The basic stats:
136th out of 190 finishers
Age Group Place:
2nd out of 7
28th out of 47
10th Female Master
I ran this race for the first time in 2007. It was my 3rd ultra. I was registered in 2008 but couldn't run, and again in 2011 and was a DNS again that year too. And honestly, I wouldn't have minded if I never ran this race again. I just don't like slogging through mud that much. But than last fall I participated in a little relay put on by one of my running groups and I won an entry at the raffle. The entry was actually for the 25k. But why would I want to run a 25k when I could run a 50k, so I was able to get it upgraded.
I generally don't like early (or late) season races so I wasn't planning to actually race this one. That said, I did taper off the mileage a bit for about a week. I've been upping my mileage a lot since December, but most have been slow miles. I've been trying to hit at least 50 miles each week, but I think I tapered down to 40 the full week prior to race day.
We've had a very mild winter this year, with no official measurable snow and not a lot of heavy rain. I was getting worried that there wasn't enough mud on Wildwood for sufficient mud training. But I didn't need to worry since the rain held off the week before the race and the Hagg trail was relatively dry.
Back in 2007, Sharon and I completed this race in 7 hours on a cold, rainy day. The trails were a muddy, sloppy, wet mess. You couldn't tell the difference between the trail and a stream in some spots. With the better conditions I knew getting a PR wouldn't be too difficult. But by how much remained to be seen.
I had signed up for the early start, although I could have easily taken the regular start, even with a 7 hour finish. But back in fall I assumed it would be a mud-fest and had no interest pushing myself. But as the race got closer and I saw it would be a faster course, my competative juices started flowing. I decided to adjust my watch so that it didn't record my mile laps and didn't show my pace. I've found that seeing my pace does more harm than good, especially when the mileage on my Garmin doesn't match the actual course mileage. All I could see was the elapsed time and I had it alert me every 30 minutes to eat. Goal was to get in about 200 calories per hour.
The first 3 miles are an out and back that goes up and back down a significant hill. I fully expected to walk a lot of this, but found that running quite a bit of it was pretty easy. I only walked the really steeper sections near the turnaround. I haven't done as much dedicated hill training so I credit that to the higher mileage lately and also the Animal Athletics boot camps I've been attending with their focus on plyometrics. Box jumps really help with the hill climbing!
In 2007 we came back through the start/finish (approx 17 miles) in 3:40. This year I decided I'd run the first lap at a moderate effort, see where I was after 1 lap and decide how to run the 2nd lap from there. The first lap was really pleasant. I felt like I was running steadily but not overexerting myself. They had a few mileage markers so I could get a sense of my pace, which was about 12 min/miles...just about right I think. There weren't a lot of us in the early start and I was probably in the top 5-10 of early starters. I was by myself quite a bit. And I was loving it. In 2007 I hadn't noticed how pretty the trail is, probably because I was so focused on the mud. But this day, I couldn't imagine being happier any other place.
I came through the first lap in about 3:20. I tried to be quick grabbing some more of my preferred fuel from my drop bag and visiting the aid station briefly. I had decided to wear my hydration pack for this race instead of carrying bottles. When it's cold, I like my hands free - holding something makes them colder. The pack worked perfectly. It had filled it full so it was heavier at the beginning, but I'm used to that. I was able to get through the whole race without filling it and supplementing with coke from the aid stations. Fueling worked out really well too. I ate every thirty minutes - either a stinger waffle, gel, Raw Rev 100 bar or Clif shot bloks. I supplemented with oranges and some chips from the aid stations.
Starting the second lap, my mind was churning. I figured if I could hold the pace a 6:30 finish was possible. I felt steady and it seemed like I was running as many little hills the second time around as I did the first. I was getting passed by more of the regular starters (the #1 guy passed me 3/4 way through loop one and the #1 gal passed me about 4/5 way through loop one.) These folks were speedy but not so much that they energized me every time they went by and I'd pick up the pace a bit.
When I got to the last aid station with about 4-5 miles to go I could see that 6:30 was in the bag as long as I didn't do anything stupid. So I set my sights on 6:20. I caught up to some early starters ahead of me and was able to pass. I stayed with some regular starters who passed me as long as I could and used them to pull me up some of the hills.
When I finally hit the pavement with less than a half mile to go I saw there was a chance to beat 6:15 so I poured it on. The volunteer in the parking lot congratulated me on my strong finish. The endorphins were pumping and despite my serious face I was elated to cross the finish in 6:13:40. A 47 minute course PR and a 17 minute trail 50k PR!
Without any mud, this is an easy 50k. Nevertheless, I'm really happy with my performance. I'm especially encouraged that my pace was fairly even throughout the race. Looking at the results, my pace for the last section was quicker than most of the people who finished around me...even going 10 or more faster.
So this was a great early season confidence builder. Now I just need to believe in myself more and learn how to push the pace sooner. Looking forward to how the rest of 2013 unfolds!