First and foremost, yes, I met all three of my goals yesterday, at my first 50K ultra race! I finished, which was a feat in and of itself; I did it in less than 8 hours (I believe my official time is somewhere around 7 hours and 15 minutes), and not only did I sprint in for the last few hundred yards, I WAS able to walk around for several hours following the race. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
Now for the official race report!
I arrived at the park around 6:30 for a 7 AM start. It was still dark when I got there and I spent the first 15-20 minutes getting prepared-applying bug spray, organizing my food, water, water bottles, extra shoes, socks, etc. I then spent the next ten minutes carrying everything to the pavilion so I could ensure my aid station transition times were as short as possible (Thanks, Malika, for that suggestion!).
A few minutes after 7, race directors Robert Rounsavall and Christian Stewart gathered the group for a pre-race meeting and then we were off! Half of the group was aiming for a distance of 50K (eight 4-mile loops around the course) and the other half (the die-hard bad-asses) were in it for the long-haul (the 12-hr option)!
So we hit the trails around 7:15 AM. Since many of my trail running comrades were also running it was easy to settle in with a pack of friends who wanted to start out running at or near my goal pace. I’d like to thank Mark Montgomery and Keith Young for the company and conversation for that first, epic lap. Pacing yourself in the beginning is critical and both of them helped me remember this with gentle reminders about not starting out too fast. If you’re not an ultra runner you may be a little puzzled by this mentality but since most of us can run much faster than the pace you should start out with, it’s easy to over-do it in the first few miles and the consequences might mean the dreaded DNF! So I took their advice to heart. As I was finishing my first lap, Pete Horan was just starting his second, and as we crossed paths he turned around, ran with me towards the aid station for a few minutes and gave me some great tips about what to do when I got there to ensure I don’t get dehydrated and have enough fuel for the long-haul. A real stand-up guy, that Pete is! I did everything he told me to do. I mean the guy just finished a grueling hundred-mile race in under 30 hours in August! I’ll take his advice any day!
So, I finished my first 4-mile lap pretty easily, in right around 44-minutes, or an 11-min/mile pace. At the aid station, I refilled my handheld, took a salt capsule (it’s actually a blend of electrolytes and Vitamin D), ate a banana (per Pete’s instructions), and got right back out for my second lap. I ran this one in 44 minutes as well, so I was happy I was able to keep my pace consistent. At the second aid station stop I ate a portion of a raisin bread & peanut butter sandwich I had brought with me, refilled my handheld, walked around for a minute or two, did some easy stretches and got right back out for lap #3.
So at this point, I’m actually still running! Having never run a distance of 31 miles before and knowing that at distances like these it’s possible to get to a point where you can’t move your legs one more step (or bonk, as it’s sometimes called), I wasn’t sure when I should start incorporating walking into my routine. On the one hand, I knew if I started walking too early I might not make my 8-hour goal, but if I waited too long I could actually get to the point of no return and totally burn out my muscles. So I ran the third and fourth laps each in 48-minutes, not bad, considering. I was now halfway done, with 16 miles under my belt!
In between my third and fourth laps, I put on a clean, dry shirt and a new visor as everything I was wearing was drenched in sweat (humidity was very high) and the new clothing definitely made a difference in how I felt in the middle of the race. I added a little walking into lap #5, mostly when I wanted to drink from my water bottles that were now strapped around my waist. I completed this lap also in 48 minutes, so my strategy of starting out slow was paying off!
With three laps to go, I knew I would have to start walking soon. Could I really run another 12 miles after having already run 20? (Did I mention I just celebrated my fifty-fifth birthday in May?) Well, this is where the support of my friends kicked in. With every stop at the aid station, everyone was cheering me on, helping me refill my bottles, catering to my every beck and call. And by this time, they sensed I needed support so they discussed who would run with me for lap #6. Jeff Mayer stepped up to the plate and I immediately let him know that I intended to walk some, if not a good portion of it. He was Ok with this, considering his knee was acting up anyway and we were off. I probably wound up running half of the lap, and walking the other half, alternating whenever I felt like switching it up. I should also mention that at this point it was getting really hot and every time the sun came out, that was my cue to walk! It’s amazing how the heat of the sun can drain your body of every last morsel of energy when it comes out from behind a cloud! Well, Jeff and I managed to complete that lap in 53 minutes-not as bad as I thought.
Now it was Marcella’s turn to take a lap with me and I am so grateful she did! Although I had to walk some of it she knew I had a time goal and gently encouraged me to run whenever I felt I could and her support and enthusiasm made it possible for me to finish that one in just under 59 minutes.
The final lap! Oh, how I was looking forward to that one. I don’t know how I did it but I knocked 8 minutes off the previous lap and completed this one, with Jeff Mayer’s help, in 51 minutes. And the monsoon-like rain and wind that appeared out of nowhere halfway through it only made it that much more exciting! All in all, not a bad effort! I believe my overall running time was around 6 hours and 40 minutes (forgot to turn off my running app until a few minutes after I finished in all of the excitement so I don’t have the exact time!) and start-to-finish, with stops at the aid station, around 7 hours and change.
I stayed at the pavilion for a few hours afterwards to cheer on other 50K and 12-hour runners as they strove for their personal bests (Great job, Jared Hill, on your 50K too!!). After putting on some dry clothes (it was still raining pretty hard at this point) and having a burger and a hot dog, graciously cooked for me by Christian during a thunder storm under a tent, I taped up my toe blisters and had a beer (generously offered to me by Malika).
Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Jen Quelhorst in this post. She was there from the very beginning, welcoming me into the group and supporting me throughout. If she hadn’t had to leave early I am sure I would have gotten a snapshot of us afterwards, but here’s one from a previous practice run!
Once home, I showered, proudly put on my race shirt, and strapped on a pair of Normatec boots. Kudos to Dr. Steve Muscari at New Path Chiropractic who lent them to me for the weekend, following a few weeks of ART (Active Release Technique) and Graston Technique therapy on my plantar fibromas…they didn’t bother me one little bit throughout this whole thing! And the boots are an incredible way to get the blood circulating again in tired and worn out leg muscles. My quads are in heaven, and so am I!
Finally, I’d like to thank DTR, especially Andre and Ludi, Diego, and other members of the group, too numerous to mention. But those of you who attended on race day or on practice runs that I haven’t mentioned yet (Mark, Justine, Paul, Tim, Leo, Rue, Camisha, Brenna, Brooke, Irina, Nuno, Dawn & Mark, Randall, Lance, Angelina, Brent, Alex, Ramon, Jacob, JJ, Chris (both), etc., were just incredible! (OMG there are so many of you) If I missed anyone, it’s just the post-race blur that’s in my brain right now. I’ll catch ya in my next post, for sure!
And last but not least, as I was picking up my coolers and gear to walk to my car to leave for the day, none other then the legend Bob Becker himself, offered to help me carry everything. I declined his offer but couldn’t help smiling at how sweet that gesture was! It made my day. Thank you.