Monday, September 17, 2012

Pisgah 50k

Just a quick post to recap a bit of ultra running.  I feel like I'm finally getting back in the training groove, at least on the trail running side.  I couldn't resist a drive over to the lower left corner of New Hampshire yesterday for a "training run" called the Pisgah 50k.  I ran it last year and really enjoyed the course and the weather.  Similar conditions this year, even better actually with beautiful cool temperatures.  John is studying for a solar exam and couldn't make the drive, maybe next year I'll run it again and he can come along.

Last year I pushed hard right out of the starting gate and did great until the last several miles when my legs started cramping.  My experiment at pushing through the cramps didn't work, and I've since learned that slowing way down or walking is an more effective way of getting them to ease off.  I still don't have a solid understanding of why they happen in the first place, but I'm using the idea that it might be insufficient training as motivation to ramp up the training miles.

I had completely different goals this year.  This was a *training* race in preparation for the fall season.  I intended to go out and enjoy myself, finish up a high mileage week, and get a read on my current condition.  I didn't realize until partway through the race, but it was also great mental training in that I frequently needed to remind myself to "Calm the heck down" (CTFD) which should be great practice for multiple upcoming events.

So the actual experience was fun and lovely and went great.  I took it very easy climbing the hills, especially the steep ones, and let everyone around me go on ahead.  Then I'd let loose on the downhills, fly by many of the same folks, and have a wonderful time letting the course dictate the pace.  The trees were beautiful, the sun was shining but we were mostly covered in shade, and the breezes kept us cool and comfortable.  My legs seem to be getting into better "long run" shape after the rude awakening that was the Vermont 100.

I was completely alone for the loop around the lower ponds between miles 20-25 or so.

I walked into the last manned aid station to find 2 guys and 2 women.  I filled my bottle with water and grabbed a "just in case" gel from the table and walked out ahead of them.  Just a few more miles to the end, and I was really careful to listen to my legs and verify that there would be no repeat of the cramping episode this year.  They seemed to be OK so I was ready for a nice, easy, strolling run to the end.

Yeah, until the women charged past me near the top of the next hill.  Hmm... well, I had to fly by them on the downhill because I had been doing that to everyone all day and didn't see any reason to stop now.  They of course marched by me up the next long hill, but I upped the pace a notch to stay close.  My legs were like "fine, whatever you want" and I had a sudden instinct to chase them down.  I decided I would beat them to the finish even if it came down to a sprint on the road.  Nothing like a good race at the end of a training run!  Plus I was hoping to make up just a little for my pathetic limp-to-the-end from last year.

So I took off down the next hill, passed them, and listened as it seemed I was pulling away.  I knew I would make up time on the downhills, but I figured I might have some stored energy for the flats and uphills too.  Let's find out.  I chased down a couple guys, passed another woman on a long downhill, and worked hard on the short remaining uphills.  My body seemed to be responding well.

Last year I'd spent plenty of time walking/jogging this last section, but I was now chastising my former self for not using that time to frickin' memorize the end of the course.  It was long and I just couldn't remember anything past the last trail intersection.  Another little uphill, a bit of a technical section, around a corner, this and that.  Maybe almost there?  Not yet.

Finally I reached a long, long downhill and I flew down to find the gate and the road at the bottom.  No one right behind me, so far so good.  There was a truck parked in the middle of the road and it seemed someone was trying to keep a couple loose barking dogs at bay.  I went by quickly and didn't stop to check, but was thankful the dogs didn't give chase.

Another long downhill run, this time on a dirt road.  I've done some road training lately, I figured I could hold my own here.  No one around to chase nor run from, but I kept moving quickly.

Then the paved road and the short, steep uphill.  Near the top I finally looked back to an empty road.  Time to calm the heck down again!

I ran it in, feeling so much better than last year.  It was a lot more fun, although my slowest 50k ever  :)

Hope your September weather is as good as ours has been!  Time to get outside and go for another run...

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