Gator Trail 50K Race Report

Gator Trail 50K February 9, 2014, 8:00 am

Gator Trail 50K Bling

Gator Trail 50K Bling

The 12th annual Gator Trail 50K was held on Sunday February 9, 2014 at Lake Waccamaw State Park. Lake Waccamaw is about an hour west of Wilmington, NC. This race was originally scheduled for Saturday February 1, but it was delayed because the state park was closed due to snow and ice the last week of January. The race was held on state park trails and it appears that the course had been modified from previous years. This year there would be 6 ~ 5.2 mile loops. The elevation change was minimal but there were some short hills/humps. The trail gave quite a variety of surfaces and obstacles: sand, straw, leaves, roots, vines, stumps, board walks, mud, grass and asphalt. (You can see some pictures of the trail from Nathan Maxwell’s 2013 Race Report.) There was a cap of only 50 racers allowed by the state park permit. Twenty eight runners started and all finished.

Due to the minimal training that I had done through the winter, I did not have high expectations for a finish time; however, I was confident that I would find a way to finish. I wanted to get in a good long training run and avoid injury. I wanted to purposely slow down the first lap and try to smooth out the effort across the whole run.  The pacing plan I can up with was 11 min/mile for the first 2 laps, 12 min/mile the second 2 laps and 13 min/mile the last 2 laps. That would come out to the following approximate lap times for the 5.2 mile laps: ~0:57, ~1:02 and ~1:08. Overall that would lead to a 6:14 finish. I would start from the beginning to walk 0.1 out of every mile and add additional short walks as needed by the course terrain. It did take some tentative foot placement through some muddy spots and one section of boardwalk was fairly treacherous.

The morning started out about 32 degrees but by the 8:00 am start time it had warmed up sufficiently to lose some extra clothing layers. I arrived at the State Park about an hour early and had plenty time to get prepared, mill around and visit the bathroom several times. The Start/Finish was located in the parking lot directly in front of the visitor’s center. Several tables were set up with food and beverages here and you would pass this point every lap. There were also bottles of water available at a couple other locations on the course as marked by inflated unicorns. It was nice that the visitor’s center was open during the entire race including access to real bathrooms. Our car was parked right before the Start/Finish line. We set up a folding table with my supplies here with really easy access for every lap.

Lap 1 – 0:56 (target 0:57)

After a very brief pre-race talk we were off.  There was a short section of asphalt road before entering the trail. The first section of trail was through a sparse young pine forest. You could tell that this area had been burned over some time ago. The trail was covered with a light layer of pine straw and had short leafless bushes sticking up about a foot high. I was immediately glad that I had on full length tights because these bushes were whipping my ankles. I had entered the trail about mid pack but by the end of the first couple miles I knew that the majority of the field had passed me. Ok so who are these beasts, don’t they know this is a long race? I knew I could never keep up at that pace and I needed to stick with my plan. So I resisted the race adrenalin, took it easy and mapped out the trail features and how I would need to run this on future laps. On to a section of fairly primitive trail; it appeared that this area had been cleared not too long ago and the trail rerouted through this new section. There was packed sand with roots, stumps and some vines and small branches. About midway through the loop you passed through a campground. A little further along the trail was very close to the lake. This lake side area is where there were several muddy sections. You could get around most of the mud if you slowed a lot and pushed through some bushes. One longer muddy section was covered by a plank walkway. The boards essentially sat on top of the mud. Water squished up through the boards when you stepped on them. On along through some more sand and roots to a fairly long boardwalk. The first half of this board walk had reasonable footing… this kinda lured you in to think that this was a good section for running… until after you passed on to the second half which was very slick. The boardwalk came out behind the visitor’s center. From this point you took a short section of grass and park road to get back around to the Start/Finish. (Honestly, I don’t know if I got all of that in the right order, but at least you get an idea of the loop variety.) It was a very smooth first lap. I was pleased that I was right on target and I didn’t run any miles too fast. When I passed by the car I dropped of the hydration pack. I thought that the loop was too short to really need this and I didn’t want to carry the weight anymore. I picked up a mini Almond Joy and a bottle of Accelerade.

Lap 2 – 0:58 (target 0:57)

I headed out for the second lap. Not too far along three more people passed me but I kept them in sight most of the loop. At 7.6 miles I found myself in a slow motion superman move flying forward… something had grabbed my right foot. After about 4 steps I had a soft landing on one knee and one hand. I had stepped on a small branch with my left foot and my right foot was trapped underneath. I jumped up, brushed off the trail debris and continued on. I still felt good at the end of this loop but thought that a little caffeine jolt would be timely. I picked up a 2nd Surge Double Espresso gel and chased it with water. I grabbed another bottle of Accelerade and headed to the Start/Finish. I crossed the line at 1:54, right on target!

Gator Trail 50K end of lap 2

Gator Trail 50K end of lap 2

Lap 3 – 1:03 (target 1:02)

On to lap three. By this time I had learned the course rather well, so instead of timing walks at the end of every mile I tried to walk more based on terrain: the short hills, muddy spots and slick boardwalk sections. Overall this lap was a fairly uneventful smooth run. Back at the car I got another mini Almond Joy and another bottle of Accelerade. I hit the Start/Finish at 2:57. That was halfway and still right on target.

Lap 4 – 1:12 (target 1:02)

Heading out on lap 4 my legs suddenly felt quite fatigued so I decided that here at the halfway point I would go ahead a take a little longer walk before getting back to the regular run/walk plan. After a half mile I got back to running but it was starting to take a lot more effort. I worked on this lap to try to keep up the pace. I was starting to get GI issues of the rumbling stomach pukey feeling kind. For some reason I had been having this stomach issue about every morning for a couple weeks so I expected that it would be a challenge. I had bought some antacids the day before and took a couple right before the race start. At the end of this lap I chewed two more antacid tablets. I took a salted caramel Gu chased with water and picked up another bottle of Accelerade. It had warmed up enough that I had to ration the Accelerade in order for one 12 oz bottle to make it the whole lap. Since I didn’t want to carry 2 bottles, I chugged down some extra water. I crossed the Start/Finish at 4:09. The pacing plan was starting to slip and I was not feeling well.

Lap 5 – 1:26 (target 1:08)

Heading out from lap 5, I forced a short run by but mile 21 the legs basically shut down. OK I don’t have to panic at this point – relentless forward progress – just fall into a powerwalk for rest and wait for the muscles to recharge. I think that this was a glycogen bonk, basically the marathoner’s “wall”. I thought that I was going slowly enough for this transition from glycogen burning to fat burning to be a lot smoother. Alas, the poor training had caught up with me. The powerwalk worked ok in the pine forest section but when I got to the rooty section, well the powerwalk depends on essentially a shuffle and the roots required picking up the feet. So I tried an easy pick up the feet run and aghhkkk, the stomach was having no part of that. Double whammy. The rest of this lap was about a death march. Thankfully my blood sugar never drooped so my mind was lucid enough to think clearly the whole race. Back at the car I had some Ginger ale with ice and picked up another bottle of Accelerade for the last lap. I crossed the Start/Finish at 5:35.

Lap 6 – 1:22 (target 1:08)

One more lap to go, but I didn’t want this to take all day. I made up my mind to start running very short sections and to slowly start increasing the running each mile. By mile 28 I was back to running about 50%. I noted that I could still make a sub 7 hour finish if I had a good last mile. At mile 30 I was feeling relatively strong so I set into about 11 min/mile pace the rest of the way to the finish. Too bad this race wasn’t longer, I was now back and ready to go. I crossed the finish at 6:57 and picked up my finisher’s medal. That time was a bit disappointing after the strong first half but at least I found a way to finish and didn’t feel any significant injury.

Gator Trail 50K Finish

Gator Trail 50K Finish

The Good

Great people – these ultra-runners are great company!

Good weather – It started out nicely cool and warmed up a bit but not too much

Good course – A nice soft surface for most of the course was easy on the joints. There was enough technicality and variety to make an interesting run without being overly difficult. The course was not particularly scenic except for the short bit by the lake.

The foot protection combination was dialed in just right for this race. I chose the Inov 8 Roclite 295 trail shoes because I knew that the majority of the surface was soft, the extra grip may be beneficial for the muddy spots and there should be few if any sizable rocks. This would be the longest run by far that I have made in these shoes. They worked perfectly. I had lubricated my toes with Hydraguard. I wore lightweight Injinji socks as liners and Trail LT DryMax socks on the outside. With this gear, my feet never got sore and there was only one pea size blister on the left instep.

Hydration and fueling went well. I never felt low on blood glucose and had good mental clarity throughout the whole race. Accelerade is some awesome liquid fuel.

No Knee/ITB pain, minimal joint soreness, minimal muscle pain, no cramps.

The Bad

Minimal training led to a difficult second half on this run and it didn’t help that I carrying around some extra weight.

The Ugly

The glycogen bonk and GI issues turned a pretty good run into a death march for about 7 miles.

Summary

This made for a really good training run. While the finish time was a bit disappointing it was not entirely unexpected. Overall it was a fun day and a good trip. This made good practice for longer distances since I was starting to come back at the end and was ready to keep running… that’s one of the tricks to the ultra game… just find a way to keep moving forward.

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Why Am I Doing This?

I have memories “seared” into my brain of a day oh about some 20 years ago. I think that it was on the Scuppernong River near, Columbia, NC and I’m certain that it was mid-summer, July, August… these details don’t really matter. It is the evocative experience that matters. I had a turning point day; one of those rare epiphanies that changes your life. I asked myself, “why are you doing this?” Have you ever asked yourself this question? When this question arises, you know that something is about to change.

This question arose as my body quivered from near dehydration. I stood aboard a carpeted fishing craft, completely exposed to the blazing midafternoon sun while being slowly steamed, North Carolina Hatteras-crab-boil style… My fingers clenched a carbon fiber rod which had for hours on that particular day demonstrated to be a useless instrument with which to lure a fish to feed under these conditions. “Meaningless, meaningless” quoth wise king Solomon. “What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?” Ecclesiastes 1:3

I remember the hazy distorted view across the water, the dank scorching humid air burning my lungs, the pain from irradiated skin and the oppressive fatigue that crept upon my back. I asked myself “the question”. The reserved default answer was something like “it’s fun”. On this day, that answer was inadequate, I could conceive of other ways to have fun. My mind could flitter away to other lands and dream of iced tea and shady hammocks, but this was not reality. Reality was not so sweet. I was here as a social being to participate in a group event and yet there was no one else in sight. At this point I was alone in my misery… so the mind wandered, and asked dire questions.

I was a member of a bass fishing club. Club tournaments were scheduled every month from March through December. The tournament must go on! Through breaking ice and sweltering heat, the tournaments went on, save for a few rare occasions in which they were delayed for day in order for hurricanes to pass. In the beginning this was all fun. The challenge was to endure and conquer the game under all different circumstances. I had played the game for several years and it was good. But after this day the game changed or at least I changed the game. Not too long after this I traded in the 20 foot, 66 mph floating rocket for a vessel that could be enjoyed in a more relaxed manner. I played the game differently after that for a few years before I went on to other games. Yes, I still remember that particular heinous day that changed the game.

Now I play a new game. I am a novice, one meager step above rookie. I play this new game with humility though I also play with bravado. Step by step, chapter by chapter I am moving forward across the playing field looking for new challenges. You can be content to play a game with little risk. That may be your idea of fun, that may fulfill your deepest needs, that may be all you need. “Why am I doing this?” That is a very important question, one that helps you evaluate where you have been and where you are going. It is at its very core about “motivation”. It is about what moves you. It is about why you breathe and why you bother to live.

So far my running strategy has been very safe. Low risk. Guaranteed success. You’ve probably heard the mantra “trust your training”. That’s good advice. Safe advice. Let’s face it you may not be able to PR every race but there is a very low rate of DNF for races shorter than a marathon. Actually one of the first experiences I had with significant DNFs was the Rock and Roll Virginia Beach half marathon. That was due to the heat, which actually wasn’t that bad it just required slowing a little. Tough conditions require adaptation and flexibility, those that did not adapt littered the roadside. This safe strategy has been very comfortable for me.

Lately I have needed something to move me.

Sometime in December I read an article about choosing Ultra races. One point that stuck with me was to choose races that inspired passion. Without passion you are likely to lose the will to finish. I took this to heart. Different people find passion in different places. Which races stick in your head and make you dream “I wish I could…”? For many marathoners this is Boston or maybe New York, Big Sur, Marine Corp, London, Berlin… For ultramarathoners it may be Western States, Leadville, Badwater, JFK 50, Comrades, Spartathlon, UTMB…

There has to be a next step, a step somewhere between the guaranteed and the impossible.

But the key is to have goals; realistic goals, in that they are within the realm of possibility, but challenging goals, in that the possibility of failure is very real. – Gary Cantrell

I have found that next step. Many other races have failed the passion test, but one sticks in my head. It haunts me with the image of Death bearing a scepter. It takes me back to that game changing day about 20 years ago. The game is changing again and this time it is headed back toward that steaming North Carolina mid-summer wetland. One hundred thirty degree asphalt, mosquitos and breath-taking humidity.

Mattamuskeet Death March 100K+

“One of the most miserable 100k’s you will ever attempt”

 I am now ammo can 19, my sentence begins July 26, 2014.

Success is what follows failure, and without the chance of failure, there can be no true success. – Gary Cantrell

Gary Cantrell understands this first hand. He fell prey to the MdM seductress last year.

Why am I doing this?

to be continued…

(Gary Cantrell quotes from Ultrarunning magazine, August 2013)

Winter Is My Off Season

So I hereby proclaim that winter is my off season. Admittedly, this declaration is just a mental trick to find acceptance in the minimal training and lack of motivation that I have demonstrated in the last couple months. It even gives me permission to be slack through February. I have read about many ultrarunners that take off several months a year from running, typically the winter, to allow accumulated running injuries/stresses the opportunity to heal* and stabilize. They usually do continue cross training such as skiing/swimming/rowing machine etc to maintain their cardio fitness while exercising different muscle groups than used for their specific running type. My cross training has been focused on scooping out grapefruits and worrying about weight gain. I have also spent plenty time perfecting excuses…even researching excuses that I could use.  Several weeks ago I thought that writing a blog about motivation (or the lack thereof) would kick start me into action and get be back into a reasonable training schedule. Guess what, I didn’t have the motivation to finish that blog. Another trick I tried was to sign up for races. This gave targets to train for and the opportunity for peer pressure influence. (Are you ready for that next 50K?) The best motivator so far has been fear. The fear that I have a 50K race this coming weekend whether ready or not… yeah that fear has gotten me out some in the last couple weeks. (On the serious side, the story about Richmond area runner Meg Menzies, who was struck and killed by a car January 13, 2014, got me out to run in her honor when otherwise I would probably still have been sitting on the couch pondering my own pitiful little self. See #Megsmiles. )

*(I didn’t originally recognize that I needed any “healing” but now I have realized that my feet were swollen for nearly 2 months after the Croatan 24 in early November. I wasn’t able to wear the size 11 shoes again until just a couple weeks ago.  Also some accumulated achilles tendonitis has abated.)

Apparently I am not alone in my fading winter motivation. In an interview in January/February 2014 Ultrarunner magazine, Ultrarunner of the year Rob Krar states:

“I’d found such a great balance in training, racing and recovery earlier in the season and began to feel that slipping away a touch as the days became shorter, the runs became colder and my motivation to get out the door waned.” – Rob Krar

Rob Krar Ultrarunning beast of the year 2013

Rob Krar Ultrarunning beast of the year 2013

Aaah I really feel a connection with what Rob has to say as well as that after race “pose”.  Now if only that connection could make me run at 7 min/mile pace for 50 miles.

I have always had some winter physiological adjustments. As the days are shorter, I am out active less and tend to increase weight in the winter and cycle back down in the Spring. I have never really had a problem with cold weather. I can’t recall ever being discouraged from a hunting trip because it was too cold. Running in the cold seems to present some extra challenges though. There are only so many pair of socks that will fit into my running shoes and I am not a fan of frostbit toes. It is difficult to blow my nose and run at the same time. My delicate little rostrum gets raw from the dry wind and constant tissue scrubbing. When dressed like Randy from A Christmas Story (“I can’t get up! Ralphie, I can’t get up!!”) my pace slows from  creeping to slogging and there is always that constant looming possibility of falling over. Now I’m sure that I could physically overcome all of these obstacles… maybe it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder? Probably more like Seasonal Laziness Disorder.

I can't get up!

I can’t get up!

The above list is semi rational, but when faced with the opportunity to get up at 4:15 am and run with a single digit wind chill, of course all kinds of ideas stir around in my head…some simple and obvious:

It’s too cold! It’s too early! It’s too dark! I haven’t properly carbo loaded! I don’t want to slow the group down! It’s too dangerous! It will be a better time to go tomorrow! I might get sick! I have too much Facebook surfing to do! (_________) will think I’m crazy! My water bottle may freeze in my hand leading to inevitable severe dehydration!

Other ideas are more complicated and well less than obvious:

I don’t want my father to get punched in the stomach over a can of soup! The sky is too blue! My running colleagues would feel bad if I put in more training miles today than they did! The asphalt is frozen, it will damage my knees! You can’t see blaze orange after dark and some poachers may not realize that hunting season is over and blinking lights look too much like deer eyes and I could end up in a free meat distribution program which means that I would be served as chili in the soup kitchen and the people that eat the chili would get vitamin C toxicity since I have been eating so many grapefruits… or the buzzards that find me as road kill may get sick and the whole environmental balance would be thrown off and that would halt global warming which then would destroy the economy because so much money has been invested in research…

So let’s examine the numbers:

June, July, August, September, October – ~ 200 miles/month

November – ~ 150 miles which includes 89 miles from 2 races (and there was also that foot desecration incident that required some rehab)

December – 91 miles which includes 32 miles in a race

January – I just broke 50 miles on 1/26, (but the majority of that was the last two weekends!)

So what’s the next step for a newbie to get back “with the program”?

The last two weekends have yielded a reasonable number of miles at low intensity to get a kick start without too much system reboot shock. This has mostly been on open country roads, or in my case mostly the lumpy, deep grass, sweet gum ball and corpse laden shoulders. Running on the shoulders helps me to get a little more intensity at a slow pace while my wife runs alongside (gasping and wheezing) on the asphalt. (Ok that was a real cheap shot but honestly her current pace limitation is O2 transfer. We hope a visit to a pulmonologist this week can help her break through to another level. She has been quite a trouper with her training and even ran a 10K PR in training a few weeks ago.) The trail-simulation-foot-placement and balance concentration helps to engage my mind and not leave as much room for negative thoughts. Running through a flock of buzzards hovering over a deer carcass always adds excitement to the journey. The major races I have coming up this spring and summer are all of the country road type terrain… ergo, this makes for good training fodder. (I’ll have to practice copperhead and polecat evasion tactics after it warms a bit.) Conclusion: I am on the way back, I am content to embrace the remainder of the winter as easy training and my first targeted races are not until April.

Upcoming (lengthy) Training runs:

February 1, 2014 – Gator Trail 50K: I chose this race from the beginning with the idea that it would make a good training run; however, I expected that I would maintain enough fitness to have a 50K PR. This course seems fast and easy: 6 X 5.2 mile loops on non-technical flat trail. Now my expectation is to finish, not get injured and to have lots of fun. I understand that the unicorns will give you a ride if you get fatigued and that they dispense lemonade from their… um… lemonade dispensing organ…

February 15, 2014 – Umstead State Park (12 to 36 miles): At this point it is about 80% likely that I will join others for a training run on the Umstead 100 course.

March 8, 2014 – Outer Banks (Graveyard 100 Aid Station Volunteer): Yes, I will have obligations for working the aid station; however, I hope to get out for some running sometime that weekend. Maybe I would even have the opportunity to pace a Graveyard 100 runner. I hope to embrace all reasonable opportunities.

March 22, 2014 – Ellerbe Marathon: This was always intended to be training run. The location was optimal, only 30 minutes from my mother-in-law’s house, and the terrain is a good match for the Bethel Hill Moonlight Boogie 50 which is in June. From reviews of blog reports and previous year’s results I would expect my efforts to yield a finish in the bottom 1/3. Looks like a good opportunity for a flatlander to get some training time on hills without obsessing about pace or position.

Somewhere in there I’ll certainly put together a community field trip to Medoc Mountain.

In addition to the physical training, all of these events give me the opportunity to be in the presence of those wiser and more experienced in the trade. This social presence is one of the key attractions to this insane ultrarunner subculture.

The blog about motivation… here’s some research. Write it yourself; I’m obviously not qualified.

101 Kicks in the Butt

Reasons to Run

Readers Respond: Why Do You Run?

GoRun Ultra 50K

GoRun Ultra 50K, 12/29/13, 8:00 am

The GoRun (Greenville Organization of Runners) club race has been held at year end for several years with various distances available each year to accommodate a variety of runners. This year offered a certified 10K course starting and finishing in the Elm Street Park parking lot. Runners could choose to complete any number of 10K laps. On this day there were finishers at 10K, 20K, 30K, 40K and 50K with about 25 participants across all distances. No one this year opted for a longer distance, though it has been done in the past. This race offers no fee, no shirt, no bling… just show up and run.

First I’ll get all the excuses out of the way, no runs over 8 miles since Derby 50K, 11/30/13, I didn’t feel well, gained 16 lbs in the last two months, I should also mention the rain and wind… all led to a less than optimal attitude for getting up on this morning to travel a ridiculous distance by foot. Attitude is 99% of this ultra game; otherwise I’d never be able to play. A poor attitude is a major first strike against a good performance. I knew that I could/would do this but it might be ugly. I really did need to get out for a long training run and this was “convenient”.

From about a week before this race the forecast projected rain. There was some hope that this would be wrong but by race morning the radar revealed rain extending far to the west that would have to pass over Greenville throughout the day. The reprieve was that it was not particularly cold. As I drove to Greenville the rain broke up and stayed to a mild drizzle for the beginning of the race. Maybe this would not be too bad after all.

I started out wearing a long sleeve Under Armour compression shirt, CW-X Stabilyx tights, Under Armour Storm pants, and Under Armour rain/wind jacket. I ended up shedding the Storm pants before the race began because I knew they would be too warm and the heavy rain had waned. I was concerned about the feet since I expected them to be wet all day and they have not been fully rehabbed since the Croatan 24 debacle. For the Derby 50K, an application of Kinesio-Tex tape had worked well but I was skeptical that this method was most appropriate for the wet conditions. I went with a generous slathering of Hydraguard silicone based cream under Injinji lightweight socks with Dry-Max LT trail socks on top. Started with half size large Asics GT-2000 shoes but had Hoka Mafate 2 and several more pair of Asics available to change into as they got wet.

Goal for the day was to just PR: 6:30 would fast enough. On a fair day with adequate training that should have been reasonable. It translated to a little more than 1:15 per 10K lap. (See excuses above) After a certain distance “reasonable” starts to break down and what should be isn’t. All good intentions, ideas, calculations and projections aside, I know that I play this game with tenacity instead of speed. A finish is a win and it’s much farther than most people traveled by foot on a particular day.

GoRun Ultra Participants

GoRun Ultra Participants

Lap 1

I arrived to Elm Street Park about 7:30 am with plenty time to pin on a bib and chat with friends. I decided that I was well hydrated (coffee, water and V8 splash) and fueled (bagel and peanut butter) for the first lap so I would not pick up the hydration vest until the second lap. We all lined up at the start line for pictures. The mild drizzle was not too bad and some light spots were in the sky so I was hoping that the rain would break. Off we go, out the parking lot down the first bridge, watch out for the puddles…ah no the swamp because running around the puddles just takes you through mud… on across 10th St  to Green Springs Park. First mile in 9:42 was a little fast. It’s hard to hold back when the race start adrenalin surges. Breathe deeply, relax and don’t worry about position, this is not a 10K race. On to a quick circuit around the water fountain. By the time I crossed 5th St onto the main greenway the group had split into the sub 1 hour 10Kers and  the plus 1:05 10Kers with me alone in the middle. Mile 2 down the greenway at 10:00 was still too fast… this is not a half marathon, just ease it up and breathe. I continued on around the little riverside picnic table and down the easiest stretch of the greenway. During the summer I used this strip for speed drills and fartlek runs, I must get that imprint out of my head. It’s not raining now and I’m heating up so the jacket goes off. (Mile 3 10:06, 5K split ~30:45) Well I felt good and I knew the climb back up from the river to 10 St was coming. Coming onto the Town Commons I decided to take the first walk up the hill in the parking lot… On this lap I tryed to identify the walking sections that I would use for the next 4 laps. It’s raining again now so the jacket goes back on. Up Cotanche St to 10th St back to Elm St I’m mostly walking uphills and running flats and downhills. Along 10th St there is no one visible ahead of me and a blaze orange shirt a good ways behind. I hit the start/finish line for the first 10K lap ~ 1:05. Ok I had eased back the pace a little the second 5 K by adding some walks. (Mile 4 10:25, Mile 5 11:13, Mile 6 11:01)

Lap 2

I was too hot. The compression shirt had to go. I traded it for the short sleeve GoRun shirt. I also decided to ditch the jacket because the rain had dissipated again, it wasn’t cold and was just a bother to keep up with. I put on the vest containing some GU packets and a couple bottles of Accelerade. The transition burned about 3 minutes. The feet were wet but didn’t feel too bad – at this point I would just let the Hydraguard work. By now Donna Davis was in for the 1st 10K lap and about ready for her second lap. I know that she is in for 3 laps, 30K today. So Donna and I head out together for lap two.  (Mile 7 14:24) The mile section from  Elm St Park to Green Springs park offered the most flooded walkways/puddles and mud run opportunities. This was where the feet took a soaking. The rain kept up its bipolar personality the rest of the day. I decided to go ahead and continue the hill walks because that technique was delivering the appropriate pace which would hopefully pay off later. I needed to start fueling/hydrating so I had a GU chased with water and drank Accelerade during walks. Pace felt slow but mile splits were now right where they needed to be. We had a consistent trip down the greenway with a little extra walking up the hills from the river. (Mile 8 11:02, Mile 9 11:39, Mile 10 11:53, Mile 11 13:37, Mile 12 11:10) We hit the start/finish for lap 2 ~2:20 which gave me a 1:15 second lap. At this point I’m starting to fatigue but I feel right on target.

Lap 3

I moved through the parking lot fairly quickly this time, just restocked Accelerade and chomped down a mini Almond Joy. Feet felt ok but I knew that I would definitely change shoes after the next lap. Donna and I headed out again. By the time we crossed 5th St again I was not feeling well. My legs no longer wanted to run.  I took another GU and started to walk more. I gave myself the inner pep talk, “you’re doing fine, almost half way, just push through.” Hit halfway at 2:59! Wow, I am doing ok, just suck it up and seize the day! But the fatigue was mounting. The lack of recent long runs was coming for its prey. I felt like I was really slowing Donna down since she was in the home stretch for the 30K finish. I knew that I could not just sprint it in. I still had two laps to go. (Mile 13 13:39, Mile 14 11:35, Mile 15 12:13, Mile 16 12:10, Mile 17 12:44, Mile 18 13:27) We Hit the 30K line together ~3:42. That gives a 1:22 lap 3. Not too bad, but it’s starting to get tough now. I don’t feel well.

Lap 4

Time for a shoe change. Off with the shoes and socks. Those feet don’t look good…white, wrinkled, about what should be expected for being wet nearly 4 hours. I reapplied Hydraguard, put on thin liner socks and then added another pair of Dry-Max socks. Next I put on the Hokas. I swallowed a couple Extra Strength Excedrin to ease the back soreness, restocked the Accelerade and ate another mini Almond Joy. The stop took at least 5 minutes. I heard someone mention that Tim Garris was stopping at 40K instead of the full 50K. He was already out on the 4th lap. I didn’t know how many people were left to go the full 50K but I wasn’t ready to quit. I went out this time alone. I head down Elm St and eventually noticed that something was wrong… I’m nearly to 5th St… I’m supposed to cross 5th at Green Springs Park… oh I was supposed to turn onto 8th St but 8th doesn’t cross Elm… ??? ok I missed the whole section from Elm to 5th ??? what’s going on here? Ok way back up Elm… I was supposed to turn right onto the Greenway. Haven’t I already done this loop three times? That’s way back up Elm! I’m alone now with a sloppy mind and I’ve blown it. Nothing to do now but backtrack up Elm and make the turn onto the Greenway. How much time did that cost? Legs just don’t want to work but I’m not quitting now. What do you do in this situation?… in an Ultra you just don’t quit… powerwalk until the situation changes… goal time may be blown but I will not quit… remember “relentless forward progress”… I thought this was the right turn but there is no sign here now! I’m sure this is right. I make the turn onto the greenway and attempt a run… yikes these shoes are like skates… yes I just changed shoes, the Asics did not slip on these wood bridges but the Hokas are like skates… just take it easy, now the puddle negotiation, I really don’t need wet feet now ok just take it easy… I am just going to walk a few miles and let everything come back to some better reality. When I hit the second wood bridge, it is slicker than dog drool. Are we having fun yet? The rain is still intermittent but seems to pick some opportune times to pour. By the time I get to the river everything turns peaceful. The sky is beautiful, the trees are amazing and I’m on familiar asphalt. What better to do than enjoy the moment. I gave myself permission to finish this lap out easily and then I would of course feel better for the last lap. I ate another GU. Yes I have the mind back under control and we are still winning. I headed back along 10th St and saw Tony Parker waving from a car. I gave him a thumbs up, I was ok and lap 4 was nearly over. I finally brought the lap 4 chapter to a close at 5:26…a very exciting 1:44 loop including an extra ~0.8 M detour. (Mile 19 19:05, Mile 20 14:26, Mile 21 13:04, Mile 22 14:49, Mile 23 14:03, Mile 24 14:06, Mile 25 14:16)

Lap 5

Where is everyone? The tent is gone, there is no time clock. I ask Sherry what am I supposed to do with no time clock? She tells me to just stop the GPS and use that time… but… I’m not finished, I came here to finish. I will not stop now, there’s only 10K to go. The 6:30 goal is not going to happen at this point, but I will finish! Who is going to deny me the last lap endorphin rush… I have missed out on that because I didn’t expect to stop now. No I have not come this far to stop now… that last 3 miles, last mile, last 100 yards feeling is too precious to abandon now. I will get my fix! I lighten the load by leaving the hydration vest and taking along only a bottle of ginger ale. No time pressure now, just don’t quit. This is great! Now I can really enjoy the trip and appreciate the journey. Off I go… and the rain pours! Haha this IS fun now! A personal pilgrimage through a holy place. Freedom! The body is frail but the mind is winning. There goes the marathon mark. Miles click off. I’m coming back.  I tried a little running, and then came the nausea. I finished off the ginger ale and tossed the bottle in a trash can. Almost home now and yes the high is setting in. Down 10th St and up the Elm St hill for the last time. A charge across the parking lot to the finish line, I see the time clock back, and bam 6:53:58, last lap 1:28. Total distance by GPS 32.05 miles. (Mile 26 14:03, Mile 27 14:43, Mile 28 14:47, Mile 29 13:32, Mile 30 12:54, Mile 31 13:46, Mile 32 13:44, 0.05M 00:30)

Winning

Winning

In the end only two other brave souls finished the 50K.  They finished together about an hour ahead of me. So I was third and last, but in my mind I won.

I was really hesitant to be so revealing…exposed. These mile splits look horrible, especially if you are expecting marathon runner splits. But the story needed to be told because it shows possibility…hope…perseverance. Really, if I can do this… One year ago I had no concept that I could ever travel this distance at any pace. I could wait until I was faster or I could just do it. I choose to just do it.

Running through 2013

So far in 2013, I have finished 21 races and ~228 racing miles;  ~1600 total running miles for the year. You can see racing mini reports for each on the Races page and PRs on the Personal Records page. At the beginning of the year I was thinking that 1 race a month would be good, I could only conceive 5Ks and maybe moving up to 8K/5 miles sometime during the year. I was pretty confident that I could break a 30 minute 5K. Mind blown at the actual year results! The 30 minute 5K was shattered in the first race of the year and by the end of the year I had qualified for marathon maniacs and become a legit ultrarunner. Yes, I am now in the Ultrasignup database (check this out) and will soon have my name printed as a finisher in Ultrarunning magazine if reports are submitted for Croatan 24 and Derby 50K. My body responded well to training with minimal injuries ,increasing both speed and distance, and my mind was expanded by interaction with many new running friends. Joining GoRun gave me a lot of encouragement and accountability. Now I believe that any distance is possible, it just depends on how much training and time it takes to get there. Finishing races and breaking through barriers felt amazing but helping 100 other people finish their first race through the Couch to 5K program was unbelievable.

Derby 50K Finishers

Derby 50K Finishers

Kudos to the amazing training partners Tony Parker and Donna Davis. This year was an exciting journey with you two to push me along. I started out with hardly a clue as to what I was doing. Believe me, I had to work really hard to keep up with you guys but you gave me the encouragement to believe that I could do it. You have created a monster. 🙂

I’m currently evaluating the racing schedule for 2014. It will be tough making choices. There are many races from last year that I would like to repeat but they conflict with new, longer races. In training for distance I have lost speed. Not that what I had was really speed in the first place though. I love the technical trail races, so Philospher’s Way, National Whitewater Center and Medoc Mt are tops.  The Medoc Mt trails are not as technical/narrow/curvy/bobbing as the others but I have logged more miles at Medoc Mt than anywhere else this year except for training runs from Elm Street Park or the Greenville Greenway. I am already registered for the Medoc Spring race and Medoc Meltdown and the fall Medoc marathon will be priorites. I’ll pick up some 50Ks as training runs in prep for the longer races. While the Badwater Cape Fear 50 had me enchanted from the beginning, when the details came out I found it to be too expensive to justify. Not just the entry fee but the accessory costs such as accommodations on Bald Head Island, ferry fees and food for several days. For the same money I could probably do 3 or 4 other ultras. Right now I’m still considering Maysville to Ft Macon 50 if I can get in some long beach runs. I’ll know for 2015 that Weymouth Woods, Uwharrie and Umstead sell out quickly. The Virginia 24 hour run for Cancer and Mattamuskeet Death March 100K will probably be the primary target races. Bloody 11W should be a good time to go for the first 100+ miles.

We are at the beginning of the GoRun winter nutrition streak. This is basically a way to have accountability for avoiding poor nutrition choices and earning club points. I have so got this…fear me now! I have gained to 190 lbs up from 174 lbs in October and 169 lbs mid summer. The 174 was a good fast stable weight. So I know that I already need to make adjustments to get back down. This weight gain was not so much from poor eating choices as from a reduction in running miles per week. I had already cut back the amount of food, so the increase was a lot more than expected. I already avoid most of the contraband items in this streak: soft drinks, high calorie coffee drinks, fried foods, desserts… I usually only have chocolate bars as fuel during long runs and Coke/Ginger ale was good to calm the stomach during the two ultras. So I will limit the Almond Joys to one serving and the Ginger ale to one bottle.  Other than that I just need to limit the M&Ms in the trail mix and wait three months for a piece of cheesecake and some tortilla chips. My nutrition strategy involves proactive consumption of healthy foods. If I stay filled with fruits, nuts and vegetables, I have less desire for the junk.

Will complete the About page and add detailed reports for Derby 50K, Croatan 24 and Medoc Marathon later…