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Since I know a few folks who are contemplating their first ultra, and since I may be crazy enough to do this again some time, here are a few thoughts while still fresh.
Overall, I was happy with my race: 6:18 was slower than goal (sub 6) but I felt good most of the time. (good enough for second in my AG - out of 3!) I lost about 8 minutes with a wrong turn, and significant time in the sections of the course that were littered with branches and debris from days of high winds. But, that's trail running; nature is not predictable, and at least the course was nice and dry! According to my Garmin I climbed 6100 feet. however, the website lists the course as 4400 feet. Have never noticed such a discrepancy in my tech before, but now wondering if maybe I did not train with as much climbing as I thought! That would also have made a difference.
I started a three week on, one week off training program of my own creation in August. I was inspired by several 50k training plans found online, but found them too heavy on mileage. (Up to 60 miles per week in some.) Also got lots of tips and advice from experienced trail runners in the club and elsewhere. I never ran more than 40 miles in a week, and had no run longer than 24 miles. I did do the "tired legs" Sunday run most weekends. I agree with the experts - this is key, and the biggest change from my usual tri-oriented routine. Judgmentally, I feel that another 5-10% of intensity would have given me the strength to meet my goal even with the obstacles mentioned above. Put another way - it would have been good to have 2-3 more hard workouts where I pushed my limit. Of course I'll never know for sure, but suspect it would have helped me push a little harder at key points. I do believe my strength training 2x week at Integrate Fitness (thanks Al!) made a difference, enabling me to train, and add the extra miles of the race, without injury. I spun once or twice during this period, and also cross-trained/stretched out with 1-2 swims a week. Not to mention regular deep tissue massage from dlub sponsor Cindy Hernandez at Guided Hands.!
Slept a lot thursday night for a Sat. race. Never sleep well the night before - and Friday night our burglar alarm went off at 4am! false alarm but hard to go back to sleep after that. Ate more carbs than usual, and no wine Friday night (ah, sacrifice). Did two easy 3 mile runs Tues., and Thurs.,, and swam an easy 1000 Friday.
Followed the wise advice to " race like you train." So I planned to replicate what I did for my 22 and 25 mile runs. Oatmeal, banana and 1/2 granola bar pre race; 4 gels, one hourly; and granola bar for good measure on the course. I love my Nathan hydration system vest. Carried almost 2 liters of water effortlessly and front pockets with enough space for food, bandaids, etc. are great. Had a few snacks at the aid stations (only 3) but more for novelty than real nutrition.
Sunny day with high around 60. But trail is mostly shaded so it was perfectly cool throughout.
Miles 1 - 3: Started out at easy comfortable pace, nice warm up with mostly downhill.
4-6: Mostly climbing, up to the aid station at Kings Mountain and the Skyline trail. Still felt great.
7-11: Crossing the Skyline Ridge trail. Lots of debris slowed me down. I've had enough accidents this year, did not want to tumble off the (narrow!) trail! Hit the 10 mile point at 1:55, making me think I was still in reach of sub-6.
12-14: Nice gentle descent into Wunderlich Park. Sunny and not much debris so I could pick up some time.
15-16: This section not as well marked - a bunch of us went off course, including a few who had done this course before. if you do this course in the spring when they run it again - watch for a hard to spot left turn!
17-21: - The hardest part of the race! The uphill climb out of the park back to Skyline Ridge was definitely the mental test of the day. Was wishing I had done the PG&E a couple more times for mental toughness! My neighbor the Western States veteran had told me this would be the toughest part and he was right!
22-27: Back on Skyline ridge. Fortunately the footing was better - maybe all the 50k and 35k racers tamped down some of the branches. At mile 25.5 a woman behind me fell and broke her ankle! We agreed best thing I could do was run the 1.5 miles to the aid station and get help, which I did.
This person's experience highlights the importance of "training under race conditions." Here was a runner who is usually a 3:18-3:30 marathoner. ie: a LOT faster than me. But, new to trail running, she fell a couple of times prior to the accident, and it may be that her stride, while suitable for a fast road race, wasn't right for the conditions. Or her ankles didn't have the flexibility to comprehend the uneven footing. Whatever the reason, she was behind me most of the race, and struggling with the terrain.
28-31: Ah, nice gradual downhill, right into the finish. Experienced ultra racers warned me about the quad strain of a prolonged descent, but, happy to say I thought it was a great "help" for the last few miles. Like a nice tailwind on the bike. I had never run more than 26+ before so the little "push" was welcome.
Immediate post race: Lesson learned - bring your own post race nutrition. I usually do, but this time, thought I'd just go with the race food. Had heard about soup, chili, potatoes, etc. and was dreaming about this in the homestretch (yeah, pathetic...).... and was peeved to see only the usual trail mix, oranges, and some chips and salsa. Pretty anticlimactic! thanks to Isa I did get my potatoes, in the form of a yummy samosa :)
Didn't feel hammered at the end, but was very stiff and sore through Sunday am. But now, Sunday night, I feel pretty good. Though a couple days of yoga, swimming, stretching, and massage sound better than a hard work out right now!
All in all, a great end to the year.