Saturday, December 15, 2012

Seashore Nature Trail 50K: December 15th, 2012

In April I finished my first 50K at Forget The PR in the Mohican State Forest and then in September I managed to complete a 50 miler at Run Rabbit Run in Steamboat, Colorado.  In October Jessica's brother Luke showed interest in running the Seashore Nature Trail 50K and asked me if I wanted to run it with him.  I thought it would be a great way to end the year by running my third ultra and helping Luke to complete his first ultra so I told Luke that I was in!  

My first 50K at Forget the PR had 4,500 feet of elevation gain.  The 50 miler at Run Rabbit Run had about 9,500 feet of elevation gain and almost the whole race was ran between 9,000 - 10,600 feet above sea level.  The Seashore Nature Trail 50K is very flat compared to the other two ultras I did and some of the race is actually below sea level!  Plenty of oxygen and I also knew the weather was more then likely going to be ideal.  I was thinking this ultra would be relatively easy and I did not train as hard as I did for the other two.  That mindset was completely idiotic because it really does not matter how flat, what elevation your at, or what the weather is going to do.  If it was easy they would not call it an ULTRA marathon!!

Time to RAWK!!
Fast forward to December, Jess and I fly to Virginia Beach the night before the race and after grabbing some food we get to Luke's place around 11:30 PM.  Luckily the start time of the 50K was not until 8:15 so we didn't have to get up super early.  After we woke up and got geared up Jess drove us to First Landing State Park which is only about 10 minutes away from Luke's place.  We arrived at the starting line with plenty of time to spare.  While waiting in line for the bathroom before the start I had a few people inquire about my shoes.  I decided to wear my Vivobarefoot Breatho Trails because I've been trail running in them since May and they got me through my 50 miler in the mountains.  These minimalist shoes are great because they are breathable and they have really nice traction lugs on the bottom of them.  A lot of the minimalist shoes on the market do not handle muddy, slushy, or slippery conditions to well due to a lack of traction.  I still have complete ground feel in them even with the traction lugs.  The temperature was in the low 40s to start and would climb into the mid 50s throughout the race.  As far as running weather goes, it does not get any better then that!  While waiting for the start of the race I also met Luke's friend Mel who is an experienced ultra runner and we exchanged our time goals etc..  His time goal was six hours and Luke and myself were looking to finish in less then seven hours.

The race director gave us the official GO! and off we went.  The first mile is on a paved road leading to the trails.  This is a smart move by the course planner because it gives the field a chance to spread out before entering the trails.  I have been in other trail races that bottle necked at the trail entry point and it caused runners to come to a complete stop right at the beginning, which is frustrating when the adrenaline is pumping and the legs are fresh!  The trails for this race wind through the swampy forest of First Landing State Park.  They were well maintained, wide, and soft..thanks to the help of pine needles and sand.  The roots a.k.a. "trip hazards" were often hidden but I am no stranger to that.  After taking a few nice spills on the trails here in Michigan I learned the value of treading carefully on any earthen trail.  We were going with the flow of the main pack for the first few miles.  I looked down at my watch and realized that we were moving at a pretty good clip.  A fatal mistake that I have made in my first two ultras is going out really fast at the start and having nothing left for the last half of the race.  I cannot believe that I did not learn a lesson from my past mistakes.  It is easy to ignore the actual distance you have to go when your feeling great and really killing it.  The mind is tricked into thinking that this is your day and you will be able to maintain this level of running for most of the race.

Kicking some ass.  All business!!
We even passed Mel at mile 3 and I knew his goal was six hours so that was uplifting.  In reality Mel was really smart by maintaining a comfortable steady pace so he could run the majority of the course without burning out to early.  As we were getting close to the first aid station the leading runner flew past us going the other way!  He was 8.5 miles in and we were only 5 miles in.  His name is Billy Edwards and he went on to win and finished the race in 3 hours and 35 minutes which is an amazing time for a 50K on trails.    Luke was keeping up with me and we were both feeling pretty good as we came into the first aid station (The 64th Street Aid Station).  Before I continue the story of our journey I want to say that the volunteers at the aid stations of this race were top notch!  They were friendly, ready to help in anyway possible, and had great setups to keep people moving through.  It is so great that people would volunteer their time to hang out all day feeding a bunch of crazy lunatics who enjoy running super long distances for fun!  I told Luke that we cannot hang out too long at any of the aid stations because that could really hurt our time over the course of the entire race.  We quickly ditched our long sleeve shirts, grabbed some munchies, refilled our water and off we went.

This wayyyyyy!!
The next section of trail is an out and back which provided some great views of the water.  It always helps the miles go by when you have nice scenery to look at.  We also came across a very enthusiastic runner that had a wild outfit on and she was extremely happy to be out running the trails.  She was actually doing really well and displayed true ultra running spirit!  We got back to the 64th street aid station and again we did not stay long.  We were both still feeling pretty darn strong at this point which was almost 8.5 miles into the race.  We began our journey back to the area where we first entered the trails.  It was almost 4 miles to the next aid station (The Bald Cypress Aid Station) and we kept a decent pace all the way there.  We slowed down a little bit but nothing to be concerned about at this point.  We were in and out of this aid station as we knew we would be back in 3.5 miles after completing the Bald Cypress loop.  This is where we started to slow down.  Luke's knee started bothering him and I felt a slight pain in the arch of my left foot.  Nothing to bad, but not something you want to feel when your only 13 miles into a 31 mile race.  We completed the loop, refueled at the aid station, and started walking.  We were half way done at this point and the wheels started to fall off.

We are doing a great job hiding our pain here at mile 20!!
Luke's knee pain was getting worse and my arch pain was slowly creeping on me.  We walked for a half mile or so and started a slow jog.  At this point Mel passed us while keeping his steady pace.  He looked strong and I was jealous.  That was the point in the race where I told myself that going forward I will never again make the mistake of not pacing myself at the start of an ultra.  So, we were basically at a "run a little and walk a little" routine that we repeated all the way back to the 64th street aid station.  We started the out part of the out and back section again and we were both hurting pretty bad.  I never thought about quitting in my other two ultras but I confess that the thought actually crossed my mind in this one.  That negative thought passed quickly though because that is not how we roll.  We are both hard working guys with strong work ethics and we were just going to have to roll up our sleeves, dig deep, and get this thing done.  In this section of the out and back we saw Mel going back the other way and wished him luck on meeting his six hour goal.  The tide had risen in a few areas of this section and the trail was flooded in two areas.  Wading through the ankle deep water actually felt refreshing and I always enjoy a good water crossing in a trail race.  We reached the far point of the race and turned around to head back on our death march to the finish.

Luke at the marathon mark.  Still almost 5 joyous miles to go!
 We got to the 64th Street Aid Station and refueled.  Our pace had really fallen off at this point.  Just finishing is definitely the goal now.  We were walking for really long stretches and still had about 8 miles to go.  The winner Billy Edwards flew by us again going the other way!  It turns out he was running extra miles for charity and he looked as fresh as when he started, what a machine!  That was kind of a reality check for us but congrats to him.  During this stretch we were picking objects in the distance such as a tree or a rock and we would run to that point and then walk for awhile.  We would repeat that process all the way back to the Bald Cypress Aid Station.  Along this section we reached the 26.2 mile mark and it would be Luke's first ever marathon distance.  This was a milestone but I am pretty sure we were both thinking it would be nice if this was the end point in the race.  We pushed on and finally made it to the Bald Cypress Aid Station where we refueled and set off to do the Bald Cypress loop one more time before heading to the finish.  Starting this loop was very uplifting and Luke even made a comment that it was a good feeling.  This sense of the race being over quickly faded right after we started the loop.  There was a lot of people passing us through here and we both wished we were not in a super amount of pain so we could run and finish ahead of all these people.

We crossed the finish line!! Party time!!
After we got off the loop we only had one more mile to go.  We decided that we were not going to let anyone else pass us.  It was motivation to finish this thing is proper fashion.  We were on the paved section and with about a quarter mile to go we seen another "lurker" on the road behind us and we decided that we had to run the rest of the way to the finish.  Every step was extreme pain but this was kind of a good pain because we were almost finished which meant beer and pizza was in our very near future.  One of the best things about ultra running is that you burn so many calories that you can eat and drink as much as you want after a race and you don't have to worry about it.  As we got close to the finish area we seen Mel and some other people cheering us on.  Then we crossed the finish line and Jess was there to take our picture and congratulate us.  It was a great moment to be finished and I know Luke was super happy to have completed his first ultra marathon.  We finished in 7 hours and 24 minutes which was a personal best for myself and a great time for Luke considering it was his first ultra.  Mel was close to his goal of 6 hours but went a little longer which is still a great time for a 50K.  For the record, the beer and pizza went down really well that night at the great after party!! 

This race was very well organized and I was happy to be a part of it.  This was a great way to top off the great year I had.  I hope 2013 is another great year for my ultra running.  I plan on taking things to a new level.  Stay tuned!    



No comments:

Post a Comment