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50K and 50M Races Within Three Weeks

December 11, 2011

It has been busy times for my legs since my last post.  After the October 1st St. George Marathon I had originally planned on following up with the December 10th California International Marathon.  But, the required time away from family and the expense of another solo trip helped me change plans, sticking closer to home for a local 50M trail race,  El Sendero.  In the build up, I decided I really needed a genuinely long run to be properly prepared and it just so happened that an intriguing 50K fell at an opportune time.  So, on November 15th, I decided to jump into the Wild Hare 50K in Warda, Texas, just 4 days later.

No long-winded race report for this one but some of the highlights…

After sleeping on a barn loft floor the night before the race, literally right above the start line, I made my way downstairs, toed the line, and ran a solid race.  The course was nice and twisty, with 4 loops, and sunny, slightly warm temps.  I ran hard but even, approaching the race as more of a training run with a pinch of extra suffering thrown in.  My nutrition strategy is finally worked out – a gel with water every 20 minutes and nothing else – and it left me with  steady energy and no stomach issues.  I’m finally learning that time in aid stations has really killed my results so this race (along with the STG Marathon) were quick in, quick out, losing almost no time along the way.

I still have some chaffing issues to figure out and a single fall scuffed me up and resulted in a purple sausage of a finger but I made it through without anything going really wrong.  I’m convinced that is the key to running long relatively well and enjoying the experience: don’t screw up on anything major and the miles just tick off.  I finished up 8th of 94 starters (81 finishers) in a 50K PR time of 5:03:07.  I’d have liked to dip under 5 hours and, with some minor race tactic changes I think I could have moved up a couple of spots, but all-in-all I consider the performance a success.

In the 3 weeks between the 50K and the 50M, I headed to St. Louis for Thanksgiving to see family and put on some unproductive pounds.  Still, I was able to get quality runs most days and I’m nearly convinced that Tofurkey has  some sort of performance-enhancing properties, when consumed in equal proportions with beer and pizza.

Leading up to the 50M I did something along the lines of a proper taper, with just some elliptical and short treadmill running to keep my head straight and avoid hurting myself before the race.  The night before the race I headed out to Burnet, Texas, with running buddy Andres Capra, snuggling in a the bed together in the dumpy roadside motel near the race site.  Up well before 5am we found coffee and made the short drive to Reveille Peak Ranch for the 6:30am start.  Mile-by-mile race reports are about as interesting to write as they are to read (not very) so here are the goods and the bads:

The Good:

  • Entry was free for Andres and me, as a gesture to make up for a less-than-positive experience we had at a previous event by the same race directors at Rogue Running.
  • While the weather wasn’t pretty – mostly 40s and dreary –  it did make for good running.
  • The staff, both for the race and the ranch, were super nice and accommodating.
  • The terrain was challenging without being ridiculous, with about 11,000 feet of elevation change over the 50M course.  Each loop had multiple shallow creek crossings, many rock ledges, switchbacks through forest, a bit of flat gravel road, and tons of technical, rock- and root-strewn single track.
  • I raced well, with reasonable splits on each of the 3 loops, and a finish time of 9:47.  Good for 5th out of the 13 starters.
  • I liked having livestock on the course – it felt like a genuine ranch experience weaving through cows and added a bit of excitement not knowing if the 1000lb horned beasts might not take kindly to be shooshed aside by head lamp-wearing people running right at them.
The Bad:
  • For the 50M event (there were also 50K and 25K races going on), there were only 13 entrants.  13!  I’d consider anything less than 50 runners to be a small race but 13 is kind of an embarrassment.
  • The distance was definitely off, probably by at least a half mile per loop, making it more like a 51.5-52 mile race, as indicated by multiple runners’ GPS watches and the finishing times. At 50.00 miles on my watch, which was almost certainly something greater than 50 miles (GPS watches often reflect shorter-than-actual distances since  small sections are missed when there are switchbacks, for example), I was at 9:28.
  • No race medals*. This sounds petty and surely reflects my admittedly amateur running experience but 50 (or 52) miles is a long way to go.  I trained a lot for it, I ran it hard, with pain, and I was very proud to finish in a respectable time.  True, I didn’t pay to enter this race but for those who did spend up to $130 and all of us who dug deep to cover the distance, a medal is both expected and deserved.  Every other ultra-marathon race does this and I wasn’t the only one left disappointed and empty handed after gutting myself for nearly 10 hours.
I did get to enjoy some new experiences.  For a brief period early in the race I was solidly in 2nd place and for the first 36  miles I was no worse than 3rd.  But, there were at least two others somewhere behind me in the distance who were flat out better runners and the inevitable happened, with me getting passed first around mile 36 and again around mile 40.  While those two remained in view for a few miles longer, they gradually pulled away and I was out of gears to catch them.   Due to the course layout and scarcity of runners, with the exception of the first handful of miles, I ran virtually solo, often with nobody in view behind or ahead of me for 40+ miles.  I’ve never been alone on the move for anything close to that before and I mostly enjoyed the solitude.
Though I caught a toe on a rock here and there, I didn’t fall and didn’t otherwise hurt myself.  That may not seem like much, especially to non-trail runners who very rarely fall down in their daily lives.  But in what was likely over 100,000 steps over rough terrain on tired legs, it was a happy surprise not to end up with some minor acute injury.
It was also cool to see Andres take second overall and something of a minor moral victory for me to be able to comfortably run with him for about 10 miles early on.  And for me to finish at a pace only about 20 seconds a mile behind him was almost like winning.  Even though it can sometimes be frustrating to always be chasing his impressive performances, it is nice to know that my own hard work is starting to narrow the gap.
This morning my hunger broke through my fatigue and I had to get up for some food.  Breakfast of a big bowl of yogurt, blueberries, and cereal, followed shortly after by a second breakfast of eggs, toast, banana, and coffee.  I totally missed my traditional time window for first lunch so it might be hard to get in another two meals before dinner.  But that doesn’t mean I won’t try.

 *I’m not one to say that a kid should get a medal every time they make it through a dinner without wiggling or wipe their own butt (Sagan has yet to earn either) but I like the fact that Sagan has an appreciation for achievement.  And being a 5-year-old rocket scientist is no small deal.  

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One Comment
  1. Ouch on 2 things – 13 runners! and no medals! But, your son, on the other hand, is awesome!

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