Tuesday, April 12, 2011

99 Days, 415 Miles, 50K Trail Race = Goal Complete

I completed my 1st ultra marathon on Saturday and have officially become an ultra runner.  I ran Croom's I am not a Fool 50K down in Brooksville, FL, completing the race in 4:17:30 (8:17 / mile), and finishing 3rd overall / 1st in my Age Group.  As I expected the race was quite tough, but I am happy with the result and it was a nice surprise to come in 3rd  / win my age group. 

The Course
We arrived to the race start in pitch black darkness (to our surprise, who knew going west would have that effect). Shout out to an awesome race staff who kindly lent us a flashlight so we could find the bathroom.  They also gave us a run down of the course and continued to check on us throughout the day.  The course was a 2 loop 15 mile course with a small pre-loop to get the extra mile in.  It was almost entirely single track and pretty flat with some small hills in the last 5 miles of each loop.  Some of the single track consisted of dried up stream beds which were quite sandy and gave the calves and quads quite a workout. 

The Race
The 50K and 16 Miler both started at 7am with 157 runners between the 2 races.  The plan going in was to try and hold 8 min / mile pace as long as possible and try not to go much faster.  I started off and ran the 1st mile at 7:35 (mostly down hill packed dirt road) and then turned onto the single track and dropped back down to 8 min pace.  At this point there were about 6 or 7 people running in front of me and I knocked about 3 of them off over the next 3 miles.  We also started catching up to some of the 50 milers who had started at 6am.

I continued to plug away at the miles ranging from 7:20 - 8 over the next 13 miles finishing the 1st 16 in 2:01.  I was little surprised at the speed I was holding (7:33 / mile) as my GPS was showing around 8.  The difference was due to running in the woods with lots of sharp turns which doesn't work that well for a device with a ~20 ft accuracy.  Anyways, feeling good at the end of the 1st loop (16 mile mark) I got some more shot blocks from Amy, gave her a kiss, and headed out for some more.

At this point the sun was out and the temperature had risen to the low 80s.  The humidity was present, but bearable.  Armed with my camel pack freshly refilled with ice cold water, I banged out the next 6 miles at the vicinity of 8 / mile almost purely in isolation.  I was really starting to feel it around mile 21 and set a goal to push to mile 23 before allowing my self to take short walking break.  At mile 22.5 I had to scoot over a tree across the trail and in my infinite wisdom, went for a full leap over it.  Immediately my left calf locked up and I screamed and grabbed it as it pulsated for the next 20 seconds.  I then walked about a 1/10th of a mile before breaking back into a slow jog.  I knew from hear on out it was going to be a battle to the finish.

Luckily, the calf loosened up and I found two 50 milers that also looked pretty spent and muscled on by.  I arrived at a rest stop at mile 24 feeling a little better, after taking a few more 0.1 mile walks, re-filled my camel pack and drank some HEED (gross) and Mountain Dew (trying to get my salt content back up).  At this point I was informed I was running 3rd overall, in which my reply was oh great, meaning I better really push this as I can't drop back this late in the game. 

The next 3 miles seemed to go pretty well, with a few more short walking breaks.  Around mile 26 my body was really starting to have enough and my run walk ratio started to shrink from 10 to 1 down to 2 to 1 (generally by 10ths).  At one point in this section I managed to catch my right foot on a root and go completely head over heals which was promptly followed by an expletive.  But if no one was around to see or hear it, did it really happen?  I was now covered in dirt and sand on top of sweat and a little rattled.  Though after walking a tiny bit (~ 0.15 miles this time) I started jogging again with the occasional look over my shoulder.  The next few miles were extremely rough and I often had to take short walking breaks as my hamstrings and my calves were cramping pretty badly.

I eventually got to mile 29 and made a pack with my self to run as much of the final 2 miles as I could and was able to get close to 9 minute pace including a few short walking breaks.  Finally with about half a mile to go I could hear people at the finish and plugged away until I got there, getting to the finish line and just asking if I could sit down now :). 

Nutrition / Hydration
Knowing it was going to be warm in Florida, I started training with a camel pack a long time ago and wore it for race day.  I managed to drain the whole thing about 3X and also drank about another 32 ounces of HEED and Mountain Dew (for added salt content).  I stuck to eating shot blocks during the race and managed to put back 16 of them starting with 2 at mile 5 and 2 every 3 miles from there. 

What to do Differently
I definitely think I have to say that heat was the 1st limiter and running in sand the 2nd.  I really should have trained more with gatorade and probably even taken salt tablets as I started to feel like my skin was salt covered once I hit 20 miles.  This also probably contributed to the cramping.  Running on sand is hard no matter how you look at it, and funny enough it is similar to running on snow, which I did a lot of this winter.  Even so, a few more runs on some soft terrain probably would have helped out with the quads, hamstrings, and calves. 

What's Next
Haven't done anything in the last 3 days, and will probably try to go for an easy bike ride tomorrow.  Amy and I are doing Bike the Vineyard on 4/30 and a little further out we are doing the Harpoon B2B, which will require a little more training.  Amy and I are also thinking of doing a Barefoot 5K Memorial Day weekend.  As for farther out past those, who knows maybe a 50 mile trail run is in my future.

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