Saturday, January 7, 2012

Race # 20 - Frosty 50k

Frosty 50k
8:00 AM
Winston-Salem, NC
Time: 5:10:xx
Place: 55th out of 114

Today I ran the Frosty 50k in Winston-Salem, NC. This race is essentially the closest ultra I have to where I live. So when I started getting in to ultras last year, I knew I'd have to do this one this year. Unfortunately, my training leading up to this race was, well, not very much. After the NC marathon in November, I was foolish and did not take enough time to rest and let my body recover. So I started having problems with my Achilles. This made for a long December with not much training, and a lot of hoping that the rest I was taking would help me get through this race pain free.

I took my lunch break the day before and went to do some recon work and check out the race location since I had never raced here before. The 'trail' was really just a hard packed dirt/gravel road. This year they also added a 25k and a 50k relay. The email we received days prior to the race stated they were almost at the 300 person capacity.

Summer and I headed out early Saturday morning. She was going to 'crew' for me even though the race was just a double out and back that went around Salem Lake. So the race was essentially cut into four quarters. The 'out' which went from the start/finish, around the lake to the other side, and then back. 25k runners did this once and 50k runners did it twice.

Now for the race. I wore my Hoka Mafate's as I knew I would need all the help I could get for my foot to hang in there for 5-6 hours. My goal was to run this under 5h30m. When we started, I was in the back. I didn't care about going out fast. And rule #1 in ultras is simple: Go. Out. Slow. So I did just that. I was concentrating on running between 10-11 minute per mile pace. That was still probably too fast but it felt good so I went with it.

I played leap frog with one girl a couple of times as first I stopped for a nature break and second I saw a family of deer walking through the woods and slowed to watch them. So I ended up talking to her. Come to find out, she was another Marathon Maniac that was racing. I noticed one other person on the MM website that was running this race in addition to me, so we talked and ran for a few miles. It was nice meeting Andrea, who said she was down here from Columbus, OH. I then came up on the first turn around and talked with Summer for a few minutes and had some gummy bears at the aid station. I hit the first turn around in 1h20m, which would be a pace that would equal out to 5h20m if I could hold that for the remainder of the race. I would be happy with that, but then I started thinking about maybe going sub-5 hour. After the turn around, I headed back to the S/F.

The second leg (of four) of the race was uneventful. Trying to stay at a slow pace, paying careful attention to my right foot and hoping that it never would start hurting. I made my way back around the lake giving the normal 'good job', 'looking good' comments to other runners. The leaders were definitely out there to prove themselves.

As I came in to the S/F halfway mark, I was feeling good still. Halfway I was at 2h37m. I took a 3 minute break to eat and drink some and headed back out for the third leg. This was where I made a stupid mistake. NOTE: just because you feel good after half of a 50k, doesn't mean you should pick up the pace that soon. I messed up and tried to pick up my pace. I got to thinking about this sub-5 goal and calculating what I'd need to run in my head. Stupid. I was running 9-9:30 pace on this leg. I ate something at each aid station, ate gels along the route, trying to keep myself fueled.

As I neared the final turnaround, I saw Summer and asked for some shot bloks and didn't really take time to rest. I started the last leg headed back to the S/F and I could feel my legs fatiguing. It was then that I could tell I didn't train much in the last month. Around mile 24-25, I was really feeling tired. I wanted to walk. The mental demons started showing up. This is where you find out what you're made of.

Even though I wasn't out there to compete with others, it's still a race, and we're all human. If I see someone walking, that is fuel for my fire to keep running and pass them. It's just human instinct I think. So I kept passing folks, and that also encouraged me to keep running so they did not catch up and pass me. I kept telling myself to just keep running. These last seven miles were a true test, mentally and physically.

With four miles left, I wanted to walk. I was tired. My legs were hurting (but not my achilles). I just kept repeating to myself, sometimes out loud, "just keep running, just keep running. No matter how slow you go, just keep running. You're going faster than those who are walking. Pain is temporary. It'll all go away when you finish. Pain is weakness leaving the body. It's all mental." I kept saying all of this to myself to keep me going. Then I thought about what a guy said in an article regarding Badwater (I think). He said something to the point of "I'm going to keep moving until my body will not let me take another step". So I said to myself, "keep running until your body will not let you run another step, then you can walk". As I battled the pain, I never stopped running. I passed many people, simply because I took it easy in the first half (yeah I almost blew it on leg three), but they had gone out too fast at the beginning, and simply ran out of gas. I wasn't breaking any speed records on this last leg, and actually was running a slower pace than what I was running in the first half of the race. But I was moving forward, and still running.

I made my final pass on a young lady and was nervous about it. I knew if I passed her, and since there was less than a mile left, I knew I didn't want to get chicked and have her pass me back. So that helped me hang on at the end. There was one final guy up ahead I thought about trying to catch. And I would have. But then I noticed his wife and three little girls came out about 20 yards onto the race course and he carried the little one while the other two held his hand as he crossed the finish line. I didn't want to steal his moment of glory just to pick up another finishing place. And I have a little girl that will be here in a month or so, and I thought about that day when she'll be coming to watch her daddy race. So I let him finish and I came in after him.

I finished in 5:10:xx. I was pleased. Not only did I beat my goal of 5:30, I have a new 50k PR, and I did the entire race without my Achilles flaring up and hurting like it did back in November. This time though, I will definitely take adequate recovery time!

Thanks to Summer (and baby to be) for spending half the day following me around and supporting me on another crazy running adventure.

A few pics from the race below.

Before the race start. I was freezing and I forgot my gloves!!

And we're off!

Coming into the first turn around with fellow Marathon Maniac, Andrea.

The guy who I decided not to sprint and try to pass so he had his moment of glory with his kids.

Coming in to the finish!

Homemade finishers medal

Race # 19 - Pilot Mountain Challenge 5k

Pilot Mountain Challenge 5k
9:00 AM
Pinnacle, NC
Time: 30:36
Placed 16th Overall

I never got around to writing a report for this race so here goes nothing. I registered for the PM Challenge 5k excited as this was the inaugural year for the race and it runs almost from the bottom of Pilot Mountain, to the summit, via the Grindstone trail. I've ran these trails numerous times so I knew them very well.

I didn't know what to expect on race day but there were a lot of people who showed up for this race, including Jason and Allison Bryant, both LaSportiva runners. Jason has won all three Pilot Mountain Payback trail marathons that have been raced on these trails. He's a super nice guy and would have been a favorite to win. However, he informed me after the race that he broke his arm back in the fall and was told not to run for 6 weeks. Luckily, that time frame ended right before this race. So he was game.

We all lined up on a chilly Saturday morning, me donning the Hoka Mafate's as I was still having some achilles issues from the November marathon. Actually more like the week I didn't take off after the marathon (stupid mistake). So I was nervous about how my foot would react to a mostly uphill race.

I started near the front and made my way through the crowd to get out in front of the mass. I wasn't going to win, but I didn't want to have to weave through the crowd by starting in the back. I settled in to a pace that was quick, but it's only a 3 mile race so I knew I just had to give it all I had for those 3 miles. Since I knew the trails, I made it through some semi-technical sections easily. It was mostly up and down until one big hill, and then it was all uphill from there.

This is one of those races that you just put your head down and go, without looking up to see how far ahead you have to go. So I did just that. I ran with a couple other guys and we made our way up. Once you get to the split where the Ledge Springs trail forks to the right, that's when the real fun starts. Man-made steps always give me trouble on this trail. I tried running around them so not having to 'step' each one. There was one water stop on the steps but I passed and kept going. I started power hiking while the guy in front of me was running. He did not gain any ground. So I decided to conserve energy and continue to power hike. Once the stairs were over, I picked it up again and we entered the summit parking lot.

The last section we headed around the Pilot Mountain knob. We passed the leader, and Jason was in second about 10 seconds behind. That's where he'd finish. Not bad for taking 6 weeks off. As we headed around the knob, I was the middle man in a pack of three. We stayed this way and I had planned to make a pass about 200 meters from the finish. This was thrown out the window as this section was crowded with people starting their run around the knob while we were ending our run around the knob. So I didn't have a chance to pass. We ran up some steep steps in the same order, and once we got to the top, the guy in front of me started sprinting. My legs were like jello. I started sprinting too late when I saw the finish and knew I couldn't catch him, I just hoped I could hold off the guy behind me. I did, and finished in 16th place with a time of 30:36. Most importantly, no achilles pain!

I enjoyed some homemade chili and then headed home. It was a good race and I look forward to doing it again next year!