Not a lot went through my mind during my first 50 mile ultra-marathon. However, one moment sticks out vividly. Somewhere between the 15- and 18.4 mile aid stations, I realized that I was wearing a fanny pack. What I thought to be a waist hydration pack, actually met all the criteria of a fanny pack:
1. It attaches on or above one’s fanny
2. It’s a pack (i.e. it holds things)
Put those together and voila, it’s a fanny pack. Am I ashamed that I wore a fanny pack? No. I owned it on the trails and wore it with the swagger of a runway model showcasing the latest avant garde fashion. Might my recollection of the day be a bit hazy, being that I ran for 7-hours and 48-minutes? Yes.
Anyways, being that I had 4.5 weeks to get ready for the race, I’d have to say that my approach – to run more – worked out well. I’m even going to go as far as saying the day was a (moderately) great success. The plan was to keep an even effort level for the duration and I did just that, more or less.
The race started at 6:30 and civil twilight didn’t begin until 6:46, so the race began in near total darkness. It was awesome. Thankfully, the first mile or so was on a paved trail, so I didn’t need to worry about myself being the klutz that I am – I’m a fairly competent runner on tarmac. The front-runners shot off quickly, but I exercised something called restraint.
After two miles or so, the climbing began and it was literally up and down from there (see elevation profile below).
Then, I ran, power-walked occasionally, and ran some more. That trend continued for the duration. Exciting stuff, huh!? Honestly, time passed quickly and I don’t remember all that much. I mostly remember thinking to myself, “Erich, don’t be stupid. Focus on the trail ahead. Sincerely, Your Ribs.” So, I did just that. I scoured the trail for roots, rocks, and anything else that could potentially trip me up. At the halfway point, I felt pretty damn good. Which is kinda funny, because I had nearly run a marathon and had a little less than one to go still. On the climb away from the turn-around, fatigue started to settle in, but I told myself I wouldn’t take the easy route and give in to prolonged periods of walking. Admittedly, I did power-walk from time to time, but didn’t let myself walk for more than 15- to 20 seconds at a time.
Speaking of walking, some people’s race strategy was to walk the hills and bomb the descents. I did not share that ideology. While I could have shaved a few minutes off my overall time running harder down hills, I didn’t feel that my body – knees especially – were ready for that sort of punishment. After all, as the race clock ticked away, more and more fatigue was building in my legs anyways.
My biggest challenge was trying to break the race down into segments that weren’t too daunting. Relying on my Garmin’s mileage would have been a bad idea, as the 910XT isn’t great on trails; the margin for error can be significant. Instead, aid station to aid station worked out well. Though, I forgot to write down the second to last aid station on my aid station “cheat sheet” and when I came through it, I thought I had 4.5 miles to the finish. In actuality, I had 5.9 miles to go. While stopping for water and a nibble would have been nice, I was in a state of denial about the fantom aid station that actually wasn’t. Regardless, I picked up the pace, because sitting down sooner rather than later sounded nice; I ran the last mile at sub-7 minute mile pace.
I finished in 7:48:44 (9:22/mile average). Good enough for 14th Overall. In a sense, I genuinely feel that I managed my 4.5 weeks of training really well. Granted I had a decent level of fitness to begin with. Nevertheless, I hadn’t been running very much at all. The race served as a big boost of confidence, as bigger and tougher races loom ahead.
This is just the beginning…