Only sick and crazy people would celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary by running 50k. Only really sick and really crazy people would run that 50k on trails in the toughest conditions ever seen: ice, snow, slush, mud, water and various evil combinations of those elements. That being said, those people must be pretty cool if so many people show up to run it with them. And, that was exactly the case on Saturday for the Trail Monster Running I've Been Married for 10 Years and My Wife Still Doesn't Have a Fat Ass 50k, or, more importantly, Ian and Emma's 10th Anniversary.
Despite a forecast of sun, the day started foggy and damp and got only moderately better for there. At least 20 of us showed up at Bradbury Mountain State Park to run the 4-mile loop Ian devised as many as 8 times. The loop itself is awesome. It's scenic. It's hilly. It's tough. It's fun. However, with the trail conditions on Saturday, it was really, really tough. I'm not sure I can describe how hard it actually was, not because I want to sound like a tough guy, but because really...it was that hard. At the end of each lap, I seriously questioned my sanity for running that, and then my sanity again for contemplating heading back out for another one.
Aside from survival, my goals for the day were to work on my fueling and hydrating strategies and to run at least 5 laps (20 miles) and hopefully 6. I was also trying Sustained Energy for the first time in hopes that it would help me keep my energy levels up, which I've had trouble with on any run over 2:30. In short, it worked great, and it didn't upset my stomach. I didn't even mind the taste. I also downed 3 Hammer Gels and a package of Clif Shot Bloks. And, each time through the "aid station," I grabbed some Pringles and Gatorade, along with a couple other random goodies. My energy never waned, so I successfully passed that test.
OK, onto the run. Even though I thought everyone would be together for the first lap, the group soon was strung out along the trail. We regrouped at the summit, but from there it was a big ol' jumble. Which was great. I got to run with a bunch of different people and and have some great conversations along the way, including a complete review of all the VH1 reality shows for Mindy. The better part of the first three laps were uneventful. The laps were taking longer than I had planned or hoped, but I was really trying to hold back and not burn myself out. I started the fourth lap with Stephen and Jamie and ran most of it with them...until suddenly I wasn't. About halfway through that lap, I was not feeling good. Nothing specific, just bad. I slowed down a bit, ran alone and just tried to regroup. I finished the lap and took a slightly longer break than I had been taking. Plus, I need to refill by hydration pack, which took longer than I had hoped. My brain was telling me to stop, but I headed out on the fifth lap anyway. I ran for a minute or two with Blaine, but I was going much slower than him, so I was soon on my own. I kept plodding along alone, until suddenly, I felt great. I mean, I felt really great. Along the nastiest, slushiest, most horrible part of the Tote Road, I decided that I was going to run the whole thing. I think I might have even said it out loud. The best part about this little episode was that got to deal with a "bad patch." Another learning experience. And you know what? Once the bad patch is over, I felt better than I did when I thought I was feeling good. I could get used to that.
Jamie and I headed out on lap #6 together. He announced his plan to take it easy for this lap and that sounded like a good plan to me. He has waaayyyy more ultra experience than I do, so I was hoping I could learn a bit from him about my pacing. We chatted the whole way, and it was a lot of fun. I was still feeling great when finished the lap, so I decided to push through my original goal of 6 laps and stick with my new goal of running the whole thing. Off we went on lap #7. Shortly into the lap, I could feel a pain in my right knee: the ole impinged infrapatellar fat pad—An old injury that flares up from time to time. When I get the pain, it goes from none to sharp, stabbing pain fairly quickly. After a short, break at the summit, I decided it would be best for me to cut it short. I cut loop 7 down to 3 miles by descending the Terrrace Trail and called it a day at 27 miles.
I was disappointed that my knee flared up, but not totally surprised. All the lateral movement caused by the all the slipping and sliding and all the stride adjustments due to the ice and snow, put strain on and highlight some muscular imbalance. Of course, I can't be disappointed about pushing through that many miles in those conditions. Huge boost of confidence for me. Plus, I'm certain I could have finished without the knee flare up. So, aside from the knee thing, a very successful day for me. In short, I learned a lot.
Mad props to all the folks that ran all 50k, especially Ian & Emma who finished smiling, holding hands and making it look easy. In fact, mad props to anyone who completed even just one lap in that mess.
Here's my unofficial numbers break down:
Lap 1: 48:37
Lap 2: 51:54
Lap 3: 50:06
Lap 4: 51:43
Lap 5: 51:28
Lap 6: 59:56
Lap 7 (3 miles): 43:51
Total Run Time: 5:57:35; 13:14 per mile
Total Time: 6:31:45 (Breaks were between 3 and 10 minutes.)
Today, my knee feels about 92%. A little twingy, but I'm not worried about it. However, my left calf is a little squacky. I didn't feel anything at all during the run or even last night, but it was a different story when I woke up this morning. It's tight, lumpy and feeling a little calf strainy. I've been heating, massaging and stretching today. When I've strained it in the past (multiple times), it's always happened during the run and has felt like I've been stabbed. So, I'm hoping this is much less serious. Fingers crossed.