A flat 50K (32-miler, actually) that kicks off at 5:33 PM (for my assigned wave 2) in a new state just over two hours north of where I reside felt too convenient an opportunity to pass up, although the race, Night Train 50K, taking place in the middle of summer on June 26, 2021, and my body typically not efficiently reacting to intense heat I anticipated would add an extra layer of challenge. The event would commence in Camp Paradise, Virginia, and take the runners through downtown, Tuggle, and Prospect and straight to the turnaround a mile west and back. 86 degrees here, perhaps due to humidity, felt significantly warmer than 86 degrees in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I restrained my speed, which for the first couple of miles tired my legs slightly before they warmed up to the sluggish pace.

I began feeling the impact of humidity only six miles in and raced more conservatively after ten miles. Bugs I had never seen before would not stop attaching to me, and I even saw an immense black snake crawling across the course. I felt psychologically strengthened once I turned around at the halfway point 16 miles in, marked by two chairs, albeit my OCD made me go slightly farther and past these chairs prior to turning around. I put on my headlamp just past this midpoint and repeatedly spotted what seemed to be poisonous spiders standing still when I looked down; I was amazed I never actually stepped on any and continued to come an inch or two away from doing so. Thanks to the inevitable dehydration, keeping myself mentally alert and motivated became a struggle with over ten miles to go, but my legs still felt fresh because I could not run as fast as I hoped to. Understanding this to be a 32-miler and not a 31.07-miler, with five miles to go I began calculations in my head how swiftly I would have to move to finish comfortably under seven hours and continued to push whenever my body would let me. I reached the 50K mark around 6:37 and crossed the finish line, 32.22 miles according to my Garmin, in an official time of 6:52:12, while the raw data from the race director read 6:52:11.3. (No big deal, but this confused me because my watch shows 6:52:11 in spite of my starting it before crossing the start and stopping it after crossing the finish, but an ultrarunning veteran who has run 191 marathons and ultramarathons to date I met in a race in Alabama explained to me the likelihood of a lag in chip timing caused by various factors, such as the reading of RFID chips from timing machines and the connections of computers.)

Driving back home immediately well past midnight felt nerve-racking, as I encountered countless deer and other animals by the road. I find it amusing my legs carried me through my eighth ultramarathon yet they feel hardly sore and my upper body aches more. I enjoy putting my body through these tough challenges that make me feel vulnerable and remind me how fragile I am, helping me be more grateful for all that I have and, most importantly, passionately rely on my Savior and Him only. Thank You, Jesus!

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