Monday, October 27, 2014

Lessons Learned

October 26th, 2015 -- My first attempt at a 50-mile trail race.

So, whenever I mention running farther than 10miles, people always ask "Why?"  I never have a good answer for them.....probably because I can't think of a reason 'why not?'  Instead of giving myself reasons why I can't, I give myself reasons why I can.

Sunday started out early.  A 4:30AM alarm clock, a quick change of clothes, and I was out the door.  A short 45-60min drive, and I was in a dark parking lot behind a set of chain stores in Blue Springs, Missouri.  The run was scheduled to start at 7AM, but you are allowed to start at 6AM if you think you'll need more time (the cutoff was something like 5PM).  Being my first 50-mile run, I thought I better take the extra time.  This would be one of my only good decisions on the day.

Early start, headlamps on!

At 5:48AM, I realized that no one else was there, and I was starting to worry.  I drove around the parking lot a bit, and low and behold, I was about 1/4mile off from the right starting spot.  I had just enough time to jump out of the car, grab my hydration pack, sign-in and get lined up.  The moment I jumped into the pack of runners, the race director said "We'll get started at 6......oh, geez, it's 20seconds past 6....GO!!!"..........and that was our 'starting gun!  It took me 7miles to realize I had forgotten my sunglasses (which I wouldn't need for a while yet, but it was one more error on the day).

My goal was 10-minute-miles.  Our first four miles were 11:23, 9:32, 9:15, and 9:16.  I was running in a pack of runners with our headlamps on and we were just cruising along in the dark.  About mile 4 or 5, I ran into a fellow named Andy.  Andy and I got to talking.  This wasn't necessarily a race, and we both understood that, so we just chatted.  We chatted so long, before we knew it, we were 23miles into the run.  Our problem was our pace.....I think every mile between 5 and 25 was sub-8:45min/mile.  While the time passed quickly with great conversation, it was too quick.  And, constantly, we both told each other that, but we pushed on anyhow because we didn't necessarily feel exhausted.

Running the miles is so much easier with conversation!

After the marathon (26.2miles), I told Andy I needed a walking break.  He continued on, while I walked for about half a mile.  I wouldn't catch Andy again, but we'd pass each other and have a quick chat a few more times.  Andy is an Ironman triathlete...his list of accomplishments was awesome.  It's great to know that we both had fairly different backgrounds that got us to the point of wanting to run a 50-mile run, yet we both were there doing it.

I finished the 50K (31miles) feeling pretty good.  I stopped at my car and grabbed my sunglasses.  The bottoms of my feet had been hurting and I suspected it was my ultra-thin toe socks that were the cause.  I love those toe socks because it keeps blisters away as each toe has it's own slot.  But, in favor of comfort, I chose to switch out to my thick comfy running socks.  Thirteen miles later I'd pay the price for that decision as my left outermost toe would dig into my ring toe and cause an open wound that I wouldn't find until later that night.

Still smiling at the 50K.
I left the start area for the last time until I'd cross it again when finishing.  Unfortunately, the sun was also finally coming up.  I signed up for this late-October race, hoping for some nice cool 40- & 50- degree weather.  Well, the high for the day ended up being 88ยบ.

Everything after mile 31 was basically a disaster.  The sun had come up and I knew it was going to be hot.  I was drinking my water and my electrolyte drink at regular intervals.  But, I would come to find out later, it was not nearly enough, as I would end the day weighing 7.5lbs less and pretty dehydrated.  I also thought I was eating enough, but I know I bypassed several aid stations telling myself I wasn't hungry.  I should have forced food down...but it tasted awful.

At mile 37 the cramps started.  I've been able to successfully stave them off in the past, and even end them quickly after they start, but not today.  I would pop S!caps, drink water, etc.....and they would not go away.  Cramps in my inner thighs on both legs and my calf muscles on both legs would prevent me from running much after that.  I would run for 15-90seconds until the cramps started and then I would walk for 10minutes.

At mile-44, I would reach the final aid station.  They were waiting on me, and the the other two 50-milers still out on the course.  I sat at the aid station and contemplated how I was gonna do the last 6miles.  It would almost certainly be walk-running.  I didn't want my first 50-mile run to end by walking.  I was in horrible pain from the cramps.  My left toes hurt, and I had no idea (it was the cut I'd later find) why.  My sides were starting to cramp.  I'd realized I was dehydrated.  I knew the water stations were out of water, so I had to carry everything with me those final miles.  I knew there was no shade.  I didn't want to bring further injury upon myself, and so........I quit.  I had a good cry right there at the aid station and on my ride back.  It hurt bad, because quitting is rarely an option for me.

I look back now and wish I would have had my running partner join me for the final 10-12miles.  I needed someone there at that last aid station to remind me that I could have done it.  To remind me that I shouldn't wuss out.  To remind me that it's only 6 more in a journey where you've already covered 44.

Always a pleasure to make new running friends!

That night, I would spend 3-4hours laying on the living room floor, screaming in agony as muscles tightened and cramped over and over and over.  The kids were scared, but we assured them daddy wasn't mad, he was just stupid.  I had a plethora of other problems that are probably too graphic to describe here.  The next day, I would get up and drive six hours to Oklahoma, only to realize the most injured part of me was my pride.  During my drive, I would remember a quote that I had heard before, and Andy had brought up while we spent those many miles running together:

"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you are right." --Henry Ford

Blue Springs 50/50 lessons learned:

*Drink.  Drink.  Drink.  Don't measure how much you should drink by how you feel, but rather how much time has passed in combination with the amount of ounces of water you have drank.
*Eat.  Yeah, sometimes it literally tastes like it.  You're gonna burn 5-7,000 calories in a 50-mile run....your body needs those calories, no matter how they taste.  Again, don't wait for your body to say it's hungry, measure it in time and calories consumed.
*Save your energy.  I was warned ahead of time, and again on race day, to take it easy and save energy.  I didn't, and I paid the ultimate price.
*Body glide.  Body glide in places you don't even imagine right now.  And, re-application every 2-3hours.
*Pacers....use them.  No one should be alone during a long run....find someone who will join you for some of it.
*Socks.  Use your trusted and true socks.  Of course your feet are gonna's 50 freaking miles!

I know I can run 50 miles.  The multitude of bad choices brought me down this time, but there will be other chances.  This run was all about learning lessons the hard way.

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