Sunday, June 5, 2011

50 mile race report

Well I finished my first 50 mile race yesterday and thought I would write it down before forgetting the details. This is my first race report so it probably will lack any flow or structure... Anyway the race was The North Face trail 50m in D.C. We started at 5am while it was still chilly right before the sky was beginning to gray with morning. There were 239 starters and I ended up placing 157 with a time of 11:22.

The course was 14.8 out from Algonkian Park to Great Falls Park, three 6.9-mile loops in Great Falls Park, and 14 back for a total of 49.5 miles. I went through the first 14.8 in about 2:20; I had meant to run this in 3 hours with some walk breaks to pace myself, but that fell through and I ended up sticking with a few different packs of runners and ran the whole way. After this first section I still felt excellent, contrary to what I had anticipated due to forgoing the walk breaks.

The 6.9 mile loop was fantastic; I had walked much of the loop with my dad earlier in the week so I was fully prepared for them. Each loop is exactly the same: the first mile is flat as a pancake, the next half mile is uphill, the next 1.2 to the aid station on the loop can only be described as a roller coaster. From there the 1.2 back from the aid station is on the same roller coaster, then half a mile down hill over a technical trail, and the next 2.5 is all flat. This last 2.5 mile strech was the most interesting section and I'm glad we got to run it three times. Half of it goes through the ruins of Mathildaville, a canal-town that G. Washington was in charge of in the 1790s, and the other half is literally right on top of the Virginia-side cliffs of Great Falls on the Potomac River.

The first two loops I did in about 1:30 each, including the breaks I took at the aid station between loops, meaning I went through the marathon in about 5 hours (28.4 mile checkpoint was 5:25). Up until this point the only walking I did was on the uphills of the loop. The tendon on the top of my left foot was starting to feel stressed from when I rolled my ankle, but other than that running was still effortless and I had some fun pushing the pace down some technical sections. It was strange how the second loop was much easier than the first. The third loop is when things started to hurt more.. My tendon was really starting to bother me, and the pain was moving up to my left knee on the hills. This loop took about 2 hours including the 10 or so minute break at the aid station.

The first three-ish miles back went really well, as I was able to run almost all of it, but on a half-mile packed gravel downhill, both knees and my right tendon on the top of my foot were going crazy. This is when I started my stretch of walking that would last the next 3 miles. During this stretch I probably walked 2.5 and ran .5 ... Then we rounded a corner through 7-foot tall grass and out of the woods appeared the second-to-last aid station. I had been out of water for about 30 minutes and things were started to get pretty miserable. And frankly, reaching that aid station was very disheartening. Earlier that morning when we reached the same aid station outbound, I learned it was at the 8.1 mile mark, and obviously this meant that we still had that far to go. The guy at the aid station asked me "so how was the first 42 miles" ? And that really struck home that even though we'd come that far...we still had 8 miles to go, which is even worse considering it meant at least another hour and a half of moving.

But, long story short, I got there. Around mile 47 or 48 all of a sudden nothing really hurt, I was able to run the last 2 miles around a 7 or 730 pace without stopping. The last quarter mile and eventually through the finish chute I experienced one of the most rewarding feelings of my life so far. And while I was cursing this sport during the low points of the race, when I got home afterwards I was already looking up the next ultra to do. Funny how that works.

Some notes:
- i basically did the bare minimum in terms of training, and really haven't been able to keep it up the last few weeks due to school and work but i be sure to do more than the minimum next time
- longest training run was a mountainous 22 miles 6 or so weeks out
- average miles per week was around 20 or 30
- wore a 1 dollar cotton white tee and had no problems....
- ate 1 power bar, 1 clif bar, and 3 potato chips during the race for about 450 calories
- drank about 100-120 ounces of gatorade/electrolyte replacement for more calories which really helped as solid food was hard to eat
- ran in mt101s and had no problems (lost the rest of a toenail that was mostly gone anyway, have two tiny blisters, but my toes don't hurt so i will continue to wear these)
- the day after, my ankles are incredibly sore, but quads and calves are ready to run again, shoulders are sore
- all-in-all a fantastic experience