Monday, April 29, 2013

Report: Forget the PR 50K

So 12 days ago, I ran 29 miles on my 40th birthday. 8 days ago, I crushed my 27th marathon in 3:41. Yesterday? I ran and finished the toughest, most gnarly 50K (31.2 miles) I have ever 21st ultra-marathon. That brings me one closer to the big 5-0 in combined marathon/ultra-marathon count. Through it all, I'm injury-free, blister-free, and recovering very fast. I guess this whole thing about being 40 is OK, after all! To make sure I was ready for yesterday, I ran a whole whopping twice for 11 miles total since last Saturday's marathon. I just kept pumping the water and taking care of myself, thereby giving myself plenty of time to rebuild/repair from the hard marathon. Waking up yesterday morning just past 3am, early enough for the long drive to Mohican, I felt groggy and honestly, OK with crawling back into bed.

The forecast went from 40-70% chance of rain and in the 50s depending on when you looked at it. The downside with that would be lots of mud and greater chances for bad chafing, etc. The good side for me is that it's not hot and humid, my chief defeating power in this ultra-running thing. For me, it's like running in a constant air conditioner and does me well. I had never been to Mohican State Park, much to the surprise of many, but after a 90min drive south towards Columbus, I arrived at Mohican Adventures where the race start/finish was. I checked in and jumped back in the car, out of the rain. I dangerously fell asleep without setting my alarm but did wake up in plenty of time for the start. Lots of familiar faces, handshakes, and hellos prior to the rainy start. The event had both a 50K and 25K and both had been sold out for quite awhile. Rob Powell, race director, gave last second instructions and we were off on our journey...pouring rain.

This is not a report that will have a play-by-play. I can pretty easily cut to the chase. My strategy was very similar to last Saturday's marathon, get into a nice rhythm and see what happens and if the wheels ever fall off. If I had a camera yesterday, I would've used every morsel of memory space on it as Mohican was amazingly beautiful. With things greening up, the rain just amplified it all. Here are some thoughts from the race:

  • Rain all the way.
  • Mud and lots of it. Much of it shoe-sucking mud. If anyone had a recovering injury or nagging whatever, this "running 360 degrees in every direction" due to the mud would amplify it.
  • It's all about center of gravity and being smart in the mud. There is a right way and wrong way to run it.
  • River crossings: 5 that were knee deep or higher (and I'm 6'2"). Countless more stream crossings where feet were under water. Truth? I wanted to stay in there! It felt so good, cold, and refreshing.
  • Hills. HILLS! 4000 feet of elevation climb, per the race director, actually. I'm used to running within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park which is an amazing natural resource within a half hour of my home. But, we don't have climbs like that. This race was relentless and had 4000' feet of elevation climb. Dang.
  • DOWNhills! What goes up, must come down. Often, the reward for the climb is the rapid descent. Add in mud and sometimes, it becomes a sort-a-slalom-slide down and other times, just plain fast...and hard. My quads were trashed yesterday and I'm feeling it all this morning...knees took a pretty good jabbing, too. 
  • The aid stations were awesome and volunteers rockstars. I'm a Hammer Heed snob and know a well-mixed drink when I have one. They did great! I especially enjoyed the Covered Bridge aid station around miles 21 and 25. They had warm, sliced potatoes...and salt! That totally hit the spot along with Pringles...oh yes, my #1 ultra-food.
  • Around mile 22 or 23, I had the pleasure of going vertical. Yes..vertical. Imagine standing about 10 feet BELOW the base of a tree where the earth was gone and all you are looking at is the root system of a tree or trees. That's the trail. Go straight up! Yea, after making my way over logs, through lots of water, zig-zagging towards a waterfall, I climbed straight up a "root ladder" to continue on. That's a first! Loved it!
  • Not too far past the roots was a big waterfall...big in height. A wood stairway took us to the base of it and I was able to walk right under it. Ohhhhh....that felt soooo good. Nothing like a cold, hard rainfall to stand in for a moment. I didn't want to leave and I wanted a photo!
  • Mantras: I needed them. In the mid-upper 20s, I was telling myself...or yelling at myself inside: "If it's flat, don't you dare walk!!! Are you in pain? No. Are you hurt? No. Are you tired? You should be!!! Walk (with a purpose) the uphills and if it's flat or down, you better be running. And so it went...and so I did. Mentally, it was a bit of a war those final 5 miles but I kicked it in the teeth. "Nothing left on the course...that was my goal."
  • Hands down, the toughest, most gnarly 50K I've ever done...even without the mud for the entire race. That just added a special element of grace to it all. :-)
The race is called "Forget the PR." For those of you who don't know what PR is, it stands for Personal Record. In running, we often like to beat our "PR's" from previous races. Rob named it this because basically, people can forget setting a PR on this course. True dat! I won't soon forget being in the final 3 miles and thinking "I think I can finish just a hair under 6 hours at this pace." Then, a monster hill was magically placed in my way...a trail with the name "rim" in it, which often means you are climbing way up to the top of something. With that hill, my 6hr hope was dashed but I still gave it my all. In the end, I finished in 6 hours, 3 minutes, and 37 seconds. That was good enough for: 9th of 45 in my age group and 33 of 156 50K finishers. I'm not sure how many started the 50K but 156 finished it. Am I thrilled with this? HECK YEA!!! For nearly my entire running "career," I've been a mid-packer to just past the 50% point. I'm never in the upper percentile of finishers...never. I'm thankful for this and still in lots of awe over the past 2 weeks. I definitely know how to recover, I know how to persevere, and I know how to run in mud. For all 31.2 miles yesterday, I didn't take a single fall and the mud remained on my legs and feet. I did it...and with that, I am content. Here are a few photos post-race. I wouldn't be following through on tradition if I didn't share my feet, right?! Of course, not! Honestly, I'd never seen so much junk come out of the INSIDE of my socks as I did when I took my shoes and socks off. Wow, I had collected quite a bit!

Super cool finishers buckle and I ran for Team Red White Blue.

These colors don't run! Well, they did this time!!! :-)
Last night, it was a case of having chills then sweating, all while not moving. My body was already in repair mode. I had a serious craving for my all-time favorite sandwich, a Grouper Reuben sandwich from the Pufferbelly Restaurant in Kent, along with their homemade skin-on fries. Oh so good! Falling asleep was a challenge, too, as no position was comfy. This morning? A bit achy but I'm going to head out for an easy recovery 5 miler, just to get the blood flowing. This, along with sound nutrition today and lots of water, I'll be good as new in no time. I expect to be starving...ALL DAY today!

For Rob and your volunteers: thank you for an incredible experience, and thank you for taking the proceeds from this race and putting them to work in the community. This is another example of the purity of our sport and what makes it so intangibly and tangibly awesome. I am very thankful for it all. You have done well, my friend!

Time to run....

Have a great week, friends, and Run Happy!

1 comment:

Kimba said...

Very nice race report. I'm glad you like "my" trails lol.
That was the first year of rain we've had at FTPR, I ran at home in the rain and knew it was a long day for the volunteers, and even the runners.

I hope you come back to Mohican, we've got lots of cool trails to run on there!!