No one but my mother ever called me a genius, and even then, I think she was referring to my brother. Back in November I made one of those genius decisions: to go for a 50 mile run. Ultra’s – especially 50ks and 50ms aren’t really hard to come by, but I don’t like to travel and I don’t like to pay ridiculous sums so I decided to cook one up myself, throw it out there into cyber space and see what suckers I could catch. I caught a few, and we had a blast (I’ll throw up an RD’ing post later.)
I had planned the race for early April to give everyone a taste of Vermont during Mud Season. Lots of snow melt and run off, cool mornings, warm afternoons, and muddy back roads. As April 6th approached, I was a little worried my plans would be way-laid by the tortuous winter we expierenced, but as luck would have it, spring finally came. There was still snow on the ground and the course had to be rerouted to avoid a mile and a half of post-holing through a foot of snow, but spring came. The morning started at a brisk 26 degrees but once the sun came out the southern slopes started to warm nicely. Of course, that was probably only half the time I was out there as the course is built on hills. After all it is Vermont, and some of the course coincides with the VT50 and the fabled VT100, so the flats were minimal. Fortunately, the course was 80% hard pack dirt road and only 20% asphalt, so while it is technically a road ultra, it’s not. (A link to the course; it might take a bit to load).
Going into this thing, I had some ideas of what to expect, after all, I’ve run a couple of marathons, a handful of halves and did a fair bit of talking/reading before I decided to have a go at it. Some of my expectations came to fruition and others were left a bit wanting.
It may sound presumptuous, but I was fairly confident I could run the 50 miles in its entirety – no walking up hills – even if it was atrociously slow. The Twin State course proved this tragically wrong. I managed to make it through the first 35 without walking, but by Gap Hill (about 325 feet up over half-a-mile), I was walking. I’m not really sure how much it saved me, but I was still able to go strong on the flats – though they were few – and hobble the downhills. One thing no one tells you when you ask how to take on an ultra: The Down Hills Will Kill You. Maybe this is a rule kept secret to punish ultra virgins, but by the end, I preferred a little incline to a little decline.
I was also fairly confident I would blow up. Since most of my long runs this winter can’t really be termed as ‘long,’ and I neglected toying with nutrition on the run, I was sure this would be my downfall. I have been training with HoneyMaxx, and am very comfortable with how I react to it, so I knew it was my drink of choice, but food, well forget it. It was a pretty big crap shoot, but I think I crapped it pretty well. I ended up mashing a baked sweet potato with two tablespoons of coconut oil, a dollop of honey, and two tablespoons of dried ground rabbit meat (I raise rabbits). I packaged them in five sandwich bags and stuffed them in my HydraQuiver, which had plenty of room for more. I started sucking them down about 1.5 hours in, and consumed about one bag in an hour. It seemed to work, though I think I might need to find a way to boost the calories per serving for longer runs. By 45 miles I could tell I was hungry and started to want food.
I’ve been running in my Skora Phase for a while now, but nothing close to this far. Being zero drop and having an 11mm stack – I put the insoles in for this – I wasn’t sure how my feet would feel afterwards, as I’ve heard you need more cushion for these long events. Thankfully, and as I had anticipated, this wasn’t a problem. My feet were quite comfortable in terms of my shoes. I did, however, get some grit in there that gave me a few raw spots, but that’s a gaiter/sock thing, and I’m not sure I really want to go that route.
Having run a couple marathons, I was ready for some pain. My marathons have left me totally wiped. A puddle of unrecognizable humanity. My legs are fried. My upper body is tired. My brain is mush. I expected this to be no different – it was. Somewhere around 33/38 miles, my legs started getting really tired and sore. To be precise it was mostly my quads. As I took in the discomfort and took mental note of the rest of my body, I was pleasantly surprised to see I could still think remotely clear and even whistle a few bars of Dr. Hook’s Queen of the Silver Dollar – it was in my head the whole time… I’m not sure if this is normal 50 mile feeling: sore legs, but otherwise okay, or if this is my legs not being fit enough to keep up with what my brains and cardiovascular system could pull.
A lot of race recaps are really long – and I tried to avoid that, but here I am at near 800 words like the verbose bastard I am. Apologies. I’ll save all my ramblings of how gorgeous and hilly the course is, my complaints about the jack-hole RD that marked it, and the praises of the ultra community for my RD post to come later… I also managed to take one of those snappy pre-race photos of all my get up – I even wrote the post. Unfortunately, when I went to upload the picture, I buggered it up and lost it, so you’ll have to pretend you can imagine me in my white and brown cotton gloves, camouflage bandanna, orange tech-t, bright orange HydraQuiver, massively short shorts, and fluorescent orange and blue Skoras gingerly slogging downhill (or don’t, it’s probably better if you don’t).
(You could have just skipped down here, and no one would have known the difference. Hell, you probably did you cheeky monkeys…) I managed to keep my pace fairly consistent until I started to walk a bit on the uphills. I did a bit of course maintenance mid-run because some d-bag decided to pull down my surveyor tape. I even fielded a phone call from a lost runner around mile 43. But I had a great time, and things went well. My goal at the beginning of the year was to be somewhere in the 8:00 hour range for this, and in the 7:00 range for VT50. I ended up running 6:58:16, just nipping under 7:00 on what I’m gathering is a fairly rugged course. Pretty stoked with that.