Thursday, October 15, 2015

2015 Defiance 50K

I needed a long run today while traveling so decided that I might as well do a race so I wouldn't get lost. Also, this gave me a chance to run an ultramarathon in another state. I ran Rock Bridge Revenge 50K last week and the major aches were gone by Saturday. I decided to do the Defiance 50K in Tacoma, WA since it was the right distance had not filled. The course is 3 loops through Defiance Pointe Park. The trails for this race were pretty smooth and the race course had a lot of turns but a beautiful course.

The weather forecast was 100% chance of rain. It rained on the drive there from Portland but was not raining at the start. Temperature was low 60s. All three distances, 15K, 30K, and 50K started together. The course was chip-timed. Very few people lined up in front so I got close but once we started I was passed by a lot of people. We ran along the waterfront on a paved path above the beach for a half mile before going up some stairs. Then we hit the trails which were advertised as single-track but most of it was not like any single track I’ve run in Missouri. There was plenty of room to pass, a pretty solid surface even though wet, and some mulch and pine needles. There were very few rocks and roots.

The first loop I had plenty of people to follow and seemed like a lot of turns so I had to pay careful attention to the course markings which I would describe as average. I had to look ahead and there were volunteers at many of the turns and roads since the course crossed over where we had run before at different points. Not long into the first loop it started to rain and it rained hard. I was expecting more of a drizzle. My shorts and shirt were completely soaked and the trail started to accumulate lots of puddles that could not be avoided. I didn’t bring Body Glide but my feet were fine. Nips were a little sore by the end. It felt a little too cool to run shirtless and I didn’t see anyone running without a shirt. Before the end of the loop, we had to rappel down a steep, wet and muddy hill. There were 2 different ropes since it switched directions. Then there was just a short run to the finish of the loop. I ran the first loop in 1:34:27. My first loop came out to 10.3 miles on my GPS but my other loops were slightly shorter even though the same course.

For nutrition I had 3 bottles of Sword and 5 gels. I had a full bottle of Sword for each loop at the start finish area to save time. Prerace nutrition was not ideal since I didn’t have access to the foods I normally eat so I was hoping I wouldn’t have any issues. None of the food other than bananas looked appealing at the aid stations but I didn’t take any since they were all whole and not cut up. My energy level stayed good and the rain became lighter in the second loop. Another 50K runner caught up to me and was running his first ultra. He had finished the first loop just a few seconds behind me. Eventually, he ran ahead of me the second loop but I caught him later and we finished the second loop together with my loop split at 1:37:22. I was surprised since I expected it to be a bit slower than just 3 minutes.

I took off on the 3rd loop and pushed the pace as much as I could. Along the path to the stairs some walkers pointed out a humpback whale and a seal. I’m not sure if it was a seal but there was definitely a whale. The whale came up for air several times as I was running past. I passed a 50K runner before reaching the steps. I had been running the gradual uphills and walking the really steep sections in the previous loops. On the 3rd loop I was just a little slower going up but really pushed on the flat and downhills. Overall the course was very smooth, runnable, and fast. I didn’t see many runners during the 3rd loop although I passed some from the 30K and lapped a few doing the 50K. I had a guy running at me at some point that was questioning the direction he was going. Although it wasn’t marked very well I assured him it was the right way. He was a 50K runner and the only other one I passed. Once I passed him I pushed the pace even more until the end. I ran the final loop in 1:38:01, only 39 seconds slower than the previous loop.

I finished feeling good and didn’t fall like I did at Rock Bridge Revenge since the course was so smooth. I placed 3rd overall out of 76 finishers and 97 starters in 4:49:50. Placed 1 of 6 in 45 – 49.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

2015 Rock Bridge Revenge 50K

Saturday I ran Rock Bridge Revenge 50K for the fourth time. There is also a 7 mile and 25K race as well. Temperatures turned colder on Friday night and it was only 43F at the start of the 50K at 7 am. Sleep wasn't ideal since I was awake at 3:30 am but I felt good and ready to run. There were 60 people signed up for the 50K but after dropping down and no-shows, only 40 runners started. If you want to drop down you have to do so before since the other races start an hour later.

As opposed to last year, the trail was dry and it has rained very little recently. The weather was perfect through the race with the temp reaching upper 60s by the time I finished. My goal was to finish between 5:10 and not longer than 5:30. Last year I ran 5:22 but the course was muddy so this was a reasonable goal for the dry trail. Overall, I was thinking 10-10:30 pace but this course is tough to run even splits since the terrain varies. The first part of the course is run on one side of the park and then we run a loop on the other side of the road, cross the road and finish the loop we started earlier. Then we repeat for the second half. The first few miles are generally faster and the pace slows across the road even during training runs. On the first loop, we ran a short out and back on the road to spread out the runners. I positioned myself behind Sankalp and he was setting an aggressive starting pace. There were 4 other runners trailing me.

I kept Sankalp in sight but didn't get too close other than on downhills I would catch up a bit. When we reached a creek at 3 miles my splits were 8:31, 9:29, and 8:43. I made the decision that when I got to the creek I was going to let everyone right behind me pass since I felt the pace was not sustainable for me. I stopped for a few seconds and let 4 runners go around. I carefully crossed and mostly avoided getting my shoes wet trying to stay on rocks. They all sped ahead except I did catch up to one of them shortly that had turned his ankle but he walked it off and passed me. The first aid station is at 6 miles where we cross the road. Those 3 miles before the aid station were run at a similar pace that I started even though I let 4 runners pass me so I was in 6th place at this point.

For nutrition there are 2 aid stations on each set of loops and one at the start so a total of 5 for the 50K. I filled my bottles and sometimes had a piece of banana. I also carried 5 gels and used 4 of them and 3 of them were the yummy expensive Huma gels. I used 1 serving of Sword per loop. After the first loop, I was back at the start in 2:24. The first loop is slightly longer since we have a short out and back on the road that we don't do the second loop. I grabbed my full bottle of Sword, a piece of banana, and continued. I didn't see Sankalp but had passed him at the aid station. Shortly after I see the guy that had turned his ankle earlier coming towards me. Apparently, he had gone the wrong way around the loop on the way back. Also, I passed another guy just over 3 miles into the loop. If I passed anyone else, I didn't notice.

Just as I was leaving the aid station 20+ miles, I noticed Sankalp behind me. Whether in front of me or behind me, he helped push me through this race. Also, I kept pushing the pace since I thought that sub-5 hours was very possible. Up to this point, I hadn't fallen and managed not to fall at all in my last 50 mile race but I guess I was overdue. After mile 21, I tripped over something and landed on my arm and left knee. I had a couple scrapes on my knee and my arm felt a little sore for awhile.  At mile 24, I managed to do almost the same thing but landed off trail and squished a bunch of liquid out of my bottle and added a third scrape to the left knee. My legs were tiring so it was more difficult to pick up my feet but I still felt good. A few miles later I hit my left big toe hard attempting to jump over a log that I should have stepped over but didn't fall.

Up to mile 21, I had 1 mile just over 10 minutes in spite of some hills. My slowest mile was 22 and I am guessing took a bit to recover after falling and I had to descend a steep hill and climb another. I'm watching the clock pretty closely since keeping my mind on sub-5 kept pushing me forward. I figure if I can keep an 11 minute average the rest of the way, I can do it. I managed to do all remaining miles under 11 except 1 and even ran several under 10 min. My finishing time was 4:54:06 (2nd overall) so ran the second loop 6 minutes slower than the first and finished feeling good in spite of the half mile climb uphill to reach the finish. This turned out to be a course PR by 17 minutes. This is the best 50K, I've had in years.

There were 30 finishers and 10 DNFs so still a tough day for 25% of the runners. The winner ran 4:33 (24 years old) and Sankalp also finished sub-5 in 4:58. The cutoff for the race is 8 hours. This race is very much run by volunteers and seems to get more support every year. It is becoming an event that everyone wants to do and has filled the past 2 years.

Earlier in day pancakes were served but for those of us finishing later we had pulled chicken, chips, cookies, chocolate milk, Gatorade, and fruit.I managed to eat a little right after finishing. I've recovered well from the race in spite of running on the hard trails and a sore ankle for 1 day. On Sunday, I went out and "ran" 5.5 miles helping to remove flags from the course.