From “Ridge Sunday” to the “Sand Spur Ultra”. A Pre-race Report.

On November 9th at 2:26 PM I received a message from RD Michael Brown as follows: Jeanette! Guess What! We had a dropout from the Sand Spur and your name came up! You still interested?

My response: OMG. How could I not be?!

And so…that’s how it came to be that I was selected to become part of an elite field of 20 who ran in the inaugural Sand Spur Ultra yesterday, at Jupiter Ridge Natural Area.

A Beautiful Sunrise at Jupiter Ridge

Rewind to the beginning of 2017. A few northern members of the DTR (Down to Run) tribe had been meeting weekly for “Ridge Sunday”, a group trail run at Jupiter Ridge Natural Area. Sometime in April or so a rumor started going around that there “might” be an ultra happening right there at The Ridge later in the year. By early May, the rumor had become a reality and the Sand Spur Ultra was born!

Incidentally, legend has it that the original concept of the Sand Spur was a 100 mile ultra marathon to be run on the 2.6 mile course for 39 loops. Apparently this idea was conceived  during a clandestine conversation between [now] race directors Jen Quellhorst and Michael Brown with the phrase, “Hey, you know what would be really terrible?” Nobody knows for sure which one of them uttered those fateful words.*

Unfortunately, although the RDs were successful in getting a permit to hold the race at the natural area on December 30th, they were forced to cap the number of runners at 20, to protect the sensitive environment of the protected land. And so despite the fact that countless ultra-marathoners from far and wide were interested in signing up, all had to enter their names into a lottery and wait until the end of July to learn their fate.

Fast forward to July 30th, the day when the names would be selected (appropriately enough) after a group run, atop Mt. Ridge. The name-picking was broadcast live on Facebook. And as you’ve probably surmised by now, my name wasn’t chosen that day. And although I loved running at Jupiter Ridge and felt some sort of strange connection with it, I can’t say I was overly disappointed to have not been selected. The thought of running 31 miles on soft sugar sand with approx. 1,000 total feet of elevation was daunting to say the least!

Selecting the Sand Spur Runners atop Mt. Ridge

My name wasn’t selected and that was fine by me. I could still run there any time I’d like without the pressure of having to do it in front of a crowd of people and quite frankly, at that time the longest distance I had ever run was maybe 20 miles! (Yes, since then I did manage to complete an ultra by running my first 50K at Riverbend Park in September.)

Now, let’s circle back to where we started at the beginning of this post. Because only 20 runners could compete in the inaugural running of this race, each and every person that was selected had to make a firm commitment to showing up on December 30th! If for any reason a runner felt that they wouldn’t be able to make it, they were asked to notify the race directors immediately so another name could be picked. That meant that all of us whose names were still in the hat knew that we could be selected any day, literally up until (and including) race day! It turns out November 9th was my luck day!

And so I said “yes” to the invitation and my training began. I had less than two months to prepare for the most epic ultra I would ever have the opportunity to run and I was not going to disappoint! I trained as much as I could by following a modified version of a 50K training plan I found in the book Relentless Forward Progress, by Bryon Powell, and doing some trackless speed workouts that I created called Cadence Bursts. (I’ll write about the Cadence Burst workouts in another post soon, in case anyone is interested in trying them.) My training gave me the endurance and strength I would need to be able to run for 6+ hours on harsh, grim, cruel, severe, strict, remorseless, merciless, pitiless, ruthless, unmerciful, heartless, hard-hearted, unforgiving terrain. (I was going to say “relentless” terrain, but since I had already used that word earlier in the paragraph I decided to look up a synonym for it and, well, using all of the ones I found seemed appropriate!)

And that’s some background that will help you understand the race report that I will post tomorrow.

Oh, one more thing…here’s a picture from packet pick-up at Tri Bike Run on the day before the race. Notice how happy we all look BEFORE running 31 miles in the sand…stay tuned for the full race report with lap-by-lap details, more photos, my music playlist and more!

Race Packet Pick-up and Customized Tweezers by Justine!

*Source: Facebook post



3 Replies to “From “Ridge Sunday” to the “Sand Spur Ultra”. A Pre-race Report.”

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