Yesterday was my sweet sixteen….my 16th ultra, that is. I ran the Glacier Ridge Ultra, which is about 45 minutes north of Pittsburgh. I honestly was not excited for this race. I was only doing it because I need to have completed a 50 (or longer) in the last 2 years in order to qualify for Grindstone in October.
I went went to sleep the night before the race pretty sure I was developing a sinus infection. I woke up feeling pretty gross and with a ton of sinus pressure. Wonderful.
The first 20 miles consisted of some of the prettiest single track I’ve ever seen. It was gorgeous and bright, bright green. I felt like I could run forever. I thought about taking more pictures but instead decided to simply enjoy it.
Then mile 21 hit. At that point we had to run on about 8 miles of dirt road, in the blazing sun, with lots of thick muddy patches. It was brutal; I hate roads. The only good part was that I was able to keep up a decent pace. In fact I had to keep slowing myself down. I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough gas in the tank at the end.
At mile 29 we got back on trails and did a pretty crappy loop up to a pipe with a phone book attached. We had to take a page from the phone book and bring it back to the aid station to prove we did this little loop.
From the aid station we got back on those roads and ran the 8 miles back. That really messed with my brain. It all looked so similar and I just couldn’t help but look at my watch all the time. During this time I had a bit of a nosebleed, so that was fun. Thankfully it wasn’t a gusher like it often is.
The final 10 miles were the same as the first 10 miles. They were described as rocky. On the way out I remember thinking that the rocks weren’t bad at all and that it was pretty runnable. It definitely seemed more rocky on the way back. I had several moments when I thought I was lost because many of the ribbons marking the course were gone. I got to the point of getting out my phone and reading the detailed directions. I thought back to the guy I had seen repeatedly during the first 30 miles. He had a course map rolled up and was carrying it throughout the race. I thought that was really odd but at that point wished he was nearby. I came to realize that they only left up ribbons at intersections and turns. Once I realized that I worried a lot less and decided to get moving. And then I slipped on icy-slick mud going down a hill. I landed on some branches, on my thigh. It hurt but at least I had plenty of padding. I got up, appreciated my new abundance of mud and kept going.
I was hiking a lot more in this section than I had hoped and kept telling myself to run. Suddenly the skies opened up and it began to rain. The temperature dropped quite a bit. I started running again and then realized running had become a lot easier with the new coolness. I was able to run most of the last 4 miles, except for the super slippery muddy parts.
The last 1.3 miles were on a path that was part pavement and part crushed stone. I ran all of it as hard as I could, even the up hills. The had a number of signs on this section. Some gave us remaining miles while others were “motivational” (except they weren’t). I swore at the one sign that told me there was 0.75 mile remaining.
I was so happy to finish. I just wanted to be done and get my vegan milkshake back in Pittsburgh. I cleaned up, retrieved my drop bag, nursed my daughter and we headed back.
Oh! While I was on that horrible dirt road the first time I looked into the woods on my right and saw a bleeding hearts bush. I should have grabbed my phone to take a picture but didn’t. I’ve never seen one in the wild. My mom used to buy hanging baskets of bleeding hearts when I was a kid, so I always associate her with it. I think that was her way of saying hi!