Monday, March 29, 2010

Umstead "Only 50" Race Report

I'm going to do this report a little differently. Rather than the blow by blow I normally do, I've divided it into sections so if you are more interested in numbers, you can skip to that part, if you're interested in what I ate, you can skip to that part, etc.

Pre-Race Preparation

I did the typical pre-race tossing and turning the night before, but the alarm clock did wake me up at 4 AM. (I remember seeing 3:30 seemingly just minutes before) I had pretty much packed everything I needed in my drop bag the night before, so I just needed to lube myself up, get dressed, grab a bagel, and head out the door. As I was in the bathroom getting lubed up, I was channeling my inner Clark Griswold saying, "Thisiscrazythisiscrazythisiscrazy", but then I looked at myself in the mirror, saw a huge grin, and knew I was going to have fun. I dressed in two layers and it was a good thing too, because I had to scrape the frost off my windshield before I drove to the start.

The Course and Conversations

The race started promptly at 6 AM. Since it was literally freezing, I was wearing two layers, with my fleece hat and gloves. I also wore a headlamp since the sun wouldn't rise for about another hour. I started at the very back and walked about a quarter to half a mile since it was congested and dark, but soon everyone spread out and I could start to run. There is an out-and-back section at the beginning and it was fun to see all the headlamps of the leaders coming back at you. At this point there was a gal running next to me at my pace and we started talking. Her name was Judy and I found out that she was getting in a morning 12.5 miles before coming back that night to be a pacer. So, I was lucky and had an unofficial official pacer for about 4 miles. Judy lives a couple of miles from the Park and runs there frequently so she was able to tell me where all the hills were (and that the nice long hill we were running down was called Cemetery Hill and that I would be going up that hill at mile 11 on each loop). The first half of the course is deceptively easy with lots of level running and a couple of descents and only one real climb. After Aid Station #2 there are more hills, including two fairly steep ones that even the front runners walked up as they lapped me. The good news is that none of the climbs are very long, I think the most elevation gain on any one hill is maybe 200 feet. There is no technical running on this course except for about a quarter mile near the Headquarters Aid Station that if you use your imagination you can call slightly technical. The only real hazards are the horse "apples". It was still dark when my headlamp illuminated a pile and I asked Judy if that was horse poop, and she assured me it was.
An interesting guy I leapfrogged with for about 10 miles was Bill. He was going for his 1000 mile buckle. In other words this was his 10th time running this 100 mile race. Since he was obviously an experienced ultra runner, when I saw him slow to a walk on a hill, I did the same thing. He was running with another experienced ultra runner and I overheard him talking about his "epic" nap. Apparently one year he took a three hour nap at Aid Station 2 and then continued on to finish.
The way the course is set up, you can see runners that are two miles ahead of you and two mile behind you (as well the the ones who have lapped you). So it was fun to see the front runners as well as the middle and back of the packers. I have been following Tammy's blog for awhile since she has run lots of ultras including this one and always has a great race report. I saw her several times on the out and back sections, and around the third or fourth lap I got a chance to talk briefly with her. She had been lowering her time by one hour each year and hoped to get under 27 hours (26:40 to be specific) this year in order to continue the trend.
Tom from Georgia was running the 100 miles and was hoping to run the first 50 around 12 hours to keep from going out too fast and ending up hurting later. We ran together briefly on my last lap, and he had to mention that even though I had signed up for the 50 mile option, no one would stop me if I kept on going. But, I stuck to my plan and only did the four loops (the blister at mile 47 certainly made that decision easier, because I was tempted.

Hydration, Nutrition, Aid Station Stops

First of all, let me say that the aid stations at this event are outstanding. They have everything you can imagine and the workers are both cheerful and helpful. I had to fill my own water bottle once, and that was only because there were three other runners at the station ahead of me. According to my Garmin, I spent 27:55 stopped. That works out to an average of 4 minutes at each aid station. I used the facilities at Aid Station #2 each time through whether I thought I needed to or not. That kept my bladder empty so I had one less thing to think about. At the Headquarters Aid Station, I went into the Lodge where I had my drop bag twice in order to shed layers, exchange my glasses for sunglasses after the first lap, and pick up my Iphone and earbuds for the last two laps. I ate something each time I came to an aid station, and ate what appealed to me. Surprisingly, protein looked good to me. I had a hot dog (minus the bun) twice, and also a turkey sandwich. That was besides the normal ultra chips and cookies. As far as hydration went, I carried a water bottle and wore a fuel belt with two small bottles I kept filled with Gatorade. I had my watch buzz me at 10 minute intervals and took alternating sips of either water or Gatorade. During the last lap, the sips became swallows and gulps. I also took S-caps to keep my electrolytes balanced. For the first three hours is was one an hour, then as the day warmed up, I took one every 40 minutes. I was pleased that I had no stomach issues, I seemed to stay hydrated the whole time, and had enough energy to keep me going.

The Numbers

My plan was to do the first loop in 2:40, second in 2:50, third in 3:00, and fourth in 3:10. Lets see how I did. These times include aid station stops, I hit the lap button as I left each aid station, the official timers recorded times as I entered the aid station.
First loop: 2:40 - right on schedule
12:42 pace to AS#2/12:55 pace to HQ
Second loop: 2:46
12:40 pace to AS#2/14:03 pace to HQ
Third loop: 2:55
13:44 pace to AS#2/14:16 pace to HQ
Fourth loop: 2:57
14:08 pace to AS#2/14:32 pace to Finish
Mr Garmin says I walked 11.65 miles at an average pace of 18:54, jogged 37.54 miles at an average pace of 11:51, and ran 1.24 miles at an average pace of 9:14.
Average heart rate was 136 and never got above 160.
I did slow down as the mileage increased, but not as much as I expected. I'm pleased that I never really hit a wall or low point where I had to talk myself into continuing. A large part of that I think was the encouragement I got from other runners I encountered along the way.

The Finish

The finish was kind of anti-climactic. Since this is a 100 mile race, there are no medals or belt buckles for 50 mile finishers, just a handshake and pat on the back and a "well done" from the race director. I grabbed a cupful of ice cream, some mountain dew, and went into the lodge to pack my stuff in my drop bag. I texted my brother my finish time, and as I was eating, I saw 100 milers gearing up for the night, since it would be getting dark during their next loop. I actually envied them and it gave me the inspiration to continue to train and try for 100 later this year.

I drove back to the hotel, grabbed a quick shower, asked at the front desk for a restaurant recommendation (the Babymoon Cafe) and headed out for a steak dinner and some wine. Of course I wore my race shirt and mentioned to both the hostess and my waiter that I had just finished running FIFTY MILES. As I was looking at the menu, I checked the website for results and saw that Zack Gingerich had already finished the 100 miles in an amazing 13:23, smashing the course record by more than an hour. To celebrate my finish, I had a wonderful steak, some delicious wine, and of course dessert. Back at the hotel I settled in, read my book, and tried to get to sleep. Although I slept better than I had the night before, I found myself waking up every couple of hours to check the race results and see how the people I met during the day had fared during the night. Bill earned his 1000 mile buckle, Tom hadn't burned himself out during the first 50 miles and finished strong, and Tammy not only ran sub 27 hours, she was under 25 hours!

The Aftermath

I'm writing this two days after the event. Sure I have some muscle soreness, but nowhere near the stiffness I've had after some marathons and shorter ultras. In fact, I'm walking down stairs normally, not even holding on to the railing. The only issue I had was blisters. I had blisters under two of my toenails on my left foot. (Note: do NOT click on that link if you are squeamish, mine weren't that bad, but were still kind of gross) I had noticed discomfort about halfway through the third loop, but nothing bad enough where I thought I wouldn't be able to continue. After about 47 miles I did develop a quarter-sized blister on the ball of my right foot. Walking and running on it was very uncomfortable, and I would have had to take care of that before continuing if my run had been longer than 50 miles. On a side-note, I took a break from writing this report and managed to shuffle three miles. I went to the gym and did it on the treadmill for two reasons. First, I didn't want to take the chance of running a half mile from home and not being able to get back. Second, I had to show off my race shirt and make sure people knew I had run FIFTY MILES two days before!

Finally Some Pictures

The race shirt, my Iphone thinks that red is orange.

Mr Garmin says I ran 50.43 miles, also I didn't stop my watch until after I got my ice cream, a girl has priorities.

The view heading up to the start/finish area and Headquarters Aid Station, yes it is uphill, I walked up that hill every loop except for the last one, I did run up for the finish!

The view coming into Aid Station #2

In the background you can see the start of one of the steeper hills.

If you click on this link you can see photos from one of the official race photographers. This link will take you to a picture of me (I think I'm being careful not to step on any horse apples)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Woo Hoo!

Full race report to follow, but I beat my pie in the sky goal and completed FIFTY MILES in an unofficial 11:17. Weather and course conditions were perfect, in fact three guys ran faster than the previous course record!

Friday, March 26, 2010

You Know You Are An Ultra Runner When....

This little exchange made my day. I was at the airport chatting with a co-worker about my big plans for the weekend. Another dude came by in the middle of the conversation and had heard "fifty miles". He then asked me, "What kind of bike do you ride?" The expression on his face was priceless when I told him I wasn't riding, but rather running that far!

I'm all checked in at the motel. I ran into two other runners (Sue Ellen and Jack) at the front desk and they just happen to be working the mile 25 aid station at Burning River this year, where I'll be attempting 100 miles for the first time. I plan to chat them up some more at the pasta dinner tonight.

So for now I'm going to just chill in my room, maybe take a nap, then head over to Umstead State Park for registration, pasta, and conversation.

Wish me luck tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Its the Final Countdown

Just four days until I attempt to cover FIFTY MILES on foot. I've been doing pretty well with not getting nervous, mostly because I've been treating the distance as something abstract. After all this is supposed to be an initial test to see whether or not I'm ready to attempt a hundred miler later this year. However, now the reality is starting to sink in. I see something that is fifty miles away, and I think, that's a looooong way, and I'm going to try to run that far! I know I have the training, but this will still be the unknown. As the distance increases past the marathon, the potential for problems doesn't just increase mathematically, but it increases exponentially. A blister at mile 24 of a marathon is no big deal, but a blister at that point in a fifty miler means running a whole marathon with a blister. Also, hydration, nutrition, electrolytes become more and more important as the length of the race increases. I think I have a good plan, and the weather forecast promises perfect conditions, but I'm also ready to be flexible as things can and will change.

Speaking of my plan, here it is. I would like to complete the 50 miles in under 12 hours. I'm going to start with walking 1.5 minutes out of every 10 minutes. I'll be keeping an eye on my heart rate, and when it starts getting higher (for me about 160 bpm) I'll increase the amount of walking. The course consists of four 12.5 mile loops so I hope to do the first loop in 2:40, the second loop in 2:50, third in 3:00, and the fourth in 3:10. That adds up to 11:40 which gives me 20 minutes for bathroom stops, changing shoes, aid station stops, and the unexpected.

My pie in the sky goal is 11:30. If everything goes right, the weather stays perfect, I don't have to slow down too much, and I don't dawdle at the aid stations, that just might be possible.

I'm starting to make a mental packing list which I'll turn into a written one tomorrow. In the meantime, I'm still not tapering too much, in fact I ran an 8 mile interval session today. Oops!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I'm a Terrible Taperer

Less than two weeks until I attempt to run FIFTY MILES for the first time. I know I should be tapering, but I'm feeling great and my legs want to keep running. Here's what I've been doing so far this week after my six hour treadmill session on Friday:

Saturday - 5 miles in 58:19 running around my neighborhood.

Sunday - 4.27 miles in an hour. This was a hill workout on the hotel treadmill, I alternated 1/2 mile walking with the incline at 8, and 1/2 slow running level and 5.3 mph.

Monday - 10 mile tempo run on the hotel treadmill, 1 mile warm-up at 5.1 mph, 5 miles at 5.5 mph, 1 mile at 5.6 mph, 1 mile at 5.7 mph, 1 mile at 5.8 mph, 1 mile cool-down at 5.1 mph.

Tuesday - 5 miles in 56:47 running around the neighborhood.

Wednesday - 5 miles in 57:43 on the treadmill.

Today - 10 miles in 1:55:00 on the Peachtree City golf cart paths. I saw this guy on my last mile. He is some kind of heron or egret (my bird identification isn't very good).

Friday, March 12, 2010

Six Hours

Today I scheduled myself for a six hour time on feet long run. Since it was raining and the forecast called for thunderstorms, this was my home for six hours today.

As you can see, I basically moved in at my gym. I had two bottles of Gatorade, two bottles of water (I did refill one of them), Pringles, cookies, and S-caps. I can tell you that I did get some strange looks when I took my "aid station" breaks for either Pringles or cookies.

I had hoped to log 27-30 miles, but I pooped out after about 2 hours and had to increase my walking time. I ended up with only 26.35 miles for a pace of about 13:40. The previous two weeks have been fantastic with my long runs, tempo runs, intervals, etc. so I figure I was due for a not so great run. Besides, my last two long runs were in great weather outside, so that helped the pace, I'm sure.

Now I am officially in taper mode. In two weeks I'll be attempting 50 miles for the first time. I'm hoping to finish in under 12 hours. I think I'll need to be able to do that in order to have a realistic shot of making a 30 hour cutoff for my 100 mile attempt.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Streak Is Over

I didn't run yesterday. Not because I was injured, or overtrained, or didn't have time. I just felt, eh, lets take a day off, and I did. So, my longest running streak ended at 65 days. My current run streak is now 1 day. I had a nice little tempo run on the treadmill. After a 1 mile warm-up, I did 4 miles @ 5.5 mph, 1 mile @ 5.6 mph, and 1 mile @ 5.7 mph, followed by a 2 mile cool-down. Total distance was 9 miles in a time of 1:40:06.