Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Double down: Farm Park Challenge (50M) and Dirty German Endurance Fest (50K)

So it was my intention to write this entry a week ago but never got around to it. As a result, this is now about two race results instead of one with a mention of a second. Hopefully, this will make cut right to the chase.

Following my decision to drop from the 100K to the 50K at Jack Bristol, I really felt I wanted to get another ultra in before Cayuga. Ideally, I wanted that race to be a 50M. Nationally there were plenty, however, I was not going farther than a drive. That left me with two options: Farm Park Challenge and Dirty German Endurance Fest. FPC was on a Saturday three weeks out but 2 ½ hours away in Maryland. DGEF was on a Sunday two weeks out but 25 minutes from my house. While being closer seemed like the no brainer, a 50 miler with only two weeks of recover leading into Cayuga did not seem to me like a wise decision. So I signed up for Farm Park Challenge. With the drive being as long as it was and a 50 miler, I opted to stay down near the race. Thanks to Priceline, I got a good deal making it reasonable to do an overnight without a giant cost. Remember, I slept in my car overnight to save cash when I was doing a 50K. In honesty, I would have done something like that again were it not for the chance of rain the night before.

On the morning of FPC, I arrived around 45 minutes before the 6:50 start time for the 50 Mile and Marathon runners. I mention this because the format at FPC is interesting. Aside from the two distances I mentioned, there are 3hr and 6hr races. Unlike most of those timed events, the goal here was to do a loop an hour. If you finished before an hour, you got to continue but had to wait until the start of the next hour. Think of it as run, rest, repeat. The loop consisted of two out and back segments. One at 1.4 miles and the other at 3.8 miles. (Passing the aid station each time) Much of this was on rolling farm style parkland without much shade. For us 50 Milers, it was 9 complete cycles plus a final 3.8 for 50.4 in total. Sounds easy right? Not on this day….but more on that in a bit.

Going into FPC, I figure I could run 7 minute miles for the whole duration. My fitness was strong. My goal for the first five loops was 35 minutes and then slightly slower for the back half. So at 6:50 our lot starts off and I’m running well. It is still cooler and no serious sun. I notice on the 3.8 loop it is much more rolling than the profile seemed to suggest. Yet, I finish my first loop in around 34:30. Loop 2 is the same. Loop 3 a tad slower into the 35s. Now the sun starts to make its presence known. With a forecast of high 80’s it was going to be a hot one. I was hoping we’d get a break. Nope. Loop 4 started a really rough patch of slower and slower loops. I was baking but managed to develop a loop lead. Yet the suffering continued. Jump ahead a few loops and loop 7 was an hour! I was done. I finished it and basically had enough. Without crew, I was on my own and had to make the call. Unlike Jack Bristol where I could change events, it was DNF territory here. I sat down took my shoes off and called the Misses telling her of the situation. After the call, I looked at the thermometer at the start and saw 90. That’s it. Done. I asked who I needed to tell about quitting and from my seat, I said, ‘I’m done’. Seeing I was fried, volunteers/spectators began to offer me ice and checking if I needed anything. My request: cold coke. Response: all out. But I was sitting with a pint glass of ice really needing coke. To the half consumed cans! The aid station people found and poured cans in to fill a glass. I didn’t care if someone else started it, I was desperate. I downed it. I needed more. My core was hot and I was thirsty for more than my electrolyte mix which I was blasting through due to the heat. An offer of ice pops came. I took it. Mainly melted but cold, I got an idea. I had scissors in my bag so I took a row of pops and cut them open creating a mix of flavor in the glass. I chugged this slurry of sweet. I was starting to regain a bit of myself. Then I was told, I got a piece of swag. Most of them were Nathan hydration related. I selected the four bottle waist pack. Then I went back to my bag. For some reason, I started to put on socks and a different pair of shoes. Then I walked to my car not far away and grabbed my AK Vest. I took out the large bottles and swapped in the smaller Nathan bottles. I thought, I might be able to do this.

Yes, I was going back out there! I made it known I was going to give it a try. Worst case was I had gone a little farther but had the same DNF result I was currently looking at. So after about 45 minutes of sitting around, a period in which my watch was still running, I started loop 8 with a small lead. But I had a lead still. It was a decent lap. Still it was hot and I was slow. Time meant little because that goal went out the window hours ago. 7 hours went out the door too. I wanted to finish. So I began to will myself through the course. Loop 8 was done. 9 was started. I had no idea of what lead I had. People were dropping but I was going and going. I finished 9 and all I had to do now was 3.8 miles. Here I was told, I could walk it and win. I didn’t walk it all but did some. It was not pretty but not much of the day was. I would discover later, I was sunburnt on my back. And when I got home, told I looked like a ghost due to a lack of color.

In the end, I managed my worst 50 Mile time of 7:56:19 but am proud of it for the fact I didn’t quit. AND afterwards, I learned only 5 people finished.

After about 30 minutes post-finish, I made the 2 ½ drive home back to Philadelphia. Solo. It was not a disaster either. Made good time and was comfortable.

On the day following, I took it off. With an overnight planned down in Cape May, it was a reason to relax. I did do some walking in the Pine Barrens with the lady but that was it…walking. Running resumed the next day….

By then I was thinking why can’t I do Dirty German’s 50K race. I gave it until Wednesday to decide. That is when online registration closed so if I wanted to get all the benefits, I had to be in before it was Thursday. I mean, it was an ultra in my city. If people wanted to watch me, they could. Those were strong reasons to do it. And I told myself, if I can do an easy 3:45 I’d be fine. But then, I thought a bit about the course record. My friend Mike Dixon owns it. We have not raced each other in ultras (despite people saying they’d like to see it) so this would be a good faux head to head. I figure, I’d go for his record but not kill myself trying. Cayuga was and is more important.

Yes, I signed up.

On race day, I arrived around 45 minutes before the start. Most of that time was spent getting my number, setting up my stuff near the start/midpoint/finish area and the potty line. Saw Maggie before she started her 50 miler. (The races were staggered half hour apart. 50M – 7:30, 50K – 8:00, 25K – 8:30.) Unlike FPC, Dirty German had cool weather forecast, PLUS, 95 percent of the course is shaded. Come 8:00, I was off. And off I went. I settled into a brisk pace but one I felt extremely comfortable in. I was hoping to go 1:43 for the first 15.5 miles. I had no idea of my pace during the loop as I was just using my regular watch. All I knew was that the aid stations were 3 to 4 miles apart.

One of the great things about a long loop trail course like DG is that it flies by. You can get ‘lost in the moment’ which I did, so much so, 1:41 first lap! That is with switching out handhelds. My thoughts turned to: I have this record in sight but hopefully I didn’t go out too hard. I kept my foot on the pace being comfortable but not letting up. This would hold true for much of the loop. Yet, I felt I had to be slower. When I passed the last aid station, I asked how far and was told 1.5 to the finish. I looks at my watch and knew I could do it. (This aid station for the record was not one I expected. It was mainly just water.) I kept going. I picked things up a bit more. Passing people in this stretch was hard. It was twisty and single track. I began to hear music so I knew I was close. At one point, I announced ‘coming in hot!’ As I rounded the last turn for home, I saw Peg and our friend Amy there! It was a great surprise. Best of the day. As I crossed the line, I had the record. 3:23:47. My second lap was less than two minutes slower. Had I pushed more maybe I could have had them equal. And had I pushed harder on both, maybe a state age group record.

However, I got what I set out to do and felt really good about it. I even got the OK to put up the cuckoo clock. (Once again, for the second week in a row, no coke at the finish.)

These few days later and I still feel good. Recovery is going well. Getting in the last set of long miles I can before responsible tapering.

You might be able to say about this two race recap, I learned a lesson and hopefully upped my game at the right time.

Up next: Cayuga Trails 50M.

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