Alright, it’s done. Pretty fun day, when I look back on it. Brutal. But I had fun.
Weather: It started at 63F/95%. The temp would stay right there, maybe 62 degrees, the entire race. I went shirtless after the first loop…it was pretty hot, especially when the sun came up. The cold front arrived about halfway through the race. This dropped the dew point but not the temps. It also brought 20-35 mph winds. That really sucked in several areas.
Course: My hopes of having a dry course were dashed in the first mile. It was really muddy. Hit some unavoidable shin-deep water about 2 miles in and stayed fully waterlogged/mudlogged the rest of the way. Some parts were really treacherous. It’s a loop course, 7.8 mile loops. To make the mileage work out, you do an add-on segment in the first loop, so the first time around is 11.3 miles, and the next 5 loops are 7.8 apiece. 2 aid stations in each 7.8 mile loop. My 50-miler started at 5am, but there was a 50k @ 6am, a 25k @ 7am, and I think a 10k @ 8am. All on the same course.
Loop 1: Definitely a different kind of start than I’m used to, as a road runner. Everyone kind of wandered into the horse barn where you start, about 3 minutes before the gun. Then it goes off and everyone breaks into a nice slow jog. Inside I was laughing. Anyway, I was in 3rd by the time we got to the singletrack, which was fine. The guy in front of me (Gabe) seemed to be setting a reasonable pace, but the first place guy (Matt) was pulling away. I tried not to care, but it sorta bothered me. Obviously I could have passed and caught up to Matt, but that just seemed stupid…there were 48 miles to go for crying out loud. And Gabe seemed to know what he was doing, and I did not want to get lost in the dark so I stayed behind him. Finished the long loop in 1:38:29, right behind Gabe.
Loop 2: Gabe was not stopping at the aid stations at all – his wife? would just hand stuff to him. So it always took me a mile or so to catch up, but it still seemed dumb to “make a move” with 35+ miles to go so I stuck with him, even though I could see Matt’s lead was growing, every time we’d hit an open section. As a side note, Gabe was falling…a lot. I’d always check on him, make sure he was ok, etc. But dang, it was probably 5 or 6 times in the first 2 loops. This loop was 1:10:12, still in 3rd, right behind him.
Loop 3: More of the same. I made up my mind to pick it up and pass him after this loop since we were probably now 3-4 minutes behind Matt. This loop was 1:13:11.
Loop 4: “The surge.” I probably took my longest break after Loop 3, having run roughly a marathon at this point. I hit the PoP and guzzled a lot of Gatorade…and ate more PB&J. Once again, Gabe ran right through and I found myself way behind. I took my first big spill @ mile 27 – a total face plant, which really rung my bell for a few minutes. Ended up being a good thing though – I picked it up more (after collecting myself) and just kinda ran my own pace; when I (eventually) caught up, I just kept it up, and actually hit the gas a little harder. After a couple miles, we hit the pasture and it looked like I’d already put a good 2 minutes on Gabe. Unfortunately, by the end of the loop, I was bonking. Well, that was dumb. This loop was 1:11:41, even though it felt like I was hammering it, guess it turned out to only be 90s faster than the previous loop.
Loop 5: I’d say I ran these last 2 loops in a fully bonked state. We all know how bad it sucks to feel like that…so to feel like that for 3 hours was not a lot of fun. Still, I couldn’t even see Gabe – figured I had no less than a 3-4 minute lead on him. And I didn’t really see Matt up ahead anymore either. So I broke into my best plod. No more running on the steeper uphill sections, no more ninja moves to avoid puddles and mud (just shuffled straight through), and a lot more grabbing trees to pull myself up. 1:18:55 for this one.
Loop 6: So this last loop starts, and I’m dying, but pretty sure I’ll finish. I stopped looking behind me and just plodded on… fat dumb and happy(ish). With about 3 miles to go I hear a big KER-PLAT behind me. I looked and it was Gabe, falling down again, but only about 10 seconds behind me. Oh man, I was so pissed. Obviously I took off at that point. Frankly, I was surprised (and a little disappointed in myself) at how easy it was to all of a sudden drop my pace. I’m guessing here, but I’d say I was running 90 sec/mile faster, instantaneously, and held it through the line. The last 2 miles are the toughest ones, but I was (relatively speaking) screaming through them, compared to the previous loop. I kept looking back and I’d put maybe 30-45 seconds on him in pretty short order. Ended up about 80 seconds ahead of Gabe, and 4 minutes behind Matt. Last loop was 1:17:02…2nd place overall.
Hindsight being 20/20, the main thing I would’ve done differently would be to stay up with Matt from the beginning. I was just too scared of the unknown, I guess. 4 minutes over a distance of 50 miles is not exactly a huge difference in pace. Can’t really blame myself though. I had no idea how I was supposed to feel at various points in the race…or how hard I should be pushing – just a lack of experience. Oh, I should have trained too. These minor details add up!
Anyway, this won’t be my last ultra. I found out from Matt that there’s a really good trail running group he belongs to, and they run at Govt. Canyon a lot, which is close to my house. Once I regain use of my legs, I’ll focus on road running for awhile (if I can manage to focus on anything) but I can already see a possible shift in focus down the road.