Woods Ferry 24 Hour Trail Race

Did I think I could run for 24 hours? No! But I entered the Woods Ferry 24 Hour Ultra Trail Run anyway and came out finishing my first ultra in the least expected and unplanned way. For one, I didn't sign up until a week ago. And I didn't even think I could finish a marathon distance. Let alone an ultra.

Woods Ferry 24 Hour is a low-key trail race organized and directed by Terri Hayes, who started the South Carolina Ultra Trail Series. Four years into its existence, the series now offer five races featuring various distances in different forests throughout SC. The best of all? They are all free events. No frills, no chip-timing, and no t-shirts. Only labors of love, fully-stocked aid stations, unique finisher's award, and good times.

The race didn't start until 4 p.m., but I arrived early to set up my tent. Terri briefed us about the course 15 minutes prior to start. It's a lollipop-shaped course which consists of a 1.3 mile out-and-back connecting to a 4.5 mile loop. There are a couple of climbs in the beginning of the loop, but they are not bad at all. The whole loop totals at about 600 feet elevation gain. My five loops put me at around 3000' at the end. Fully-stocked aid station at the start and at about 4 miles into the loop. The mid-loop station helped tremendously both physically and mentally.

From talking to ultra-veterans along the trails, I've learned quite a bit. For instance, the importance of walking. Walk early, and walk before you need to. It teaches the body to take a rest and recover, and be able to start running again. If you wait till after four hours to start taking walking breaks, your body will not want to run again as soon as you stop. If you can't see over the hill, walk it. In the course of 24 hours, you eventually will start walking the hills. Running up the hills with tired legs doesn't gain you much time. There's more harm than good. Finally, fuel frequently. I've never used gel or other supplements during runs and usually just take advantage of whatever energy drink the race provide on the course as a plus. However, ultra is a whole different ball game. I made the grave mistake of waking up from last night's 31 miles and decided to run the an extra loop pretty much on empty. I felt like I was ready to pass out by mile two but hold onto the hope of getting to the aid station. Peanut butter crackers never tasted so good.

Each of the loops took me about 1:30 - 1:45 to run. It was already 11 p.m. when we finished the fourth loop. At that point, I was pretty happy with my 31 miles since it was literally my first 50K, the furthest I had ever ran. This was only supposed to be a training run for my first 50K in the fall, but I will take it. Nicole, my running friend who has the tenacity and attitude of a honey badger when it comes to running, decided to keep going. She finished her night at 50 miles. Oh, did I mention that this is her first ever trail run? Like I said earlier, I woke up the next morning and decided to go for an extra loop. I caught up with a couple of people at the mid-point aid station and they helped pace me back home. 38.75 miles in 24 hours. Nothing crazy like the few who planned to get 90-100 miles in, but I'm pretty sure I had as much fun as they did.

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