Last year we had a frigid cold day between snow storms. Running on 1-3 inches of snow and ice and it being my first 50K I decided to run very conservatively. Picking up the pace in the last miles I did work hard for the 5 hour 36 minute finish time, but mostly I remember it being a fun though long run. Fast forward one year. I missed running three marathons this fall, for three different reasons. I am so happy that I can be here today. This is a mostly Marathon Maniac event and it is terrific to be out with my running family. Again this year I really do not care about finish time. Except that it is always nice to run a PR. Since this is only my second 50K, all I need to do is run a 5:35 (which should be easy) and I will have my fun social run as well as a PR.
New course this year starts and finishes farther upstream on the Cedar River Trail. I do not know how much farther upstream we are from last year, but I am hoping that most if not all of the race will be in the forest, on the nice trail surface. 98 runners in the marathon or ultra makes it a much bigger event than last year, so I should have more company out there. About 45 degrees and drizzle at the start.
Start - Race Director Van (Pigtails) Phan gives a quick briefing. The course will be well marked and we will not take any wrong turns. One mental challenge is that at mile 22, while heading back to the finish line, those doing the 50K will need to take a side trail out 2.5 miles and then back. The race is casual enough that anyone wanting to change distances (drop from the ultra to the marathon) can decide to at that moment. So at mile 22 the choice is to run another 4 miles, or run another 9 miles. Hopefully I won't wimp out, but it is an option to drop down if I am in pain. I'm amazed at how good my plantar feels but suspect that it could flare up with this long distance. M761 has the same goals as me, so we will run together and I so enjoy having that company. Off we go down the "pipeline" trail.
Mile 0.5 - Before entering the main trail we are doing a half mile out on back on the other trail that is more of a dirt road. A few puddles and some gravel, but good enough footing in this early morning light. By the time we get to mile one, we are spread out enough to cross the river and enter the real trail in an orderly fashion.
Mile 5 - First aid station. We are running smoothly and taking walk breaks every two miles or so. Still going way faster than we need to. Oh I recognize this as part of last years course, we are that far downstream already. Still drizzling.
Mile 6 - On to the paved trail.
Mile 13.7 - Happy to see the turn around. Last year the whole paved section was under a little snow and it felt more like a trail through a winter wonderland. Now it is still drizzling. The trail is separated from a busy road by a 20 foot or so greenbelt, so we are plenty safe, however the noise of the cars zooming by is really bugging me. The wet road is causing the cars to be much louder than normal. I look forward to getting back onto the dirt trail and forest.
Mile 16 - Bob Dolphin sighting.
Mile 19 - Still drizzling. Taking walk breaks a little more frequently. For the slow pace and the walk breaks I should not be this tired. Energy wise I feel OK, it more that my legs feel a little beat up. It just should not be this hard at this point in the race. M761 feels the same way. After the race many others reported a similar feeling. I'm sure that the weather was a factor, but I also wonder how having to run so far on pavement, after a nice long start on the trail could affect a person's stride.
Mile 22 - Back to the aid station. I don't linger at all but instead walk up the steep but short hill and continue on this spur trail. Through an underpass and a tunnel that has good resonance for my loon call. Still drizzling.
Mile 24.5 - Welcome sight to see the turn around here. Now we are heading back to the finish for sure. Overall pace is lagging, but I am still very much in reach of that PR. Seems like the majority of runners are doing the marathon, few ultra runners to greet on the out and back.
Mile 26.2 - 4 hours 30 minutes. For the effort and how tired I feel, that is a very slow marathon time. I just need to finish the last five miles in an hour an five minutes. That should be easy as long as we do not walk the whole way. Still drizzling. At least there is no wind.
Mile 27 - Down the hill. Snap a quick picture. Fill up at the aid station and continue on. My right leg starts acting up. Some discomfort all up and down the back side of it. I had wanted to run two miles to a landmark, then walk again but we decide to walk a little more often. The hardest part is starting up again after walking. The body just resists. I'd rather keep running at a slow shuffle than stop and start, but the legs really need some walking breaks. Its still drizzling of course, my stomach is a little off and I'm getting a tad lightheaded now and then, but mostly it is the legs that are holding me back. Oh I would like to get out of these wet clothes. It is going to be very nice to put on something dry.
Mile 29 - Doing math in my head. I will get that PR
Mile 30.5 - No great desire to sprint to the finish. Actually I want to just barely beat 5:36, so that next time I can PR again without a mighty struggle. The 50K is just not a race that I am going to take competitively. I think they make good training runs for the marathon, and I like this distance, but more out of a sense of adventure and nature expedition than to prove my running ability. I am very satisfied with this effort. So we shuffle on to the finish, hoping it will be just around the next bend.
Mile 31.1 - Done. 5:33:11. PR Way harder than I expected. But I did it. And I so enjoyed being able to run long and participate in a race, with all my Maniac friends.
5:33:11 50K PR
Race #180, Marathon or Ultra #41, Pigtails Flat Ass 50K #2