Sunday, April 19, 2009

frisco 50k: 5:02:00


i don't believe i have been so wrapped up in a countdown to a specific date as i was with the frisco 50k, that is, since my wedding countdown in 1993. the frisco 50k (31.05 miles) was my first attempt to complete any running event beyond a half-marathon. it was also my first attempt to go beyond 22 and a half miles (my longest training run).

coming into the event i did have a body concern. on february 26, 2009, i experienced a repetitive stress related injury in my left tibia. i avoided weight bearing exercise for four weeks with the exception of participating in the "little rock half-marathon" on march 15th. monday of this past week i participated in a bowling outing with my co-workers and in the process i irritated my left tibia and was a bit frustrated that it continued to be irritated for the rest of the week.

race day i woke up at 5 am after an excellent night of sleep. i was pleased to see that much of the rain had been removed from the forecast.  i consumed a purefit peanut butter crunch bar and an orange. i kept a relaxed pace in getting dressed and preparing for the event. i was pleased to experience no difficulty regarding pre-race bathroom goals :)  before i knew it, i was actually moving a little bit behind schedule.  the boys and i made it to willard high school about 25 minutes before the 50k ultramarthon, 50k relay, and 10-mile race start (8:00 am).   my mother-in-law meg (my other crew member) was starting to wonder about our whereabouts.

i checked in at registration in hopes of getting my race shirt.  i was asked if i was from out of town, and when i responded "no", i was informed that i could pick my shirt up in a week at "ridge runner sports".  typical of events directed by richard johnson.  did i mention how much of a pet peeve i have with that setup?!  

i was a little confused about where the race was going to start and actually started heading somewhat in the wrong direction.  a couple informed me that the start was going to be up in the parking lot and i got in a bit of a warm up jog as i headed back to the school and caught up with everyone who was walking towards the starting area.

in the starting area i lined up near joel maxwell who was running the 10-mile and a friend of his that was running the 50k.  i did a little research to try and identify the 50k participants.  on the number bibs "u" identified 50k participants, "r" identified relay participants, and "10" identified 10-mile participants.  the marathoners were starting 5 miles up the trail at 8:30 and they were identified by "m"s.

we started to a blast from richard johnson's pickup truck.

first ten miles

as we got going i quickly discovered that i was not liking my rear water bottles bouncing around, so i handed them off to my crew.  my gps watch helped me from not getting overly caught up in the early race adrenaline rush.  my strategy for this portion of the event included me running the first 95% of each mile at an 8:20 to 8:25 pace, and then walking the last 5% of each mile to help keep the legs fresh.  a couple miles into the event it became apparent that it was going to be warm and dry enough for me to discard my arm sleeves.  i saw my crew about 4 miles in, along with my supervisor chet griffeth who came out to support me for the start.  i was proud of my mother-in-law catching my sleeves on the fly.

after about four miles i was glad to take note that my left tibia appeared to not be an issue and i was hopeful that it would continue in such a manner for the next 27 miles.  but i did start to experience a twinging in my left hamstring and it was causing me some stress.  the thought that it might get progressively worse over the next few miles was not a pleasant thought.  during my next walk interval i decided i would try something new and see if it would help relieve my hamstring: walking backwards.  my supervisor, chet griffeth, had mentioned to me earlier in the week about doing some backwards running in some of his marathons (back in the day), and that is how the idea got in my head.  good news: it worked.  another cool thing about it, it allowed me to see who was behind me and identify what distance they were running.  

the first ten miles were very enjoyable.  i felt great.  with my walk intervals i was doing a little deja vu with a few runners.  at this point most of those runners were ten-mile runners, but i did identify two of them as 50k runners.  about seven miles in i started to modify my race strategy.  i decided that once i got ten miles down i would pick up my running pace from 8:20 pace to 8:00 pace.  i was even fantasizing that after i got twenty miles down i would shift into 7:45 pace.

before finishing the first ten miles i started passing a couple marathoners.  

ten mile time: 1:25:37 (mile split average: 8:33); mile splits: (1) 8:18, (2) 8:34, (3) 8:34, (4) 8:32, (5) 8:37, (6) 8:34, (7) 8:55 [aid station], (8) 8:31, (9) 8:33, (10) 8:39.  if i could have maintained this pace i would have finished the 50k in a time of: 4:25:50

miles 11 through 21

after refilling my water bottles, i started mile 11 with the intention of picking up the pace.  i pulled out my mp3 player to have some tunes for the next few miles.  as i passed one of the guys running the 50k i dropped the comment: "are we warmed up yet?"  i was feeling so good and for the next 8 miles i had a blast blowing past a few marathon runners.

i was unaware that this section of the course was primarily downhill.   check out the elevation chart below:

around mile 14 i came upon the first of the 15 bridges. and just before the bridge was a black dog making a lot of noise.  thankfully, when i continued down the trail he backed away.  about a mile later came a downed tree that required me to stop and make a couple of jump moves to get past.  i had no idea how many 50k runners were ahead of me and at this point i was actually dreaming of possibly placing in the top three. 

around mile 16 it started to get hot.  the sun was no longer hiding behind any clouds, and i think over the next couple of miles i started to wear down a bit.  after my mile 18 walk interval, i noticed i was having some difficulty getting back on my pace.  i decided to give myself a couple of miles to recover.  i figured i had some good ones in the bank already, and if i took some time to recover i might be able to get back on my target pace further down the trail.  it was during this portion of the race that i actually met up with a local runner and blogger that i was hoping to see out there: mark zimmerman.  i was aware that mark was taking a shot at a sub-4 hour marathon.  i was quick to inform him that i was in a recovery mode and when it was time for my walk interval i moved behind him on the trail and never came close to catching up to him again.  i was glad to read on his blog that he placed first in his age division.  it was also around this time that i encountered my second dog on the course.  this was a big bull dog mix of some sorts.  he didn't make a sound, he just sat there with his tongue hanging out.

time through 21 miles: 3:00:53 (mile split average: 8:36); mile splits: (11) 8:27, (12) 8:13, (13) 8:08, (14) 8:19, (15) 8:26, (16) 8:21, (17) 9:07 [aid station], (18) 8:36, (19) 9:00, (20) 9:15, (21) 9:24.  if i could have maintained this pace i would have finished the 50k in a time of: 4:27:01.

the last ten miles: a vision quest

with ten miles remaining i officially started to struggle.  what made matters worse was that i somehow accidentally stopped my gps watch.  i would look at it and it would report that i had covered 225 feet of the next mile.  after a few more minutes of running, still it reported 225 feet.  talk about slowing down.  i wasn't making any progress and i started to notice a few turkey vultures flying above my head.  i finally realized that my watch had been stopped.  i started it back up.  took off my mp3 player and started to walk.  the goal became completion.  after a few minutes of walking i set the interval feature on my other watch to 6s and 2s and committed to attempting to run for 6 minutes and walk for 2 minutes for however long i could.

as exhaustion started to set in, the experience was surreal.  on the way to the race i was reflecting that i had formerly thought of my running image being that of a clydesdale, but now that i had lost some more weight the clydesdale no longer seemed to fit.  what came to me was the image of a skinny bear.  during the last ten miles of the race the image of a skinny bear kept returning to me and i began to accept it as my native name.  i am now the skinny bear :) 

with about 5 miles to go i got to see my crew one more time. i informed them that i had slowed significantly. coming into bolivar i was glad to see my friend scott griffith on the trail. he took some video and pictures and provided encouragement. the last couple of miles were on pavement. i had resorted to picking out landmarks to run to. i got passed by one 50k runner and saw another one possibly coming up behind me.  i was ok with dropping one position, but not two, so i started to run again.  i was running at a 7:30 pace and before i knew it i was passing the guy who had passed me.  once i got a significant lead on him i started walking again.  i managed to run up the last hill into the finish.

finishing time: 5:02:00 (mile split average: 9:43).  mile splits lost in action.


wow!  what an experience.  now i am a little more aware of where i am at with my fitness.  i feel better equipped for future endurance running events.  i now have an authentic point of reference with regards to marathoning in order to know that it is something i am very much interested in participating in again and again.  i feel like i discovered a bunch about myself out there and especially during the last ten miles.

i wish i could report to you that i remained blister free with my drymax maximum protection socks, but i can't.  my right toe has three pretty good sized blisters (not very painful though).  my guess is that it is shoe related.  i have gone up a size to avoid black toe and it is possible that i now have too much room up in that area.  i do regret not wearing my trail running shoes for this event, the trail was a little rough on the bottom of my feet.

i was very pleased with my carbopro 1200 fueling.  but i do intend to make some changes in the electrolyte area.  i plan to go in the direction of something i can swallow instead of something i add to my water.  i am looking into thermolyte.  i do want to report that i managed to make it without any headaches.  that is rare for me when i participate in athletics and i am pretty sure that in the past it was caused by electrolyte deficiencies.

i weighed in after the event at under 200 pounds for the first time since 1994.  

what's next: "the flying pig marathon" in 15 days!

[official results: here -  i was 10th out of 33 participants]

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