Wednesday, October 16, 2013

TNFEC 50 miler race report

June 1, 2013 - Washington D.C. (technically we were in Sterling, VA but that isn't how North Face advertises it)

3:45 a.m. - why is my alarm going off...why is it so dark...what is...oh yeah...that's right...I'm about to run 50 miles.  After a little breakfast and final gear check my wife drove me to the start line.  There were a little over 300 folks registered for the 50 miler, which had a 5 a.m. start.  Later that morning there was a 50k (7:00 a.m start) and marathon (9:00 a.m.).  I had never ran an ultramarathon before and, to add to my anxiety, it was supposed to get up into the mid-90s early and stay there all day, which was well in excess of what I was acclimatized to.  There were 3 "waves" separated by a minute to let us stretch out before entering the trail.  I was in the last wave and at 5:03 a.m. I was off!  At 5:02 a.m. I realized that my Garmin 405 failed to upload the workout I had planned to monitor my heart rate throughout the day...epic fail (although it turned out to be a good thing later on).

After a detour around a field and on the golf car path for about 3/4 of a mile, we entered the trail.  The first 6 miles were basically flat and easily runnable.  There was an aid station early on (coming in and out of a lollipop loop) but nearly everyone, including me, sailed right through, getting some miles in the bank before the heat started climbing.  About 4 miles in I settled into a steady pace with a group of about six people as we crossed next to the golf course on a narrow dirt path.  After cresting a hill the path crossed over a golf cart path before dropping back down and continuing through the woods...the only thing is that the person in front wasn't paying attention to the ribbons that marked the course (which was insanely well marked) and took a turn that we weren't supposed to.  I started looking around and didn't see any ribbons and after about 100 yards I yelled up front and said that I think he went the wrong way.  Everyone quickly agreed and our conga line turned around and backtracked the short distance to get on with the race!  

Around six and a half miles in I came across the only real creek crossing of the entire course.  It had been fairly dry this year so I made it to the other side with dry feet.  The trail was fairly narrow up until this point with sporadic breaks to pass people.  Since the trail was so narrow I wasn't taking regular walk breaks because there were lots of folks I had passed already that were running much slower than what I wanted.  The first 14-ish miles were uneventful and I made it to my first crew support spot right on pace.  I changed socks since I was getting a hotspot and began the first of 3 roughly 7 mile loops.

The 7 mile loops were hilly and there was a roughly 1/2 mile section of rock hopping that simply wasn't runnable.  I gradually began to lose time on each lap and really didn't have an understanding what was going on.  In hindsight, that was the beginning of the dehydration downward spiral.  The short version is that my wife joined me as a pacer for the last 7 mile lap and although I was doing ok, I was an hour off my goal pace by the time I came into mile 35.  Looking at pictures, I had sunken eyes and clearly wasn't sweating (or peeing) enough (i.e., not at all).  I powered out of the aid station with a buddy who agreed to help get me through the last 15 miles.  I can honestly say that without his help I likely would not have made the cut-off.  I crashed around mile 38, or maybe it was 37...I am not really sure.  I got dizzy and my heart rate was hitting 160 while walking slowly on flat ground...add that to the kidney issues and it was not a pretty picture.  Fortunately, my buddy taught me the miracle of pedialyte powder and oatmeal cream pies.  Between the two it put me back together (sort of) and kept me from dying.  We literally power-hiked (in my mind) the last 15 miles.  It took me over four and a half hours to make it the last 15 miles but I finished under the cut-off time.

Looking back, my hydration plan was screwed and I simply did not do enough volume in my training.  I have made adjustments in preparation for the JFK 50 and in about 6 weeks I will know if it worked...yes, that is how long it took me to finally finish this post.

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