Sunday, October 10, 2010

FATS 50K+ Trail Run

I was a little apprehensive in participating in the FATS 50K trail race.  I’ve been building my base back but my long training runs have been lacking.  Then I reminded myself “this is only a 50K in my backyard – A must, regardless.”  This is my home course which I know like the back of my hand.  The night before I lied in bed thinking I should not be racing yet, and stood a good chance of not completing the distance based on my training.  My wife and kids are running one of the aid stations and maybe I should just step aside and support the race instead of running.  No, no, no, I already made the commitment and need to just suck it up and deal with what the day gives me.  Nevertheless, a voice inside me said don’t do it.  I’ve stood on the starting line of 100 mile races with the highest of confidence, and now I’m full of mixed feelings over a little 50K (31 miles)!
Race check-in was smooth with lots of runners (87) from all over the Southeast.  It was great seeing my friend Terri Hayes (RD) again as we had little time for talk with all that she had on her plate as Race Director.  I chatted with a few of the runners as we shared stories of past races.  Running conditions were perfect with a clear blue sky, cool temps, and the trail was in excellent order.  Terri gave her trail brief and off we were.  I told myself to just take it easy and don’t race if I wanted a chance to complete this thing.  This was the first time I used my Polar HR monitor in a race just to remind myself how much I was working myself.  The first 8 miles was on Great Wall (GW) loop which is shaped like a flat bottom bowl.  The first 2 miles of GW is a fast downhill section which forced me to ignore my thoughts of taking it easy (so much for my original plan of taking it easy).  I was towards the front of the pack as a small group of 3 cruised at a good clip.  I checked my HR, from time to time, and I was going too hard and fast for my fitness level.  The two other guys knew each other (from NC) as they exchanged a few jokes at the other.  Then they started to ask me questions about the course so they could strategies their plan.  I had no problem sharing because I knew I could not hang long.  We powered up the other side of the bowl shaped loop at a good clip and into AS #1 to top the tank off.  I took a little longer in the aid station and the two NC guys took off.  Next was the Deep Step loop which is only about 6 miles long but more challenging elevation change.  At this point I was feeling really good, and was wondering if my body remembered how to run long, and all I had to do was enjoy the ride.  It felt great to be running on the trails with woods on both sides and soft pine needled under my feet.  This is a mountain bike trail with plenty of roller coaster type terrain which made it interesting.  I was half way through the loop when two ladies and a guy went flying past my like it was a 10K, as they chatted about how beautiful the course was and fun to run.  I was thinking wait until later and see if you are still singing the same theme song.  I caught up to the two NC guys and stayed a short distance behind as we completed the loop and into another AS.  I topped off my bottle, another gel, handful of pretzels, and ready to continue this perfect day.  I looked over to the side and stretched out on the ground was one of the ladies, and the other two, that went flying by me.  Next loops were Brown Wave and Skinny, which are combined in a figure eight pattern, and the flatter of the other loops.  As I cruised down the trail I was thinking I’m almost halfway done with the race and surprised how good I felt considering my lack of endurance training.  My stomach was a little upset because of what I tried for breakfast, but I wanted to experiment with some different stuff to see how my body would handle it.  I would never do this for a longer race, but this was just the right distance to try something new.  This might just turn out to be a really good day, and so glad I made it to the starting line.  I’m not running as fast as usual, had a few close calls in rolling my ankles (week from not running trails as of late), but everything is going better then expected.  

Funny how quickly things can change from good to bad.  After a few more miles behind me, my stomach really started to become more of an issue, and I had to slow my pace down to let it calm some.  Then I could feel my quads getting a little tight as if the early stage of cramping.  I told myself to keep a level head, use my experience, and work out my issues.  I finally made it to my families AS, and my wife was a little worried because of how long it took me.  She said this was shorter then a long training for me and was surprised to see me so late.  I told her what I was battling, and was degrading fast.  She said just hangout for awhile and let your body regroup before going back out.  I had a couple of Tums, sipped some water, and took another S-cap.  Gels and food was not an option!  Time to get back out on the trail and get some miles behind me!  Now I was only coming up on the 20 mile mark and moving at a snails pace trying to keep my legs from cramping up, and loosing everything in my stomach.  Maybe I should have listened to that voice inside of me that said don’t race yet!  A lot of self doubt started to creep inside as I examined my situation and started to wonder if now I could finish this race.  This started to feel like mile 80 of 100 – What’s going on here!  Time for that talk with myself, remind myself I’ve been in a lot more pain and in worse condition, and still faced further distance then this entire race.  Just keep moving forward, suck it up, and things will turn.  It was a slow section but I finally made it to the last AS before going out on the final loop (Great Wall in reverse direction).
I filled my bottle up with sprite, grabbed a handful of gummy bears, and thanked the volunteers for their help.  The cup of coke really helped to settle my stomach, and the gummy bears were an easy way to get some quick energy into my system.  I picked my pace up and started to feel somewhat good again.  I look at my HR and was in a good range, distance was 26 miles, and this loop was 8 miles long.  Looks like we get some bonus miles!  I ran the downhill’s as hard as I could until my legs started to cramp up, and then I had to back off until the muscles relaxed enough so I could run again.  This was a repeated theme, but it was working.  I could hear two runners behind me but I could not see them.  I knew any minute they would be passing me.  I tried to push it a little harder to delay when they would pass me, and it must have worked because I kept hearing their voices but nobody in site.  I passed another runner, offered encouraging words that we are close, and never slowed down as my muscles quavered to the point of locking up.  Ok, I’m at the power line crossing, about one mile to go and it was all uphill from here.  I could see the two runners behind me now that have been haunting me for most of this loop.  I told myself, no way am I going to let them pass me now, but how could I go any faster when I was about to cramp up again which would force me to stop.  Just go for it until I could not stand it anymore.  I kicked up my pace to a near all out sprint as my right calve locked up and my quads twitched to the edge of pain.  I grit me teeth and saw the 0.3 mile to go marker and knew the only way they would pass me is if everything just locked up and stopped me in my tracks.  The finish line was just around the corner and I could have walked it in from this point but was afraid of slowing up and getting that muscle spasm.  I saw my wife and kids waiting for me at the finish as the clapping and cheering acknowledged me for completing this race.  Shortly after, the two runners behind me came in, and I smiled inside from this victorious moment, because I worked so hard not to let them pass me.  I told Laura I had to keep walking around to keep my muscles from seizing up.

I arrived at this race undertrained physically and mentally, made the classical mistake of going out too fast, experienced every high and low a race could offer, and battled back to feel victorious in the middle of the pack.  What an incredible day – Now this is what I call living.  A little less trained and I may not have finished, a little more trained and it would have felt like just another race.  Not a fast time, not a top ten, no PRs, but I really felt great afterwards knowing I pushed my limits in a race that made for a memory of struggle and accomplishment.  A small victory over that little voice that said don’t do it!

Thanks Terri Hayes for a great race, and all the hard work you dedicated to give ultra runners 5 incredible races in the Southeast.  You are truly amazing for all you do.

34 miles, 5,000 feet of elevation change, 87 runners started, and 74 finished. 
Elevation Profile


Hone said...

Good job finishing it up. Sounds like a really beautiful race.

Anonymous said...

That "little" voice is often right, but then again we must try!!! Great job finishing when your stomach told you otherwise.

Staci said...

Trail looks gorgeous! It's so difficult to hold back when we're on our home turf...great job pushing past the little voice that "knows better"!

lindsay said...

nicely done, once again! i hope to remember to schedule one of terri's races in next year... the one in sumter national forest maybe? i think it's in the summer. perhaps we can meet up, though i don't know if i could keep up! :)

GeorgiaSnail said...

Great race report, congrats on a strong finish!

I love Terri's races...exactly what trail running should be!

Big Daddy Diesel said...


Andrew said...

good run and write up... this was my first ultra and had a blast (finished 2nd) but honestly dont know that i'll be returning back to those same trails. the mogul style hills were a big pain on my bad knees and my left knee is still screaming at me 2 weeks later.

maybe i'll see you @ one of Terri's other races... yeah... im hooked :)

chris mcpeake said...

well done. cool race report

Charisa said...

Wow, this looks awesome!