Let the summer training season begin! It's the Monday after the 2012 version of the McDonald Forest 50k and I feel tired, like I ran a good race this weekend, but not beat up. I last ran this race with Sharon in 2007. We had trained on Wildwood all winter and ran Hagg 50k that February. I was really interested to see five years later how my fitness stacked up and how I would compare to that first Mac 50k race. Two weeks ago I ran the 55k at Capitol Peak. I enjoyed the race, but it wasn't a really great one for me performance wise. My calves were very tight for days and then after last weekend's Gorge hike, my glutes were super sore. Despite not putting in many miles since Cap Peak, I was still a little tired last week and took Thursday and Friday off from training.
I decided to take the early start so Saturday was up at 3:30am in time to pick up my friend Desiree, who was volunteering, at 4:30am. We arrived with plenty of time at 6am, which was great since I like to be early, plus we got an awesome parking spot. This weekend was predicted to be our first heat wave of the year. Fortunately, Saturday was the first day of it and wouldn't be quite as hot. The high was supposed to be 80 and it was about 50 at the start, already too warm for sleeves. Aid stations were fairly close together so I decided on one handheld and my Nathan vest to carry power gels & stinger waffles. They had plenty of hammer gels at the aid stations, but they aren't my favorites so I wanted to have my own stuff. I wore a white cap and had my buff around my neck. I try never to race without my buff...it comes in handy in so many different situations/conditions.
It felt warm and humid within the first mile so the hat came off right away and spent the rest of the race in my back vest pocket. I soon pushed my buff up as a headband where it did it's job well to keep the sweat out of my eyes. Later in the race I put ice in the back above my neck and that felt awesome. Within a few miles I settled in with Melissa Berman and David Elsbernd. I first met Dave at my first Across the Years, and now see him at races here and there. I've seen Melissa around but we had never officially met. The three of us spent the first half of the race together. Dave is training for Western States and was trying to run at 100 mile pace. His slow pace is my easy but trying to keep moving pace so it worked out well. I had a lot of fun chatting with those two and the time certainly passed quickly.
Just as we left the maze Melissa held back to take care of business and then somewhere on the road up to Dimple Hill I pulled ahead of Dave. I think he realized at that point he was moving too quickly for his goal pace. Up until that point I had been hiking most of the climbs and running the downhills and flats. I really hadn't tried to run any of the uphills when we were on single track. But on the gravel road I tried to run some of the uphills too. That held for the rest of the race. I hiked all the trails, but was still able to run some on the steady climb up the road after the last aid station. I was able to catch a few people on this stretch, although some might have been regular starters who had already passed me. Having run this race once before it was great knowing what to expect. And I was really looking forward to the last 1-1/2 mile downhill. I was able to bomb down, and passed some more people who must have had dead quads.
It certainly got warm near the end of the race, but fortunately a lot of the race is in the trees so I never felt overly hot. The ice in my buff helped and I was sure to drink most, if not all, of my bottle of nuun between each aid. At the stations I filled up on an extra cup of Heed or Coke and ate potatoes and fruit. I love when there's watermelon on a hot day. I ate 5 gels and 2 waffles between aid. I took an S-cap about every 45 minutes, plus a few extra near the end. I think I hit my nutrition/hydration just right and never felt nauseous or felt like I was going to bonk.
Remarkable my gps watch was hitting the distances nearly perfectly. It ended up being only .04 off the official course mileage of 31.1. With a couple of miles to go I could see I wasn't going to meet or beat my previous time of 7:13:57. But with the fast finish there was a good chance I'd come under 7:30 and maybe 7:20. The closer we got the more I wanted that sub 7:20 finish. As we were climbing on the last road with less than 5 miles to go I kept my sight on a guy who was walking at a really good pace. He had a wrap on his knee so I supposed that he was injured and just trying to walk it in. But he was moving really well. My goal, with my run/walk, was to catch him but I wasn't able to do it until the road leveled out. When I did, I complimented him on his good hiking pace. He said thanks, motioned to some women up ahead and said "Go reel em in!". That got me fired up and I did catch and pass those women (I think one was regular and one was early start) plus the others on the downhill. I managed to finish in 7:19:26.
So I was able to finish about 5 minutes off my time from five years ago. A couple of things make me happy about that time -- 1) It was hotter this year and 2) I didn't run trails all winter like I did in 2006/2007. However, I really think I should be able to finish this race under 7 hours. Maybe next year I'll train specifically to do that.
But all in all I'm very happy with my race. It was my best one so far this year. I felt my glutes cramp up a few times, but I didn't have any abnormal aches and pains like I've had for every other race this year. Yesterday, I wasn't sore at all like I have been the past few weeks. I just had some tightness in my right foot. It was hot so I waited until the evening to go out and was able to do a moderate 7 mile recovery run. Today I have some lingering tiredness, but my foot feels good. It's a rest day today but tomorrow I plan to carry on like normal.
So I have a lot of reasons to feel good about this race and I'm trying to suppress the reasons I don't. Or at least use them to fuel my desire to get better. One thing for sure, this is an outstanding race and I had moments of pure joy and happiness being out on the trails. And that's what it's really all about, right?
There were a ton of official looking photographers out on the course but I haven't seen any pics posted yet. I'll add some if and when I find any!
I created a new post for the pictures here.