Friday, May 16, 2008

Winging it on the Last 19

Photo courtesy of Chihping Fu.

Ah yes the strategy. I treated the 50-miler like a 50k (31-miles) race and resolved to let the other 19 take care of itself. That pretty much sums it up - the last 19 on bullheadedness and sheer determination.

All week I was excited for the race. I felt great at Wildflower and I knew I had it in me to come under 8:31. The previous events had made their mark and I was prepared to pull the plug if necessary being this close to my 100-miler but I had a good feeling about this race. Race morning found me with my usual race proven plan: start slow, ramp up and hold. However somewhere along mile 3, feeling very very good, I was no longer content in shaving off 5-10 minutes of my previous time. I wanted something bigger and a little more out of reach. I asked myself on those early miles, "what would be a really great accomplishment?" Sub 8 hours came to mind and I promptly formed a plan to make it happen. I calculated that I needed to come in around 5 hours for the 50k to give myself a realistic chance of coming at or under 8 hours. A 5 hour 50k on hilly trails is fast for me but it I was resolved to make it happen.

Like the year before I noticed that I would tire before my heart rate would reach it's max, a sign that I wasn't fully recovered from the races before. Despite being a gear short I was moving remarkably well. I came through the 50k mark at 4:55 feeling very strong. Brian Wyatt, who was also running the race, yells at me to get out of the station fast and remarks that I'm looking strong. Many of the ultra runners I've met are as supportive as they are competitive, sometimes even while you are racing against them, maybe it's because we are such a small tight knit community.

Miles 31 to 50 was just one big battle as you can imagine.

I left the aid station feeling pumped which promptly ended when we hit our last major climb for the day. Miles 31 to 35 is a climb that just saps you, it's a long climb just at a time when you're feeling the race. I made it through fine but started sputtering a bit around mile 36 or so. My stomach started acting up and my walk breaks increased. I felt bloated and felt pain under the bottom of my left ribs toward the sternum. Felt like gas pain. Nothing sounded good food wise and I was a bit dehydrated. Nothing to do but to keep eating and drinking, eating and drinking. After the mile 41 aid station I left fully tanked up on fluids, salt and sugar but as I ran I wanted to hurl it all out. Vomitting definitely would have delivered instant relief but I would have lost all that precious liquid, salt and sugar. Since I didn't plan on returning to the aid station I just left I gritted my teeth and kept it all in. Eventually I felt better as things were absorbed. At mile 45 I knew I wasn't going to break 8 hours and was resigned to finish as close to the 8 hour mark as possible. I crossed the line at 8:02:53 racking my brain at what I could have done different.

Chasing 8-hours was a grand goal and I was actually surprised I came close to it. I surprised myself. After the intial disappointment of not making it I was able to embrace the accomplishment of cutting 28 minutes off my time from the previous year. The fear of blowing up on the last 19 miles definitely kept it interesting:) It was a tough, tough 19 miles to be sure but a good learning experience. However it's not a race strategy I would employ again. There's the possibility that I would have broken the 8 hour mark had I stuck to my original plan. The speed and intensity would have been lower in the first half but the output a little more even throughout the second half of the race. Nevertheless it was a good thing to experience, a nice kick in the butt and it fired me up. If I had to do it all over again I would have done it the exact same way, except I would have run a bit more faster - 3 minutes worth. God willing I will be back next year.


  1. I LOVE that pic! You know, just from looking at it you would have never guessed you ran all those miles LOL

    You will shave the 3. No doubts, homie! ;D ;D

  2. It's that tight knit community that really has me interested in ultras. That and the fact that I have endurance and no speed. :>D

    Great job on that race! I can't believe all of these big events that you are hammering out!!

  3. A conservative strategy is fine. But sometimes you just have to go for it to see what you've got. Congrats on pulling it out!

  4. the last 19 on bullheadedness and sheer determination.
    Perfect Words you Bull :-)

  5. Good to see you volunteering at the aid station in Ohlone. The irony is that it was about where you passed me two years ago. Funny! I'm glad I finished in 7:55...definitely not a course PR and I didn't acclimate to heat.

    See you on the trails!

  6. Hey Rick, great to meet you at the Ohlone 50K. I was so inspired by your report from '06! So thank you! I hope to run into you again at a future race. Maybe when I get the cahones to run a 50-miler or a 100K. Someday...

    Thanks again for volunteering out there and for being so cool!!!