Sunday, April 24, 2016

B racing: TNF ECS DC 50K, April 9th, 2016

Last weekend I ran the 50K North Face Endurance Challenge race in Algonkian park outside Washington, DC.  I’m not going to wax philosophically about anything here, but I am going to record a few thoughts for consideration later.

I tried to run “B” races a few times last summer with mostly disastrous results for the A races that followed.  I just couldn’t help getting stupid and competitive and overrunning the B races, leaving myself with way too much recovery time when I should have been training.  With the Bear Mountain 50 mile on tap in a few weeks, I very much wanted to run the DC 50K as a real B race, specifically to stick to the goal of running it as prep for Bear Mountain.  I didn’t have a terribly rigorous plan for accomplishing that goal, but essentially I wanted to stick to 50 mile race pace/effort at least up to the marathon mark, practice nutrition and aid station efficiency, let loose and have some fun over the last few miles, and not hurt myself.  The smooth, mostly flat course profile and support from being close to my sister’s family would be a perfect format with one huge caveat; the flats along the Potomac are ideal soil for generating mud bogs even on dry years, and it was dumping rain the week before the race.  Early forecasts had it raining all day on race day and even dropping snow.  Ugg, so much for easy.

Luckily the forecasts turned out to be a bit too dire.  It was certainly cold and wet at the start, and we did see a few snowflakes in the air around halfway, but the rain had mostly died down before the 50K start at 7 AM (but pity the 50 milers who ran the first 90 minutes in rain and darkness!).  The mud, on the other hand, more than lived up to its billing.  The runner conversation along the route basically went as a combination of ‘muddy enough for ya?’ and ‘this sucks’ and ‘I wish I were wearing football cleats/ice skates/snow shoes/cross country skis’ (no one could quite decide what would work.  I voted for a canoe).  The result was a 4:45 finish (12th place though) despite pushing into 50K pace a bit earlier than planned.

Regardless, a few things I’m proud of:
1) Pacing.  The heart rate profile reads like a textbook:  About 10 miles of zone 1, another 10 of zone 2, a good chunk of zone 3 on the return, a few miles of zone 4 closing, and a zone 5 finishing kick.  Hard to argue with that.
2) Throwing down a 6:24 split for mile 31.  And passing a few competitors in the midst of that.
3) Nutrition.  The ‘eat every 30 minutes’ paradigm (stinger honey stuff I brought, cliff shots and random bars from the aid stations) with a half bottle of tailwind a few glasses of coke in the second half kept me out of energy lows all day.  The ~200 calories per hour is a good sign for metabolic efficiency as well.
4) A few comments that made my day:  Early on in the mud another runner burst out with “you’re so graceful” as I hopped around a particularly nasty bog.  Even better, at one point in the Great Falls Park section the course dropped down a short -30o slope on wet, jagged rocks.  I looped around another runner on the berm at the top and skipped down to a “damn, that was awesome” from the race official at the bottom.  Then, from his partner up top “yeah, I was gonna tell him to be careful, but I guess…”  Easy guys.  You’re making my ego hard to carry ;)

And a few things I’ve learned (or relearned!):
1)  For Bear, stay out of the 150’s for heart rate.  Anything in the 140’s felt all-day sustainable, but the stretches in the150’s gave me the sense that I’d need to drop pace for recovery.  150’s are roughly mid-marathon effort for me, so it makes sense to keep out of them for the first 40 or so of a 50 mile.
2)  For maybe the first time in an ultra I skipped aid stations, and it worked out just fine.  It’s a good reminder that the stations are there if I need something, but the only thing I have to do on the way through is thank the volunteers.  And I can do that at full speed.
3)  No competing in the first half!  I’m not going to win anything this year, and even if I were, no one wins an ultra in the first half.  When I start conservatively and focus on sustainable effort I get to pass people all day long, and that’s pretty fun.
4)  Laura Kline is 10 minutes faster than me at 50K.  In my first ultra race at the Blues Cruise 50K in 2013 I finished 13th, about 9:30 after the women’s winner Laura Kline.  Around mile 25 last weekend I passed a woman and asked if she was leading.  She said no, that there was some super fast girl up there who she hadn’t seen all day.  I got to the finish, looked at the leader board, and who finished 10 minutes ahead of me? Laura Kline!  I’m so pacing off her if we ever start another race together.

Early on, hair's not even messy yet!

Closing kick, rarr!

Okay, maybe that did hurt a bit.  They have a beer tent, right?
(All photos courtesy of TNF and Ultra Race Photos, LLC)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for making it an awesome day for the fans. Including those two little sprouts who made a race of their own on the way back to the shuttle and even managed to avoid some of the mud along the way. ;)