For those of you regular ultra dudes and dudettes, please understand that this blog (well, just the race reports) is read by some non runners. I dumb it down a bit, so please excuse the "Duuuuuuh" factor.
Many of my co-workers, friends, and family ask what it is like to run an ultramarathon. I guess the answer depends on the race, and yesterday was like no other.
In short, is was like no other because the first half was one of the best races I have ever run. I was relaxed, happy, and following the strategy I wanted. The second half caught up to me and made it one of those "why do I do these" experiences. But let me start at the beginning.
I rode down to the race with Steve Quick, and Todd Rowe. This was going to be Todd's first 50 Mile, so we were pretty pumped for him. We managed not to kill each other on the way down, and had some fun conversations. Very little about the race up ahead. We arrived to find Karen Gall in the cabin next door, already with race packet and settled in. We quickly made dinner. The four of us ate dinner on the deck. A beautiful Spring evening. Not much race talk.
Before bed, Steve and I had some home brew and watched some old Simpsons episodes... clowns are funny.
Bryan Erickson was going to arrive a little later, he was running the 50K.
I fell asleep and had a dream that Bryan called on my cell phone, trying to find the cabin. I think I directed him into Whitewater Lake. Also in the dream, he came into the cabin yelling "is this where the party is?"
I woke up to my back up alarm going off at 4am. Since I am an idiot, I forgot to change the time on my watch from when I was in Cincinnati that morning (eastern time). I managed to fall back asleep to wake up to the correct alarm.
Funny, Bryan was there, I don't remember him coming in.
We had coffee and oatmeal, breakfast of champions.
We arrived at the start with plenty of time to pick up our packets and get ready. I was starting to get nervous.
We saw Zach Pierce, Jim Wilson, Lynn and Daryl Saari, and a few other ultra regulars.
We proceeded to the start. Bryan joined us in the pack with his civilian clothes still on. He also had different civies on at the finish... not sure if he actually ran.
There was a moment of silence to a fallen runner this week, which was very touching. And we were off.
My plan was to take it real easy during the Nordic Loop, which is an a wide trail with rolling hills. Easy, but a killer if you waste energy on the hills. I kept repeating to myself "conserve energy". I did everything I could to take it easy. I ran it in 1:17. I felt great. We headed out to the trail heading down to Whitewater.
As we headed toward the first out and back, I was feeling better and better. At one point there was a gradual quarter mile downhill, and my body just started gliding. I left the guy I was with in the dust and started catching up to others. I was not trying to pace or race anybody, I was just following what my body was telling me.
Because I decided to carry most of my fuel, I blew through aid station 5 (where the first drop bag was). All I need from the Aid stations was liquid, which I had plenty of. I managed to pass a crowd of people at the Aid station because of the non stop. The crowd was getting thinner.
I fell in line behind someone who looked solid. After a mile or so he jumped off trail to take care of bio business. The next person was slowing as I was maintaining, so I passed as well. This is new to me. I don't pass people, especially not early in a race.
The hills were rolling and I topped off at the next aid station. Times were good.
I came upon some more runners. One was Steve who was already having a bad day with his ankle. I told him I was having a great day, which may have cursed me.
One of those I had just passed ended up running with me for a while. After a while, he said his name was Greg Loomis. Uh oh, I know this name, he is an ultra running stud. I have no business running with him, and less business passing him. I mentioned I was probably in a different league, but he said I looked and sounded fine.... nothing to worry about. He ended up picking up the pace after a while. Watching him run was like watching a bird effortlessly soar. He has form and economy.
I hit the turnaround and it was back to "confusion corner," near the start. Since this part was an out and back, it was great to see everybody. I gave Todd Rowe and Zach Pierce big "woo hoos". I still felt good. Pierre Oster gave me a primal grunt, the Frog Dog is unaffected by simple races as this.
I still felt great and let the down hills carry me. After an aid station, I looked back at some noise to find 10 people pacing behind me. I have almost never led a pack, and nobody wanted to pass. It felt great, but out of place for me. I saw Karen Gall, and she looked happy.
This was an especially rocky section, so a lot of jumping and dancing. The runners were running when I was, and walking when I was. Then it happened.
Boom. I caught a rock. I fell so fast, I only remember hitting the ground/rocks. Knocked the wind out of me. They all stopped and helped me up, then took off. I stood there bent over in shock, in a daze and not sure if I cracked a rib. I figured this is so common with ultra runners, that I just figured the pain would go away if I just started running. It took until the next aid station to get it back together. No blood but stinging all over. Lots of scrapes, but nothing serious. The water bottle in my right hand might have prevented a fractures wrist. I can't remember the last time I hit the deck that hard.
The next aid station was at exactly the marathon distance. 4:10. I was on an 8 hour pace. I figured I was in a great position to do 8:30. I figured there were some tough spots ahead, and I had lots of time banked. Although, one runner said "the bank is not open on Saturday".
I was fine until about mile 30. I knew it was coming so I was prepared. The feeling is a slow shutdown of all mental capacities. For those of you who have run marathons, most of you have experienced this. Mostly it is the depletion of you glycogen stores. Some call it hitting the wall, but hitting the wall is more from non-fat burning runners who hit it hard. This is like a more slow, painful death.
I was starting to be passed. No big deal. I just needed to hold on and focus. I started to tell myself "this will pass". I knew it would, the question was when. Slow down and let the body recover. I did.
I was passed by Tom Bunk on the hill right before confusion corner. Not only is Tom a legend, but is 66 years old, and ran that hill like it was nothing. I was not worried about being passed by him.
I got to the "Margaritaville" aid station. Glen, the rd, took my picture as I arrived. I refueled and put my game face on. The next section was the hardest. I kept telling myself "you will get through this", and I was starting to wonder when. Usually I would have gotten my mojo back by now.
The hills in this section are big, rocky, and plenty.
I shared the trails with some horse riders at one point. Hmmm, that was odd.
I finally made it to the Palmyra AS. I took a moment to sit and give myself a pep talk. Time to focus and get it together. I think I even said out loud, "get it together". The workers understood. Off to the 40 mile turnaround.
I was starting to get it back, but slowly. This hills are not as bad in this section. A mud bog which a small child could have been lost in was tricky. I thought I saw a bear, but figured it was a big dog (it was). I did not stop to smell the flowers.
I figured my game face would change at mile 40. It didn't. I could not break though it. I felt better, but the juice was not back. I tried jumping to it, all to find myself redlining a few minutes later.
This was the second out and back, and I was not really looking forward to cheering for everybody. I was so low on juice, I could barely talk. Not long after the turnaround, I saw a fellow Afton trainer, Bill Gengler. I saw him many times in the spring out there. He was looking calm and strong. His is getting ready for WS100.
I don't remember what I said to Steve on the way back, I grunted for Todd, and I don't think I even acknowledged Zach. Bill caught me at the Palmyra AS on the return. I left ahead of him, but he was with me quickly. Then he was gone. He dropped the hammer and I saw him run up a hill. Dang, he was running strong.
I saw Karen soon after, and I think I high fived her. Not even a grunt from me. When would I get my juice back? I tried running down the hills to kick start. Nothing. I kept taking fuel. Nothing. "you will get through this"...........WHEN?
I managed the course back to the "Margaritaville" AS. only 3 miles or so to go. I tried to charge but I could not. Close the deal. Close the deal.
I finally got to the last AS. 1.5 miles to go. I purposely did not look at my watch until then. 8:48. I had 12 minutes to run 1.5 miles on the easiest part of the course. I can do this! I unlocked it and took off.
I even found myself think of Adam's blog "Pain is temporary, regret hurts forever". I hear you Adam. I think I maintained a 7:30 pace..... until a mountain jumped out in the middle of the trail. I knew it was out of the questions. I tried my best to get up it, but it was a power walk. I think I also cried for my mommy. I turned it back on, but knew I would finish over 9. At this point, I was just happy to get r done.
I did hammer the last two hills, knowing they were in the last 1/8 mile. I crossed the line at 9:02, 7 minutes faster than last year. I was very happy.
Jim Wilson was there to give Kudos. Bill finished well under 9.
The RD for Kettle 100 took a picture of me with my war wounds. Maybe Jim will help me retrieve that one.
I had someone hose me off at the finish. That was a treat.
I saw Steve finish, and he did not look happy. He got the job done, though, with serious ankle pain. I did not get to see Zach or Todd finish, but saw them soon after. Great job to those guys. Pierre crossed the line like it was a walk in the park. Karen had a great finish too.
We all went back to the cabin and enjoyed a dinner of home brew, chips, salsa guacamole, and brownies. I fell asleep on the floor, and somehow managed to take my sweatshirt half off in the middle of the night. I was gone.
We all battled the demons, and a lot of people struggled this year. My theory is, in part, lack of heat acclimation. Anybody in the upper midwest did not get any long runs in weather over 40 degrees.
SO WHAT HAPPENED?
First of all, did the low hear rate training work?
Last year I did lots of tempo work, lots of hill work, and lots of hard long runs. I was 7 minutes slower.
This year I did 1 hill workout (outside of the 4 Afton runs where I walked all of the hills), and no speed work. No tempo work.
Here are some things I think I can do better.
1-eat better. Less sugar burning food and more fat burning food. I think my body just struggled with processing fuel properly. It was not my diet this week, it was my diet in general.
2 - More hill work. I just did not have time to do hill work as my low hr period was over only 4 weeks ago. I would have done one 2 weeks ago, but had a rough schedule that week, and struggled with allergies the following. Realistically I needed 2 months of solid hill work.
3 - More long, SLOW, runs of close to 40 miles......earlier in the season. It is tricky to cram these in between races. And 40 takes time to recover from. Earlier in the season would be smarter.
4 - Run long with experienced runners who have run that race in 8 - 8.5 hours.
So what is the difference between this and a marathon? The point at which you don't think you can keep going is dragged out for...... 18 miles? But really is not that much different. Normally one recovers from the dumps and gets back to it.
Now for another challenge I have not taken on, back to back ultras.
Next weekend is Superior 50K. I need a quick recovery.
Thanks to all of you for your support and encouragement.
Off to Lutsen.