Sunday, October 31, 2010

Autumn Leaves 50 Mile 2010

Want to know how to have the best time at a race?  Be friends with the race director and be the first to register and maybe just, maybe he'll give you bid number #1.  Then make sure the course is an out and back and you'll spend the day hearing cheers like "Go number #1!"  I usually don't save my bib numbers, but I'm holding on to this one.  This race was really HARD (so much running!) but so much FUN too.  Thank you Bret (and Gail!) for bringing this race back.  You did an awesome job.  I hope you feel like all your hard work was worth it.

As we did in 2007, we reserved a cabin at Champoeg State Park the night before.  It's nice to not have  to get up quite so early in the morning.  The weather forecast looked like a dry start, but with showers developing through the day.  That didn't quite pan out because I woke up at midnight to the sound of rain on the cabin roof.  However, by race time, the rain had let up to a mist and us early starters left at 6 am without the rain pelting down on us.  The course was a little different this year....eight loops of approximately 6.2 instead of ten loops of 5.  I liked it better because even though each loop was longer, it wasn't that much longer, and psychologically, finishing 8 loops is much easier than 10.

I couldn't get my light turned on so started at a walk and was at the back of the pack.  The first lap in the dark was a lot of fun and I chatted with many different people as I moved throughout the pack.  The second lap it was already starting to get light so I was able to turn off my light after the first mile.  I ran much of this lap with Tim, a minimalist runner who I've known for a while.  We share a fascination with multidays (he's participated in  the Self Transcendence 6 day) and he is always interesting to talk with.  My overall goal was to finish under 12 minute miles, with a plan to hang around 11 - 11:30 miles to give myself some cushion.  The first two loops I kept to a 10:55ish pace and I was able to maintain that through the first half.  The third loop I ran with Rob and Steve from WA.  We had a lot of fun chatting and the time passed  quickly.  They really helped me maintain my pace at a time when it would have been more natural for me to slow up a bit after the excitement and adrenaline of the start and the first few laps.  But eventually, after an aid station stop, I let up a bit and they went ahead. 

Surprisingly my low back started to hurt.  This rarely happens to me in a race (or a run, for that matter). But my back has gone out on me twice in the last two years, one time during a run in the Gorge.  So I was a little worried because it had that same, about to go out, feeling.  I was discouraged to be hurting so soon into a race.  I avoid taking ibuprofen any time, let alone during a race, but I finally decided I needed to chance it.  I'd been peeing well so I thought it would be okay and I took 2 vitamin I's at the next aid station.  It was the right decision, because I started to feel much better within 30 minutes.

After the back scare, I had a few really good laps where I felt like I was moving well.  I don't remember the exact numbers but I think I came through 25 miles at about 4:35, the marathon distance at about 4:45 and the 50k distance at about 5:40.  I had my fueling dialed in, drinking a full bottle of water every lap, taking a gel every lap and an S-cap every lap (all at different aid stations stops).  I ate a few bites of my leftover from breakfast pbj sandwich and a few bites of my Larabar.  But for some reason it didn't really appeal to me on this day and I wasn't able to eat as much solid food as I would have liked.  Eventually, my stomach started to take a nose dive and I concentrated on pushing through.  All in all I think I had 6-7 gels and was proud of myself for choking down the last few even when I didn't really want to.  

I surprised myself by maintaining a pretty steady pace.  I took planned walk breaks through the aid stations, but except for the last lap I pretty much ran the rest of it, even the hill up to the turnaround.  My time from 2007 was 10:06, so I really hoped to break 10 hours.  I kept telling myself if I kept moving and banked some time I could walk the last lap if I had to.  I knew it wouldn't be necessary to totally walk the last lap, but giving myself that time made me feel a lot better.

The other factor that really helped me through was all the support and camaraderie out on the course.  I've been posting my workouts on Daily Mile for the past year and I've gotten to know many people that I met for the first time at this race.  Seeing Lynn, Jodi, Esther, Michelle, and Glenn (all finishing their first ultra!) as well as all my Maniac and ultra comrades every lap was a real boost!   I was high on the ultra party!  There was so much good energy at this race.

The last lap I walked a bit more than I had previously.  It believe I came though lap 7 a few minutes past 8 hours so I was certain I'd get a PR, but by how much was still up in the air.  I'd had enough with eating and drinking so decided to leave my bottle at the finish.  Before I left I drank some warm broth that seemed to go down okay and vowed to take some more sips of water or coke at the other aid station.  I walked in my usual spots and added a few more walk breaks but tried to keep them short and to walk with purpose.  When I got to the trail section with about a mile and a half to go, I saw that I could break 9:30.   I started to forward through my music until I got to my power song (EMF's You're Unbelievable) and was going to replay it when my second favorite running song (The Ramones, Teenage Lobotomy) came on.  I hit the pavement and had about .2 to go and saw the LG scootering down the path.  I think he thought his mom had gone crazy as I sang "Now I guess I'll have to tell 'em, That I've got no cerebellum".  I powered up the hill for the first time (yes you had to finish on an uphill!) and stopped my watch at 9:28:26 (and 50.57 miles).  Marc says the clock said 9:29:something.  I'll find out when the official results are posted, but it looks pretty certain that I beat 9:30 and managed a 37 minute PR.  I really had no expectations of doing that.  In fact I had hoped that breaking 10 hours was possible.  I guess my base is back and I can start thinking of improvement rather than just finishing.

(Update:  My official time was 9:28:29.  I'm most happy about my lap splits: 1:08, 1:10, 1:09, 1:09, 1:09, 1:14, 1:16, 1:14.   I'm really surprised and pleased at how even those are!)

Today, the next day, I feel really good.  Aside from my back and a little soreness in my hamstrings, I didn't feel like anything was hurting during the race.  This morning I woke up with a tweaky, stiff right knee, but my muscles aren't sore.  I was hoping I could go out for recovery run.  Only 5 more miles and I'd reach 200 miles for the month, my highest ever.  But I decided I need to keep my eyes on my longer term goals.  Recovering well and being able to get back into training for Across the Years is more important than chasing an arbitrary number.  And 195 is still one of my highest months ever. 

Looking back, I think my favorite moment of a race with many great moments was at the finish line as we were waiting for some of our friends to come in.  An older gentlemen had completed the 50k, mostly walking and I believe Bret had let him start with the early 50 milers.  He was so encouraging every time I saw him and I tried to give him a good word and a smile too.  At the finish he came up and told me how much I had inspired him.  (He remembered the #1!) I was a little chilled and tired so I don't remember exactly what he said, but the spirit of his words meant and still mean so much to me.  That's what I love about ultra running.  It's about so much more than just the running.


Layla said...

Great job on the race -- and the big PR! I'm impressed!

Brittany Zale said...

What a great run!!! Congrats! That's a fast 50!

Joe said...

OH, Sarah, this is a wonderful report!! Great job, as usual, thinking and adjusting on the fly. The vitamin I was wise.

Glad you are just a little sore... no pain is a good thing.


Addy said...

Wow, what a great race. That time is so fast :). It sounds like it was a lot of fun being #1!

Congrats on an awesome job

Pam said...

Congratulations on such a big PR! Thanks for your cheers - I definitely remember your "Go Pam."

olga said...

I've been swamped, read this page a few times over, and couldn't comment. But I just wanted to let you know I am so proud of your come back and a great attitude! Awesome on PR too! Whoot to Bret and Gail for bringing it back, and one day I'll recover from my weekend 48 hrs affair to tell stories:)

Sarah said...

Olga...we missed you at AL, but I thought of you sending me on my way every lap. : )

That Guy said...

Nice work!