Monday, November 12, 2012

Finger Lakes 50s

I think it was February when I signed up for this race.  When registering you select whether you think you will run the 50k (+), or the 50 miler, but you are allowed to change your mind anytime from then until when you finish 50k(+).  This race is part of the Western NY Ultra Series.  In the series you get points for your best 3 races, and your points are based on the winning time in your gender.  This race was my third for the series this year, and I was doing very well so far, 199.06 out of a possible 200 points.  The lady who beat me at the second race (and had run a 50 miler the weekend before that) had told me she was going to run the 50 miler and that there were some other fast ladies signed up for it.  That got me thinking, debating what was more important to me, was it more important to complete my 2nd 50 miler, or was it more important to possibly get more points by just  running the 50k(+).  I wasn't sure.

The weekend before the race was beautiful, the temps only got into the low 70s and the cool trend continued for a few more days.  Then the heat came back.  It got up into the 90s late in the week and that was the forecast for race day.  Stinker, running 50 miles on trails would be hard enough without extremely high temperatures.  So that was another reason to consider whether I wanted to just run the shorter distance.  But I had gotten in some good training for this race, the 42 mile run near the end of April, the 30 miles at Highland Forest, and a 35+ mile run 3 weeks before the race.  I could have put in a bit more time on trails, but I had gotten in some.    I was not decided.  I tapered like I usually do, did my depletion run the day before, then carb loaded and hydrated.  The night before I stayed at my friend Kathy's cottage with Kathy and John who were both planning to run their first 50 miler.  

My bin full of goodies I might need during the race.
On race morning, we all woke up at 3:30 to drink our Ultra Fuel.  Ultra Fuel is not very tasty, but it is a good way for me to get 700 calories of carbs in on race morning.  After the Ultra Fuel, I lay back down for a few minutes but got up not too much later, around 4.  I hadn't slept well, but I had done my best to get a good week of sleep leading into the race so I wasn't worried.  Race prep that morning included applying sunblock, layering body glide onto the parts that might chafe, putting my hair up so I wouldn't have to worry about it, filling both of my hand bottles with water and putting gels and shot blocks into the pockets, putting a small Ziploc holding salt pills, Imodium, and ibuprofen into the pocket in my shorts, making sure I had everything in my bin that I might need for the day and that it was organized...  I thought I was prepped.  We headed to out around 4:45 am.  Even with that early of a start, the road by the camp ground already had a long line of parked cars.  We all unloaded our stuff and headed up to the start to find a place to set up our gear.  We grabbed our bibs, set up our stuff and took care of any last minute prep.  Then it was time to head down to the start.  

We didn't have much chance to spread out by the first field.
6:30 am was race time, there was quite a crew milling about ready to hit the road (trail).  The count down happened and we were off.  The race started with about 1/2 mile of dirt road for us to get ourselves sorted out before turning onto some narrow single track.  I had opted to carry one 20 ounce hand bottle since there were quite a few water stops along the course. I did have my Camelbak in my bin in case I wanted it later in the day.  This race was a 16.5 mile loop that you could do 2 times for a 50k (+) finish or 3 times plus a 1/2 mile baby loop for the 50 mile finish.  I tried to start out at a comfortable pace, one that wouldn't keep me from being able to run the full 50 miles since I still hadn't decided how far I was running.  Not too far into each loop we turned off the trail for the longest stretch on dirt road of the course, 1.25 miles including a steep down hill that I was dreading in the 3rd loop.  I settled in with a couple guys for a little while, they were also trying to make sure they didn't start out too quickly.  At the bottom of the hill we got to the first of the aid stations.  I grabbed a chunk of banana and  had some Heed.  Then we headed into the section of the course which I think held the largest climb, it wasn't too steep, but continued most of the way to the second aid station.  

Jaime is in the pink
After the second aid station we passed by a pond then headed out on a small lollipop loop with gentle climbs and descents.  I think this was where I started running with Jaime, she was running her first 50 miler and had come up from NYC.  We ran most of the rest of the loop together.  There were a few different logs to step over and other things to be careful of.  We got back around to the 3rd aid station which was really just an extension of the 2nd station as we finished the lollipop.  I was feeling pretty good so far, power hiking the climbs, running the flats and downs.  I wanted to make sure I was taking in enough calories, so I tried to dig some shot blocks out of the pocket of my water bottle.  As I was doing so, I caught my toe on something and went down, doing a belly flop onto the trail.  Fortunately since I took most of the impact on my stomach and ribs, my knees and hands seemed to be fine, but I was covered with dirt and wood chips. I picked up the wrapper I had dropped when I fell and headed onward trying to brush off some of the mess.  A lady who had won the series a few years ago was running with me then, she made sure I was alright.  

Not too much farther along, we came to the one aid station that only had water, I took a cup to wash off my stomach.  Then we headed into my favorite field of the race, it has a lone tree just as you enter it and an amazing view of the valley.  I also noticed as we ran through some of the fields that the tall grasses had a wide range of colors:  yellow, green, lavender...  It was gorgeous.  On the far side of the field there was a little wooded section before the gate.

The day was warm, but not too humid and race updates had promised ice out on the course starting during the 2nd loop.  I was doing a good job eating and drinking, taking heed at each aid station, sometimes grabbing PB &J or banana.  I worked on the uphills but not too hard.  Occasionally I caught a glimpse of Nancy, the lady who had beaten me in the last race.  The course was really dry, only a little bit of mud in a few spots.  The first year I ran this race it had been really wet during June which had resulted in many areas of ankle deep mud.  So the course was much more runnable than in other years.  As Jaime and I were finishing the first loop we both decided to hit the bathroom before heading out for the next loop.  I think we came through the first lap in around 2:43.  I also decided to change out my socks and add some more body glide to my feet.  I grabbed my other bottle and headed out for lap 2.

I felt pretty good but still wasn't decided about whether I would be done after 2 laps or if I would go the whole distance.  Every once in a while I settled in with another runner for a little while, but much of the time was spent by myself.  I gratefully accepted ice in my bottle at the first aid station.  Then it was up the long climb again.  I think I passed people in this stretch each loop. I focused on a consistent pace, comfortable, running strong but loose.  I suppose I knew I wasn't going to let myself quit after 2 loops, since if that were going to be my choice, I really would have needed to be pushing harder, running faster.  I just kept going at the pace I thought would enable me to finish the full 50 miles.  I talked to others as we ran together, and quite a few of them were using the race as their last long run before the Vermont 100.  (I have started thinking about running a 100 at some point.  I think I would like to pace someone for the end of a 100 to get a little bit of a sense of the event.)  During the 2nd loop I passed some of the 25k competitors, they had started an hour and a half after us.  I think I may also have passed one or 2 people who were doing the 50k.

I never got around to picking up the pace during that loop, so I guess I had decided that I was going to do the full 50 miles.  I let one lady who I had swapped back and forth with a few times drop me as she was pushing to the finish.  As I came into the lap point I ran over the timing mat for those who were going on to the cheers of those camped out in chairs.  I tried to take care of any needs quickly, changed my socks again, applying some more lube to my feet in the process.  I grabbed a bit more food, made sure my water was full, and headed out for my last lap.  Not too far out into the lap, I looked around and it didn't look familiar to me, I didn't remember running under that low hanging tree...  Shoot, did I get off course?  I went a little farther and it still didn't look familiar.  I turned around and headed back down the trail.  Fortunately I saw a guy I had passed just a little bit before coming toward me, so I decided that I had been going the right way, turned back around and headed on my way.  I was still able to take in some food, I drank lots of Heed, did what I could to get calories and keep from overheating.  I felt a lot better than I had the year before during the third loop.  I ended up finishing in 9:06, more than 30 minutes faster than last year.  The day was a little warmer than last year, but the course was drier, less muddy, so much more runnable.