09 October 2011

Slickrock 50k (65k) Race Report

Short race = short report (wrong).

I never did find anyone to let my dog out of the car while I ran the 100 miler, so I was sort of on the fence about running it when I arrived at Jug Rock (just NW of Moab UT).  There was a large turnout for the Slickrock event and the campground (basically a huge dirt/sand field) was full of runners and their friends and family.  It was chilly, in the 40s with overcast skies.  I checked in and then we had the pre-race meeting where the Race Director, Aaron, advised that the 100 and 50 mile courses were being changed due to washout and quicksand from the recent heavy rains.  I felt bad for him for having to deal with it and know, first hand, how hard it is putting a race on, especially when dealing with circumstances outside your control with a couple hundred people counting on you to do things correctly.

Two things I don't like:
1. 100 mile substantial last minute course changes
2.  Repeated loops of any course (which is what the 100 course was changed to).

There was a hesitation in the description of the course with aid stations changing or disappearing all together (e.g. my only drop bag with lights and night clothes was due to be at an aid station that no longer exists at mile 62).  I was uneasy about the changes but decided I'd give it a go anyway.  I, personally, need to be absorbed in focus to run these 100s.  Unless it's bantering with Brownie telling me to move my ass, I don't even like to talk during 100s.  I was worried about everything except the race, so I didn't feel good about running it but figured I should.  I set up the back of the car and settled in with Pippit and read for a bit before sacking out.

At 4:30am it started raining.  I listened to it for an hour, then two hours, all the while thinking that doing the 100 would be foolish.  My mind wasn't into it, I wouldn't be able to leave the windows of the car open for Pippit, and just didn't have the focus I'd need to be sure I'd push through those miserable times that emerge during every 100.  I decided to switch races to the 50k.  Based on the course description, I felt certain a 4 hour finish would be possible and actually felt a rush of relief and eagerness at the prospect of running a short race for a change.  I also figured that, being the undercard event, I'd surely win the thing (if you want to do well in races, run the shorter distances of bigger events).  Of course, I had no way of knowing Bryan and Corey would be running it too.  Both of whom are speedy guys.

We lined up in the slippery mud with rain still lightly falling and were off.  The 50k and 100 milers started together; the 50 milers were now starting somewhere out on the course.  From the start, Ben Hian and Bryan Goding were running a ridiculous pace down the 4 mile dirt road.  I started giving chase, then eased back into a more reasonable 7 min pace and was now alone just 50-75 meters behind the two in front and quite a ways in front of the rest of the group.  In the dim light and misting rain I wasn't certain who was in front and actually assumed it was Hian and Glen Redpath.

We turned out onto the highway where Corey Hansen caught up to me and we ran together to the trailhead.  I slowed to eat on a short, steep climb and Corey pulled away.  I like running alone, so didn't mind.  At this point I assumed Corey was now leading the 50k and I was a close 2nd.  I kept him in view until we got into some tight boulder/slickrock trails.  Eventually, I reached the aid station where I assumed the turn around should be (50k was an out and back design).  I had run over 16 miles in 2:15 but was confused that Corey hadn't come back by me yet on his return trip.

Me:  "Isn't this the turn around?"
Aid station lady:  "No."
Me:  "How much further?"
Her:  "4-5 miles."
Me:  "I've already run at least 16 miles.  Are you sure?"
Her:  "Yeah, 4-5 miles to the turn around."
Me:  "You realize that will make the 50k a 40-41 mile race?"
Her:   [Shrugs her shoulders]

I had a bad feeling and was about to just turn around and take a DQ if I was wrong, but I kept going.  After about 25 mins Bryan Goding and Corey Hansen were trotting towards me.  There was no turn around, or, I should say, it was at the last aid station where the aid lady insisted it wasn't.

I had tagged on over 5 miles in addition to the long 35.4 mi course.  We got back to the real turn around where RD, Aaron was standing.  Of course, the problem of mis-direction was corrected after I had gone through.  Only one guy had just reached the turn around, so we had a 45 minute lead over everyone at the half way point.  Bryan said, "Let's start racing at the top of this climb."  I wasn't in the mood to race and was in a lot of pain, too much for just 22 miles.  The confusion, constant drizzle, cold temps, and general lack of organization (and weak aid stations) was having an effect on my mental state.  I came here prepared to run a 100 miler and was now jogging around in some sort of long fun run that I drove 800 miles to do.  I didn't budge when Bryan and Corey started to pick up the pace.

Corey must have had similar feelings because I kept noticing that he wasn't putting distance on me and I was just trotting along.  At the only other and last aid station with 11 miles to the finish, I caught up to Corey and eased away from him (he clearly wasn't feeling like racing, or even being out there anymore). I started feeling better just by running faster, so I focused on trying to catch the one guy who ran the correct course.  I knew Bryan would be impossible to catch at this point (he's faster than I am at shorter races and was having a good day on top of it).  I didn't see the other guy until I got onto the dirt road with 3 miles to the finish.  I was probably 7 mins behind him but figured I'd run as fast as possible in case he was moving slowly, as happens to many people at these races.  I could only manage to close the gap by about 3 minutes and no more.  I finally backed off when he reached the turn to the finish and I just jogged it in.

400 cals of clif bloks
300 cals of Hammer gels
100 cals mini clif bar
40 ounces water
No additional salt intake
Had even energy for the most part and probably should've taken in another 20 ounces of water, since I'm guessing the body pain/aches was compounded by a bit of dehydration.

Bryan had DQ'd himself for going off-course on the way to the finish, so I ended up 2nd in something like 5:40 for 65k, good enough to win a pair of Salomon shoes and a signed copy of Marshal Ulrich's Running On Empty, which I've read, so I gave it to the 3rd place finisher, Roger from Australia.  I met and chatted with the event photographer, Michael Lebowitz (Long Run Pictures), changed clothes and drove 400 miles home.

It was nice to run fast for a change.  Having not run a 50k since February, I'm not in shape for them.  My body is clearly telling me it needs to recover a bit.  Nothing really stood out like an outright injury but I had sharp aches down to the bone in both legs, my left IT band was humming and locked up a couple times (from the fast bounding over the undulating slickrock) and acute pain that would come and go in different parts of my calves, like someone was jamming a screwdriver into them.  So, the plan now is to run no further than 7 miles for the next four weeks (per run, not over the entire four weeks ;-), get consistent, and then start training hard when I get into Hardrock in the December 1st lottery (faith).

I love racing but am racing at about 75% right now and am just feeling stale.  I wanted to run at least five 100s this year.  Having done that, I'd like to work my speed back up and hit a couple of 50ks and 50 milers competitively.  Of course, all that can change.  I'm not breaking any records, so if running another 100 in a month sounds like fun, then I'll go with "fun".