Thursday, May 31, 2012
May Madness 50K
But this would not be your normal 50k. Rather running straight through like a normal race we would be running 10 x 5k beginning at the top of each hour with our finishing time figured by adding the total of each of those individual 5k's. This would involve a little strategy trying to figure out how hard to run each lap. Go fast and have maximum rest time in between or take it nice and slow?
The event was going to be held on some Gamelands in the Sandhills near Hoffman NC at the lodge where hunting dog field trials are held. Doug had rented the area for the weekend so we could camp on site so after work Friday I made the drive down to hang out with some friends and get ready for the race the next morning. Around 7pm I hopped in the back of Doug's pick-up with Jimmy Ballard to go out and mark the course which Doug had already wheel measured to give us an accurate distance for the race. This tour would play an important part in my strategy as you will soon see but first a little description.
Sand. Lots of sand. They call these the Sandhills for a reason. Fortunately Doug was able to avoid most of the hills. We began on a sand road which became very deep, like running on the beach at high tide. This worst part was only about 1/4 mile long but since this was a lollypop shaped course we got to finish up each lap with this at the end. So anyway we then made a left onto another sand road but it was not as bad. About 1/2 mile later we made a right turn onto another sand road and then a quick left into the woods and a harder packed sand jeep path with pine straw and dead limbs. To this point it was predominately a decline from the start but never steep, about a 1% grade. At the 1 mile mark we had about a 50 yard hill, the only real hill on the course. We continued on a little further and then came out of the woods and made a left turn onto another sand road with one short section about ankle deep. Then another left onto another sand road, mostly flat. This was exposed along a field until the 2 mile mark when we re-entered the woods for a short time again and a little harder packed dirt surface. Then we started slowly climbing back up that slight incline again coming out of the woods and making a left and then a quick right turn which put us back on the spur section to the finish.
So on race morning I lined up to start at 7am for the 1st of 10 laps with 35 others, of which about 1/2 were friends. It was a very pleasant morning and I was looking forward to enjoying the day. I had decided on a strategy of beginning slowly and just getting a feel for the course and see what a reasonable overall pace I could expect. After that I would pick it up a little and see how long and steady I could hold the pace. Things were going according to plan and I was way back around 20th or so for the first half mile but then as we made the right to begin the loop I saw that people had missed the quick left turn into the woods. I begin yelling for them to turn and then led the ones behind me and the ones that were close by onto the proper course. I was still taking it easy and snapping a few pictures with 5 or 6 others right around me as we passed the 1 mile mark in about 9:50 when It dawned on me that all the runners ahead had missed the turn. I decided to go for the glory and see if I could actually lead the race for the first lap and took off picking up the pace considerably. So much for my pre-race strategy.
Well, it was fun while it lasted. My lead lasted for about 1/2 mile before the eventual overall leader , Tommy Neeson would blow by me. I made it another mile before Marie-Ange Smith, the women's winner would pass me. I ended up coming in 5th in 28:02 for that first one, feeling good. I would spend most of my time resting between laps with Jay and Anita Finkle under their tent. I met these super nice folks back in 2003 at the first Carrboro 50k when they had just started dating and have had the pleasure of calling them friends for a long time over many miles since then. Anita was racing today while Jay was crewing and watching their dogs.
I decided to see if I could run close to 9 minute pace on lap two but rather than start slow and then go crazy like lap one I would try an even pace. That worked out ok and I actually ran a couple of seconds faster than lap one in 27:58. I knew then for sure there would be no 9 minute average on this tough course. the deep sand just zapped to much energy out of you and I knew it would be compounded as the day wore on.
By lap three it was starting to get pretty warm and with the sun rising higher in the sky things would get tough with only about 20-25% of the course in the shade. I just settled in to a comfortable pace for the next several laps with my pace gradually slowing a few seconds per mile each lap. In between I would drink up and get in some calories and sit in the shade until about 5 minutes before the start of the next lap when I would get up and loosen up a little bit.
Things were going well and I was feeling pretty good and having a lot of fun but by lap 7 it was just HOT and I was forced to take a walk break through the deep sand at the end of the loop. Doug had a hose set up by the lodge and so after each of the next few laps I would hose down to try and cool off as much as I could. I thought I had been taking in enough fluids but being not too bright I had not been carrying water on during the laps so before going out for lap eight I got a little smarter and filled up my hand held to carry the rest of the day. It was probably too late but it did help some and keep me from completely dying out there.
The thermometer in the shade by the finish area said 88F as we headed out for lap 8. I still felt pretty good overall and was able to run almost all of it except for the worst sand at the end again. Lap nine was tougher and I walked the little hill at mile one for the first time and then I had to add a few more walk breaks to keep the heart rate down.
It was up to 90F as we headed out for the last lap and by now I was toast and looking forward to calling it a day. I had hoped to pick it up a little bit but there was nothing left and I struggled in with my slowest lap of the day. Phew. Ended up 10th place so I was happy with that. Results are here
It was a wonderful day overall and I enjoyed the time spent hanging out with a great group of people, most if not all of which are MTC members. Thanks to Doug for putting this together and the 3 volunteers that gave up a whole day for us to play, Charles West, Chuck Bingham and Rupert Medford.