Tuesday, June 5, 2012

North Face 50 Mile Race Report!

With much energy I lifted two fingers to my neck to check if I still had a pulse. I had no idea how fast I was running. Ten minute miles? Eight? Fifteen? The time didn't matter, I was still alive despite what seemed like a shallow and fluttering heartbeat. My body was certainly in survival mode. I dropped my fingers quickly and stared ahead. I was close. I'd make it. Twenty more minutes baby. Don't walk. Don't walk. Don't walk.

Those were basically my thoughts for the last hour of the race. Calculating time, always with the worst case scenario. Realizing that I'm slowly dying but could keep this pace for however long needed. Enjoying the burn and the mental struggle to not walk. This was uncharted territory, and I was in it...

Short version
The race started early, was long, was extremely muddy and slippery, and was way harder than the 50k's and marathons and triathlons I've done. I ran well and am still hobbling three days later. Did I mention it was super fun? In the weirdest way though. I definitely raced it which took away the fun aspect of just running around. Perhaps I'll post on racing vs running later. I think running is more fun than racing, but racing has a whole different set of rewards. 

Long version

I spent Friday night pacing the hotel room and worrying that I was forgetting something. I even realized I was worrying and finally told myself to just go to sleep. But alas, going to sleep at 8:15pm is difficult. Sleep eventually came though, and 3:45 am rolled around quite quickly. Was it late or was it early?

4:30am, in the car blasting rage tunes like usual to wake up and get excited. Always a fun part of a race. Getting that "you can't stop me now" line in my head is essential haha. Reality set in at the start line and now I was pumped. Nothing you can do now. Just go run. I chatted with a couple people at the start line which was really nice as I wasn't really expecting friendly people at a bigger festival-type ultra? 5am. Bang. Headlamp on. Onwards. Three minutes in and some dude yelled "49.5 miles to go! OH YEAH!" Can't get much better than that.

So early my headlamp was upside down
We're off!
The first few miles were the usual tip toeing but not hurrying through the field and trying to settle in. Settling in didn't really happen till like mile 15? I ran with this dude Eric for the first hour, and I wish I saw him at the finish line cause he was a good dude! He's doing Leadville in August. Get it Eric!
Puttering along first miles w/ Eric
First traces of mud. It had poured allll afternoon and night on Friday and we were gonna pay for it today. The singletrack that started around mile 5 quickly deteriorated and running on the berm of the trail became just as muddy as running straight through. Straight through it was. Shoe sucking mud! My first thought was frustration, but then I decided to jump straight in and jump around like a kid and enjoy it haha.

The rest of the 15 mile out to Great Falls Loop was extremely flat. Slided the whole way. I thought about going head first slip and slide style. The field was stretched out by mile 8, and I actually ran alone for awhile which I was surprised by. I didn't really want to run alone that early, so I backed off (good choice) and ran with Rick and Steve who had some good conversation. The ultra friendliness and encouragement is omnipresent. Loveeee that. 

Basically the first 15 miles (the out) was full of conversation, meeting great people, and sliding around a lot. Was exactly on my 10min/mile goal pace, but way too much energy was spent sliding through the mud. The hips were feeling it. Without the mud I guess I woulda been 9min or less/mi. Not like that really matters. But I like challenging myself in the time aspect as well as the distance aspect.

Coming into Great Falls Aid Station. Loving the crews.
Great Falls Loop 1: So 2 hrs 28 mins in and I saw my lovely crew of Dad and D Rek. I dropped my pack, ate eggs whites, grabbed water bottles, and peaced out pretty quickly. I was most def in a comfortable place, but wasn't necessarily looking around and taking my time. I guess I'll race. The 4.8 mi to the next aid station was fire road with some hills finally! I ran most of them though, and saw Mr. Peck! The man. Not sure if he recognized me at first haha. Ran this section primarily alone, before the loop got crowded. My stomach wasn't really cooperating, food wasn't sounding very good but I didn't try to force anything. Yet. 

The fun part of the loop! Really the only technical part of race.
The views towards the end of the loop were spectacular! The rushing river was tight. And I stopped for 15 seconds or so to take a look the first time around. A smile, then keep puttering along.

Great Falls Loop 2: Around four hours was my first low point (sides the first 7 miles or so when my legs weren't wanting to move from previous races. Perhaps too much racing before this race. but was able to ignore it and talk it out). I got behind on calories and didn't want to eat, at all. I threw up a gel in my mouth which was pretty concerning as I usually enjoy gel time. The loop was starting to get crowded, which was good for the fact that people are entertainment and a source of distraction. 

Quickly after I felt horrible I bounced right back and had perhaps the biggest high of the race. I saw Jake Reed (#2 and LUS racer) and Leah Daughtey (sp? #1 female 50k, LUS racer) which I wasn't expecting. An emphatic exchange of hellos with passing Leah and I was stooooked. I opened up and starting running. I had this huge smile on my face and was saying "great job" to every single person going the opposite direction. I was booking and feeling great and even said "I'm having a great time" aloud to myself. But ohhh I shouldn't've ran so fast.

Ten minutes later and I was strug-city. I came into the aid station breathing way too hard and was still really happy and Lily was there and a fantastic pick-up, but I was def slowing down. I even said it to D Rek. I took coke and a power bar for the road and peaced out. D Rek and Dad said "dude you need to slow down" haha. I must've looked like hell. 

Leaving GF Aid Station 
Great Falls Loop 3: I walked all the hills this go around. By this point mostly all the 50'kers were on the course, so it was pretty packed and a good distraction. I talked to a guy who was running his first 50k and he was loving it and taking it really conservatively so I walked with him for a bit. I was chewing on tiny tiny bits of power bar, just trying to get it to go down. I think it took 45 mins to finish the thing. But it went down.  I started to get excited cause this was my last go-around with the loop and was going to take it on home. On the River Trail, the short technical section, some guy a little up ahead yelled "I LOVE THIS!" I caught up to him very quickly and asked if he just said it he loves this. He said "hell yeah dude, this is my first trail race and first ultra and I LOVE THIS!" I said that it doesn't get any better and smiled. Certainly a highlight of the race!

I was definitely feeling the 30 miles I had put in, but wasn't thinking about it much and started to play games with myself. Trying to read the names on bibs and saying clever encouraging things to people as they passed.  The best I heard all day was "good pace" when I was at mile 36. I found that hilarious and laughed my head off. Getting lucid? Perhaps.
Struggling. Forcing smiles haha
Sometime early in the loop

Loving the technical part. Epic focus.

I had no idea what place I was running in and I didn't care, but I was definitely running and pushing myself. I was in it. Starting to focus. Doing what I do. Getting endorphins to my head.

Way back home: One of my goals was to feel good after the loops, and mentally I was in a really good place when I finished my third loop. I was going back! I didn't think that it was 15 miles of back. I was just going back! I was running by myself again, and passing marathoners going to the loop. Time passed incredibly quickly for the last fifteen miles even though I can remember conscious thoughts the whole way, probably two hours and 45 mins back. I was managing myself, drinking a lot but not eating a lot, staying focused, still enjoying it, remembering that it wasn't a struggle-fest and it was a celebration. But it was taking forrrever. About ten miles out I remember wanting to walk, and this feeling stayed for the last hour and a half. A mental battle was taking place in my head. Running didn't really hurt, I think I was past that, but it was difficult to keep going. And the mud. The mud the mud the mud. Kept things interesting haha. I was longing for any semblance of a climb so I could walk. Hills didn't come. I linked up with a marathon dude and we ran together, both in the zone, encouraging each other to take it in. We linked up with Andrea, who I had yo-yoed with during the loops, and another dude and we discussed how much further. We were at the point where we were ready to stop running haha.

The dude: "I think we have four miles"
Me genuinely excited: "Oh kind words good sir! Thank you!"
Andrea: "I don't know about four..."
Aid Station Sign two mins later: "8 miles to go!"

The hammer on the brain. Eight miles? I have no idea how fast I'm going. That could be two hours. Two hourssss. Are you kidding me? Ugh. I grabbed chips and refilled my handheld. Just get to the next aid station. You can do that.

So I was in my head, but not for long. I was running by myself. Feeling the mud beneath my feet. Feeling the sun beat down on my face. Listening to the river. In my own world. A place I've never been. Unchartered territory, loving the challenge. Out of my body. Floating. Dizzy? Na, floating. Not very high above my head, but just behind and above me. Keep moving. Almost there. This is peaceful. This is tranquil.

Aid station. 2 miles till the same aid station. 10kers on the course passing me. People congratulating me on my "accomplishment" people giving me looks of awe, or of awful? Haha I have no idea. No more mud, pavement, never been so happy to see you pavement. Hello. Out of my head. Owch this hurts. Walk for one minute. Run the rest in. You got this. You got this.

On the way back to the aid station. "Get you some" to the 10k'ers. Blew by the aid station. 1.7 to go. Almost there, can't stop. A long forest road. Kids playing soccer to the left. 10k'ers breathing hard. Me trying to relax. Take it in. You've done it. Constant cadence that felt so good. The puddles and playground and green grass and laughter. A long road. Reach the end and you're there.

I see an Asian woman with an orange bib (50mile) struggling. She's on the verge of tears. A guy watching: "You're so close! Half a mile! You can do this!" She's wailing: "No I can't, I can't!" I pat her back as I pass, "Let's do this." She starts bawling.

People. Lots of people line the street and the golf cart path to the finish chute. "Congratulations! You did it! Right around the corner" I see Parker with his hands up high--Parker! I see D Rek "HOLY SHIT DUDE HOLY SHIT YESSSSSS!" I see Lily's smile. I have this huge grin on my face. People clap. The announcer says, "Hey 300. Well done" I see my Dad smiling "Rudy! Rudy!" I cross the line 100% spent. I turn to my Dad and give him a big hug.

I have great friends!

Little out of it? Hahaha

So man what a great weekend. Sunday we walked around DC as a group and saw all the sights which was tight, albeit a little bit long on the feet. Today's Tuesday almost over and I can walk straight! I'm still sore, but after a couple massages by pops that really helped I feel better. The shoelace tuck was supreme. I always remember that but forget it for a couple months. Shoes didn't come untied once.

 I like 50 miles. It's different than a 50k. I ran it like a 50k but a tad slower then just hung on. My feet and gear held up really well. My hydration was good. My nutrition worked besides a couple hours in there when I couldn't eat. That was a new experience. The last 16 miles were a new experience. Perfect weather by the way. The time was 8:29:15 with 26th place. The time didn't really matter although I had a loose goal of 8:20 which is 10 min miles. Considering the mud, 8:30 is good and I'm def happy with that. As for the place, I didn't expect to place anywhere, and 26 sounds freaking good to me for a first 50 in a field of 320 runners. I wish the course had more vert. I'm excited for a mountain ultra, MMTR in November. I seem to run well with big vert, so we'll see what can happen there :)

Rough estimates of intake:
7 gels
1 oatmeal pie
1 powerbar
1 PR bar
2 handfuls pretzels
2 handfuls potato chips
2 cups coke
~30 oz gu brew
~300 oz water?
1.5 egg whites
2 handfuls pretzel m&ms
tiny bit of potato, didn't like
4 ibuprofin
4 salt pills

=~1700 cals? now that I think about it that's a good bit. 

As I look back on it, it hasn't fully sunk in. My moods keep altering but that's expected I guess. I look back on it and think that it was really difficult and fun, but not extremely fun at all. Then I think of it again and I still have a huge smile on my face and think it was extremely fun. 

Thanks to my Dad! And D Rek and Lily and Parker for coming out and helping and being great. Thanks to the cheery volunteers. Congratulations to all the runners, it was a good and long and muddy day. 

As I was walking yesterday after the drive home I thought I felt free. I'm glad to have the off season to recover. I'm glad I did it. I'll do it again no doubt :) After really pushing and being in an unknown place for two hours, I have this strange sense of peace about me. Like nothing matters. Which it doesn't. We're just on Earth. Just running and being. 

I have this strange sense of peace about me.


No comments:

Post a Comment