First off, I had a great race. Really great. I didn't expect to do this well and feel this strong. I was anticipating around a 9 1/2 to 10 hour finish because of last weekend's run pacing James, but I ended up finishing in 8:33:41 and coming in 15th place.
I'd be remiss to not mention that my friend Emma "Gnarls" Barclay was a huge help. I ran the first 45 miles with her, before urging her to press on since she looked so good and I was hitting a low point. Her company was most welcome and we really had a blast out there. I seriously wouldn't have ran that fast if it wasn't for her. She was awesome! Thanks Emma.
Okay, the details:
About the Race
The 50-mile course consisted of us running a loop around 3.5 miles long, then continuing on to run the standard 25K loop three times. The trails dart through the woods and along hay fields, the latter of which you are exposed to the sun and can get quite hot. The terrain is like a rollercoaster, constantly rolling with no flat spots, however there really aren't any dramatically long or steep climbs or drops. As far as ultras go, it's a relatively fast course. That's not to say it's not challenging though. Those rollercoaster hills can take a toll on you, and when you feel the heat in those hay fields, it can drain you. The difference in temperature between the woods and the fields felt pretty dramatic.
At 6am, we were off. Emma, Stephen, Chuck and I ran the first few miles together. We went out fast, which was easy to do with a lot of downhills in the first several miles. Chuck and Stephen eventually took off, and Emma and I were left leading a peloton of about a half a dozen other runners. We made it clear if anyone wanted to pass to go ahead, but I guess they liked our pace.
Eventually Emma and I pulled ahead, but one younger fellow, Dale came with us and we got to chatting with him. Very nice guy, and this was his first ultra. He had a lot of questions about the sport, and I answered what I could, but I'm definitely far from an expert. He eventually fell behind and it was just Emma and I from then to near the end.
Around 15 miles in, I noticed my legs becoming fatigued early, no doubt from last weekend. This worried me for a few miles. Fortunately, they never really became more fatigued. Just kind of stayed the same level of soreness and I was happy to find out I could still press on. Perhaps it was more mental than physical?
Oak Hill Aid Station and Mountain Dew
This aid station was a real treat for me, since three friends were manning it: James, Jeff and Heather. Good point to have it, because this one is after some tough sections. Emma and I downed the magical ultra elixer known as Mountain Dew, which really picked both of us up. By far my favorite ultra drink. Once the sugar rush ends, the caffeine kicks in. My stomach also handles it very well. In fact, my stomach was gurgling prior to the first cup of Mountain Dew but after drinking it, it was all systems normal.
Second Lap (18 or so miles in)
Emma and I both continued to feel great and were moving along constantly. If I remember correctly, it was from around here on out that nobody passed us. We picked off a few runners as we moseyed along, but they eventually became sparser as the race went on, as expected.
Oklahoma and Nebraska
The 50K race had now begun (two normal loops, started at 8am) and we were beginning to see some runners from that race. Emma and I then came up with a pretty clever way to communicate to each other. Rather than say to one another, "I think that runner ahead of us is a 50M runner" or "I think that guy across the field is a 50K runner", we would refer to the 50M runners as "Oklahoma" and the 50K runners as "Nebraska". This was great. We could just point and say "Oklahoma?" and answer yes or no. Plus, nobody knew what the heck we were talking about if they were in earshot of us, which was a nice bonus.
I hit a low point around mile 27. Just had trouble moving as fast. I told Emma to move on if she wanted to, but she said the pace was still fine. To no surprise, after downing some Mountain Dew a few miles later, I sprang back to life and was feeling great once again, and we picked off another runner.
I remember us hitting the 50K mark in roughly 5:07. New PR for me for that distance (which shouldn't have been hard to break to begin with, of the three I've done, one was my first ultra and the other two I wasn't really racing), but I won't officially count it in my own stats since this wasn't a race of that distance. Still feeling great here. I began to realize that a sub-9 hour time was quite possible, and thought that'd be sweet.
Though feeling good and moving good, our conversation was minimal at this point. I need to get in a mental zone at these points and do all I can to focus on blocking out pain and moving forward the best I can, and I don't have the brain capacity to hold conversations that can't be answered in grunts.
Countdown to the finish was now in single digit miles, which always feels great. We picked off our final runner of the day here, and though we were both tired, we were still moving. We knew a sub-9 hour was in the bag at this point, barring something major.
Go Emma Go!
Shortly after mile 45, Dora joined us to run in the last five. Unfortunately, I was having some weird side stitch issues and was having trouble keeping up. Emma, however, looked great and was moving faster. I urged her and Dora to go on without me, not wanting to hold them up. There was some hesitancy on their part, but I insisted, and was glad they obliged since I would have felt really bad slowing them up.
I moved on, and about a mile later I was feeling well again. Funny how these little aches and pains can come and go, and I was grateful this one also went. Enjoyed the long downhill here, moving along pretty good. When I reached the Oak Hill aid station, a new shift had come on and James, Jeff and Heather were gone. Ah, bummer. Oh well, less than three miles to go.
Final Stretch and Finish
Reached the last hay field which I'd circumnavigate for around a mile and then reach the finish. Towards the end of the field, Dora came back after running Emma in and asked if I'd like some company for the final stretch and of course I said yes.
We soon rounded the corner and the finish line was in sight. I took off my water belt and tossed it high up in the air and sprinted the final 100 yards to the finish with a smile on my face. Man, if you told me I was going to run this in 8:33 the day before the race, I definitely would have laughed at you. Very stoked.
The race set a new 50-mile PR for me by about an 1 hour and 23 minutes. Granted, the previous PR was on a harder course and when I was still getting into ultras (not that I'm a veteran), but still, shattering that time like that felt great.
Emma went on to finish five minutes ahead of me and won first in her age group. Stephen finished around 7:50 and won his age group as well. Congrats guys! Well done. Chuck, unfortunately, DNF'd after mashing up his feet from wearing Vibram Five Fingers.
Thanks Ian, Erik and Phil
Big thanks to these guys for putting on yet another killer and hugely successful race. Proud to know them. Ian and Erik (along with Stephen, Chuck and I) are running the Vermont 100 this year, and it will be fun doing it with them.
Other Race Notes
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches continued to work well for me during the race. So did orange slices, gumdrops, red licorice, and gummy bears. I don't think I ate much else. Drank either diluted Gatorade or water throughout, supplemented with tried and true S! Caps every hour.
- Was glad I opted to use my Nathan double water bottle carrier for this race. I had considered wearing my single. I was drinking a lot in the final loop when it was quite hot. I drink a lot anyway, so the single bottle probably wouldn't have been enough.
- Was glad I shaved my head bald before the race. Helped keep me cool and it felt awesome dumping cold water over my head at the aid stations. Glad I also remembered to use sunblock.
- Speaking of aid stations, Emma and I did a great job of moving in and out of them very quickly and never lingering longer than needed.
- Great finisher swag, included a 50M finisher pint glass, Inov-8 gaiter socks, and of course, the almighty gold cowbell (50K runners get a silver one). The free Ipswich Ale and variety of food at the finish was also fantastic.
Overall time: 8:33:41
Place: 15th out of 59 finishers
Ran 50.0 miles @ 10:16/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - N/A
Lower 40s climbing to lower-mid 70s, sunny.
Shorts, sleeveless shirt, Moeben sleeves (morning)
I'll post pictures once I have access. But here's the gold cowbell, which is now hanging proudly on the side of the stairs: