>Look What I Can Do!>Seashore Nature Trail 50k, my first ultra!
I posted this in the B&B group, but figured I'd share it here too.
Finished my first 50k yesterday in 4:42:07, 5th place in sub-masters (30-39) and 21st overall out of 263 finishers.
I volunteered at this race last year, and really liked the vibe, much more relaxed than your typical road race. I already had my first marathon on the schedule for March 2014, and before I had even started my training plan for that, I started thinking about this 50k. I figured it would be a good time, and if I could keep myself from running it too hard, it shouldn't throw off my marathon training too much. I had done a few runs on the main trail in this park, pretty flat and hard packed, and enjoyed it.
In October I made the plunge and signed up. At that point I started doing all of my MLRs and LRs on the trails that would make up the race course. It wasn't until I started running on the more technical side trails that I really discovered how much I like trail running. I've enjoyed running since I started last year, but this was the first time I've actually had fun running. Jumping over roots and rocks, and blasting the downhills (sometimes while still jumping over obstacles) makes it feel more like a game instead of monotonous plodding along.
The race consists of two laps of a 25k (ish, small road portion on the first lap to make the overall distance legit) course winding through beautiful First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach, VA (formerly Seashore State Park, hence the name of the race). There were actually only two aid stations, but with the way the laps/trails worked you passed one of them about every 4 miles, so it worked out well. Very well organized and staffed race. My plan was to eat GUs and Chomps between aid stations, and then grab real food at the aid stations, I kind of stuck to the plan. lol Plan was also to drink water from my bottles and gatorade at the aid stations, I stuck to that part, but learned that if mother nature decides to be cruel and give you a high of 72* for the first day of winter, it might not be enough, more to come on that.
Ok, race day. Learning from my last half, I had only one cup of coffee with my oatmeal before the race, much better results. Race kicked off at 8:30 and it was already warm, this should be fun. I should not be wearing shorts and a singlet for a late December race! Altho, I'll take it over the weather they had a few years ago when a nor'easter rolled through and the foot bridges were covered in ice and about half of the course was flooded with knee deep freezing water.
First lap: There was a short out and back on the road, less than a mile, just to make the distance legit, it's a certified course and a RRCA Championship race. Then we hit the trail, the first portion of the Cape Henry trail (the main trail at the park) runs along the water and is just loose sand in a few spots, fun stuff. There are two sections here that flood when the tide comes in, but I would be able to miss it since it wasn't coming in until later in the afternoon. Cruise through the first aid station and make sure to thank all of the volunteers, didn't drink anything here since it was less than two miles into the race. My speed picked up a lil on the main part of Cape Henry, it's just flat hard packed dirt, so it's pretty easy. Still plenty of people around me, I'm not much of a talker, but it's a nice distraction to listen to other people chat. I cruised behind a couple that was having a pretty lively discussion, something about a lot of puking after a party. lol First turnoff onto one of the side trails. This first one is deceiving, it's where I fell three times while training. The trail appears to be fairly flat, but in fact there are a lot of roots hiding under the leaves. I asked to have the leaves cleared prior to the race, but my request was denied. After a couple of miles on the side trail, we hook back up with the main trail and head up to the most technical portion of the race, a 3 mile loop at the top of the course. The second aid station is at the entrance to this loop, I grab some gatorade and get going. I'm feeling very strong through this portion, and it's one of the more fun parts of the course, I'd feel less happy here on the second lap. One of the guys from Richmond had his phone/gps set to audio and at 13 miles it called out the time/distance and average pace of 8:31, right about where I figured we were (on the trail I try not to look at my watch and run by effort). We had a little train going through this section, it's not exactly single track, but you'd have to really want to pass somebody through here. I was content to just cruise behind them, and it was probably for the best, I think they kept me honest where I might have gone a little faster had I been by myself this early in the race. After this loop, it was nice to start running into the other runners who were trailing behind me, throughout the rest of the race everyone was continually giving thumbs up and helping to motivate each other. Hit the aid station again , grabbed a banana and some gatorade and cruise back down the main trail back to the first side loop. On this loop is a sign that is meant for the second lap, it says, "Marathon, you are now an ultramarathoner, 4.85 miles to go", I am very much looking forward to seeing that sign again. Back on the main trail, hit the 64th street aid station again, banana and gatorade (I should not that GUs and Chomps have been consumed while on the trails, I don't remember exactly at which points, I was trying to space them between stops at the aid stations). Also refilled my water bottles, it was getting really hot out. Back through the sand to the turnaround just before the start/finish line. There was a small table with water and gatorade here as well (not a full aid station), so I grabbed another cup and then went to work on the second lap.
Second lap: My original plan was to take the first lap easy and then see how I felt and step it up if I felt good. I did still feel strong, but decided to not push it with the heat, so I maintained my current effort. Grabbed some more gatorade at the 64th street station and headed up the main trail. By now the crowd had thinned out considerably, I think there were a lot of people who either went out too fast, or underestimated the heat. I cruised with a couple of local guys for a while, but they were going a little faster than I wanted to maintain, so I dropped back a bit. I spent most of the rest of the race by myself, there were a couple of points where I actually started to wonder if I had gotten lost. lol But the trail was well marked with streamers, so I knew I was good to go. Headed off down the first side trail, being careful to watch my feet, since I was starting to feel the affects of 20 miles in the heat. The race leaders zipped by me along this portion, on their way back to the finish, they finished in 3:34, 3:39 and 3:40. I still had a good ways to go, but I was feeling good. Back on the main trail, up to the second aid station, more gatorade, refilled my water bottles, and another banana (I eyed some of the other food they had, but I was feeling good, and so was my stomach, so I decided not to push it). Back off onto my favorite loop of the course, altho, it's not as much fun when your legs are fatigued. At mile 23 I fell down, I know that it was exactly at mile 23, because my watched beeped, I glanced at it, and as soon as I took my eyes off the trail, I tripped. Wasn't much of a fall tho, just hit the dirt on my hands and knees, no cuts and I didn't land on anything hard, so that's good. Brushed myself off and scolded myself for taking my eyes off the trail when I know I'm tired. Made sure to stay focused for the rest of the loop. When I got back to the aid station at the main trail, I ran into a couple of friends, one who was volunteering, the other who was riding her bike around taking pictures and crewing for her husband (she took the pics below). She asked me how I was doing, and if I needed anything, I told her I was doing good, drank some gatorade and headed off on my way to the finish. As I turned onto the last loop of the first side trail (make sense?), I felt a small surge, because I knew I was coming up on the marathon sign and would soon be running the farthest I had ever run before (I had already surpassed my longest time on my feet back on the main trail, eclipsing the 3:32 that I had spent running 26.25 miles last December on my long run gone wild). I won't lie, I let out a big yell when I passed that sign, it was a great feeling. Finished the loop and got back on the main trail. I had been running about the last 7 miles or so completely alone, passing people going the other way here and there, but no one headed my way in sight. When I got back on the main trail, I spotted the two guys who I had run with for a bit earlier in the race, but who were running faster than I wanted to go. I was slowing reeling them in, I thought cool, I'll finish out the race with these guys and at least it won't feel so lonely. As I was approaching them, maybe 50 yards out, they started walking, so I just went past and gave them a thumbs up and offered some encouragement. I stopped at the last aid station, refilled my water bottles (even tho there was less than two miles left, I figured might as well), grabbed what I thought was a cup of gatorade, turned out to be ginger ale, after a brief moment of shock, decided I didn't care and drank it anyway. Then I was off to the finish. Coming up to where the turnaround point was, there was a big crowd cheering me on through to the finish, back on the pavement for about 100 yards and I'd be done. I didn't realize until I hit the pavement that there was someone behind me, he must have caught up to me somewhere after the last aid station. Upon hearing his footsteps behind me, I couldn't help it, I gave a lil kick and pushed through to the finish with him just a couple of seconds behind me. I gave him a well deserved high five after clearing the mats.
Post race: I received my finisher's medal, and headed over to get some gatorade and food. I drank some gatorade and grabbed a banana. As I was getting ready to eat the banana, I started feeling light headed, and then couldn't eat. I think I stared at the banana for a solid minute, trying to will myself to take a bite, and just couldn't. I sat down for few minutes, feeling like I was going to puke. After I decided I wasn't going to puke, I stood up and walked around for a lil bit, still feeling very much out of it. I walked to my car and called my wife, she said I sounded very weird on the phone. I knew that I had to eat and drink and that I was probably dehydrated and my electrolytes were a bit out of whack. I finally managed to get a few bottles of water and some pretzels in me, started feeling better and headed home. After a shower and a big plate of pasta, I was feeling much better. Looking back, even tho I felt strong the whole race, I think I still could have fueled/hydrated a lil better, and probably should have taken some sort of electrolyte tablets with the heat. I also learned that I will not drive myself to any race longer than a half marathon. I thought my legs were going to cramp up the entire way home. Oh, forgot to mention, for probably the last 4 miles of the race, I had a slight cramping feeling in both inner thighs, I was able to push through it, but I think it probably had to do with my hydration/electrolytes, since I have never experienced any kind of cramping before.
Overall, I could not be happier with my performance. I had a great time, and learned a couple of things. Looking forward to seeing what I can do at this race next year with more training and hopefully cooler weather. I'm actually feeling pretty good today, definitely sore, but not completely trashed, I can walk up and down the stairs like a normal person and will go out for a few super easy recovery miles in the morning.
Me just before the race, not sure what I'm doing with my hands in this pic lol
Getting ready to hit the main trail on the first loop, feeling good.
Coming off the first side trail, on the first lap of the race.
I'm not in this pic, but it's a shot of the second aid station, right behind the big tree is the entrance to the upper loop of the course (where I fell lol).
Best sign ever!
Shirt, bib and finisher's medal.
I realized that my description of the course sounds a little confusing, so if anyone is interested, here's a map of course:
My running blog
Goals | sub-18 5k | sub-3 marathon
Congratulations - sounds like a strong performance.
It's a 5k. It hurt like hell...then I tried to pick it up. The end.
old woman w/hobby
Congratulations! Nice pictures too.
Thanks AP! I'm very happy with my performance, I think I held back enough to still feel like I put forth a decent effort, but not completely destroy myself for the rest of my marathon training. Two days out now and I'm only slightly more sore than I would be after a normal long run. I figure my speed work this week might be affected a little, but I'll still get my mileage in.
Thanks Steph! I need to take a camera with me out there one day, it's even better when you get away from the main trail, groves of cypress trees and spanish moss hanging everywhere, love it.
Congratulations on your first ultra!
The small table at the turnaround point eventually became an aid station, but it must have been after you made the turn (sandwiches, bagels, bananas, etc. showed up on a second table in addition to the Gatorade and water). I volunteered there from about 11 a.m. on and got to see a lot of runners come through.
I think our idea was the same: volunteer for the race this year and get a feel for whether it would be a good one to do next year.
Thanks pcaharrier! Thank you for volunteering! I tried to thank everyone, but after a race I always feel like I didn't thank the volunteers enough, they make any race.