A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 5; 5th Edition
138.1 miles raced in 2010
Race: Rocky Raccoon
Place: Huntsville, TX
Miles from home: 1439 miles
Weather: 40-50s; sunny; slight humidity
I thought I could power through the sickness from Wednesday and while for all intents and purposes the illness had abated, the after effects had not. I did not know this, however, until the race began.
The night before the marathon I began plotting some strategy for how to attack the race. As the 50 miler was three loops of a 16.67 mile loop, I was quite pleased. I like looped courses a great deal and felt this would be right up my alley.
My goal for this race was to run a 2 hour personal best. With my only other 50 mile race having been run in 8:32, I want a 6:29:59. That works out to a 7:48 minute mile. I knew the aid stations on this course were set at random intervals so I worked out what a 7:48 mile pace would be for each one of them and committed it to memory. As with any race of long-distance (heck or even a mile on the track) it is much better to break down what you have in front of you into smaller goals. My goals for his race consisted of a race broken into three laps of five races of 3.1, 3.09, 2.68, 3.41 and 4.39 miles in distance (the distances between each one of the aid stations.)
I was hoping that getting through one or hopefully two laps at this pace I could then maybe back off and survive a potential slowing from being sick earlier in the week. With nearly perfect weather (a tad too sunny and warm for me personally) and a decent course, I was ready to give it a shot.
The projected pace for these five aid stations is listed below with my actual time in parentheses
While I was a little ahead of schedule (I actually came in at 2:07:00 and forgot to hit my watch for 90 seconds as I milled around drinking and eating) I did not feel as I had gone out too fast. I had done my best to keep the top runners in sight but not chasing after two runners who bolted out as if this was a 5k. I had, at one point, adjusted my pace to get away from one gentleman who had some sort of pills in a plastic container that rattled like a maraca. I should not have let it bother me or let another runner affect my pace but it helped as I slowed and let the rattlesnake pass me.
The weather was cool and crisp and with the sun not reaching over the hills in the distance yet, was perfect for me. Although the region had had some heavy rainfall lately, the trail was rather dry and had good footing (except in a very few places.) The notorious "roots" I had heard of were present but no were near as ubiquitous or gnarly as some had painted them. There was not a fair amount of elevation change to note but there most assuredly was a great deal of up and down. There is no doubting that trail running and road racing are two different and unique beasts. Even on an "easy" course as this, it can become challenging for the runner who does most of his miles on the road. I would be interested in seeing a GPS elevation chart for this 16.67 mile loop, if any one of my readers has one.
As the sun was warming up the course a little more, I spent more time at the aid stations. Even with a full minute at the first two, my times were very close to on par. Somewhere in the middle of the shortest leg between aid stations however, I could sense the bottom was falling out. I tried stopping even longer after the third leg, eating more and drinking more but the end was nigh.
Approaching the next to last aid station before the one at the start of each loop I could see I was done. Mentally making the decision to DNF, I wanted to still see if I could shock my system back into ignoring my mind in the final 4 plus miles. However, the system refused to listen and the last 4 miles was a combination of walking, standing, bursts of energy whence I knew not their origin and, at one point, sitting down on a park bench and enjoying a small creek/waterfall that flowed into Lake Raven. Just sat my ass right down, watched the sun flicker in through the bare branches of the forest and relaxed for full two minutes. If you are going to quit the race you might as well try to enjoy some of that quitting right?
Even with all of this slowing and walking and sitting my ass, as I approached the turnaround I was quite perturbed to see I wasn't all that far behind the 50 mile leaders. The rocket who had shot out was now in second place and the man who I had been running behind until all systems hut down was now right behind him in third. Arrgh. The thought about trying to regain strength and make a push entered my mind but I knew I simply did not have anywhere near the energy to try that. As I have said to many, sometimes "DNF" means "Do Nothing Foolish".
A friend suggested I walk the last lap and just get the finisher's medal but I declined saying that this was not just a race I was here to "complete". Jokingly called one of "those runners" I think the point was that if I am not going to do well I don't want to finish. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have run many races where the dice did not roll my race but I have finished. But this race was not that sort of race. I was more or less lacking any energy to run. Unlike some races where "just finishing" is fine (e.g., Badwater) the Rocky Raccoon 50 is not nearly that difficult or challenging to garner a finish-only rocks status. For me at least.
So licking my wounds I turned in my chip and my bib for only the second time in my life. I thanked the Race Director for putting on a stellar race (it really was) and got in my rental car to leave. I tried not to think about it at all and just made the decision. Sort of like pulling the tape off fast to make the sting hurt less.
Sure, pride is going to bite at me forever about this, but I did the intelligent thing. I have marathons and a 100 mile race and a little 204 miler coming up in the very near future that have much greater import than this 50 mile finish. My eyes are on the prize. Fortunately, so is my brain.
So screw off, ego and pride. Anyone know of any 50 mile races next week?