You might say that we want the good things that happen to us to linger and the bad to get the heck on out of here. As a runner, I tend to have that logic. This race report is definitely one of those. Considering Blues Cruise was this past Sunday, you might be able to surmise which of the two. (Especially since it took me a month to write about Green Lakes.)
Nonetheless, this report might just be cathartic.
It was not long after a strong showing at Green Lakes in August and some nice early September 5Ks that I decided to enter Blues Cruise. Aside from the 20in24, where the course passes over a 24 hour span less than a mile from my house, Blues Cruise just outside of Reading is the closest ultra to home. Pros of that are clearly no lodging costs and shorter drive times. A lot to like about those factors. And being in October, it could be typically expected for cool temps. I say typically because this year that was not the case. At start time, weather forecasts had the temp expected to be around mid 60s climbing to a high of 86. Yikes! A 50K in that heat is not necessarily the most ideal. However, it was expected to be overcast so we might luck out.
On the morning of the race, I got up and out of the house in a timely manner to get me to the race site by 7:30, an hour before the start. Surprisingly, when I pulled into the parking area, the line at registration was super long. Apparently, it had not opened for pick-up yet. I used a bit of the time to make a bathroom stop and move my bags closer to the start/finish area. Here I filled my handhelds and prepped my drop bag. Gels were pinned on my shorts. After handing in my drop bag, I was ready to go.
Well, after I put my shoes on first, opting to go with my reliable La Sportiva Vertical K’s. Before, I knew it, 8:30 and start time had arrived. In the largest field in the history of the race at around 350, the trails would see a lot of activity. The race directors started us off for our 31 mile counter-clockwise loop around Blue Marsh Lake. At the go, I went out comfortably in second right behind the first place runner. After a good 15 minutes, another runner in yellow blew past the two of us on an uphill. Here, it was the “do I go or sit” moment. Knowing the talent in the field, I opted to go deciding to not allow first to get very far ahead of me. For the next hour, the yellow runner was my prey. He seems to want to put me away as he was always looking back and every time he did so put in a bit of a surge. Not long after each burst, I would seem to close a bit more. I knew I could catch him. It was not until around aid station 3 that I took the lead. However, it was not long lived as we reached the big hill on the course. Within the first quarter, he went racing by me. This was not to be long lived as I passed him before the top. Around here, is when I started to really feel discomfort in my right foot. For the week leading into the race, something felt off but nothing that impacted my running. This sensation started to make me think different. However, I quickly moved on as on another hill in this mile stretch of course, the same yellow runner would pass me again. Finally, I would pass him one more time for good. In the end, he would finish third. He appeared to carry no gels or bottle during the race while also listening to his headphones.
Now that I was in first, I felt ok but not smooth. As the course ungulated along, the terrain kept playing havoc with my foot making me really cautious with the discomfort in my first foot. I managed to keep plodding along at pace aiming to hit the bag drop aid station (around 18-19 mile) around 2 hours. It was no long before this spot that I got to see second place. As we ran around a rolling field, I saw the runner in second about 3 minutes back. It was not the one in yellow I passed earlier but someone in black. At the start, I glanced certain bibs that I knew would be a contender, this was the one I felt could take the race being a 2:38 marathoner. (Could be 2:36, I don’t want to take away from him. Just having a hard remembering of exact details at the moment.) Knowing he was close, I pushed as much as my foot was allowing me. And it began not allowing a lot. Cardio-wise neither the heat or energy were the problem. It was just becoming tough to run on my foot anywhere there was not a completely flat section. And that means little of the course. This is not to say I was walking but my pace declined in direct correlation to the increase of discomfort. However, I was in first and did not want to lose by quitting, even if the thought crossed my mind.
Yes, my race turned into the suffer zone. Mentally I was cracking because physically I was cracking. A spiral effect was being fought as I was trying to hold 2nd off. At 22 miles, my lead was around 40 seconds. Just 5 miles later, 1:10 down. It had been around a mile prior to the last aid station I was overtaken on an uphill. I just could not go. In that instant, I felt defeated and let down by my body. But being this close, I kept grinding it out. With 2.5 miles to go, thanks to a slight mistake by the leader, I closed the gap to 20 seconds. I felt like I might push through and rebound. As the course continued to roll, I felt any chance slip away. I just could not go on my foot. My mind was doing a lot to block out the pain as my body was trying to do its best to not do anything painful. This meant slow pace and powerhiking the smallest of hills now. My goal time was gone. I hoped to challenge the record of 3:34. I was at that with 2 miles to go. Those two miles were a slog. At this point, I was hoping to just be under 4 hours. Had I had enough to shave 1:10 off, I would have been under 3:50. In the end, I wound up with 3:51:10. A time that was exactly behind John Wallace’s winning time of 3:45:10.
I felt really bummed that I tried to give it my all but could not as I had my first defeat at an ultra distance. My pace in the end was slower than my 50 mile pace and the winning pace was just under that 50 mile pace of mine. So it stings.
However, I did enjoy all the race had to offer. The finisher hoodie is great and someday I will wear it around. Today is too soon. Talking with and seeing all the other runners finish was great. Plus the spread was fantastic. I used a few cans of soda to ice my right foot and downed some grilled cheese with potato pancakes. I stayed around 2 hours after finishing before heading home. Taking in the atmosphere was really nice and needed.
Once I got home, my partner and I went out to the Penrose Diner in South Philly for breakfast food. She also had dessert, I did not.
Yesterday morning, due to my foot, I called the orthopedic specialist for an appointment. Luckily, I was able to get in to see one of the sports medicine doctors and get some extras. Now the diagnosis, while nice to know is not too great. Stress fracture in my third metatarsal in my right foot. I’m on rest for a few weeks. I could keep doing activity but it will not be pain free, so rest it is. That means at least one weekend with now racing. Bummer because it was the 10K & 5K combo I was looking forward too. Lets hope it is a short period, especially since I just need another 90 miles for 3000 on the year.
Plus, once I get back to winning some ultras and running, I feel like I can wear the awesome hoodie. Right now, doesn't feel too right even if the effort was gutsy.
Quick shout out to the Misery Loves Company folks. You've been great in the morale department since Sunday even if you haven't known it.