Saturday, August 11, 2007

2007 Bartlett Park Ultra

The Start

I have to admit that toeing the starting line at 6:30 am for this new race distance found me with a very nervous stomach. From what I can tell, there were nearly 100 Starters (47 running the 50 mile distance, 6 running the 40 mile distance and 47 running the 32 mile distance). The runners were allowed to change distance during the race, which made it a unique concept. The conditions at the start were 70 degrees and 83% humidity with plenty of sun, though the shaded trails would hide us from the sun.

Miles 0-8

The course was an 8-mile loop, with little elevation change, but single track with tight winding turns, lined with trees that provided a decent canopy for shade. Even though there was not much elevation change, the course was constantly rolling. A group of 5 top runners were together for the first 7 miles, lead by a mountain biker, who had the look of an ultra runner, followed by my good friend Brian Robinson, then me, a 2:55 marathoner named AJ and then another nameless guy in 5th. We ran very tight with each other and chatted along the way. At the base of the only hill at mile 7, the mountain biker and I decided to walk up the hill, while Brian, crazy to beat all hell, decided to push hard up the hill. I never saw him after that! AJ charged up also, moving into 2nd. Brian must have seen his opportunity and taken advantage of it. The time on the first loop was 1:11:00 for an 8:52 min/mile pace. I felt really good, running with other guys. I took in maybe 40 oz of liquids, plus a couple of electrolyte pills (salt tablets) during the loop.

Miles 8-16

At the start of the second loop, we broke the top 5 into 3 groups; the top 2, the next 2 (with me in 4th) and the last guy dropping off. I ran pretty steady with the mountain biker through mile 15, though we never spoke after he asked me after the turn if I wanted to pass and I said no (thinking that I was just going to pace with him). Laura met me with Sirius Beagle at the turn and gave me a new water bottle, and took my tri top and ipod. We stopped at one aid station in this loop, both of us filling our bottles and then took back to the trail together. He seemed to pull away on the down hills, but I would catch up in the flats and on the up hills. We stuck together until the top of the big hill, when I decided to pass. I knew that I was going to rest at the turn, so asked if I could pass and he let me. After I passed and went into 3rd, I saw a runner behind me that also passed the mountain biker, going into 4th. This was the last time I saw him as he dropped out at mile 16. The time on the second loop was 1:14:00 for a 9:15 min/mile pace, dropping the overall pace to 9:04. At the mile 16 turn, took 1 energy gel with 2 ibuprofen and 2 electrolyte tablets. I had taken 2 full bottles of water and Gatorade during this section. I also ate a Krackel mini-candy bar for some strange reason that I cannot recall. Toward the end of the loop I began to lap slower runners.

Miles 16-24

After the late pass in the last section, I began my stretch of running alone, which I did for the last 16 miles, having dropped everyone behind me, but not being able to catch the fast marathoner and Brian the leader, both in front of me. At mile 20 I passed and went into 2nd place when the runner ahead of me had started to walk with bad leg cramps. He was a 2:55 marathoner on the roads and had run many ultras but never one this hot. He ended up dropping out after 24 miles. In the 2 aid stations there were a couple people to help out, but I mostly filled my own bottles, loosing valuable time at each stop. I was kind of frustrated by this. I still stopped at all of the aid stations and took and drank full bottles at each station. I think that I drank around 100 oz of fluids in this loop. I still felt mostly strong, but the fatigue was slowly setting in. I noticed at mile 23 that my right foot and toes were starting to hurt. The pain was so bad (of my toes grinding one another) that I didn't think I would be able to continue. The time on the third loop was 1:19:00 for a 9:52 min/mile pace, dropping the overall pace to 9:20.

Miles 24-32

At the 24 mile turn, I lost 5 minutes with having to have my toes tapped (band aid tape) by Laura because they began to blister and bleed. I yelled at her pretty bad even though she was doing her best. I was stressed in loosing time but wouldn’t have been able to go on without the toe surgery. I later apologized over and over again to Laura for my attitude. She understood and accepted my apology, realizing that I was in the heat of battle. Also at the turn, I ate a banana and took 2 more ibuprofen. The banana was gone in two bites like I was at a hot dog eating competition. In this loop I stopped at all 3 aid stations and there were 10-15 people there at my beckon call. They were really good but asking me if I was ok physically, mentally, etc. They asked who I was and were I was from to check for sanity. I jokingly told them (after hearing I was in 2nd for sure) that after running 30 miles that I would probably just walk the last 2:) This completely changed my attitude toward the volunteers and I thanked them at each stop. I took in well over a gallon and a half of fluids in miles 24-32. The 4th loop was the hardest thing that I have ever done. I could run for maybe 1/2 to 1 mile in the beginning, but was running 1/4 mile stretches between walks up to mile 30. I felt demoralized, full of agony and wanted to quit (worse than in any other race ever) between miles 24-30. I fought just to make it to each aid station and that became my mission. I am more proud of not letting the heat and distance break my will to finish (as it did with so many others) than of my Boston qualifying time. I set out to prove what my body could do, but ended up proving what my mind could do. The mental demands of this race would break 90% of the runners out there who aren't prepared for it. After the last aid station, I ran for a mile or so with three guys who were going 40 miles and on their 3rd loop. A little small talk with them really helped m morale. Between miles 24 and 30 I had done a fair share of walking. I had mile splits of 11:54, 13:28, 11:29, 13:43, 13:03, 12:39, 15:12 and 12:25 in the last 8 miles for a time on the 4th loop was 1:35:00 for a 11:52 min/mile pace, dropping the overall pace to 9:58.

The End

In the end, I finished 2nd overall at a time of 5:19:15 for a pace of 9:58 min/miles. The winner (a friend who I train with) Brian Robinson, went 5:03:00. He is a 3:02 marathoner and 5 minute miler who was well versed in ultra marathoning and ran like a champion on this day. The third place guy was 20+ minutes behind me. Looking at the results, there were 5 runners finishing in less than 6 hours, 15 finished in the 6-7 hour range, 10 in the 7-8 hour range and 17 in the 8-10 hour range. There were 68 total finishers (14 for the 50 mile, 5 for the 40 mile and 47 for the 50km). This means that 32 people dropped out overall and 33 people either dropped out or changed from 50 mile down to 50km. I would speculate that half of the 50km people dropped out. It’s hard to tell how many 50km starters dropped as many 50 and 40 milers lowered their distance to the 50km. Based on fluid intake, I calculate that I lost about 8 pounds in the race, even though I took in about 24 pounds of fluids (32 pounds of sweat and urine loss). The conditions at the end were 102 degrees and 40% humidity.

I told Laura when I crossed the finish line that I never wanted to run another ultra marathon ever again.

It took me about 4 hours before I wanted to run another ultra marathon.