Casually browsing through UltraSignup, I came across TrailAdventure’s High Bridge Ultra 50K, in Virginia, that covers a large portion of the Night Train 50K course. This event, however, comprises different start and finish lines, which appealed to me and, combined with an ideal forecast, lured me into registering a few nights prior to race day on October 8, 2022. The participants would park in Pamplin, be bused to the start near Burkeville, and run through Rice, Farmville, Prospect, and back to Pamplin.
I quietly hoped to redeem myself from my recent horrendous ultra a few months ago and believed this to be inevitable with improved weather conditions. I maintained a steady nine-minute-mile pace and did not consider mixing in walking until approximately 14 miles in to allow for some wiggle room in case I bonked at the latter stage, already a significantly better start than my previous ultra. Perhaps undertrained, my left knee began to act up halfway through, and each time, uncertain whether I was verging on an injury or my muscle was shocked running so much out of the blue, I prayed to God to heal me and took a short walking break. Albeit still cautious, I felt restored enough to carry on running. Somewhere around here, as I kept my head up and marched forward, I came a couple of feet away from inadvertently kicking a large snake coiled up, having to spread my legs in an uncomfortable position that could have caused a cramp but fortunately did not. When I reached the conclusion of the High Bridge Trail nearly 30 miles in, I had just over a mile to go, and I was frankly nervous about the navigation. I put my earphones away to focus more clearly and remove any potential distractions and was able to figure out the pattern of these signs, ribbons, and chalked arrows, with the exception of the cones, whether or not I was supposed to stay to the left or to the right; as I normally do when unclear, I chose the farther route every time so that I could do more and not potentially less. Every runner was required to check in at each of the six aid stations, and, although the volunteers could see our bibs to check us off, I made sure to ask each of them if they checked me in; one volunteer was unaware she had to do this and had to skip this for everyone. The most memorable conversation during an aid respite would be at 19 miles, when the volunteer attempted to convince me to sign up for a more challenging 50K happening next month, to which I laughed and replied, “Let me finish this first.” Due to the impromptu nature of my eleventh ultramarathon, I was pleasantly surprised to achieve my second-fastest official 50K race of 6:25:13. As always, I thank God for providing me with strength and endurance to enjoy another one of these unique adventures, none of which I take for granted.