Sunday, March 23, 2008
Grasslands Run - 50 Miles
I tried my best to come up with an excuse to not run this race. Why? I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it. My first excuse, I’m undertrained. Since I ran a marathon about 5 weeks ago, my longest run was 14 miles last weekend, and I was beat after that. Nothing I can do about that, either I run or I don’t run. Second, it had rained hard just a few days before the run. This run is near Dallas, and you may have seen the news where flights out of DFW were cancelled because it rained so hard there. I was concerned about this because an experienced ultra runner I know, John, told me he dnf’ed here a few years ago because it was a soupy muddy, sandy mess. He has finished this race, and he said even in dry years the sand is a killer. So I emailed the race director, and here is what she said: “The trails should be in the best shape in the 10 years of the race! We needed the water to tamp down the sand traps. there will be some mud holes, but in general things are looking fabulous, including the weather!” Ok, scratch that excuse. Third, my father went into the hospital Tuesday, and had an operation on Wednesday, his third in less than 6 months. Shouldn’t I stay here and be with him? I knew that one didn’t hold water, he came through the operation in good shape, and he has so many visitors, he’s probably sick of seeing people. Ok, there is really nothing holding me back. So I decide to go ahead and decide to give it a try. I get to Decatur and check in to my hotel. This is a pretty low key run, so I pick up my race number and shirt, it’s nice, and then go to the store to pick up something to eat. March madness is going on, so I just went back to the room, set out everything in order, and then got in bed and watched basketball. I didn’t sleep well with all my thoughts about, can I do this, but just like a marathon, I didn’t worry about the lack of sleep. I got up, drove to the site, deep in the country. I got there about 30 minutes before the start, which I like so I didn’t have to wait around long. It was dark at the start, but I knew it would be light within 20 minutes, so I decided not to take my headlamp with me. We start, and I go real easy. This race is sort of like a cloverleaf, 4 different loops each ending up in the campground. They are approximately 15, 10, 15, and 10 miles each. My goals were in the following order, finish, finish under 12 hours, finish under 10 hours. I started running under a 12 minute/mile pace. I was fortunate to hook up with a young man who had done this race before. He was obviously faster than me, but he and I were together for about 2 loops since he was conserving his energy to run the second two loops a bit harder. He kept telling me; don’t even think about running the hills, especially since this is your first 50 miler. I don’t remember his name, but thanks for your awesome advice. During the first and second loops I had small nagging pains in my knee and calves. But they never got bad and in fact they eased up as I progressed. I did however have quite a few moments when I was thinking, can I do this. You read race reports about the ups and downs in an ultra, but now I really understand that. Loop 1, finished under 3 hours which kept me under a sub 12 min/mile pace. The aide station drink was Succeed which I have never tried. So I committed a running sin and used something I had not used in my training. The reason I did this was, I decided to not use my drop bag, I wanted to save time and to mix up the Sustained Energy I had brought would have added at least 5 minutes to each loop. And the aide stations were so well stocked, I decided I could make the entire race using them and my one bottle filling with Succeed when I needed it. Second loop finished, still under a 12 min/mile pace. Starting to feel fatigue though, and knowing that my pace will slow. I am still able to run however, and for the first time I’m starting to think, I can do this. Loop 3, my pace is now over 12 min/mile but not by much. I know I can’t make a sub 10, but sub 11 is still possible, if I don’t slow down too much. By the way, I lost a little time being lost on loop 3 following a couple of guys who said it was the wrong way. Turns out it was the right way, it just wasn’t marked for about ½ a mile. Probably only lost 7-10 minutes, not a problem. At the beginning of loop 4 the young man who had been my guide caught up to me. What? He had left me during the 2 loop, so I knew something was wrong. He said hello again, and I asked what happened. He said he had gotten lost for over 2 miles and had injured his foot. I could tell he was real bummed out about it and I tried to encourage him. He passed me, but soon was walking again. I passed him, and didn’t see him again. During loop 4 I saw that I might have a shot at 10:30, I tried to keep running but when I’d hit the hills they would take a lot out of me, and I was on the verge of some stomach problems, so I decided not to try to run them. I did still run all the flats and downhills. And I amazed myself by being able to do that. Well folks, I finished in around 10:38. I don’t have my official time but that is what their clock said as I was finishing. My watch said 10:39 so it was somewhere in that area. Results aren’t up yet. I received my finishers buckle, I will post some pictures later, and then went to sit down for a few minutes. I knew I needed to eat and to walk some, but I had to sit down first. After changing my shoes and socks, no problems at all with my feet, I got up and walked around for about 10 minutes. I still had a 3 hour drive back to Oklahoma City, so I got a Bar-B-Q sandwich to go, headed to my car, and headed home. I am so grateful to have been able to finish this race. Grateful that I have no apparent injuries and feel pretty good one day later. Thank you all for taking the time to read this.