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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
With the typical fanfare of an ultra marathon (meaning very little, which is how we like it), we were off. Despite the race now being down to "just the running"; I still had many questions that needed answering and much to figure out. My race strategy was good in theory I thought, but now I would find out if my theory was sound or not.<br><br>
Coming into the race and all throughout my training I had stuck to a 25:5 ratio of run walk. Basically, I would run 25 minutes, then walk for 5. At the 30 minutes marks, I would drink sports drink from my hand held bottle. At the 60 minute marks, I would eat the food I was carrying. The food I had come to rely on during training was simple and as it turned out very effective for me. I have never been a big fan of any of the "energy" gels, Gu or bars, I just have never really digested them well in addition to never really liking the taste or consistency of them. For this reason and after some experimentation, I now use "real" food. Which for me works out to Pizza & Potatoes. Easy to cook, easy to pack, easy to eat. Due to my own anxieties about what I eat and my previous experience at Pisgah, I decided to carry my own food and fluids via my camelbak & Nathan handheld bottle. Only time would tell now if these strategies would hold true for this race.<br><br>
Finally, it was all down to just the running. No more planning, no more what if's. Just run. And run I did. Setting out for the first lap, I quickly settled into a very conservative pace. On this very first lap, I wanted to err on the side of caution and hold back. I kept reminding myself to run my own race and pace, not to fall into the trap of "racing". Especially this early in the event. Outside of a course map (which we were told was incorrect), I had very little idea of what this course was like. I did read a few race reports from previous years, but each runners idea of what is difficult or easy is different. So I wasn't sure how much of that information I could count on. I also knew that there were some course corrections for this years event, mostly the adding of more single track sections. So, alot of this first lap I would use to get a lay of the land so to speak. Before long the we were turning off the slightly uphill double track and onto our first piece of single track, which was also uphill, and for alot of runners (me included) our first uphill walk.<br><br>
One of tips I had picked up in the last couple weeks prior to the race, was how to walk uphills. I know, it sounds simple but when one is attempting to run 50 miles, one looks for every advantage one can get. Any chance to increase the efficiency of every step is studied. The tip I found in "The Definitive Guide To Ultra Running" book, was to walk the uphills more like a power walk than attempting to hike them. All through my training I had used the hiking method. Leaning forward, letting my arms hang or pushing down on my quads as I walked. Now however, I used the power walking method. Leaning forward but ensuring my legs stayed straighter, while also keeping my arms bent as if running and pumping them at the same time. As I started walking my first uphill, I used this method for the first time. I'm sure I looked funny and I admit, it felt a bit awkward at first. But, I was very surprised with how quickly and how easily the uphill section went. The difference was amazing. I felt like I was flying up the hills! And this is much more important than how silly I looked or felt.<br><br>
With my walking style strategy solved, I now turned my attention to trail conditions. The main thing I was forewarned about with this race was the ability of the rocks and roots to camouflage themselves amongst the fallen leaves. This would require a higher level of focus and attention on the single track sections. On the double track sections this was less of a concern. To prepare for this I made sure in training that I ran a couple long runs on trails I knew would be highly covered in leaves. This seem to be paying off. Either I was really prepared for this or I was really lucky (or both) but I found the hidden rocks & roots to be a non factor all day. In fact, as it turned out, I would stumble only once all day.<br><br>
So focused I was on these early race strategies than I barely noticed how quickly time was going. Before I knew it we were back onto the double track and approaching 30 minutes into the race. Time for me to employ my 25:5 walk/run ratio plan. As we proceeded through a very scenic swamp area with lots of dead trees on each side of the double track trail, I slowed to a walk and took in my first fluids. I noticed no one else around me walking as it seemed like most the field was passing me by. Knowing each runner had his or her own plan I wasn't concerned to be only one walking at this point. Five minutes later I was back running and surprisingly about 15 minutes later, I pulled into the Aid Station #1 approximately 4 miles into the race. Taking into account how little time there was between my first walking break and the first aid station, I decided to alter my walk/run ratio. Since the GAC volunteers had setup such great aid stations and they were so evenly spaced I deemed it entirely possible to run to each aid station, then take my walking breaks. So, starting this new strategy, I walked through the first aid station, while digging into my camelbak for a slice of pizza and a couple handfuls of potatoes.<br><br>
Walking through aid station one, it was back onto the single track and another uphill. I was still settling into the race at this point and continuing to look over the course. Trying to identify spots that might be potential trouble spots late in the race while also looking for places I could alter my strategy to gain an advantage later in the race as well. I now felt uphills were a place I could gain an advantage while, the double track a good place to go into cruise mode, while the single track would require the most focus (and potential for injuries), and a slower pace.<br><br>
With race strategy adjusted, I finally settled into the race. Aid station #2 came quicker than expected (about 45 minutes after #1) giving me my first chance to try my new strategy. Feeling confident that I had made the right decisions I now focused on finishing Lap 1. Because of how evenly the aid stations were spaced, I was able to push the numbers (distance) out of my mind. I started to think of the races in stages. First, in terms of laps, which I then broken down into 3 sections each (aid station to aid station). Not once did I let it enter my mind that I had X number of miles left. I just put it into my mind that I would take my time, follow my plan and enjoy the day.<br><br>
The final section of lap 1 was mainly double track, with a single track section in the middle that took us on a hillside next to a completely still lake/pond that had numerous dead trees standing in the middle. At first, with the water so still, I thought it was actually all ice covered. Back onto the double track we ran on the edge of plowed farm field. I looked ahead of me and saw full line of runners running into the bright morning sun, thinking to myself that this scene, what I was seeing in front of me, is why we run. How beautiful it was to see all these runners, bounding along in the fresh morning sun. Crisp fall air in our lungs. I felt alive. I wish I could have saved that moment, so that everyone would understand how and why we do this.<br><br>
I was also surprised at this point that there were still groups of runners together. In my previous long distance trail events, I found that the field spread out rather quickly. In some of those events, I felt as if I was the only one running. Here, there were still groups of 3 & 4 runners, conversations still going. This would actually have a good effect, in that I was able to get the feeling that I wasn't alone in this. I knew I was getting close to the start/finish when I spotted the turnoff we had made earlier in the race that took us on our first uphill. Before long, I saw other runners on the opposite side of the double track heading back out for lap 2. Through the concrete barriers, a sharp left, down a slight downhill and like that I was back onto the field of the school. Ahead I saw the race clock (it read 2:28:++). Making sure the race officials noted my number I made my way to my see my family and replenish my supplies.<br><br>
I quickly evaluated my clothing options. With the cool temperatures I wasn't sweating heavily. I knew my hydration was going well as I had to stop during the previous lap and "water the flowers". So I decided to make no clothing adjustments. The only change I did make was use my mp3 player for Lap 2 & 3. More pizza & Potatoes washed down with a Starbuck Double shot Espresso, a quick conference with my family to arrange a time for them to meet me at the end of lap 2 and I was off again.<br><br>
As it would turn out, lap 2 would end up being my most uneventful lap of the day. Since there was still so long to go and I had recently done was longer than the length of 2 laps (25 miles), I only had to concentrate on putting in the miles. In my mind, the race wouldn't really being until I started lap 3. Unfortunately, I was so focused on putting in the miles that after completing my walking break upon leaving aid station 1, I noticed that I was missing a glove.<br><br>
Apparently, I had dropped as I took it off to open my food during my walking break. Faced with either walking back to find it or running the next 12.5 miles with only one glove, I chose the former. Begrudgingly I started back towards aid station 1, seeing all the runners I had passed in the past few miles go by me was a bit disheartening but I knew that it was better in the long run to sacrifice the time now. A minute or back down the trail I located my missing glove and re-started my task of putting in miles. As the lap wore on I began to notice that my trapezoid muscles, particularly my left were feeling tighter than usual. This was odd since I had never experienced this before in any of my races or training runs. Thinking this was due to my camelbak, I continued on. On and on I went until I once again began passing runners headed the opposite way. Once again, it was through the concrete barriers, a sharp left, down a slight downhill and back onto the field of the school. Lap 2 was done (race clock reading 5:08:++).<br><br>
In my mind, it was now time for the real race to begin. During lap 3 I would encounter two milestones both at approximately the same time. Sometime during this third lap I would pass my longest time running (6:30:00) and distance (31 miles). Feeling still fresh and determined I ate yet more pizza & potatoes. While packing my food for lap 3, one of my family members thrust my headlamp in front me. Thinking I had a whole other lap to do before I needed it and not wanting extra weight in my camelbak due to my shoulders being tight, I pushed it away saying I would grab it next time I saw them, in 3 hours I said. Meet me back her in 3 hours, which by my watch would be at about 2:30 PM. A quick hug from the kids and I was off again. One foot in front of the other.<br><br>
With lap 3 underway I continued with my goal of breaking the race into sections and focusing on going from aid station to aid station. Sometime on the way to aid station 1 switched my handheld bottle from my normal left hand to my right. Immediately my left shoulder felt relief. Now I knew, it wasn't the camelbak causing my shoulders to tighten up, it was holding the water bottle up in the running position so long. With the shoulder situation now under control I rolled into aid station 2. With now 33 miles under me I took time to acknowledge to myself that I had now run further (and longer) than I had ever run before. Now I was truly into uncharted territory. Lap 3 was now wrapping up and I was extremely surprised at how strong and fresh I still felt. I was also surprised that I wasn't walking (outside of uphills & scheduled breaks) as much as I thought I would. I had mentally prepared myself in my training, telling myself that this would be the hardest thing I had ever done. And even though I was only approaching the 3/4 point of the race, I was growing confident that I was gonna finish this race in better shape than I expected coming in.<br><br>
As I got deeper and deeper into lap 3 I could feel myself going into "automatic" mode...cruising. With The Pretenders in my ears, I passed once again through the concrete barriers and into the school field. Rounding the cone to complete my third lap (race clock 7:56:++) I quickly glanced around and didn't see anyone from my family. A bit perplexed, I knew they should be here anytime now. After all, I needed to get items from my drop bag, which they had. Especially needed for the final lap would be my headlamp. A quick calculation on time and I knew I would be finishing in the dark. I accepted my dream of an under 10 hour finish wasn't going to happen, but I still hoped I could break 11 hours. After 8 minutes and still no appearance from my family, I asked to borrow a volunteers cell phone. Contact was established however they were still 10-20 minutes away. I knew I was at a critical juncture now. Do I wait, risk getting colder and putting me out longer in the dark at the end of the lap. Or, do I go for it. Run as hard as I can hoping to chase the sunlight.<br><br>
I waited another few minutes and decided to go for it. As I left the start/finish for my final lap it was around 2:30 PM. I figured I had, at the most, 2 hours of light left. I told myself I had to make it to the second aid station by 4:00 PM. To lighten my load I left my camelbak, put a Ziploc of potatoes in my vest pocket and took off. I would rely on the aid stations for food. My plan was to run as hard as I could, make it to the second aid station, get behind a runner with a light and follow them home. With a new sense of determination and focus I was off. As I hit the crest of the lap's first hill I got a boost from a killer triple block of tunes on my mp3 player, each with a key lyric that would keep the legs churning (Stone Sour - Suffer, lyric: "SUFFER! SUFFER! SUFFER!", The Foo Fighters - Best Of You, lyric: "I'll never give in, no I refuse" & Tool - Parabola, lyric: "Pain is an illusion"<img alt="wink.gif" src="http://files.kickrunners.com/smilies/wink.gif">. I put the hammer down on the downhill of the single track.<br><br>
Shortly after I came upon a runner who had apparently lost the trail. I helped her get back on track and after staying with her for about 5 minutes I politely asked her if it was okay if I went ahead. I hit the first aid station at about 3:15 PM. I grabbed what I needed from the aid station, ate some of my potatoes and quickly made my way up another single track uphill. With the pressure of dark upon me I pressed on. Adrenaline fueling me along I pushed as hard as I could. With the sun setting over the pond/lake I had thought was ice covered earlier, I gave a glance at the beauty of the sight and kept pushing. I pulled into aid station 2 at 3:55 PM. Filling my stomach and pockets with some Vienna finger cookies I shamelessly asked the aid station volunteers if I could borrow a light for the final 4 miles. I'd be happy for any light at this point as I surely wouldn't be able to finish without some type of illumination. I'd even carry one of those foot long police flashlights if I had to. Luckily for me, Fast Freddy went to his car and gave me a small handheld, push button light. Promising to turn it in at the finish I profusely thanked him. He truly was a life saver for me. After some words of encouragement for the fabulous GAC volunteers I set out to finish the race.<br><br>
This was it, the final section of the race. All I had to do now was shuffle in. For whatever reason though, I felt a lag in my effort for the first time. Either I had used it all up getting to the security of the aid station (and getting a light) or getting a light had eased my mind and took away that edge I had for the past 8 miles. In either case, I slowed to a shuffle. With the growing darkness I could feel my eyes trying to adjust (or else I was getting sleepy). A couple runners I had passed going into/out of aid station 1 finally caught me and went by. After the second passed me I decided now was the time to hitch a ride on out. Gut check time, pull up all the last reserves. I was gonna follow his pace, slow or fast. I walked when he walked, I ran when he ran. As went along, I got the feeling that my hanging with him was also helping him. We struck up a conversation on how long we had left and the goal we both wanted (11 hours). With it nearly dark, we were running along the edge of the farm field (where I wanted to capture the moment), this time it was dark and a full circle moment hit. I had run on this edge of the field in morning and now at the close of the day I was here yet again.<br><br>
We hit the last single track section, passing the "coffee car" for the 4th and final time. We knew we to make one last push to make our time goal. Off the single track, onto the final double track section. Down the slow descent we went. Now running "in a bubble of light" I could barely make out those concrete barriers that marked the home stretch.<br><br>
My partner kicked into gear as we stepped out of the woods onto the school field. I did my best to keep up focusing on the only light I could see ahead, the one at the finish. Moments later I saw and heard my family cheering my in. A few steps later and I had made it. Across the finish line I went, a final time of 10:45:13.<br><br>
At the finish I was surprised at how good I felt. I knew I was very lucky and that some things fell my way that at other times might not have. I may never have another race go as well as this one. Which why I once again remembered Pam Reed's idea of enjoying this first time finishing a 50 mile race. I felt sky high and yet the moment also seemed a bit surreal. I really did just run 50 miles! I collected my sweet finishing prize, a nice rain/wind shell with "50 mile finisher" embroidered on it. I also made sure I turned in Fast Freddy light and told them to thank him for me. I thanked the race volunteers as well headed off to change into nice, warm, fuzzy clothes.<br><br>
Riding home I still felt a bit surreal as it started to sink in that I had done it. I had wanted to become an ultra runner and even though I technically had that distinction after completing Pisgah a couple months ago, I felt with this race, I confirmed it. What a day, what an event. I can't thank the GAC people enough. They put on an outstanding event. I started this report saying that maybe I should quit while I'm ahead.....after having as much fun as I did this past year becoming an ultra runner, I don't think I'll be stopping anytime soon.<br><br>
In a final ironic twist, my race number for this event (#279), was also my number in my first ever marathon 6 years ago.<br><br>
Ron
 

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Great job!!! No light? next time you will have one <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/biggrin.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Very Happy"><img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/biggrin.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Very Happy"><br><br>
that is so funny about the race numbers!!<br><br>
how do you carry pizza on you?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Depends what pizza I carry. If I buy Dominos I can carry 3-4 slices in the camelbak. I put 2 slices in a ziploc each and put them in the camelbak pocket where the bladder goes.<br><br>
If I buy a little frozen pizza, I cut it into 4 pieces and they can all fit in one ziploc.<br><br>
I love pizza, my favorite food.
 

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that is too funny!!!! i have the very small camelback, not much being shoved in there <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/sad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Sad"><br><br>
At the Grand Teton races i shipped a large box out to the race and i generally supply my own food too. I am more a liquid person-- lots of soy milk and clif blocks and then some mojo bars <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.kickrunners.com/forum/images/smilies/biggrin.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Very Happy">
 

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Congrats! Great RR! I was there, checking the 50M runners in, and it was COLD!!! Great time for a first 50 on a rather deceptive little course!
 
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