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Archive for July, 2007

Afton 50k Race Report, July 7, 2007

Posted by toddruns on July 9, 2007

My short (for me) race report of my Most Excellent 50k Afton Trail Run , for those who were wondering how much fun it was.

There was a lot of hot hot heat. Especially on lap 2, especially in the sun. Fortunately, there is a lot of shade on the course too. But I generally don’t like the heat. But then, you already knew that.

Awesome aid stations. Nothing tastes better than a PBJ sammich at mile 25.45 of a trail race. Unless it is a Rice Krispie Treat. Or some fresh strawberries. I feel I personally accounted for several bags of the ice the race used (my hat can hold about a dozen cubes at a time). It is really nice to have someone clap for you when you come stumbling down a rocky rooty dusty steep trail and offer you shelter from the storm. Great volunteers. Buckets full of ice water and sponges.

I made the choice to not go get my race number the night before, fearing I would invoke my weenie clause and drop to 25k. I was finally feeling slightly better than crap when I woke up the morning of the race, having been on my antibiotic for tonsillitis for 4 days. But I knew on my drive to Afton as I watched the sun come up that the 50k was my race and I was going to finish.

I purposely did the power walk thing up every long hill. I knew I had 10 big climbs (5 per lap), but I was wrong, there really are 12. The one I missed even has steps. I am so observant.

Aid station 2 received the coveted Todd’s 5 Star Award of Excellence. One volunteer sponging my neck and shoulders with ice water and pouring cold water over my hat, while another filled my bottle with Hammer HEED (My new favorite sports drink), it was like a visit to the spa. OK, not exactly, but I did feel a little pampered. I imagined myself a race car in the pits – change of tires and fill of gas and I was out of pit row in record time…

A contrast if you will: running along and through a beautiful meadow listening to birds chirping and not a soul in sight, watching the prairie grasses blowing in the slight breeze. Versus running along London Road with music blaring and people clapping and cheering and some idiot with a Karaoke Box trying to sing like Elvis. Both take place after running for 20 plus miles. Not sure that I can make a value judgment as to which is “better”, but it was sure nice to imagine the birds were chirping for me.

The toughest stretch for me was on the second lap as I ran the campground loop. I should have added more ice to my hat when I left the aid station but I didn’t and I ran out of drink before I returned. I left the aid station at mile 22 and would hit it again after this 3.4 mile loop. There is a long shallow climb followed by a longer steeper climb, a little less than a mile total of uphill. At the top there’s a short stretch through open prairie followed by one of the steeper down hill sections. That was the place I noticed that my quads were starting to really feel the effort. At the bottom a pair of runners (Kevin and Shana) caught me and I commented that the trip down felt great on my quads. She said something affirmative, like, yes it was fun. And then a second or two later she said, “wait a minute, you were being sarcastic weren’t you?” I struggled a wee bit, doing more walking than I would have liked to and I had to stop and get a rock out of my shoe too. The climb back up the hill to the top of the campground seemed to be sucking the energy out of me. I was running low on fluids, and it was the first place that I felt in danger of overheating. Charbroiled Me. I passed a kid who looked worse than I felt. He had no water bottle. I hope he made it OK. He was moving so slow I mistook him for a camper until I saw the telltale dust tracks up the backs of his legs. About then I remembered my next stop was aid station number 2 (again). And after that it was one big climb and less than 10k to the finish. Easy peezy. Anyone could do it.

Since my buddy Mark couldn’t be there to witness my foray into the Ultra world, I needed to do something to mark the occasion. So at a time of 4:36 into my race, I paused on the trail to scratch a line in the path with the heel of my shoe. I was at the 42.3 (or so) kilometer mark. 26.3 on the Garmin. Close enough. Or rather, Far Enough. I then ran across said line it to punctuate my entry into the “beyond a marathon” territory. The gal (Shana) who was running nearest to me asked me what I was doing. It was a good conversation starter if nothing else. We had a little chat about Ultras versus road races. I admitted that this experience was really fun, – and I mean really fun – and although I am not quite ready to get a marathon divorce, I can feel the dark side of Ultras pulling me in. After 22 miles, everything pretty much hurt anyway, I was not sure why stopping at 26.2 would do me any good. Why not just keep going? I didn’t have much else going on that day anyway. But there really is more to it than that. I’m just not sure I can distill it down to a few words.

The guy (Jeffery) at aid station 3 offered to stick around for while if I wanted to run another lap. I told him I’d think about it. But it was almost 90° by that time. Did I mention I don’t run well in the heat? Well, there’s more to it too, like all the food and cold drinks at the finish line and root beer floats (with keg root beer). And cookies too. And melon and more strawberries and water melon and some salads and veggies and dip and…well, lots of food.

I ran strong (relatively) the last mile or so, knowing it was over, knowing that I’d run pretty well, and glad to have the experience. A single spectator standing in the shade clapping for me 800 meters from the end. It was nice, then I ran over a little rise and there was the finish line and the clock and the bucket full of ice water and more sponges. I got a little verklempt when I saw the finish line clock. I thought briefly of clowning and pretending to go around for another loop. It wasn’t that funny, so I didn’t. But there were lots of cheers and clapping from the crowd at the finish line as I ran across. It was nice. Lots of really nice people. Other runners and 25k runners and friends and volunteers. Everyone friendly and chatting and congratulating each other.

Final time = 5:43:43. 31 out of 106. I managed to nip my time goal of around 6:00 hours. My real goal however, was to survive. I nipped that too. The final result is a new addiction. I’d run another one in a heartbeat.

I can’t do the walk down stairs thing yet. Well, I can if I go backwards. No speed work this week for me. Maybe next week though… there’s only 89 days and 20 hours until TCM!

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