Ive had a heck of a trail running fall (2010), starting at the end of August I ran my first 50 mile race in Manistee national forest in Michigan, followed two weeks later by a 50k (31 miles) race on the Potowatami, followed 3 weeks later with another 50k race in Chattanooga Tennessee. When this was all said in done I realized I had a month to put in some really solid training before I was signed up to run another 50 miler. With the cooler temps I was really putting in high mileage and happy with my training.
So last Friday I loaded up the Toe-riffica (my pacifica) with my sleeping bag, 3 diff pairs of running shoes, 3 jugs of water, my headlamp, hydration pack and about 25 gu's. The park was in southern Indiana on the border with Kentucky, some tiny town known as Spencer, in. After driving 6 hours I was glad to find the park. I laid out my sleeping bag in the back of my car watched a couple episodes of 30 rock on my laptop and passed out.
Woke up at 5am to eat breakfast, it was cold, like 24 degrees cold. I like to have 2 hours to digest before the race starts. - Breakfast was a banana with peanut butter, a couple bites of a baked potato and a 20 oz pepsi. breakfast of champions.
The race: Owen Putnam State Forest 50 mile was a loop race. Runners start out running something called a powerline loop which was essentially bushwacking up a big hill for 2.5 miles, then running back down. After the powerline loop runners begin a 13.4 mile loop on horse trails through the state park. The hills were steep and rocky, very hard to run up or down because of the technicality. That means you gotta go fast when its flat and do ur best to get up and down the hills. Run this loop 3x and then go back and do the powerline again (ouch).
The 50 mile started at 7am and it was still very dark. Luckily I had expected this and was wearing my petzl tikka 2 plus headlamp that my girlfriend bought me for my birthday. It worked great I am happy to say. As soon as the race started I saw 3 or 4 guys take off, I decided to let them go and settled in to chat with some people. We worked together to stay on the trail and navigate the brush while we were doing the powerline loop, friendly conversation ensued and I learned that I was running with some experienced ultrarunners!
As we finished up the powerline loop I decided to start popping gels. Early in the race I do 2-3 gels per hour about 200-300 cal/hour. I was a little worried because my hands were so cold I could barely move my fingers and the skin on my arms was getting numb. To warm up i decided to run a little harder so I left the guys I was running with and decided to make an attempt to move up in the standings. Its really important early in these long runs to keep the calories coming early on so I kept eating gu's every 30 minutes.
After finishing the first 18 miles in about 3 hours and 15 minutes, I had moved up to 4th place, so when i started the 2nd 13 mile loop i wanted to keep the pace up, however I was starting to smell ketones in my breath, meaning I was running low on blood glucose (bonking). When I came to the next aid station I ate 2 gels at once and chugged two cups of HEED (gatoraide like stuff) and some more pepsi. I tried to get running again and almost barfed, even worse, my vision was getting hazy... It was like there was a fog over everything. I took this as a sign to rest considering i was closing in on 4 hours of running and wasnt half way done yet. When I need to rest i walk for 2 minutes. Its usually enough time to digest. To clear up my vision I decided I had become hyponatremic because I had been drinking mostly water and no salts. I carry salt pills for this exact reason and took one. I had to continue this intervention everytime my vision went hazy but it seemed to work.
The rest of the second loop went very well and I passed another person ahead of me to move into 3rd. As I finished up the 2nd loop I saw the race leaders starting their 3rd loop and decided that I would change shoes and socks and then do my best to catch up. BAAD idea. I changed out my MT101 racing flats for a pair of Salamon Speedcross 2 shoes which are heavily cushioned but dont have a rock plate. No rock plate meant my feet were shredded during that third loop. There was one section in particular that was about a mile of rocky trail covered literally covered in rocks that you would find on train tracks. That was the most miserable I was during the entire race.
Coming in to the last aid station of the 3rd loop I noticed one of the volunteers was eating McDonalds. Never in my life, no matter how much I have had to drink, have I ever wanted french fries so badly. He offered me some, and i grabbed a few and headed off into the woods. Finally done with the loops I came back to the race start and realized I was going to have to run the powerline loop again. At this point (45 miles 8 hours and 15 minutes) I had lost the ability to run fast and was forced into a strange shuffle clomp run. I pulled out the magic potion. Mountain Dew. chugged half a bottle and tore off down the gravel road. About a mile out i realized I had no idea where I was going. When we ran this section in the morning it was so dark that nothing looked familiar. I turned around completely demoralized thinking I would have to head back to the race start and get directions. Just then the Race Directors wife drove by in a pick up, I flagged her down and asked if I was headed the right direction. YES I was almost to the trail head. However I had lost my mtn dew high and was forced back into my shuffle clomp as I started the long climb up the powerline trail. Just then the race leader, Scott Breeden, came down the hill, I estimated 30-40 min ahead of me. He warned me that there was a dog loose ahead. Shit, last thing I needed was to try to run away from a dog.
Turns out it was a German Shepard and really liked to run and bark. At first I tried to run but I was no match. As soon as I started to walk the dog calmed down a lot. I picked up a big rock just in case. After it stopped chasing me i focused again on the task ahead and picked my way up the powerline. There is one point where you have to climb up a 20 foot embankment into a briar patch. I remember it sucked when i was fresh, now pretty tired i grabbed a stick and helped propel myself up the cliff. At this point I didnt even care about the briars and just let them stab me. I knew it was all downhill to the finish. Again I started my strange shuffle and forced down another gel. The rest of the race just kinda floated by, I knew i was going to finish and was sure i had 3rd locked in. As soon as I crossed the line the race director came over and congratulated me, handed me some brownies and said there was beer and fried chicken in the race tent. Chilled by the fire for an hour or two eating and drinking.
|Mtn. Dew high is wearing off...|
All in all a great race. Finished up 3rd overall, final time of 9 hours and 18 minutes. A time i was thrilled with given the difficultly of the trails. Some of the other runners who I had beat were very experienced guys who had been doing ultras for years. All in all my fueling strategy worked great, and liked the pop for breakfast and at the end.