Me and Dzangel

Me and Dzangel
RMC 5K 2007

Monday, September 16, 2013

The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K

Good day, all! I thought I would sit down and put thoughts to computer monitor while those thoughts are fresh in my head. It sure beats trying to recall things a week or more from now, especially with my scatter brain!
I wasn't really sure how the day was going to go in the week leading up to Saturday. I had some niggling aches and pains that always leave me wondering if they will affect me on race day. Add in a helluva cold/sinus infection and I really wasn't feeling 100%. I took it really easy during the week. Only a few days of really short and easy running. I resisted the urge to do more. I even passed on a local 5K the Saturday before the run. Hard to do, but I've learned my lesson in that regard!
My eating habits weren't the best all week either. Not bad, but not exactly healthy! A big club sandwich, french fries and a tall, cold ( and very tasty ) beer the night before aren't really my first choice for a pre-race meal. McDonald's for breakfast ain't very wise either!!
Race day started nice and early at 4:30 a.m. for me. It looked like it was going to be a perfect day, weather wise. 40ish at race time and warming in to the 60's. Some sun and a nice breeze were forecast for the day.  A quick banana and some chocolate drink before a warm shower to ease the kinks out of the muscles. A fitful night of sleep didn't seem to have me too tired as Tammy and I loaded up the car and headed out from our hotel to the race site.
I got to the event site with plenty of time to check things out, wander around, try to stay warm and try to settle some pre-race nerves. I met up with Joel, a friend who used to live near me. We were planning on running at least a few early miles together.
A few minutes before 7:00 a.m. we all lined up and got a pep talk from Dean Karnazes. Right on time the gun went off and away we all went. I have a nasty habit of starting off too fast. Definitely not a good thing in a long race! I kept towards the middle of the pack and wound my way down some pavement before hitting the trail.
Joel and I spent the first miles talking and keeping the pace easy-for him. I had a few splits under 10:00/mile, which had me a little concerned. I usually don't have a time goal for these 50Ks, but that pace is faster than what I have averaged in previous races. Joel and I hit the first aid station just before seven miles. I grabbed some water and topped off my bottles. I knew Joel was getting itchy to pick up the pace, so he peeled off his coat and sped off down the trail. I'm glad the pace was slightly faster than I planned for those first miles. I just didn't know it at the time.
I fell in with another runner, David, from the Chicago area, just after the first aid station. Our paces seemed to mesh perfectly, so we passed the next miles together. David was using this for a training run leading up to a 50 miler and wanted to hold a steady pace and just keep running. We yo-yoed up and down the rolling hills for a while, talking and making the miles disappear beneath our feet.
I was being very conscious of my hydration and fueling during the race. During my last 50K in mid July, I let this slide and paid for it dearly. I was stopping at every aid station and grabbing something-potatoes with salt, PB&J, Mtn. Dew. Top off my bottles and I was moving again. I was trying to get in a bit of electrolyte or water every 15 minutes and a gel every 45 minutes. Top it off with an S!Cap every hour. Lots for me try and remember and still keep pushing down the trail.
I was feeling really good as the day wore on. No unusual aches or pains. No falls, which is unusual for me! No cramps, no stomach issues. I know I was hydrating well, since I watered the trees quite a few times. My splits were all over, but I wasn't worried about it. I was settling in to a comfortable zone and putting one foot in front of the other.
As the miles started to add up, I found myself running solo more and more. I got at the end of one conga line for a while, but that didn't last too long. I just enjoyed the beautiful day and watched the scenery go by.
I wasn't sure what to expect about the terrain going in to this race. I ran with a friend a few weeks earlier who had done this race a few years ago. He warned me to take it easy on the hills. The elevation profile didn't look too friendly, but the hills weren't as bad as I feared. There was a long and steady climb around mile 6 and again between 20 and 21 miles. Nothing steep, but steady. The worst thing for me was the stretches of energy sucking sand! The section going out wasn't too bad, but coming back, it felt like quicksand. There wasn't a good way around it, so it was just plow ahead as best I could.
At mile 21 I told myself, "ten miles to go. You've got this. Take it easy. Relax and rein it in a little." I was feeling really good and getting a little worried for some reason. Just waiting for the wheels to come off. Not that I was flying by any stretch of the imagination. My pace was averaging right around 10:35ish. In the back of my mind I started telling myself that I might be able to hit a 5:30:00 finish time. I had entertained this thought leading in to the race, but that would be a 15 minutes PB.
The last 10 miles went by smoothly. I did a few strides to change up the pace and use some different muscles. I kept the walking to a minimum, mostly through aid stations and up the couple longer climbs. I was getting feedback from the app on my phone of splits in the mid 9:00/mile range. Other than aid stations and the longer climbs, I stayed in the mid 9's from mile 16 on!
I hit the last aid station with less than two miles to go. I grabbed a . Dew from the volunteer and slammed it down. She told me I had less than two miles and asked how I felt. I told her "no problem. I got this!"
I pushed down the trail to the highway section we started on and headed the last mile to the finish. I felt great and kept trying to relax. No sense sprinting the last mile of a 50K.
I finished the race feeling great. A little sore, but come on, that's to be expected, right? Hydration and fueling went perfect. No major complaints anywhere. My pre-race goals were: A-to finish (of course) B-set a new PB for 50K and C-break 5:30:00. I nailed two of the three. My finish time was 5:30:45. Just over fifteen minutes faster than my previous best. And I felt great. Feet and legs were still pretty fresh. The Hoka Stinson Evo worked super. Yep, I'm a convert! I honestly had something left in the tank. Which begs to wonder, maybe I need to push a little harder and suffer a little more. A good subject for another day.
All in all a great day. I would like to think my easy (slow) pace to AS1 led Joel to his PB - 4:42:27. Can't even imagine that pace and effort! The course was excellent. The aid stations and volunteers were amazing. My thanks and appreciation to everyone who helped make this event and day flow so smoothly!
A bit long winded, I know. Thanks for checking this out. Now, to decide what's next. I might have one more race left in me! We'll see.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pre-race count down

T-minus three days to The North Face Endurance Series Wisconsin 50K this Saturday (September 14). I hope I'm ready. I am currently suffering from the normal pre-race niggles. These aren't to be confused with muggles (for nerdy Harry Potter fans), the Wiggles or British Beatle mania. I have a bit of an achy back, sore right knee/hip and one helluva cold/sinus infection/??? Nothing serious, and not an excuse for any possible poor race results. I'm sure that on race day morning, all the aches and pains will go away after a few miles. And with a few miles to go, I'll have a whole new passel of aches and pains, none of which will keep me from the finish line.
I'm hoping that a larger field of runners will spur me to a new PB. The two other 50Ks I ran this summer had smaller fields. By the end of each, I was running solo. No one to push me or run with, so I generally slow down. I may even have a running partner, if he can run as slow as me.
I may squeak in one more post before the run. If not, I'll recap my adventure afterwards.
Thanks for taking time to read this.