I like first time experiences… they are always the most memorable. I will always remember my first triathlon, my first ride in an ambulance, my first Ironman, my first 50K run, and now I can add a 50 mile trail run to the list of things I’ll never forget.
My friend, Chris, and I took a camping trip to Hell, MI to take part in the Run Woodstock event this past weekend. He talked me into doing the 50 mile run with him back in March. I was a little scared of what I may look like doing it, but I figured after training for an Ironman that was just 13 previous to this race, I knew I would have the aerobic conditioning to at least complete the race.
I went into the race with the mindset of wanting to do good (as always) but other than that I really had no expectations. I knew my nutrition strategy and how I was going to execute it or even how to change it as the race went on to meet the demands of the course. The race started at 6, about 45 minutes before it is light enough to see anything. So we actually had to run with head lamps for the first of three laps (each lap was about 16.6 miles).
The night before the race, Chris and I realized that I had a legitimate shot to win this race, so I decided to go for it. I lined up at the front of the start corral with a bunch of 50K guys and took off into the woods. It was part of my strategy to go out with the 50K runners for the first 11 miles (the groups split at that point to make their loops come out to about 15.5 and only have to do two of them) and make any of the other guys running to win the 50 miler that I was running the 50K and not realize that they needed to push it to catch me. I sipped on Infinit’s bike formula (yes, bike formula, not the run formula since the intensity was low and I could handle the extra calories and protein in the mix) even though I didn’t feel thirsty to just be sure that I didn’t fall behind too quickly and dig a deep hole that I wouldn’t be able to recovery from. About 50 minutes into the race I decided to take my first salt stick. I took my eyes off the trail just long enough to toss my head back and swallow a couple pills… when I hit a root and took a nose dive. My container holding salt tabs shattered when I hit the ground. I picked up enough to get me through the first lap, because I had another container at the drop bag Chris and I were sharing just in case something were to happen. I picked myself up and got back on the heels of the 50K runners. I walked about 3 or 4 hills the first lap since they were steep and didn’t want to burn precious glycogen in my muscles that would be needed much more later. I made it to the end of my first lap in 2:22, grabbed a few things from my drop bag (mainly more bike formula from Infinit) and dropped off the head lamp. I made my way through the campground and back into the woods to start the second lap.
I felt great all the way through the second lap, but I did walk a few more hills this time… maybe 6 or so. I was able to pass some of the 50K runners on their second loop just before coming back out to the campground (which was mile 33.3 for me). Just as I entered the campground, one of the spectators yelled at me and jokingly said, “you know this isn’t a triathlon, right?” I was wearing my TYR carbon kit for the race because I knew it would prevent chaffing and it was also very functional. I was able to stuff some gels from the race course up the short legs, hold a snack size bag of infinit to mix up at some point along each loop, and had a water bottle with a pouch to carry my salt tabs. I smiled, but couldn’t think of anything clever to say back… so I just went on my way.
The third lap was very tough mentally for me. I had just completed the second loop about 7 minutes slower than the first one, and the sun was coming out making it warm up quickly. The humidity was also rising, or at least it seemed that way. I was going through my infinit and salt tabs much quicker now. Also on the third loop, a mountain bike race had started and there were bikers all over the trails. It made it hard to keep the pace steady as I had to jump off the trail and wait several times for them to pass. At the first fully loaded aid station (there was one about every 4 miles) I tried to eat some real food… a couple bites of a PB & J. It tasted so good, but as soon as it hit my stomach, I became nauseated. However, I was still able to run, and after about 10 minutes the feeling went away. The miles started passing slowly in my mind (and also because I was moving much slower now). I did everything I could to distract myself. I reminded myself over and over again about running efficiently with good economy of motion. Just as I made it to the last fully loaded aid station about 4.5 miles before the finish, it started to rain. It rained just enough to knock the temperature down a bit, but not enough to ruin the trails. I was wearing my Newton Gravity’s to race this since the trail wasn’t too terribly technical (and they worked great!). And even though it rained a bit and I was sweating, the Swiftwick socks were doing their job and keeping my feet a comfortable as possible.
I made to a water aid station just under a mile from the finish and ran in with a guy that was completing his 4th 100-mile run this year. I crossed the finish line in first place for my first 50 miler! No money, but I did get a really cool trophy (see picture below). I can honestly say that running 50 miles is much harder to race than an Ironman. However, I believe that Ironman racing is harder to train for. Not sure if I’ll do another 50 mile trail run again, because right now all I can think about is sleep and food.
Thanks again to my sponsors and all those that support me. And also to God for allowing my body to do what I demand from it every day.