20 hours ago
Sunday, May 11, 2014
Doing It By Memory
"Sometimes distance running is as effortless as floating. Other times it's like giving birth" - Katie Arnold, ultrarunner
Surprisingly, mostly to myself, I managed to run another ultra a week ago, completing the Run For Kids 50k at Oak Mt. I meant to post this at least 5-6 days ago, but I was mired in a much too unfamiliar bout with bronchitis. More on that later. Ok, back to this 50k thing. Now, don't get me wrong, I wasn't blazing it and my only goal was to finish the daggum thing in fairly good shape. The RFK50 is run on what I affectionately call the "Sissy Trail". Oak Mt can have some significant long mother climbs that seem to go on forever at about a 15% grade, but this 3.3 mile loop has about 90' of elevation each loop. Just some constant PUDS (Pointless Ups & Downs). On those tougher runs with those long mother hills, the walking sections are pretty much determined for you..."I've got to walk this hill"..."I've got to walk. There's a hill coming up"..."I see a hill way out there. Think I'll walk now". But, on the Sissy Trail, you're reduced to walking when you get the first wave of fatigue (or the first wave of imagined fatigue). Without it being set out before you, it's damn embarrassing to walk a piddly incline that's barely more than you'd see on a residential driveway. But, there it is.
So, this run is basically 10 loops through the woods, which to some sounds incredibly boring. But, if you set your head right, it really is quite pleasant. The main (and only) aid station is never far away. You really don't have to carry anything at all. I chose to carry a water bottle because I always train on the trail with one and would feel positively nekked without it. By the 6th loop or so, you pretty much have every rock and root memorized and know how far it is from here to there. That makes it cozy mentally. It's pretty impossible to get lost...Well, almost, as Moha, my invaluable running partner, actually ran off course during the 8th loop. If I wasn't right behind him, he would have merrily ran his way into the next county.
I'm not going to give a loop-by-loop account of this race, because that WOULD be incredibly boring. But, here are some of my observations from last weekend:
I've gotten extremely slow in doing these runs, but it's amazing how satisfied I feel that I'm doing them. I think I said to Moha during the race "Why do I feel so good about doing these when we suck so bad?". Actually, the only thing that sucks is my speed when I compare it Days of Yonder. But, that shouldn't come as any surprise...I'm a hundred years old, I've got two ankles out of warranty, and most of all, for the past three years, I've only averaged about 25 miles a week in training. But, I find great delight (and surprise) that I can slowly cruise through 31 miles where I'm not really going THAT much slower at the end than I am at the start. So, with all this, I guess you can pretty much do this by memory as long as you have a good base and don't expect more out your body than is realistic. I really think the most important part of trail running is that most races are going to have some steep hills in them, so you better train on the hills. I think this is more important than putting in God-awful mile upon mile for hour upon hour.
My nutrition during this run was pretty straight forward. Up until about mile 25, I drank strictly water, and had one Peanut Butter Gu each loop. I used to be Gatorade junkie, but the more I read about hydration, it seems that there are better ways to get electrolytes in you than Sugar Water. I carry some Nuun tablets with me if I feel my electrolytes are tanking, but I didn't use any in this race. You just add these to your water bottle and are purely electrolytes. The last two trips through the aid station, I drank Coke (I know, the Ultimate Sugar Water), which I wish was de-fizzed, and a bite of great Ham & Cheese wraps (plus the Gu). As I do more of these runs (this was #141 over 3+ decades), I seem to have discovered Coke, both as a late-in-the-race drink and as a go-to drink immediately after the run. I'm not saying Coke as a brand name, but as a generic sugary soft drink. Anybody else find that this really works quick to pick you up? Guess it doesn't matter if it's in my head or not, but I'm convinced it helps, so I'll keep it up until I crash on it someday and then I'll find another miracle.
Friends are invaluable. I've posted many times about my runs with Moha. We run basically the same pace, fatigue at the same points, argue enough about everything and love the game of European Soccer. We basically have a good time for a whole day in the woods every time we run. But, in addition, on a course like this, we are constantly being passed by the front runners. This race also had a 12 Hour Run going on, but unless you saw the color of their bib (which is pinned on the front, making it hard to see when they come screaming on you from behind), you mostly didn't know what race they were in. But, I will say that, without a doubt, every runner that passed always had a friendly word to say, be it encouragement, friendliness, or concern (as in "Are you OK? You're moving mighty slow"). When you finish the race, the leaders are on their 3rd beers, but they still take the time to clap and offer a genuine form of "Good Job". It seems like at the end of most races up to the marathon, the first question other runners ask you is "What was your time?", but honestly, when you finish one of these, time just doesn't seem that important. A hand shake, a fist bump, or a good ol' slap on the back is what you want and it's what you get. Yes, friends are invaluable.
Usually, I recover pretty quickly from these runs, but this has been a little different. The weekend before the race, somehow, my Superhuman immune system allowed it to be taken over by some alien strain of bronchitis, stopping my running for a week...Crazy tapering! So, I reluctantly made a trip to Dr. Doc-in-the -Box, got a shot and anti-biotics and was able use smoke and mirrors and finish the 31 miles through the forest. Can we all say relapse? I wasn't as sick, but these coughing attacks brought about by what feels like a hairball of feathers in my throat is driving me nuts. I went out for something this morning for 8 miles, but it sure wasn't what I call a run. Holy cow! I felt like I was in the last stage of a stress test. Oh well, I've got two weeks before my next race. The Crazy Taper continues.
Ok, finally, a word of praise for a couple of fellow BUTS (Birmingham Ultra Trail Society) buddies. 100% of the proceeds of this race went to Camp Smile-a-Mile, an Alabama camp for children with cancer. Donna Arrington, still coming back from foot surgery, raised over $2000 doing over 54 miles in the 12 Hour Run. Great job Donna. And then there's Suman. Surely you remember him from a few posts ago...he's the one that bumped UP from 50 miles to the 100 miles at the Lake Martin Ultras the night before and finished his 1st hundred miler in 25 hours! Well, he did it again...get this...bumping up from the 10k to the 12 Hour the day before. He did 60.5 miles! I saw him this morning and he sounded like the 60.5 miles pretty much did him instead of the other way around. Quite a string of performances Suman. He swears he's cutting back for a while...yeah, right!
Ok, and now I have to figure out the antidote to this Kryptonite poisoning and get my Superhuman powers back. Until next time, welcome the warm weather, run smooth, force fluids, and be sure to wash your hands.
I'll see you on the roads and trails - Al
"One child lost is too many...One child saved can change the world"