Monday, May 30, 2011

Sulphur Springs 50 Mile Race Report

I have been busy the last year. Since my last post in 2010, I have run 2 marathons, 1 30k road race, and a 50k trail ultra. I have gotten more serious about my running, and hired a Coach to help me along the way - if anyone is interested, Jeff and Diane are amazing!

This past weekend I achieved a huge goal I set for myself, and what follows is a fairly quick race report of my first 50 mile run.

I slept fairly well but only for 6 hours on Friday night. Up at 4am, my Father-in-law picked me up at 4:45 for the quick drive out to Ancaster and the start of the Sulphur Springs 50 mile trail run. Both the 50 and 100 mile races were to go off at 6am, and I had plenty of time to pick up my tech shirt and mill around talking to lots of other runners. My FIL took off to the first aid station where he could park and lay all of my things out in the back of the SUV - I was probably the only 50 miler with a crew that day, and it sure helped out.

It was cool and foggy and the gun went off right at 6am. Down the hill we went and onto one hell of a boggy mess. The trails were decent on the groomed pathways, but through the grassy fields it was wet. I saw people lose shoes in the muck, but once you got used to the idea of being wet, we all just dealt with it.

The course is a 20k loop, and I had to complete this 4 times. My pacing plan was to go 2:10, 2:20, 2:30, 2:47, with about 12 minutes built in at the truck to restock and take care of any issues that arose. The "A" goal was to finish, but I really wanted to go under 10 hours. My strategy had me finishing up at 9:59 or so.

Loop one went very well. I settled in nicely and ran the majority of it with a nice fellow named Scott doing the 100 mile, and another 50 miler named Mary-Lou. We had some nice conversation and the miles ticked by quickly. I was surprised to see a 2:05 on the board as we passed the start line, but I was feeling good and wanted to bank what I could early.

We stuck together for much of the second loop, but eventually I pulled a little ahead of them and was running on my own for a long while. As the day went on, the trails got worse from all the runners, but I was able not to fall down all day.

Having my FIL as crew was great - He was at the 3k aid station which was also the 9k aid station - seeing him twice per loop and having access to whatever I needed was a huge plus. Most times I would pull in and have a huge swig of Nuun, refill my handheld with Gatorade, and munch on a PB sandwich or Clif Bar. I did try to keep the stops as short as possible and stuck with that throughout the race.

Loop 2 ended with a 2:12 - way ahead of where I thought I would be. I was feeling good and headed out for loop 3 quickly. My legs were starting to get tired, but the trails were again pretty slick in parts. Running on my own pretty much the whole loop, I was grabbing trees down the single-track around the 12k mark just to avoid falling to the ditch below. I was still able to get around in 2:28, again keeping me way ahead of the game. I was now realizing that I would shatter my goal of 10 hours, so I was getting excited, as tired as I was.

I had a friend meet me at the start of loop 4 to pace me around the final lap. He has never ran more than 18k, but is a great athlete so I knew my turtle-like pace would be no problem for him. I didn't know what to expect in a 50 miler, so perhaps having a crew and a pacer was a bit of overkill on a looped course, but in the end I was happy to have both of them there.

We talked for the first 5k of the last loop, and then I started to get quiet. I needed to concentrate, and all the hills I had run before were suddenly looking massive. Nevertheless, I was able to keep things together and moving forward the entire time. My fueling and hydration were spot on, and my friend was timely in when to urge me to run and when to let me plod up a bunny hill. Once we climbed up the Headwater loop we took off running and didn't stop until the last aid station. It is a nice gentle downhill of about 4-5k that is groomed and probably the driest on the course. I made up some time here for sure and refilled my bottle for the final climb to the finish.

What a feeling to cross the finish line after running 50 miles. This still is surreal to me and it was a great moment I won't forget. My 8-months pregnant wife was there to greet me, along with my Mom, FIL, and of course, best friend who paced me around the last 20k.

My final time was 9:35:54, well ahead of my goal.

We headed to the parking lots for beer and a sit, cheering for the other 50 and 100 milers as they came into the finish area.

Sulphur Springs is a great event, and the RD Joe Hewitt has done a wonderful job with it. Volunteers were top-notch at each aid station, and the course was marked well. Thanks to everyone involved - it was a fantastic race and I look forward to being back in the future!

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