Training this winter had been going well, not great, or excellent, but well. I have to say that southern Kansas has a nice winter training climate. I would give my build up to this race a solid B, not a B+ or a B-, but good. I had two 90 mile weeks, a slew of 60 and 70 mile weeks, and four consecutive months of 500,000+ steps. As for specific workouts, I climbed essentially three 14ers in Colorado, had five 20+ mile long runs at sub 7 minute pace average, and two 4+ hour trail runs. My workouts during the week weren't bad either, nothing huge, but a 28:58 8k was in there, and maybe 30 miles total at sub 6 pace if I'm optimistic about my last ten weeks of training. It's all on Strava if anyone wants to see it.
I took a day of vacation Friday and drove up to Madison, arriving around 6 PM. Along the way I went for my final run on the trails at the Mines of Spain. They recently cut back some of the forest and it's pretty wide at the moment, which is nice. My parents came down from Sheboygan and after dinner we went to bed at a hotel.
Saturday morning started at 5 AM. After quickly changing, eating a bagel and having a coffee, I drove over to Lake Wingra to get my race number, chip, t-shirt, box of chocolates, and other goodies. By the time I had everything put together, and used the port-a-pottie for the last time, it was about time to start. The temperature was 39F at the start, so I wore arm warmers and a thin stocking hat for the first two laps.
The race is ten laps of a 10k (6.2 mile) loop. There is an aid station at the start/finish line, and then another one 3.8 miles into the loop. There are some hills on the course, and they basically all come in the first 3.8 miles. My nutrition strategy was to get handed a 20 oz. bottle at the 3.8 mile aid station, either gatorade or water, always with a gel, and then drink as much as I comfortably could and discard the bottle at the finish aid station. That way I would get to spend about 65% of the lap without anything in my hands, and yet get enough water and calories for the seven hours of modestly hard running. The first and last lap I had 8 oz. of pomegranate juice instead of a 20 oz bottle, anticipating not being thirsty, and just needing 2.4 miles to finish. At the finish line I basically didn't get anything to eat or drink until 70k, then I downed a Starbucks double shot espresso, and at 80k and 90k I drank some mango smoothie. I needed some protein later in the race. My muscles were not having a great go of it.
My pace goal was to run 6:50-6:55 per mile, 42:30-43:00 per 10k, expecting a finish time of 7:05-7:10. I thought that was a very realistic goal based on my training. Of course I want to break 7 hours! But my training has not been quite to that level, maybe another three weeks and I would have gotten there, if I hadn't managed to get injured.
The first about 1.5 laps I ran with Jesse and Gary, who was trying to set a master's record. When Jesse told us he was a 2:17:59 marathoner, I was pretty shocked. When he accelerated ever so slightly to use the bathroom I let him go. I mean, he ran at the last two Olympic Marathon Trials, and I think I probably have made peace on the other hand with never running in that race. (Ha! I'm not sure I want to accept making peace with that.) At that time I was doing just under 42 minutes per lap, which would be just under 7 hours for a finish time. I was pretty excited as I felt good, and the optimistic side of me thought, 'maybe today is the day!' Which is a thought that many runners can relate to. Soon Gary stopped to use the port-a-potties and I was alone. The nice thing about loop courses is that after a few laps there are people around you, as everyone has different paces.
On the 5th and sixth lap I finally slowed down over 42 minutes per 10k, and I was pretty happy because the first half of the race I basically kept telling myself to slow down and save energy. Then around 70k, the race got harder and I slowed down more than I wanted to. That is of course the point of an ultra, or really any race, to run beyond what is comfortable. My stomach rebelled a little against the gels, enough that I skipped eating the gels a few times, I think I had five total, out of eight bottles I had with a gel attached. As for liquids, I had about 60 oz. of gatorade, about 60 oz. of water, 16 oz. of pomegranate juice, 6.5 oz. Starbucks, and 8 oz. of mango smoothie.
What to say about the last three laps? My average pace was 7:13, 7:15, 7:23 on those last three. The whole time I'm thinking, 'Run smart. Don't blow it. Drink. Eat. Relax. Save energy for that last lap, but keep pushing. Thank you God for this day!' While I had a few issues with blisters earlier in the race, by 70k, it didn't matter any more, I couldn't really feel that pain over the lead in my legs. I was focused on maintaining good form, and simply running. I was trying to be in the moment as much as possible, not dwelling on the 15 miles remaining, or the 45 miles covered, but remaining aware enough that I would finish. A few years ago I read from Last to First by Charlie Spedding, and it was a book I could actually relate to. A guy that worked hard for years, and "failed" often, until he ran to 3rd place at the 1984 Olympic marathon. One of the things he said, at least I think it was him, maybe it was Ron Hill, was that he ran ever race to finish it. Which is to say work hard and put it all out there, but don't blow yourself up before you reach the finish, which I have done a number of times. So I ran this race hoping to finish and have a good experience and it was!
The last lap I thought that I would have extra mental energy and run a faster lap being so close to the end, and that did not happen. On the contrary, I was the most tired of any lap in the race. I ran my slowest mile, a 7:50, on the big hill going up to mile 2.8. Fortunately, while I could feel I was low on glycogen, I was not bonked. While I could feel muscle damage, it was not like Mad City last year or North Coast 24 last fall when the feeling of muscle damage was too great to continue and I DNF'd. When I rounded the corner with a half mile to go I was so excited, I put in everything I had to the finish. At the finish I raised my arms in joy, in thanksgiving to God, and selfishly for a good running picture. I slowed to a walk, and fell over in the grass 25 meters from the finish. 7:10:42.3!! Mission Accomplished!!!
I can't help but think of races like this (50k, 50 miles, 100k, and really marathon) as "middle distance". They aren't really long and super hard like a 24 hour run, or Nolan's 14, and yet they are way harder than a half marathon or a 5k. (Traditionally middle distance refers to races like the 800 meters, and the one mile, and in college maybe the 3000 meters.) Which is to say, a long time ago when I began to realize that the marathon wasn't going to be my best event, I thought it would be the 100k. I thought that would be my chance to be on Team USA. Of course, I wasn't really even aware of the 24 hour run at the time. After a DNF at this race last year and my 2015 Fall 50 performance, I was a little scared that I wan't going to have a good middle ultra distance race. That makes this national class performance so rewarding!
Thank you to my parents, my dad, basically the only person at the 3.8 mile aid station, and my mom who felt like she did so little compared to the support that she has given me in 24 hour races! It may sound simple, but having that support just where I wanted it definitely helped me run a good race! Thanks to Tim Yanacheck for putting this race on! A final note to all of you trail ultra runners, you should really try the roads for several reasons:
- There are more opportunities to represent USA at world championships. A better honor in running I do not know, except maybe a world record.
- For a moderately good runner like myself there is more opportunity for prize money.
- There is less variability like trail conditions, or how well you know the trail, in determining your final time.
- You can actually register for the races instead of entering lotteries eight months before the race and hoping you get accepted, and are healthy then.
Here is the activity on Strava. Here are the official photos.
|1st Loop - 10 Km||6.214||41:57.3||6:45.1|
|2nd Loop - 20 Km||12.427||1:23:50.0||6:44.8||6.21||41:52.7||6:44.4|
|3th Loop - 30 Km||18.641||2:05:29.0||6:43.9||6.21||41:39.0||6:42.2|
|4th Loop - 40 Km||24.855||2:47:15.2||6:43.7||6.21||41:46.2||6:43.3|
|5th Loop - 50 Km||31.069||3:29:18.4||6:44.2||6.21||42:03.2||6:46.0|
|6th Loop - 60 Km||37.282||4:11:33.7||6:44.9||6.21||42:15.3||6:48.1|
|7th Loop - 70 Km||43.496||4:54:53.9||6:46.8||6.21||43:20.2||6:58.4|
|8th Loop - 80 Km||49.71||5:39:45.1||6:50.1||6.21||44:51.2||7:13.1|
|9th Loop - 90 Km||55.923||6:24:49.2||6:52.9||6.21||45:04.1||7:15.2|
|10th Loop - 100 Km||62.137||7:10:42.3||6:55.9||6.21||45:53.1||7:23.0|
|Left Foot Carnage|
|Right Foot Carnage|