Saturday, March 2, 2013

93.6 miles in 14 days

I sign up for stupid shit.

There... I said it. I'm an impulse shopper when it comes to race registrations, and it often means that I dig myself into a hole I can't easily get out of. (Ooooo he ended a sentence with a preposition.) It is this type of behavior that has forced me to keep a detailed calendar as far out as 18 months and consider hiring an assistant. Unfortunately, I don't trust people, question most intelligences, and despise the thought of having to spend considerable amounts of time with any one individual.

October-ish: I enjoy the Rock-N-Roll race series and see that one is offered in St. Petersburg, Florida, on February 10th. Cheap hotels are available, and it can be a quick drive down for the night. Race #1.

November-ish: A co-worker mentions that the Gasparilla races in Tampa now offer an option to run the Ultra Challenge that involves a 15K and 5K on Saturday the 23rd followed by a half marathon and an 8K on Sunday the 24th. It's essentially back-to-back 15 mile days. A challenge, sure, but I can handle that. I even did that about a month earlier. Race 2, 3, 4, and 5.

December-ish: I stupidly start looking around for an ultra race (those longer than marathon distance) and find one up where I grew up in Destin, Florida, in the panhandle. It's February 17th. I sign up. Race #6. Mistake #1.

For the sake of completeness, I'll say that I PR'd at the St Pete RnR race with a time of 1:53:37. It was nearly two full minutes faster than my previous best... and I had a ton left in the tank. I could have broken 1:50 if I had pushed it. Regardless, it was well organized and a good race.
Thanks to CSD MacDill

On the back end, I completed the Gasparilla Ultra Challenge. That's all I'll say. I PR'd in the 15K only because that was my first time running that distance. Also, it was the first of the four, and I felt relatively good for it. I was honored to join the Communications Support Detachment out of MacDill AFB for the 5K portion. Since I wasn't going for speed, I didn't mind the slow but deliberate pace they kept. Good group. The Sunday races were painful, and the required time hack to complete the half marathon in order to get to the start line for the 8K forced me to push it on hurt legs. But, I did it.
Gasparilla SWAG: Keep Running and they'll keep giving you stuff

But, back to the Big Daddy. The Destin 50 Miler is a relatively small affair as far as races go. I've learned this is true of most ultras simply because there aren't enough morons (like me) around to clog registration. The race had a 50M and 50K race. I opted for the 50M. I've already run 3 marathons... what's 5 more miles? I wanted to do 25 more miles... for some ungodly reason.

The race started at 0500, and the shuttles were not the fastest from the parking lot to the start. I walked up as the race started, and I still had to get myself organized (safety pins, camelbak, etc). I ended up getting out about 5 minutes late. But, what's 5 minutes in a 50 Mile race, amiright?

The first two miles was an out-and-back that traced the same section of beach that the elite ultra runners were using to break the 24HR sand race distance record. Joe Fejes ran an inhuman 134 miles over the course of 24 hours, and I have no idea how.

Following that loop, we ran west 15 miles... then east 24 more before turning around for the 9 back to the start. I had my music but didn't listen to it. I listened to the ocean. It is a loud, bitch of an ocean that wouldn't shut up.

Stupid ocean.

My concerns going into the race (other than running 50 freaking miles) were three-fold:

1)Running in sand
2)Water crossings
3)Running on a slope/camber

Having grown up there, I knew the running in sand concern was minimal. Anyone that spends time in a beach town knows that the tidal area is fairly compact. Stay off the dunes, and loose sand isn't a problem. Check.

Having run often with wet shoes/socks, I was concerned with water crossings. Were they 3 feet wide? Twenty? A foot deep? I didn't recall them growing up, but I never walked 20 straight miles down a beach before. As it turns out, these things changed over the course of the day thanks to tides, but they were considerable. One in particluar (crossed twice) was about 20 feet across and as much as a foot deep. It was a river. But, I mitigated the risk with toe socks. Problem solved. Feet dried fairly quickly and showed to be no worse for wear after the race. Check.

Apparently, previous racers were worried about the camber, as well, since the question was addressed in the FAQs. The race director said he'd never heard any complaints in previous years. Ok... guess we'll see....

Either he was lying, ignored previous comments, or this year was the worse ever. My ankles and right knee have never been through such an ordeal.

The first 27 miles of the race were pretty easy (did I really just type that?). I held a steady 11 min/mile pace and felt great. Aid stations, operated by restaurants along the beach, popped up every 7 or 8 miles, and they complemented the usual race fare (GU gels, sports drinks, water, trail mix) with their specialties. This resulted in me bargaining with at least two aid stations to find me more of the bacon that they offered. I demanded that they have their supply restocked once I hit the turnaround and came back by.

Is bacon good race food? Yes. Why? Because, it's bacon. That's why.

As I passed the 26.2 mile point and realized I had run a marathon and had absolutely nothing to show for it, I got sad.

As I crossed 30 miles and looked down to find that my fingers had ballooned to twice their normal size, I debated whether I had a salt-intake issue. Was I taking in too much? Too little? The answer didn't really matter, because I wasn't going to stop eating the bacon. I was just wondering.

Destin 50 Mile Medal
My knee was killing me from mile 30 on. My left and right ankle were killing me from mile 34 and 42, respectively, until the end. It was quite miserable. But, I was my usual ebullient self at aid stations. What can I say? I'm a delight to be around... especially when I start hallucinating and talking to imaginary animals in Spanish.

Another racer was 3 minutes into a conversation with me before he realized I was talking to an invisible rhino named Fernando.

Had I maintained the pace I was running for the first 30 miles, I would have crossed in 10 hours... well ahead of my goal. I'm not naive enough to assume I wouldn't have slowed, but I would have put good money on a sub-10:30 finish. Sadly, I was hobbling the last 15 miles in a way that made me feel worse and worse with each step. I crossed in a time of 12:30... well past my expected time but still... it's not a DNF. My worries at that point were being in a condition to run the Gasparilla races the following week. My knee was fine (without the sloped course in Tampa, I didn't even notice my knee), but my ankles and the tendons therein were still inflamed and sore. They hadn't fully healed and let me know it.

But, I survived. I would definitely consider a 50M again in the future, but it won't be that one.

Either way, I won.

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