Dirty German 50k Race Review
You know it was a good race when it’s over a week later and I am still grinning from ear to ear from how much I loved running this race! On May 8th, 2021, I got to run my first in person race of 2021 and my first ever ultra marathon. It was called the Dirty German Endurance Festival. They offer 3 different distances to run: 25k, 50k and 50 miles and the race takes part in Pennypack Park in Philadelphia. The 25k runners run 1 loop, the 50k runners run 2 loops, and the 50 milers run 3 loops plus another 3.5 miles. According to the race director this is a great race to run your first ultra and/or try for a PR if the weather cooperates. I had signed up for the 50k back in January knowing that a friend of mine was running it and had run it another year. This was the 11th year the race has taken place, with last year having to be virtual.
I have done other races put on by Uberendurance Sports and know that they can put on a very nice low-key race with a great experience! I have even been lucky enough to have won a few of their prizes, a cuckoo clock for winning 1st masters and then 2 German weather houses for coming in the top 3 of my age group. Though, going into my first ultra I really had no time goal in mind. I just wanted to embrace the race, have fun and finish the race with a smile. Afterall, the idea of running long has me really enjoying going slower these days. Slow and steady wins the race is a term that comes to my mind quite often these days.
My training leading up to the race was a lot of miles, at a slower pace, and the last month I was running 60-70 miles per week. I did run 43 miles on my birthday to celebrate 43 miles for 43 years, which technically is considered an ‘ultra’, but it was technically unofficial since it was on my own and not an actual race. However, having gone that far just a few months ago really helped the mental aspect of my mind for race day. The only thing I really wasn’t much prepared for was running on real trails. I have run on rail trails but not really the same as what I experienced at the race. I didn’t even have trail shoes until about a month before the race. Talk about a rookie LOL! I ended up going with a brand called Topo Athletic , and the shoe I purchased is called the ultradventure pro. I had gone to my local running store and tried on many different pairs and this pair felt the best. I had never even heard of the brand before, but the owner assured me that most of their staff runs in this very brand. I only had taken them out once to test out at the trails and ran 19 miles in them right away. That is probably not the best idea, but it worked out great for me.
Let’s get to race day! I woke up around 6am, had a little bit of coffee and my usual granola bar. I took a quick shower and then got my race clothes on and everything ready to go. Then it was time to get the kids up, have them eat and get dressed and we were on the road by 7am to head to the start. Fortunately, I live no more than 10-15 mins from the race start. We all had different start times with the 50m starting at 7:15a, the 50k at 8am, and the 25k at 9am. To give you an idea of race size here is how many finished in each category: 129 50 mile runners, 219 50k runners and 444 25k runners. I got down to the bib pick up area and ended up running into 2 friends I haven’t seen since before the pandemic. Bib pick up was a breeze, got a few pictures, went to the bathroom, stretched a bit and then it was time to head to the start. My husband and kids drove me to the race and once I started, they left and came back to great me at the finish!
I thought that it may be helpful for some of you if I tell you what I packed in my running vest for the race. I use the Salomon Sense Pro 5 vest and I love it. I filled both my flasks with Tailwind Nutrition berry flavor, and then packed some goldfish, swedish fish and a broken up pop tart in snack size bags. I also had two Huma Gel, chocolate flavor. I also had my handkerchief, does anyone else’s nose run when they run if it’s not hot out, or is it just me? I also brought my little AM/FM radio in case I needed some tunes for the second loop (never used it) and my GoPro to get some action shots when I could remember to do so!
I was the first wave to go off right at 8am and once they said GO, we were off. It seemed there were 10-12ish of us that started off. (Each wave went one minute after each other) I was in the back of the pack when we started as everyone went off and ran like a bat out of hell. I knew that I was not going to go or even try to go super-fast as 1, this was my first ultra, and 2, we are on the trail where you have to slow down a bit just to stay upright, or I do anyways. The first few miles were a little tricky with me being a newbie to the trail and seeing lots of mud and puddles, and then we came to a stream and everyone was running right through it, and I think I said out loud are you kidding me LOL! Thankfully, my trail shoes weren’t too bad off though with being completely soaked. I know that my regular shoes would have felt 10lbs heavier. I do recall telling myself that not only was having fun and finishing with a smile on my list of things to accomplish for this race, NOT FALLING WAS ANOTHER at this point.
I came to the first aid station after a few miles in and everyone there was so super nice. At that point I realized that I hadn’t even really drank anything yet so that was my reminder to start. I couldn’t believe how muddy and wet some sections were and how dry others were. It had been a bit of a rainy week prior to the race. I was glad though that most downhill sections were dry because I found going downhill to be the toughest with trying to be fast yet not fall! At some point, I’m not sure if it was mile 6 or 7ish, I ended up connecting with the guy who was in front of me for the first miles and we started talking and running together. It was not his first ultra and I feel like he took me under his wing as we ran together for the rest of the race. I did end up falling once, tripping over a root that I missed seeing. I really thought I was going to go down by slipping on the mud. I got up quickly and was ok, whew! Most of the race was spent looking down.
As far as fueling went, I nibbled on my snacks here and there throughout the race. I also took a few things from the aid stations, which were stocked full of great things, all individually packaged due to Covid. At some point I craved chocolate so I ate some. At another point the cheese-it’s sounded good so I grabbed them! When you are running long you must fuel the body and give in to your cravings. We made a pit stop in the woods around mile 10ish and at that point I took my first gel. I was saving my other gel for around mile 20. The reason why I only had two was that more than that my stomach could go wonky and no one has time for that!
I had read a bunch of reviews that others had posted about this run from years past and have to agree with them that the 1 mile paved bike trail that we had to run on for each loop was extremely painful. After running on the softer surface for most of the race and then going to that was pure hell for the feet. However, it’s only 1 mile so I told my brain to shut up and get it done.
Around mile 12 we reached this cool area that on their site they call the rollercoaster section. It was a single track that had a lot of turns and was really fun to run. Once we got through there, we were on our way back to finish the first loop, so exciting! I stayed with my new friend (Michael) once we got back to the main site so he could fill up his water and then off we went. I do love running a loop course because the second time around never seems so bad knowing that you have already done this before. Interestingly though we saw some things the second time around that we both didn’t remember from the last time.
We really lucked out big time with the weather. It was supposed to rain all day and somehow it managed not to, at all. I think the race would have been completely different if it had rain. Michael told me very early on to walk on the uphill areas, and conserve my energy, which made sense. The second loop took us a bit longer than the first, as we were both running on tired legs. Running on the trail takes a lot of the calves and the quads and I was definitely feeling it. Around mile 21 I rolled my ankle running downhill. Luckily after a few minutes of walking I was able to run again. Another one of those whew! moments. I’m guessing that running on a trail you have a lot of those moments. I think the only thing I wished was different was that they would have had mile markers out on the course. My watch was slightly off due to GPS and there’s nothing better than knowing how close you are to the finish. The last 10 miles were relatively calm and I don’t think I felt ready to stop running until I was a few miles from the end. Whenever I have moments of wanting to quit is when I quickly tell whatever is hurting to shut the heck up and it’s my brain that helps me push through. Believe it or not at one point I actually thought to myself, maybe I should have done the 50 miler. Then I stopped thinking that the minute we crossed the finish LOL! I saw my family right before the end and I wanted to bawl my eyes out seeing them there waiting for me. All in all, this is a great race and I will return next year to tackle it again. Maybe next year I will try the 50 miler.