The Bull Run 50 is put on by the VHTRC and is only about 35 minutes away from our house. I have wanted to run this race forever, but somehow it never seemed to work with my schedule. This year I got in off the waitlist and was excited to finally run it!
Much of the Bull Run trail is lined with bluebells, and the race is scheduled for what is typically peak bloom. Thanks to our cold winter the bluebells were not in full bloom, but there were still a good number out there. The weather was in the 50s or 60s the whole time with a light breeze, and it was a great day to be out in the woods.
Miles 0 – 16.6: The Good
I caught up with a few friends at the start, and we were off in the early dawn at 6:30am. After a short lap around the parking lot area to spread us out were headed down to the Bull Run trail for the first out back section.
I felt great and rolled along in 8:30s. The legs felt good and the weather was awesome. What more could you ask for? I slowly moved up positions and was trying not to get too crazy too early. I ran a bunch of miles with a guy who also ran Grindstone last year in a similar time, and it was nice to have some company for a while. I hauled up the steep climb back to the start / finish area and quickly moved through the Mile 16.6 aid station in 2:25 elapsed. So far so good!
Miles 16.6 – 28.1: The Not So Good
The rest of the race was basically the exact same course as the MGM 50K I have done about 5 times with the addition of the white loop to add a couple of miles. The good news was that I was in familiar territory. The bad news was that my legs were not exactly fresh at the start of this 50K section. In fact I started to realize that my legs were REALLY not fresh.
The 12.5 miles to the Fountain Aid Station at mile 28 were a slow deterioration. Even the people dressed in superhero costumes at mile 26 couldn’t cheer me up! At Fountainhead I was super excited to see Jen and Liam for the first time. It was great to have Jen back out at a race and awesome to have Liam come out and cheer for me as well. He ran underneath the tape into the runner area and started clapping and yelling “yay!” Such cuteness should not be allowed.
I was a bit of a mess at this point. My legs were garbage and the stomach was off. The only things that looked remotely edible were some oranges so I grabbed a few of those, gave Liam a hug, and headed out on the white loop.
Miles 28.1 - 35: The Ugly
Well the oranges came back up, and I felt like death. My legs had nothing and I was super nauseous. I very badly wanted to continue running a good pace and finish under 8 hours, ideally breaking my 7:51 PR for 50 miles. But I made the tough call to flip the switch, slow down, and take the time to get myself in good enough shape to finish. It was a difficult decision but in retrospect was 100% correct, and if anything I should have done it sooner.
I started to walk everything except slowly jogging some of the downhills. The plan was to go slow until the next aid station and then stop there for as long as it took to nurse myself back to health. Well it took me an hour to cover the next 4 miles, and I slumped down in a chair to put the pieces together.
People were giving me the pep talk to keep me from dropping, but the thought never crossed my mind and I assured them I would get it done. It was a welcome contrast to some of my past DNF experiences. I stayed there for 7 minutes eating watermelon and drinking ginger ale. They asked if I wanted a popsicle, which was the best idea I have heard in my entire life. I felt a good bit better and knew I would be back again in 3 miles, so I headed off for the infamous Do Loop.
I was on the upswing but still was struggling. I walked a good portion of the first half of the loop but gradually started to pick up the pace. I popped an S-Cap and was feeling better by the minute. I had expected the Do Loop to take me 45 minute in my current state but was pleased to be back in less than 35.
Miles 35 – 50.4: The Comeback!
I had another popsicle, more ginger ale, and more fruit. I got through the aid station much faster this time and was excited to get back to see Jen and Liam. They probably thought I was a goner by now given my meltdown!
I was able to continually pick up the pace and was amazed at how much my race had turned around. I was moving at a really good pace again and feeling really strong. I flew through the last section in sub 9 and charged into the aid station. Coming in hot! I was looking around for the family and saw a tiny human down by my feet. Hello, Liam! He had crossed under the tape again, but I guess if you are cute enough no one stops you.
I told Jen the last stretch was brutal but that I was back and ready to finish strong. I told her I was on the hunt and going to pick up some of the places I had lost. I picked up Liam for another hug, refueled, and was out of there at 6:19 elapsed.
The back 12.5 went as well as could be expected. I ran strong for the first 5 or 6 miles but started to fade, which is to be expected. My only big mistake on this section was that I ran out of S-Caps and forgot to grab one at the marina aid station 5.5 miles from the finish. I was cramping and struggling at the end and think I might have made a bit better time had I remembered the S-cap.
But there was no major harm done, and I managed to average about 10 minute miles over the last 12.5 to finish in 8:27 and 28th place (280 finishers out of 325 starters). It wasn’t the sub 8 I had been hoping for, but I was really happy to minimize the damage after the very rough stretch from 25 to 35. I seem to finally have enough brain cells to make smarter decisions in these races. It is tough to have everything go right in a race this long and awesome to be able to still finish well when things go south.
It was really nice having Jen and Liam there to welcome me across the finish line, and we had a great time hanging out afterwards. Bull Run is an incredible event, and I really hope to go back again soon!
Early on in the race crossing a stream
Cruising under one of the bridges
Hanging with the little man at mile 38. Felt great at this point after coming back from the dead.
Super happy to be finishing!
Had a great time hanging out with the family at the finish