running was not as forgiving to my body as the treadmill was and my hips were about to go on strike.

I was elated during the third loop when I realized I would break my goal of 10 hours if I stayed on the pace I was going. On the final lap I was joined by Lt. Col. Mary Louise McEwen from the Maine Air National Guard, a teammate of mine from the All Guard Marathon Team, who was vacationing in Texas.

She was kind enough to join me for a 12.5-mile run on the final lap; this was the lap I struggled with the most so I was very appreciative of her company.

The race was well organized and the aid stations were stocked with just about any type of food athletes wouldn't normally eat on a daily basis.

During the run I continued my feast of healthy food; Doritos, spiced gum drops, M&Ms, boiled potatoes dipped in salt, protein bars, Gatorade and water. Well, it worked! I blew my 10-hour goal out of the water with a finish time of 9:38:48, earning a third place finish in my age group and 88th place out of 193 participants overall.

All in all it was a great experience.

I thank everyone for their encouragement throughout my training, the Eielson Fitness Center for having treadmills with TV access and most of all, my husband for his support and sacrifice so I could properly train and travel to accomplish this goal. I look forward to running another 50 miler, and somewhere in the back of my mind I'm starting to wonder what a 100 miler would be like.