May 18, 2014 — Goddard, KS
Ultra #3, 50K #1
Going into my first 50K, I didn’t really know what to expect. Before a race, people will often ask “Are you ready?” My typical, and honest, response is “I have no idea.” I rarely know if I’m ready for a race, especially a long one, until I’m in it. Anything can happen — I suppose, especially, in ultra running.
I had run two ultras before, both of longer distances. My first was the Patriots’ Run ultra last September 11 in Olathe. The race lasted 9 hours, 11 minutes with runners logging as many miles as they could in the time allotted. I finished with 36 miles officially. My second was last November 16 in Wichita. This one was a 12-hour race of the same concept. That day, I officially logged my personal best for mileage, with 44.28 miles — even though my watch showed 46.
Anyway, this was my first ultra with an actual finish line, which was kind of cool. I had two goals going in — 1) Finish in under 6 hours; 2) Don’t get last. I really didn’t care to get wrapped up in racing any other runners, and I didn’t have a PR to chase after.
I planned to try a run/walk interval of 10 minutes/2 minutes for as long as I could handle it. I got to run the first 10 minutes with my friend Mike, who is crazy fast. He wound up finishing 2nd place overall, despite running 3+ miles too far — and then hung around long enough to help me finish. What a guy.
At around the 3.5 mile mark, the rains came. It rained pretty steadily until I got to the mid-point aid station at mile 15.5. Yeah, 12 miles in the rain. Fun times! (Note: No, I’m actually not being sarcastic). I was able to maintain my 10/2 plan pretty well through the first three hours. At that point, I tried to pull it back to 8/2. But after two cycles of that, I was getting pretty sore. A lot more walking from that point on.
My first 10 miles were each under 10 minutes, and 18 of my first 20 miles were under 12 minutes each. That’s pretty slow, but steady-ish for me, considering how far I was going.
My lovely fiancee Kami, and her sister Macey were out there for me at all the aid stations, and even in between a couple of them. They refilled my water, supplied me with all the Powerade Zero, chocolate milk, antacids (tried them to fix my running hiccups, which seems to have worked), and even donuts (yeah, donuts) that I needed. They helped keep me going really well.
One of the beauties of ultra running, at least for me, was that I felt free to stop and stretch when I felt a cramp coming on, without worrying too much about pace, etc. Despite increasing soreness, I felt better mentally all day long than I have for any of my marathons. That is probably due in large part because of my lack of any real expectations. Regardless of why I felt better mentally, it was definitely a relief.
Somewhere after the 20-mile mark, I got to see several familiar, friendly (and much faster than me) people, as they headed toward the finish, while I was heading out on the final out & back stretch. I got high fives from Micah LaPoint (overall winner, 3:50), Raquel Stucky (my friend from Pretty Prairie), and Fernando Martinez (he doesn’t know me, but I know of him because he’s fast). The latter three were all on relay teams. I even squeezed in a short chat with Mike again as he assured me Kami was not far ahead.
Experienced 100-miler Elden Galano gained on me more and more over the last 10 miles or so. I knew he would either pass me, or would come damn close. At mile 24, I saw probably the biggest turtle ever. I really wanted to snap a pic, but convinced myself to focus. I kept moving.
I did get a little bummed when I realized somewhere in those last two miles that I wasn’t going sub-6, but still understood that I’d finish with an automatic PR, which is always nice. Kami jog/walked the last mile or so with me (in jeans!), and Mike joined for the last few blocks. With about 200 yards to go, I had to walk one last time across the final street when I heard Elden yell “Run!” He later told me he wasn’t going to pass me unless I was walking.
I finished in 6:07:25, exactly six seconds ahead of Elden, who did a cheer/jump across the finish line. It hurt me just to watch it.
All in all, Country Roads 50K was a very positive experience for me. I was a little slower than I would’ve liked, and probably a lot slower than I’m capable of, but with an automatic PR, a super cool course, an affordable price, lots of friendly volunteers and a great personal support staff, I honestly have zero complaints about this race — as long as I get my race shirt in the mail, as promised. They somehow had me down for a Medium, a size I haven’t worn since probably 7th grade.
Not sure where life will take us with getting married in September, but this is definitely a race I’d like to return to do again.