Finish Time: 7:54:13----2nd in the 40-49 age group----13th/168 Overall, 3rd Master(old guy)
The goal going in was either ” run to finish” or go for a sub- 8 hour. I kept waffling back and forth but decided on going for it. I didn't train my ass off to play it overly safe. I woke up too many mornings at 4 am and spent too much time out on the trails before sunrise to wimp out.
Debated on going with Hoka Stinsons or the lighter and more responsive Hoka Huakas. Decided that I’d appreciate the extra cushioning of the Stinsons late in the race, even though they are more narrow in the toe box and I’d have more chance of losing toenails with them. Good choice even though it appears I’ll be losing 3 toenails post-race( note: I performed self surgery on one so far, it hurt and needed to go sooner than later).
The plan was to drink the course electrolyte drink and eat two powerbar vanilla gels an hour. I pretty much stuck with that but switched to water instead of electrolyte drink somewhere around mile 30. As it got warmer, I started to get thirsty between aid stations and my stomach started feeling a little sloshy, leading me to believe I was taking in too much sugar and not processing the liquid quickly enough. Making the switch to water seemed to work as my 22 oz. bottle was enough to get me to each aid station( which were about 5 miles apart). I got a little nauseous at one point and stated to take a gel every 40 minutes and supplement with ginger ale at each aid station. That seemed to work. I feel like I executed this aspect of the race well. My energy level stayed pretty constant throughout. My legs, another story altogether.
It was about 45 degrees at the start and I was happy to get going. I ran the first 15 miles averaging 8:30ish pace and it felt like I was shuffling along. My plan had been to start slower( 9 minute pace) but early on I felt that if I had slowed down it would feel like walking- plus the start of the course was the easier part of the 25 mile out and back. I suspected I would likely be running the second half slower as the temperature was going to quickly rise into the the high 70’s to low 80’s with no shade. I ran the first 10 miles with the eventual 3rd place female finisher and we chatted the whole time. She was from Virginia and had run a 100 mile road race in 16 hours two weeks prior to this race. This made me nervous that I was running with her--I feared I was WAY out of my league and going too fast even though the effort felt like recovery run pace. I figured she must still be tired and she told me she wasn’t going to “race” unless she was close to the women’s leaders late.I ended up leaving her on one of the climbs as she walked and I ran it. Never saw her again( she ended up finishing in 8:34 I think).
My IT band/glute on the right side started getting tight around mile 11, uh oh! Weird as this hadn’t bothered me in training. I suspect the cambered surface on parts of the trail and my starting too fast on a cold morning( I didn’t do any warm up) were the cause--such a rookie mistake! It pretty much bothered me the rest of the race and started cramping on and off around mile 15-16?? I just stopped to stretch it out every couple miles and at the aid stations. It was somewhat painful from mile 30 on in but it wasn’t getting worse. It just hurt. I lost some time over the race stretching it out.
I slowed after mile 30, feeling pretty tired from miles 20-30 which were the harder miles of the race with some short but steep climbs. Perhaps I should have power hiked more of the climbs. It also started getting warm which contributed to the slowdown, I’ve been doing all my runs early in the morning when it is cool and it felt hot to me. I recall hitting the half -way point in 3:45 ish( 7 hour 30 m pace). I knew going in that I would likely positive split the race on my best day, because the way back was a bit harder and because it was going to be much warmer--but I didn’t expect to feel so tired at the 50k point. It pretty much sucked from that point on. I was tired, my legs were aching(especially the quads) and my IT band/glute hurt. But I just kept moving forward and tried to block out the pain and the strong desire to walk. I really wanted that sub 8 and knew I was going to have to suffer to get it. I just focused on getting to the next aid station and taking in my nutrition and trying to maintain good form. That seemed to take my mind off the discomfort.
I FINALLY reached mile 40 and started to only think about getting to the next aid station 5 miles away. My legs aching badly but my energy level was decent . My nutrition was spot on but the legs were not cooperating as well as I’d hoped... I recall thinking, “I’ve never hurt so bad running so slow”. Running down even the slightest downgrade hurt. Now I understand why I’ve heard people say downhills late in ultras hurt more than the uphills. Got to the aid station after what felt like an eternity, and was happy to be at the bottom of Raptor Ridge. I decided to power hike it, figuring in my current condition I wouldn't be running up it much quicker. I hiked it pretty hard and it was a huge relief on my legs. Running down it sucked though. I didn’t run down it much faster than I had hiked up the other side, haha.
The last 4 miles were mostly flat with a slight downgrade and I picked up the effort the last two miles to ensure the sub 8. It wasn’t fun but I recall thinking( with some moral support- thanks John!) that I didn’t want to waste the suffering I had felt the last 3 hours to wimp out the last 30 or so minutes. It wasn’t going to hurt that much more. But it certainly wasn’t fun and I’ll have to forget the discomfort of the last 20 miles before I do another of these. :}
That was harder than I thought it would be, but I’m glad I took a risk and went for it. It hurt like hell, but IT’S SUPPOSED TO. That’s what I signed up for and why I trained so hard. In hindsight, I probably went out a little too hard and with a better executed race plan, might have been able to run 10-20 minutes faster. I certainly understand the distance better. During the race and immediately after, I felt like I’d never do it again. But after just a couple days, I’m already thinking how I could adjust my race prep, race management , and apply my understanding how the distance feels in order to do even better. However, I must say that I enjoy challenging(hilly) 50k’s MUCH more and will now race a few of those this year. My wife isn’t keen on my running and training for another of these in the immediate future either. I think this distance might be a one time a year distance for me and am likely to run the Avalon 50 next year on Catalina Island--I haven’t informed my wife of this plan yet. I do know when I do another 50, I want it to be somewhere I’ve never run before and that is scenic.
All in all, I’m very pleased with the experience and proud of the result. I had to work hard to achieve the goal and push through a lot of discomfort. I feel like I have a better understanding of ultrarunning and that I managed the fade decently. While I slowed, I never gave in to the hurt and kept battling. While 50k’s are ultras, this was an entirely different beast. I can’t even imagine what a 100 would be like though. That still scares the crap out of me.