Monday, November 15, 2010

The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Miler

50 mile training run on 10/16/10. Well that is what I signed up for, and that is what I got. This was to be my practice Pinhoti. The race start was set at 5:00am, and I decided to save the money and drive down the morning of the race. The last shuttle from parking was at 4:15am, the drive was 2.25 hours, add some time for the just in case, and that equals out the door at 1:30am. Yeah this is going to hurt! I maybe slept an hour.

At the start line I found a heater and hung out there with some friends, and talked to some folks from Minnesota down for their first 50 miler. Dean Karnazes came out to give the motivational speech. Well to quote him, "how many of you are running your first 50 miler?", lots of hands went into the air, "You all are going to die!" Wow now I feel better about today.

Everybody started to line up, and I made my way to the back. I would much rather be passing, than being passed. Plus I wanted to get a slow start just like I would at Pinhoti. The first 2 hours or so were in the dark, and I kept an even pace only passing people walking slower than me on the up hills. I rolled into aid station 1 and there was a huge back up to refill bottles. I had the hydration pack on, so I went ahead grabbed a cup of heed and a snack. Keep moving.

Leaving AS 1
I found myself in a line of runners that were moving at a slightly quicker pace than I was really wanting to run. I was not pushing it, so I hung in there with them. I just did not want to step aside and loose all the time I made up going through the aid station. Much of the next several miles were the same rolling hills with lots of rocks. About mile 16 the 50k leaders came blowing by me. This is the part of running several races at once that I did not like. Now I had to get out of the way of much faster runners on a single track trail.

Somewhere around mile 23 I started to feel really bad. This was a huge wall, and I have just done a faceplant into it. I was dead tired. My feet were dragging, I was tripping over everything, and my stomach started to bubble. I do not know how I kept from falling. I have not been able to figure out if this was physical or mental. 50 miles on 1 hour of sleep. Who knows. One of my worries going into this race was if I could not finish it what affect would it have on my upcoming 100 miler. I worried that a negative performance would create a mental barrier that I would have to deal with at mile 50. Not good. Not good at all.

Note: Porta Potties at aid stations are a wonderful idea.

I had to prove to myself that I could get through this. I just told myself no DNF today. I was getting very close to the cutoffs by walking so slowly, and my stops at the aid stations. I started to push myself into running, and I don't know how, but then I started feeling better. Positive inspirational thoughts only. Any negative thought that comes into my head, I would replace immediately with a positive thought. Mental wall? Maybe we can do more than we think we can. Maybe we are stronger than we think we are. 

This is also when I started running into marathon runner coming the opposite direction. Most were not yielding the trail at all even when they were walking and I was running. There has to be a better way to have multiple races running simultaneously. 

Somewhere around the 50k mark. Dang it! Blisters! Really? One of the battles I have been fighting has been preventing blisters. They seem to always pop up at worst times. My feet were swelling up, and my shoes were getting tighter. I stopped to adjust my laces a few times, but it was too late. Blister were forming on the bottom of most of toes, and a spot just behind the ball of my right foot. I have come this far. I am not going to give up just yet. I am ahead of the cutoffs, but only by a few minutes. I need to stop and take care of these at the next aid station, but when I get there I do not have time. Gotta keep moving.

I have a few people here and there come up from behind, I step aside to let them pass. One guy stops and ask me if I am running the 50 miler as he looks at my bib number. Oh no the sweep, and he is not picking up markers cause there are races tomorrow. Two more aid stations and a little over 8 miles to go. No more hard cutoffs. Usually this means I can still get a finish, but no, I must get in before 14:00 or it does not count. The sweep keeps me updated that if I don't pick up the pace, I am not going to make the 14 hour finish. It is all good, I needed the push. 

Now I am running better than I have ever run, Not faster. Better. In a zone. Head up, shoulders back, light on my feet. It had to be because of my feet being more sensitive due to the blisters, the rough rocky trail, or was I just focused on the finish. I don't know, but I was aware of every foot placement. I know I will be searching for this "zone" on every future run. 

Passed John the last quarter mile when he waved us by. I got a kick out of him calling the sweeper the Grim Reaper. Finished next to last 13:52:19 less than 8 minutes to spare. Never Give Up! 

Finished next to last. 

Post race, once I got home I noticed how much salt I had caked in my eyelashes and on my face. I am thinking that I took in too much salt and that contributed to my feet swelling. I learned  a lot, and I feel much better about being able to push through the wall during a race. 

Race and Learn

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