Updated: Jan 1
In an effort to train more on sand and uneven terrain in a year when most live races were cancelled, we excitedly signed up for the waitlist to the Jupiter Ridge Sand Spur 50K Ultra 6 months ago. The race was limited to 60 people and was held on December 27th, so we didn’t think we'd have "a chance in hell" to get in (spoiler alert: the irony of that sentiment is too real now haha). After some last minute cancellations though, we were informed that two spots had opened up for us! We quickly packed our bags and left snowy New Jersey for sunny Florida and thought we’d turn it into a mini holiday. Little did we know, this would be the hardest race we’ve ever done.
It was an incredible way to close out this dumpster 🗑 fire 🔥 of a year-doing the hardest thing we've ever attempted, physically or mentally...Although my “A” goal was to finish the 50k, I’m still extremely proud of completing 26.8 miles before the 9 hour cutoff. I’ve never wanted to quit something so badly before. I was fighting hip pain, realizing how much I truly hate the sand, 50 degree weather (anyone who knows me knows I can’t stand being cold🥶), intermittent downpours of rain, 75 degree blazing hot sun & 💯% humidity...more pounding rain, dodgy knee and calf pain-all within 9 hours. I once read, "the good thing about ultras is you just have to wait a few hours, & the weather / your pain / your mood will undoubtedly change". I finally came to understand this through personal experience.
In our post race debrief with our running coach, Meghan Canfield aka "The Queen", we wrote: “Soooooo today was...a massive challenge; easily the toughest race we’ve ever done. The terrain was 90% ankle deep super soft sand (we thought it was going to be like 20-30% sandy lololol). I immediately realized after the first 2 miles that there was no way I was going to be able to finish the entire 31 miles in under 9 hours. I was soooo disappointed & distraught about it as the race organizers were crystal clear that you’d be listed as a DNF & receive no medal even if you finished at 9:00:01-Then I pivoted & realized well ok this is a training run & medals don’t matter just go as far as you can until they shut it down. The sand was soooo brutal. People were quitting left & right. Darin talked to a few people who dropped out a few laps in (& there were a number of half marathon DNF’ers as well). I had someone see me with my trekking poles during my 15th mile & SCREAM “I’ll GIVE YOU A THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR THOSE!”🤣 then said “seriously though, HOW MUCH FOR THOSE POLES?!”. 😂 Anyway, I really wanted to quit/stop multiple times. It was just so damn hard. Darin walked the first 9 miles with me & I know he was super exhausted & in pain too. Eventually I told him to run ahead if he could & get us that medal lol. So he did, & he finished well within time (~8hours I think)!” The race organizers put up these signs along the entire route with encouraging words or phrases. It was really cool to see that along the way! Just so proud that I didn’t drop out & I gave it my all.🏃🏼♀️☠💪🏽“
It had been the coldest 3 days in FL all year Dec 25th -Dec 27th, so it was under 50 degrees when we started running. Soon it got up to about 75 with a lot of humidity and then it started raining intermittently. Meanwhile with two laps left, the race director stopped me at the start line as I was beginning my next loop and said I could just quit right there and they’d award me with the 13.1 medal 🏅 since I’d done way more than that (I believe I was at mile 22ish). I told her that was ok and I appreciated it, but I would run until the clock stopped at the 9 hour mark / when they'd pull me off the course and just try to at least complete the marathon distance / one more loop. I ran as much of the last lap as I could and ended up crossing the line at 8:58 with 26.8 miles run (does that count as an ultra?! 🤣). At the beginning of Mile 23 it started to absolutely pour, and I was as miserable as I’ve ever been, but I am super proud of persevering and crossing the finish line 🏁 regardless... and not giving up even when I knew I wouldn’t be able to complete the last lap. I was of course the last person out there and when I crossed the finish line they (to my absolute shock) awarded me the ultra medal anyway and said “you earned it in our books - you’ve been our here the longest and it’s well deserved”. 😩😭☺️ It was one of the best run, socially distanced, well managed races we’ve ever participated in ... but my God it was definitely the most difficult thing we’ve ever done.
Darin thought the race was absolutely brutal as well. He said, “There were multiple times I didn’t think I’d finish. Running through soft sand was incredibly difficult and painful. We haven’t trained much at all in sand and this was a huge wake up call for the type of training we need to add to our plan for the MDS. The hot sun then pouring rain made the day both beautiful and grueling over 8 hours of running. Many months ago we ran our first 50K through Central Park in NY and conditions were great compared to this. This race was limited to 60 runners and was managed so well! The entire thing was socially distanced and volunteers kept us fed well over the 6x 4.5 mile loops through sugar sand, hard-packed scrubby flatwood, and a little marsh. Even though there were times I questioned why I was there and why we chose ultra running, I really enjoyed the course itself. We’ve always loved the beach and the ocean."
Darin also had the opportunity to try an “uncrustable” for the first time in his life (a standard ultramarathon PB&J type snack at aid stations) and it was exactly what he needed! He had a ton of Pringles and mini Payday bars as well 😎. The medals 🥇 for the race are awesome and have little bits of sand from the race inside!! It’s a funny and cruel joke to take a piece of the torture with you! Although the race was the toughest race we’ve ever done, we are planning on signing up for next year...we just can’t see any more sand for a few months though 🤓😉. Thank you all for continuing to share in our training journey. Sending wishes of peace, love, and joy your way in 2021! xoxo, Jules (& Darin too!)