Wednesday, March 27, 2013

NJ Ultrafest 50K - 2013 version

Going into the NJ Ultrafest 50K this past weekend, I knew that I would have a slow time. The questions were how slow and how much was it going to hurt? My training was sub-optimal at best. I was sick the first week of January and this semester I was teaching 3 classes and 1 lab at 3 different community colleges, which proved to be stressful and tiring even though I had taught the courses before. Which also meant that I wasn’t running nearly enough and my two longest runs were 12.6 and 12.7 miles. And then there was the weather (cold!) and the trail conditions (snow, water, and mud!).

I showed up to the race site on Friday around 5 PM. Saw that Jen was working solo at the registration table with a long line of runners waiting to pick up their race packet, so I jumped in and helped. I continued to help with registration and anywhere else until dinner – sushi! Thanks to Jessi for bringing in a huge platter of sushi. This has become a regular meal pre-ultra/marathon for a couple of years now. In the past I shied away from sushi – from the thought of eating raw fish, to the taste of the seaweed in the rolls. But I’ve found much to my surprise that I like sushi and it’s a nice relaxing meal with friends. Sushi and beer was good but it was COLD! I was not relishing the thought of sleeping in a tent the night before a big race with the temps dropping into the 20s. Thankfully Jessi decided to drive home and let me sleep on her futon. A little warmer and more comfortable than a tent! But I know I hadn’t gotten enough sleep the past two nights (average 5 hrs) with the 5 AM wake-up on Saturday! Ugh!

A stop at QuikChek for some coffee! and back to the race. Once back at the fairgrounds, I quickly set up my stuff at the start-finish – extra shoes & socks, clothes, food, beverages, etc.  – got some more coffee and a muffin from Jessi (definitely less calories and protein than my usual pre-race meal). Then wandered around chatting with people and helping out where needed. Soon it was race time – a very reasonable 7:45 AM start for the 50K. I started a few seconds late (was staying in the barn away from the wind) which was fine, it allowed me to pass a few people and run some with Mirna who was running her first 50K. My goal for the first 11 miles was to use a run/walk approach (8 min running/1 min walking) and to eat on a regular basis given that in my last 50k race I felt I hadn’t eaten enough prior to and during the second 10 mile loop. But based on how I felt on Saturday, it looks like I still have some learning to do. I also wanted to keep my time at the aid stations to a minimum. No need to add to my time in what is already going to be a slow race!

For the first loop I kept to my run/walk pattern, walking some when it got really wet or when I needed to eat. Quickly got some food at the far aid station and back to the start-finish. Time: 2:22:43 for 11 miles (12:58 pace); not bad. I wore my Mizuno Wave Rider 15s with wool socks for the first loop. Shoes & feet got wet and my feet started to feel sore. So I switched to my Sauconys and new socks, a quick stop in the bathroom, and a bit of food from the aid station and I started my second loop. Spent about 9 min taking care of things. Not bad.

View of part of the course. Many of us tried to stick to the left side to keep our shoes dry.
I started the second loop and was just not feeling it. I was tired, my legs were sore (about 2 miles into this loop I was running more than I had in 2013), and I just did not want to run. So I ended up walking most of the first out and back all the way to the far aid station where I picked up some cup-o-noodles and orange soda and had renewed energy. Definitely need to eat more! I tried to get back to a run-walk routine as much as I could. The second loop wasn’t nearly as slow as I expected. Time: 2:57:30 (17:45 pace).  

Obviously trying to keep my shoes clean and dry did not work!

I really wanted to stop after the second loop but I was determined to finish and get my sweet finisher’s jacket! This time I needed to spend a little more time at the aid station. Added a few more layers, had another bathroom break, and food! Time at aid station: ~20 min. I grabbed a hotdog and some gummy bears and continued walking while eating. The extra food certainly helped as I was able to run more, though definitely at a slower pace and at most for 1-2 minutes at a time. I made it to the far aid station for more food – noodles and Mountain Dew (never thought I’d like it but I do) – which gave me some more energy. But my legs were definitely taking a beating from my lack of training. As I made my way back to the start I caught up with Elaine who was attempting the 50 miler at Melissa’s urging. Elaine had never run more than a marathon and was moving slowly so I encouraged her to run more so she would finish her 3rd loop as quickly as possible. (Note: Never listen to crazy younger runners that encourage you to run a distance much greater than you’ve run before. They think they are invincible). I kept up running and walking till I made it to the fairgrounds and the only visible hill on the course. At this point, I pretty much walked the rest of the way. I was tired and my legs and knees were sore! I ran a bit of the downhill but even that hurt! I made it to the finish for my jacket and medal and to the sounds of cheers from a group there for another runner. Clearly when I finished I was not looking happy as Rick, the RD, asked if I was pissed or sore. Not pissed. Just sore and tired! Time: 3:05:07 (18:30 pace)

Finisher's jacket and medal!

Total time: 8:52:22 (17:11 pace).  I definitely need to get more focused on training. I really would like to break 7 hrs for a 50k and I think I can. A few days after the race my legs are feeling good and I will be back to running this week. Next event: 3 Days at the Fair.