I had forgotten the specific date of the 50-miler when I first signed up, but upon finding out it was on the same day as Kona, I just thought how apropos. Running 50 miles on Oct. 8 was a nice way to "be" with the Kona peeps without being in Kona, and I think it gave me something to focus on other than not being able to be in Kona. Training for this run made me realize, like I often do when I'm training for an ironman, how much the body can endure. Prior to race week, I put in a 103-mile week with over 14,000' of climbing, including back-to-back days of 30+ mile runs. But still, I had a healthy dose of fear because my longest run was only 32 miles, still 18 miles short of what I would be running. I say healthy dose of fear because it's the type of fear that motivates you in a race; it's the fear that told me the last 20 miles could be a world of hurt and to just suffer through it.
Race morning dawned and I immediately realized how simple the preparations are for a 50-mile run compared to an ironman...SWEET! The run started at 6:30 AM, still dark, and I was thankful for the experienced ultra runners who had the foresight to bring headlamps, because I was the stupid triathlete stumbling in the dark. I also thought it was pretty cool that not one single person was warming up. My friend Chris pointed out a couple of guys who are capable of actually racing this thing, because for the majority of us, it's just about survival. My plan was just to run, and let my body dictate the speed, never feeling like I'm pushing it, sort of like what we all do when we go for an LSD run. Surprisingly, this plan brought me to the 26-mile mark in 3 hours and 45 minutes, much faster than I anticipated. The only glitch thus far was a bee sting at mile 15, where I had to stop and pull out the stinger. I was in the top 20 at this point and after downing a red bull, I sprouted wings and I flew up the next three hilly miles, moving me into the top 8 or so. The picture above is of me at the 30-mile mark, still smiling. But soon after, just as I had anticipated, things started to get rough during the last 20 miles. I knew these miles, very similar to the last miles of an ironman marathon, my athletic performance would be dictated by nutrition. My stomach was definitely sensitive 4+ hours into running, and I just tried to eat whenever I wasn't feeling nauseous. Thus, my pace and effort was like that of sine wave, going up and down at steady intervals in relation to my ability to absorb food. Miles 40-50 were pretty rough and I finally succumbed to walking, but I commended myself because I saw the experienced ultra dudes succumb to walking much earlier than me. Hmm...but then again, they always flew by me on the downhills which was very discouraging, now I'm thinking their walking might have actually been a well-played strategy, I guess I am a stupid triathlete. With about six miles to go, I started to come around knowing the end was near, and I felt myself start to push it. Then I asked myself why? I was well on pace to fulfill my goal of breaking 8 hours, so I just told myself this is a bonus race, there's no reason to push, just enjoy. I spent the last 4 miles revisiting my season, and just finding the joy in running. Those last miles were pretty fast pace-wise, but they felt effortless, and it dawned on me that this must be what happens when you are able to transcend and actually embrace the effort rather than fight it. It would have been nice to learn this about, oh, three to four ironmans earlier? Next time I race for more than 7 hours, there best be some swimming and biking involved.
70.3 Liuzhou Race Story
2 weeks ago