A group of us from Grunt Girls and a few of our friends stayed in a cabin at Mohican Adventures, where the start/finish area moved for this year’s race. Two of us ran the 50K while seven ran the 17.4 mile long “25K”. For our friend Will this 25K was the first race of his adult life (he’s 28) and he came out of it wanting to do more. I really like going to races with a big group and making a weekend of it, even if it does mean maybe a little less sleep and an extra glass of red wine. This time it also meant an audience for the two of us who ran the 50K and followed it up with an ice bath. An audience is good, it keeps you from backing out when you stick your first foot in or from getting back out before fifteen minutes have passed. For Gabe this was his first 50K and his first ice bath. He did very well with both, finishing the race in a flat out sprint which he says hurt like heck, and concluding that he likes 50K trail races better than 15 minute ice baths. I have to say I agree completely and wouldn’t bother with the torture if it didn’t get my legs working right again so quickly.
Rob Powell, the race director (and an all around great guy), changed the course for both races this year and I’m a huge fan of the changes. Now there are better hills, including the aptly named “Big Ass Hill”, which has its own sign at the bottom and is followed closely by the “don’t hate the hill, hate the race director” hill. Also, this year both distances included the waterfalls loop, which is a really beautiful section of trail everyone should get to see. There are parts along the creek where the trail is really just a creek with flags along it to tell runners they’re really still on course. Later the flags actually lead under a waterfall before climbing up out of the ravine through tree roots runners have to grab hold of due to the steepness of the side. This kind of course is why I trail run and I love it. The river crossing was intimidating for a few but made for great pictures and everyone in our group made it across. Stacy fell in up to her neck but bravely went on to finish strong if a little chilly. Gale was a little nervous about the iffy footing at first but Gabe came along on his second loop while she was considering her strategy and they crossed together, arm in arm. Someone on the bridge above captured them on camera and posted the pictures on the race website so we all got to see.
For me this was my best 50K so far. It was my second fastest but a more challenging course by far than the Fool’s run three weeks ago where I managed a PR. The two loops are not identical in length or terrain, with the half way point coming a couple miles before the end of the first loop. This meant managing pace more by paying attention to effort than by watching my GPS watch. I was still jogging small hills in the last few miles of the race and crossed that finish line very, very tired but running. Learning to pace by learning how my body feels at a particular distance is a goal of mine and something I really enjoy. I also finished first woman and fifth overall, which is the highest overall finish I’ve ever had. I like running for its own sake but I also really like the feeling of training hard and racing hard and then seeing the results.
What did I learn from this race? Well, my body definitely races better on more calories. Every time I went too long without a gel, even just by a little bit, my legs would start to tell me I’d run the earlier miles too fast after all. 10-15 minutes after putting in a gel or two my legs would change their tune. I think low blood sugar gives me illusions of pain. I ended up putting in four Accel gels with protein, two Gu gels and I think seven or eight Hammer gels. Talking to a couple fast runners after the race, I think I need to add more healthy fats to my breakfast before long races but maybe I’ll just always need a lot of calories to go fast. I’m planning to experiment with a couple spoonfuls of natural peanut butter before my next few long runs to see what kind of impact that has.
Endurance athletes mostly get pretty comfortable discussing body functions and learning what to do about them during our sports. A couple members of our group have a history of problems with fast moving digestion (the kind that causes emergency pit stops in the woods) and stomach cramps during or after long races. I had some problems last year (three problems in one 25K) and have dealt with it ever since by taking a couple Immodium about two hours before any race longer than ten miles. I have had great success with no follow-up trouble the next day, so of course I shared this information with my friends. Everyone who tried this approach over the weekend felt that it worked very well, and Andrea, who has always had pain in her guts for the rest of the day any time she runs long said she felt great this time. I share all this in case anyone reading it has similar problems. It’s not one of those things you see mentioned much in running magazines so maybe it’s not a big problem out in the running community but if you have a problem with it then it is probably big to you.