Monday, March 12, 2012

2012 3 Days of Syllamo 150K Stage Race

Day 1 - 50K:

I ran Syllamo in 2008 and 2009. There are some races that are worth repeating and this is one of them.  The scenery is beautiful, the course is challenging, and it is fun to see the runners from before and meet new ones doing it for the first time.  Jeff and I drove in on Thursday since the first 50K was on Friday.  Karen caught up to us on the way down since she was going to run her first 50K on Friday and drive back on Saturday.  We had dinner at Pizza Inn buffet which I will say is not as good as Incredible's Pizza but it fueled us for the next day's race. 

The race on Friday started at 9 am.  It was about 37F at the start and temps would get up to 63.  Jeff planned to wear a tank so I decided to go with sleeveless. I was never cold so that was the right decision and the temps warmed up quickly.  The sun was shining so we were exposed most of the time since the leaves were not yet out on the trees.  My plan was to race conservatively so I would have something left for the 50 miler.  The 2008 Syllamo was my first 50 miler and was one of the toughest races I have done.  It was my first 50 miler and followed by a sub-5 hour 50K which was not smart.  In 2009 we ran an easier course due to the ice storm knocking down the trees.  I did not want a repeat the awful day in 2008 so raced conservatively. 

For the first 15  miles I often ran with groups of people, but only if they were running a pace that I felt I could be running.  Sometimes I am better off running alone or I get caught up in pace that I will pay for later.  Or if someone is running behind me I don't like the pressure of trying to keep up a pace if I feel like they want to pass me even though they say they don't.  If I feel like they want to run with me and my pace then all is well.  At the 15 miles aid station I went ahead of the last 2 guys I had run with.  The aid stations were about 4 - 6 miles apart which seemed to work out perfectly for me.  If you were a slower runner or if it were warmer 2 water bottles might be a good idea.
I carried one water bottle with Succeed Ultra and used either Hammer Gels or Accel Gels.  I also had some Succeed Caps and Endurolytes  that I took about every hour.  I used 5 gels and 3 packets of Succeed and ate a little at aid stations but since it was only a 50K it wasn't more than a few chips.  Stomach seemed to be happy with this arrangement.

I ran alone for about 12 miles.  At 26 miles, I was at 5 hours and 5 min so I was taking it considerably easier than in the past.  I walked all the bad hills too.  I caught up to Stuart at this point and passed him and we ran together for a few miles.  This seemed to be just what he needed and he took off the last couple miles and finished a bit ahead of me.  I finished in 5:42:30 and had 29.3 miles on the GPS but we make it up on the last day since the 20K is about 1.3 miles long.

I drank the Recoverite they included in our race packets and went to soak the legs in the creek with some other runners.  Since the air temp was in the low 60s it didn't seem too bad standing in the water.  I stayed for 20 minutes and legs were quite numb.  I got in barefoot so the rocks were kind of painful on my feet and it was hard to pull myself out.  I went back to the finish line to wait for Jeff and Karen to come in.  They crossed the finish in 6:54 and Karen had completed her first 50K.  

I managed to complete the first day without falling and felt pretty good going into day 2.  I wore the Innov8 Rocklite 295 shoes that I also wore for the 50K at the Post Oak 2 weeks ago.  They performed extremely well on the variety of terrain and my feet were very comfortable and no issues at all.  We went back to the cabin and Karen cooked us a yummy chicken and rice dish for dinner to fuel us for the next day.

Map and Elevation

Day 2 - 50 mile:

Saturday's race started at 6 am.  We got up at 4 am so it was going to be a long day. plus we would be losing an hour due to DST.  Temperature was a bit cooler at 6 am and was down to 32F at the start.  Even though I don't normally drink coffee each day I had coffee before the race since it seems to help get me going.  I kept breakfast pretty much the same each day with a Lean Body protein shake, a banana, and some grapes.  Once were were up and moving around my legs felt pretty good and energy level felt normal.

My body was ready to race and I could have easily convinced myself that I had not run a 50K the day before.  The 50 miler worried me a bit since I lost over 160 miles of training in January and February due to a stress reaction in my foot so I was forced to cut my mileage way back.  The Post Oak Double 2 weeks ago was a confidence booster since I made it through that race strong and foot did not hurt at all so I just had to believe that everything had healed quickly and I was going to be fine.  I went to see Dr. Curt on Wednesday and he worked on me so I felt as ready as I could be.

The 50 mile goes up for the first mile so once we start and get to the hill I walked most of the up and ran where I could.  We were told to bring our lights for the first few miles but I didn't need it.  If you were going to be running past 6:30 pm you would definitely need one later. This race claims over 25,000 feet of elevation gain and loss over the 3 days, but my GPS had about 35,000.  The 50 mile course is a very tough course.  There are some flat sections, but there is everything from sand, rocks, running along the edge of rocky cliffs, and rock over your head as your are trying to run.  There are also some stair step rocky places and one part that you have to squeeze your way through.

The course is marked by the forest service so we follow the markers each day plus each race had it's own color of ribbon that was placed at intersections where there was more than 1 way to go.  It is not a well-marked course so you really have to pay attention which adds to the challenge.  There were several runners each day that made wrong turns and I think a lot of them were the faster runners. They got back on track and were still ahead of me.  In one portion I was told they laid some logs across a road so others would not make the same mistake.  It is great the faster runners were looking out for the other runners.

On the way out I ran behind some runners for a few miles but passed them since I wanted to go a little faster.  I could often see a runner or 2 behind me but ran alone for most of the day.  I stuck to the same nutrition plan of gels and Succeed as the day before plus a little food at the aid stations since I was getting hungry.  I had chip and peanut butter crackers.  Once I ate some chocolate toffee stuff and felt a brief sugar crash but recovered from it.  I didn't realize what it was when I ate it but it was quite yummy.

The 50 mile was out and back and we could have drop bags at 9.5/40.5 and 18.4/31.6.  I opted only for the 18.4/31.6.  Since it was cooler at the start I wore a long sleeve shirt and left it and my light in my drop bag at 18.4 miles.   The next aid station was at 22.6 miles and then we had to run out  to the turn around at 25 miles, read a sign, and back to the aid station to let them know the code words.  Just after the 22.6 mile aid station I started seeing the first runners coming back.  The leading guys were less than a half mile apart.  I saw Ashley that I ran the 50K and part of the 50 miler in 2008 running with a group.  They had made a wrong turn or would have been further ahead but she was still the leading female.

There was a girl running not far behind me since before the last aid station.  After the turn around she was about 0.2 miles behind me.  My GPS had the turnaround at 24.8 miles so pretty darn close to 25 and my overall time was 5:15 so seemed pretty reasonable to me.  On the way back I started seeing quite a few runners.  I saw Jeff when he was about 2 miles from the turnaround and he seemed to be doing well. Eventually the girl (Mindy) caught me after the turnaround and we ran to the next 2 aid stations together.  She had run the Heart of America Marathon in Columbia in 2004 and 2011.  We had a good time chatting together and the 31.6 mile aid/drop bag station came quickly.  She didn't spend much time and took off and I told her I would try to catch her.  I restocked my gels and Succeed and went to refill my bottle and realized I had barely drank anything for the past 4 miles.

I did not see Mindy again during the 50.  I started to feel crappy and figured it was dehydration.  I consumed my entire bottle.  The next aid station would only be 4 miles at 35 miles and the unmanned one at the creek crossing.  I made to the water and filled my 20 ounce bottle drank it and filled it half full and drank more.  Then filled it all the way up and continued across the creek.  This was the only deep water we had to cross during the 50 miler where we had a couple deep ones during the 50K the day before.  I wasn't sure I was going to recover from my dehydration.  My heart rate felt elevated so I kept the pace really slow.

I was starting to recover a little and heard a couple runners behind me talking.  Eventually they caught up and it was James that was staying in the cabin next to us and Teddy, a runner from Louisiana that we realized we had run the same 50K in 2009 when I ran the Q50 there.  They passed me and I stayed with them for a bit before they went ahead.  Before I got to the 40 mile aid station I started to feel good again and James and Teddy were there.  I drank some ginger ale, refilled my bottle and continued on.  After awhile, I could hear them behind me but they didn't ever catch me.

At the last aid station I refilled with plain water and headed to the finish.  I could still kind of hear James and Teddy behind me but I think they were further behind than I thought.  Thinking they were close kind of gave me the push I needed to keep going.  I was really looking forward to getting to the last 1.3 miles since I knew I could fly down that hill we walked up in the beginning.

I finished in 10:45:26 with 49.4 miles on the GPS.  I went to soak my legs in the creek again but this time I kept my shoes on.  Then I ate a small bowl of the food they were serving to sustain me until Jeff finished and we went back to the cabin to cook our steaks.

For the 50 miler I wore my newest pair of Mizuno Ascend and they rubbed the outside of my little toe on each foot.  The one on the left was a blister.  The fact the trail was so slanted in places and these shoes tend to rub the outside of my little toes was a bad combination.  I decided I would put a Band Aid and on it for the next day.  We didn't get to bed until 10:30 and then set the clock ahead so actually 11:30.  The next day's race started at 9:00 am, but we planned to get up at 6 am to pack our stuff and check out.

Maps and Elevation

Day 3 - 20K+:

When we left on Thursday we knew the weather forecast was not looking good for Sunday.  When I went outside to load the car it was lightly raining but a few minutes later it had stopped.  I had planned to wear my Mizuno Cabrakan trail shoes.  I bandaged and taped my blister on my left little toe and put on the shoes and they just seemed to rub right up against it like the Ascend.  My Innov8 Rocklite 295 had dried from Friday and I put those on and perfect fit and no rubbing.  I wished I had worn them for the 50 miler.  They are more foot-shaped (at least my foot) than the Mizunos.  The Mizunos are usually fine though but not for the beating they I put my feet through on the 50 miler.

We headed over to the race and stopped for coffee.  The cashier checked and said an 85% chance of rain at 9 am and 100% at 11 am.  Five minutes before the race started it started to rain.  It was 50F but felt cold so both Jeff and I and many others wore our rain jackets.  It rained the entire race.  I was warm at first but ended up being the right decision since I was comfortable the rest of the time.

The 20K course is actually closer to 14 miles and this makes up for the first day being a little short.  Starting out did not feel good at all and I started extremely slow.  After 1.5 miles my legs suddenly felt better and I picked up the pace a bit and passed quite a few people (some which would pass me later).  I could not run up most of the hills since my calves were very sore.  Downhills and flats I was flying, but with the uphills average pace wasn't that great.  There was a girl I passed back and forth about 2/3 of the race.  She had not run the previous 2 days and could run up the hills but I could run faster than her on the flat and down.  I caught up to Paul and Stuart and passed them.  A few miles later than go flying past me.  It is weird how everyone feels better at different times but you just go with it on this last day.

Around mile 8 or so, Teddy, caught up to me and said I don't want to go around so I felt like she really wanted to run with me.  I was still running okay but not feeling as good as I had earlier, but we still had several 10-something miles.  I was glad she ran with me since it really made the time go faster.  Near the end a guy said take a right at the next intersection and when we got there we doubted what he had said for a minute or so.  Our minds just weren't working at this point in the race.  If we had gone the other way we would have completed another loop which we were warned someone had done so a few years ago.

We crossed the finish together in 2:33:55 and 13.8 miles on my GPS.  I went to soak my legs again in the creek.  When I was done I decided to shower while waiting for Jeff since I was cold and it was raining.  The shower really made me feel better and I had a coke and 3 small cookies.  I really didn't feel like eating much.  Jeff finished about an hour after me.  He was going to shower but they were full so he just dried off, got dressed and we headed home.  We stopped to eat around 3:30 pm and I was starving by then.  It rained on us all the way home except when we stopped to eat.  When we went out to the car it was pouring rain.

No official results yet, but first day I placed 22nd, 2nd day 18th, and 3rd day 32nd.  There were other runners in the races not doing the stage race or ones that had to drop out for various reasons so not sure how I placed overall yet.  My overall time should be around 19 hours and 2 minutes.  This is about 51 minutes faster than in 2008 when I think we pretty much ran the same courses.  It is really hard though to compare on these events when there are so many factors that can change things.

There is something about running for 3 days that really clears the mind so I will likely be running this race again.  Even though this is a very difficult race, I am thankful it was a little easier for me 4 years later.  I am also glad we got to run on the trails like in 2008.  In 2009 it was a lot of forest roads which made it easier in some ways but was kind of boring.

Maps and Elevation

Day 1 - 11:42/mi - 5:42:32 - 22 of 78
Day 2 - 13:09/mi - 10:45:27 - 18 of 43
Day 3 - 11:10/mi - 2:33:55 - 32 of 69

Overall - 12:21/mi - 19:01:54 - 12 of 31  There were 65 signed up for all 3 races but not sure how many started the first day.

I think the 50 miler is harder than two of the hundred milers I have done between the course and the fact I have run a tough 50K the day before.