Rather than a typical race report, I think I’ll just go with some random observations..
- Organization: When I arrived to the hotel that the participant guide said was the registration/packet pick up hotel, and was told it was a different hotel, I was a little worried about the organization. And then at packet pick up, when there was conflicting information about drop bags, I was even more worried. For instance, I was given the tags I needed to prep my bags there, but two people right next to me were not. However, overall, the race was run quite well. On Saturday there were 4 races: 50 miler, 50k, marathon, and marathon relay. The courses were marked as well as they could be and there were marshalls at any intersection that could be confusing. I did hear of a couple racers going off course, but if you really stopped to look at any intersections, there were always flags showing you, based on which race you were running, which way to go. The only downside to so many races occurring at the same time is that there were one or two sections of single track trail with runners going both ways, but overall that was a very limited duration. The other confusing part is when they sent the 50 milers on a ~5 mile loop twice, marking your bibs appropriately each time. That loop got crowded with a couple of us in the 44-45 mile range and many more in the 37-38 mile range. I was explaining how I had just recently run this and some people thought I was crazy.
- Time: Going in to the race, I didn’t really have a goal time in mind. Finishing was the goal, though I was pretty confident, that unless something went drastically wrong, that would not be a problem. So when people asked how long it would take, I said “ten to twelve hours.” I finished in 11 hours 9 minutes, so I was close. As the run started, in the early morning at 5 a.m., I looked down at my watch and saw a 9 hour pace, so for about 10 seconds I dreamed of that. Then reality set in, and I thought about a 10 hour finish. I hit the 25 mile mark in 5 hours 2 minutes and thought briefly about a negative split to break 10 hours, but then I slogged through miles 25 and 26, and my pace dropped from 12:05 per mile to 12:20 per mile. In just two miles!! Those were a bear to run, down by the creek, over and around boulders, under trees, a couple of big climbs…
- Results: I’m quite happy with my results — 38th out of 200+ starters and 7th out of 47 in the 40-49 age group. There were a lot of DNF’s due to what I thought were pretty aggressive cut-off times (basically a 14 hour pace)…
- It was war out there…. The course was pretty brutal on the feet..I stubbed my right toes at least 8 times in the 1st 15 miles, before the left foot started to catch up. The rocks and roots were relentless — there was no time to just zone out. You really had to be mentally engaged with the course 100% of the time, so that was tough. I have 3 blue toenails to prove it… And I’ve never lost a toenail due to running, but I may this time. Additionally, the Oak trees apparently did not like us out there. They were launching (nearly) golf ball size acorn’s at us the whole time. There were huge crashing sounds as these things came flying down at us.
- Shoe selection: I chose the Saucony Peregrine, which is by far the most non-minimal shoe I have left in my rotation, but I am sure glad I did. See the above bullet on how tough the course was on the feet! While I had my Inov8 195’s in the drop bag at mile 28, there was NO WAY I was going to change… I saw one Vibram wearer, and while he said his feet were ok, he didn’t run like they were ok. But granted this was in the 35 mile range, and none of us looked that good at that point of the run!
- Sunrise: I was so ready for the sun to rise. We started at 5 a.m., and it was probably 7:30 before I could finally turn my head light off. I was tired of the shadows, especially in the early stages were at least once someone with a super high powered light got behind me and threw more shadows that made my little light almost worthless. So I just let them pass. Plus, sunrise is when I decided I would put on some music… (Just one ear!)
- Cramping? I can remember cramping once in 20 years of endurance sports — an extremely hot Hi-Tec adventure race in Miami years ago. Well, a root decided to grab my foot and pull me down — the one and only fall I had, which is not too bad considering how many near falls I had and how many times the roots caught my toes. As I went down, the right calf locked, and I was really worried… It was in the 28-30 mile range, I think. The thought of 20 miles full of cramps was not a pleasant thought at all! I had forgotten my endurolytes and was using the nuun drinks at the aid stations to get me through. But I don’t think those were concentrated enough. I did begin to supplement with potatoes and salt at the aid stations. I had also found a pack of pills on the ground that looked like endurolytes. I cracked one open to taste it, and I think it may have been salt tabs, not endurolytes, but I used a few of those on the last 20 miles.
- Nutrition: I followed my normal plan on really long runs of a base of perpetuem with a few gels and cliff shots mixed in. I’ve really come to like honey stingers as my gel of choice, and even though I had some hammer gel, I never used them. I did migrate away from my own supplies and use more of the aid station supplies as the race went on. Perpetuem lost its flavor after the 2nd bottle. Besides the aforementioned nuun and potatoes, I also ate bananas and oranges. All that plus one lara bar and 7/8ths of a cliff shot block pack was it. While the stomach wasn’t great in the 45-50 mile range, which was part of the reason for a “down time,” it did pretty well. The 20 oz. of water I was carrying was border line not enough later in the when it got hot (80F or so), but the aid stations were so well spaced at mostly 5 miles, with one 7 miler, it was ok.
- GPS: I have never had a GPS be so accurate — there is normally drift on single track, and more drift the longer you go. But my Garmin was spot on the whole way. I finished at 50.25 miles on the 50.4 mile course. What’s up with that?
- Mollyhugger: I wish I had some images to show the tornado damage around mollyhugger… Truly amazing. While the trail has been re-established, it was difficult running. And it just so happened to be the 7 mile between aid stations section!
- The Finish: I happened to finish at the exact time Dean Karnazes finished the kids run, and the photographer captured these images:
- What’s next? Some time off! At least 1 week off completely from running, if not 2 or 3… The 4 weeks off from running after Boston sure felt good, but I’m not sure if I’ll go quite that long. When I do come back I see as much barefoot running as possible, probably on the treadmill as it will be getting cold outside, and probably some very low HR running. I’ll of course start to do something in the next 5 to 7 days — bike, paddle, crossfit, movnat, etc. But for now, I’m just going to rest. I feel remarkably good — 95% just muscle soreness, which is expected. The knees are great, but the right hip is a bit sore. That’s the only thing left that really bothers me after really long runs, so I would like to figure that out and do some “pre-hab” type work…
- Run 100? Well, it is my long term goal…. During mile 47-49, when I was having a pretty low moment, I was thinking that 100 was just a foolish idea…. Now, a couple days later, it seems less foolish. Normally it takes longer for my mindset to change! I do think I’d have to change my training — 15-20 miles a week would not be enough for 100! But then again, my body seems to rebel when I get to that 30 mile per week threshold. Listening to some of the best 100 milers in the world, most of them never go past 50 on a training run. So the NF50 could be considered just that — a training run to get me to 100. But I wouldn’t consider anything until next fall, and only then if I have a strong spring season with at least one 40-50 mile race thrown in. I sure hope I get in to Uhwarrie again!
- Garmin Data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/122485002