I didn't break my time from last year as I had hoped (8:33:40), but I wasn't too far off, finishing in 8:40:23. I'm most proud of getting it together in the last 10 miles and finishing strong. All in all, I think it could have gone better, but I'm happy. I'm also extremely happy for several of my fellow Trail Monster Running buds who put together jaw-dropping performances.
I'd be remiss to not mention nearly right off the bat here that Ian and Erik once again did a fantastic job of organizing an outstanding race that went smoothly and everyone had a great time. Thanks guys. The entry fee is inexpensive, the race swag is excellent (cowbells for all finishers, pint glasses with the race logo and Inov-8 running hats for 50-mile finishers), the aid stations top notch, the trails well marked, free beer and BBQ at the finish, and the atmosphere very friendly and fun. If you've been to this race, you know what I mean. And if you haven't, you're missing out.
I arrived at the race about an before the 6am start time. Very nice to meet Paige and Mike. I've been following Paige's blog for a while now and just came across Mike's recently. Both great folks who have friendly and positive attitudes that are contagious.
It was soon time to start, and we lined up. I met up with Emma and James and we started together. My plan was to ride Emma's shoulder as long as I could comfortably do so. Her goals were somewhat close to mine (she ended up exceeding her's by a large margin), so it fit well, and we worked great together as a team last year.
And we're off... I ran with Emma and James for a bit and then James eventually took off. The first several miles went pretty well, aside from my stomach feeling tight. Emma gave me some gingered candy which helped, but I thought I was going to have to stop for a bio-break. Fortunately, not the case. I just had gas, and soon I felt much better.
Emma got ahead and I was running with Lori Lebel for a few miles, who was great company as always. Then I caught up with Emma, then she went ahead and I was with Lori again. This went on until around mile 13 when Lori and I reached our drop bags and she would go on ahead. I put on some sunscreen and was off.
On to the Second Loop
The 50-mile course consists of running the 25k loop three times, but before you do that you run a smaller loop of around 3.5 miles. So, that mini-loop and one full loop were now complete. I stopped by my drop bag again and downed an Ensure Plus. I must say, this worked very well throughout the race. 350 calories a bottle and full of nutrients. My stomach had no problems with it at all.
I felt great for the next four or five miles, but then I started hitting a low point. I had started to feel soreness in my hamstrings at around mile 15 from pacing Stephen at the Massanutten 100 last weekend, and now my calves were feeling tight. Mentally, I was in a funk and my pace slowed by a couple of minutes. Not good. Nutrition and hydration seemed to be going well, but I just couldn't get myself going.
I was running with Adam Wilcox for a bit, an old acquaintance of mine from hiking circles, but he had more energy than I did and went on ahead. I was running alone for a lot of this loop. I think that hurt me, as there was nobody to light a fire under my butt to keep me going. Of course, one shouldn't have to rely on that. But still, I did wish I had someone there.
One thing that was nice was at the Yurt Aid Station, Ron Farkash was working there and he was very encouraging each time I came around (you pass by this aid station three times in each loop). He was saying the right things each time and it helped.
I reached my drop bag again and downed another Ensure and went on to the final five mile section of the second loop. I continued in my funk and my Garmin showed my pace continuing at a slower-than-I'd-like pace. I reached the 50k mark in 5:28. Last year I reached it at 5:07. So, 21 minutes off my mark. Breaking my time from last year was now out of the question and if I continued like this, I'd be very lucky to even break nine hours.
Third and Final Loop
I downed another Ensure and started the third and final loop. I continued on and was walking up a hill when two runners and their pacer (pacer's allowed on the final loop) came by and asked if I was alright. I told them I was just tired and they encouraged me to run with them. I did for about a mile, really enjoying their company. Unfortunately, I couldn't hang on and they went ahead.
I slogged on, and was getting discouraged as more runners passed me. And then for reasons unknown, things began to change for the better.
A little after mile 40, overcast skies gave over to rain and I came back to life. I was feeling fine... great actually... and picked up the pace, powerwalking the uphills quickly and while not sprinting on the downhills, I was running them much faster and with confidence.
The remaining miles ticked by and I continued to feel even better the closer I was getting, and was picking off runners that had passed me earlier as well as some folks I hadn't seen before. I reached my dropbag, downed another Ensure and then took off with five miles left to go. I knew if I kept this up, I would break nine hours easily, and would finish around 8:45 if all went well. It turned out my splits for these final five miles were faster overall than the same section in the first two loops. I was just moving and feeling great. Dare I say, I even felt fresh.
I hit the final field and it was just one mile to go. Very quickly downed a cup of Mt. Dew and flew out of the final mile aid station. Fellow Trail Monster runner Alan (he had finished the 50k earlier) was at this aid station, and quickly came up to my side to run the final mile with me, which I really appreciated. It was nice to share this renewed high I was feeling with someone. I saw my friend and fellow teacher, Dave Dorr, a few hundred yards from the finish, which also gave me a boost.
The finish line came in sight and I tossed my water bottle high in the air and sprinted to the finish. Ahhhhh. So glad to be done!
Post Race Thoughts and Random Notes
Despite not breaking last year's time, I'm pretty darn happy with this race. On top of getting in a good 37-mile mountain run while pacing Stephen at MMT100 last weekend, it served as a great one-two punch for final major long runs for the Western States 100 next month. Hay is in the barn.
And some random notes:
- Fellow Trail Monster runners Emma, Chuck and James all went on to finish in well under 8 hours. Super impressive!
- Neighbor Kate ran the 25k, her longest run ever. She did awesome!!! She really worked hard on her training and is one happy camper.
- Several other Trail Monsters competed in the 50k and the 25k as well. Notably, Blaine came in third in the 50k, with strong performances by Katie, Alan and Floyd as well. Jeff and Mindy ran the 25k and both did really well. I think it's safe to say Mindy is over her stress fracture. Stephen and Kelly also ran the 25k, and both had fun.
- I ate very little during the race, getting most of my calories from the Ensure (1400 calories total), diluted Gatorade, and an occasional Coke or Mt. Dew. I had a couple of 1/4 size PB&Js and a few orange slices, but that's about it for solid food. I consciously stayed away from the junk. I don't think not having much solid food contributed much to the middle-part of the race where I was feeling low, but that's hard to say. I think it was more muscle soreness and my head not being in the game.
- I once again learned that low points are often temporary, and the turn arounds can be dramatic. What goes down, must go up.
- Some noticed my gait was off a little in the later part of the race, especially when I was walking the uphills. My left foot (the one with the PF) did start to feel a little tight, but I honestly never thought much of it. It didn't hurt, just felt a little uncomfortable. The blisters that developed on my pinky toes were worse, and that's not saying much. I could tell my gait was more normal the faster I went. Better that way than the other way around, and incentive to run faster. :-)
- The morning after the race now, and the hamstrings are quite sore, but nothing out of the ordinary. Foot feels fine, with no more discomfort than usual (which has been very minimal the past few months).
Ran 50.0 miles @ 10:24/mile pace.
Placing: 24th out of 76 finishers.
Upper 40s to mid 70s, overcast and rain to sunny skies. Humid at times.
Shorts. (ditched the shirt after mile 13)