Saturday, February 11, 2012

Pemberton 50k: Popping My Ultra Cherry

MUST I be so crude in my blog? I mean, really, my mom reads this, couldn't I have just called it "Pemberton 50k Race Report" or something? No, I couldn't. That just wouldn't have been me.

Anyway, I have run 50k two other times (most disastrously two weeks ago with TTR) but never completed an official 50k race. I was neither excited nor worried about this race; it was just another long training run to slog through. This is actually a pretty boring race report to write. I prefer to write about those events where either A) there are some kind of adverse weather conditions, B) I embarrass myself with a really bad time for no good reason, C) Something physically unpleasant happens to me in the race, giving me a legitimate reason for a bad time, or D) I kick ass (these are rare occasions). This was none of those things. I had no time goal beyond "something respectable"; I did okay, not great and not awful; I felt basically fine throughout; the weather was nearly perfect (well, a little bit less sun on that second lap would have been nice, but overall not much to complain about); my problem toenail (black from the El Paso Marathon, had to be opened and bled out by my doctor on Thursday, very sore Friday, the day before the 50k) didn't cause even a tiny bit of a problem... boring, boring, boring.

This race took place in McDowell Mountain Park not too far from Fountain Hills. The course was two laps of a 15-mile loop, making the logistics of setting up aid stations uncomplicated -- Station 1 was also Station 4 on the second lap, Station 2 was also Station 5, and Station 3 was in the parking lot where the race started. Aid stations were 5 - 5 1/2 miles apart, making it mentally easy to break down 31 miles into manageable segments -- snack at each aid station; GU plus my own water at the halfway points between aid stations. The elevation chart showed a gain of about 700 feet over the first eight miles of the loop, then loss of the same 700 feet over the last seven miles -- nothing remarkably hard about that, at least not on paper. It was a little chilly at the start line at 7 a.m. -- enough for me to wear gloves and a long-sleeved shirt, but not enough for tights -- but it quickly became pleasantly cool once we got started, and stayed that way for the whole first lap.

The trail was clearly not a Tucson trail. Unlike Tucson trails, it was well-groomed, wide, signed with big, obvious signs at every trail junction, and very gentle in elevation gain and loss. TTR runs have taught me how to deal with 1000-foot "rollers", loose scree, boulder-hopping, step-ups, and various other types of trail misery, so this beautiful, pristine ramble through saguaros barely counted as a trail run in my opinion. It is runnable start to finish, and I did run the whole thing the first lap. I was at Mile 10 before I took my first GU, just because I had plenty of energy until then. The first lap was a breeze. I got to the halfway point at 2:29, which was faster than I thought I would be. I knew I wouldn't be under 5 hours and I knew my second lap would be slower than my first, so I still didn't feel any real pressure to speed up.

Almost as soon as I went through Aid Station 3 at the halfway point, it started to suck and continued to suck for the next 9 miles. I knew it would, because I knew that what felt like a barely noticeable climb on the first lap would feel like mountain climbing on the second lap. Especially with the morning clouds burned off and the temperature climbing. But since I knew it would suck, I was prepared for the suckiness and still managed to jog most of it. On the first lap I had company all the time, but on the second lap we had spread out so much that I could only see other runners in the distance ahead of me. They weren't doing much running either. I played leapfrog with one girl for the entire second lap (and ended up finally passing her for good 3 miles from the finish, which was awesome). Even with the discomfort of the second lap, I was eating and drinking smart, which I am very happy about because it shows that I learned something from the run 2 weeks ago when I ate and drank stupid. As a result, I had no nausea at all and still had working saliva in my mouth. That was nice.

I did lots of walking between Station 4 and Station 5, but once I got to the last aid station and chugged down lots of lukewarm Mountain Dew and water, along with oranges and salted bananas, I got my second wind and managed to get all of my last 5 miles under 9:00 pace. I'm sure the downhill helped but I am going to go ahead and credit the Mountain Dew. When you never have caffeine in daily life, it feels like rocket fuel when you have it in races. My finish time was 5:15, which I think is okay but I really have no idea what an average time for that race is. It was nice to see lots of TTR people at the finish, and even nicer to see ice chests full of cold sodas. I was so hot and thirsty that I sucked down 1-2-3 Cokes, one right after another. I hadn't been nauseous at all in the race, but I sure got that way driving home after all that Coke. I had to stop twice and recline my seat and put my feet up before I could keep going again.

So! I guess I'm ready for OP-50. Just need to add 19 miles and about 7000 or so feet of elevation change (or is it 7000 feet of elevation gain and the same amount of elevation loss? I forget), otherwise it's practically the exact same thing as what I did today, no big deal.

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