Second annual event and my second time here. Same course as last year except it has been lengthened a little. And the new part that was added includes a big climb dubbed "Achilles Hill". Three loops and not super hard or technical trail but this the hardest 50K course that I have done. Since I ran the Victoria Marathon six days ago and put in a solid effort with both mind and heart, I have different goals today. Just finish and enjoy the race. I will try to do well but not feel bad if I have a hard time.
Loop 1 - 1:46:09 - cool and cloudy but dry. Trails are in great shape. More places with crushed gravel but it is well packed and soft. I try to keep the pace slower than 10 minutes per mile. Great to see lots of Maniac friends. First mile is flat, then stairs, then a few ups. Miles 2-5 are mostly flat but twisty and narrow in places. Aid station just past mile 5. Miles 5-7 are the tough part with narrow twisty trails and a couple of steep hills. I walk some and the pace slows but I feel fine, just saving energy. Around mile 7 the trail gets much wider and very flat. I remember how last year I was so tired on the third loop, but actually felt better when I got here and was able to run all the way to the end. Today I pick up the pace a little and enjoy the scenery. Eventually we go out onto the "5 mile drive" road. The course goes about a third of a mile on this road. There is a sign that says to turn right at hydrant #25. I see hydrant 23, then 24. As I approach hydrant 25 there is a large pack (ten or more) fast runners coming toward me on the road and turning at the hydrant. Am I supposed to keep going down the road for a little out and back? Did they add a section to the race here? There is a volunteer on a bike here and I ask her and she says to turn, but apparently she told many runners that if they were in the 50K they were supposed to go straight. I don't know how far they went until they realized they had been misdirected. Good thing that pack beat me to the turn because they are all much faster than me and I need to take it slowly and carefully in this section. Very narrow trail with logs and some steep step downs. Then the real fun part, about a twenty foot steep drop with a rope to hold onto. Down to the level wide trail where one can sprint and pass people if they want for the final 100 meters or so. I take my time but try to be quick through the aid station.
Loop 2 - 1:56:47 - M761 was one of the misdirected runners so I have caught up with her and we can run together for just a little bit. She has gotten way faster than me lately, so it would be foolish to try to stay with her. I run alone for a while and then catch up to Pedro. I am tiring and taking some walk breaks. With Pedro though we run together and I keep going at places were I might have walked if I were alone. Pigtails passes me about halfway through this loop. Then the hills and it gets very difficult. Then the flat and I am running again, low on energy though and the ankle is bugging me a little. In the middle of the road near the end of the loop there is a raccoon who shuffles away as I approach. Down "Nellies Narly Descent" and loop 2 is done.
Loop 3 - 2:14:51 - Uh oh, I am walking and I am on the flat and have not even reached the stairs yet. I envy those who ran the 15K or 30K race and are done. Walk up the stairs and shuffle along the trail. Can not hold a 13/mile pace. Walking and shuffling and out of energy. Ankle a little worse. I don't care when runners I do not know pass me and I should not care when runners I know pass me, but it does bug me a little. Ron, Reed and then Kimpossible pass me. I knew that Kim was back there and might get me. She also ran a marathon six days ago and her time was two minutes faster than me, so we should be evenly matched today. She will go on to beat me by three minutes today and I am fine with that. Now at the aid station. They have some coke and it looks appealing. I drink two cups (about 8 ounces) and it goes down well. My stomach has done great today and now I wish that I had eaten more during the race. At 5:45AM I had a bagel with peanut butter and orange juice. It is now about 1PM and since that time I have had a GU gel, a honeystinger gel (cleaning out the cookie/gel jar at home) three oreos, a couple of pretzels and a mini milkyway. Plus gatorade and water and S!Caps. At the end of the race my watch will calculate that I burned over 3,400 calories. Should have eaten more, but it is nice to not have nausea. I also take an ibuprofen for the ankle and it does seem to help. The pain never got as bad as at Victoria or Bellingham and after the race I was able to walk around fine. Rest week coming up and I am less concerned about the ankle than I had been.
But now I am on the tough hilly part. Chanterrelle mushroom sighting. There is a place here where the uphill course almost touches the downhill course. It would be easy to cross trails here and cut off "Achilles Hill". The thought of cheating enters my mind, but it is not a temptation. I would drop out of a race before I would cut it short, but in my zonked out state, barely holding a 15 minute mile it does come into my mind as an option. I quickly dismiss the notion and make the best of "Achilles Hill". When things are this hard it is best to have fun with it. There are three of us working our way up the hill. I almost stop to rest halfway, but keep walking and I cheer as I get to the top. Down the narrow trail and I look forward to the flat last couple miles.
Around mile seven I hear "Is that you Andy?" behind me and it is my pal Maniac Betsy. Another friend who will pass me, or maybe not. We are on the flats and wider trail now and I think that the sugar from the coke is kicking in. A conscious effort to pick up the pace and I am able to do so. We will see how long it lasts but for now I am going much faster and feeling good. I start passing folks who passed me earlier this loop. About mile 27, nice wide trail, running strong and easy and then I hit a root or a rock and start to stumble. Try to stay upright but I think that I may hurt myself worse if I try to keep my balance. Instead I tuck my shoulder in and execute a perfect roll. As if I have been practicing falling. I am proud of how gracefully I went down and how I rolled over twice. Plus the trail everywhere has some roots, rocks or at least fir cones, but I managed to fall on the one spot that was completely clear of debris and flat. Soft packed earth, not muddy, like a firm mattress. Back on my feet real quick and feeling fine, I start running fast again. Pass two runners and really looking forward to the road and end of this race. I think that I can beat 6 hours and I will know for sure when I reach the paved road, if it would ever get here.
At last I reach the road and I am able to run well all the way to hydrant 25. Turn and look back and one guy is flying toward me and Betsy is not far behind him. I thought that I had left her in the dust with my solid running the last couple of miles, but she also picked it up really well. Now I need to be careful at this tricky part of the trail. Let the guy pass me and as I work my way down the rope, Betsy is right behind me. Race Director Tony is there to take a picture. Now on the flat and I sprint to the end. I don't want Betsy to beat me and she does not, but the joke is one me. The race is chip timed and she started farther back and her chip time is quicker than mine. O well, it is really fun to have friends who are evenly matched and we can encourage each other and commiserate with each other. Glad that I was able to finish strong and have an enjoyable day.