Next up – Jemez 50 Miler
But first, a look back at what I learned at Fruita. Most of this text comes from an email exchange with my friend Kirk. I owe a big thanks to him for getting me to do some more critical thinking about my run in the desert.
1st half of the race –
I give myself pretty high marks here. One of my biggest downfalls in the past has been going out too hard. After running with both Kirk and Sandy at different points in the first 25 miles, I pulled back and forced myself to stay at my own pace even though I wanted to continue with them. That is a major step for me. I was hopeful I would be able to pick up the pace later, but willing to live with it if it just wasn’t happening.
The only regret I have from the first 25 is not being faster while holding back – if that makes any sense. I was hoping to hit the turnaround at 4:20 or so. Instead it was 4:34. I felt pretty comfortable, it just seemed like the clock was running faster than I was. I look forward to the day when I can run somewhat comfortably and still hit the times I’m looking for!
This is the first ultra that I’ve done using only gels for fuel. I have been training that way, and felt confident in that approach. My mistake was in the frequency. I religiously took one every 30 minutes on the dot. 30-45 or even 60 minutes works fine for me in training. Not so much in the race. Halfway through the race I could feel that 30 minutes was stretching it. That’s around 200-220 calories an hour. I need to revise that to every 20-25 minutes to keep things running smoothly in a ultra-length race. I had only carried enough gels to support the every 30 minute approach and I don’t really care for the Hammer gels offered by the race.
I probably should have ‘grazed’ a bit at Crossroads and Moore Fun aid stations, but just wasn’t interested. Minimizing AS time is great, but not at the expense of feeling good. Still trying to find a balance there.
Low marks. Especially for the second half of the race. I’m not sure why I struggle to drink enough, but it has dogged me through several races. I’ll be dehydrated, yet running along with two full bottles in my pack… I think a single bottle waist pack plus a handheld will be probably be the best combo for me. At least carrying the bottle in my hand makes me think about drinking more often. I was down 7 pounds the next morning, even after eating and drinking lots the night before while driving home after the race.
One S!cap on the hour. Like the calories, okay for training, probably not enough for trying to race an ultra. I should probably take one every 40 minutes +/-. Had slight hints of hamstring cramps once in a while, but fared much better than I have in most other races. My ziplock bag ended up splitting at the seam and I dropped a few caps without knowing it. I ended up short and took my last one with about 3 hours to go. I grabbed a couple of Endurolytes at Crossroads, but they’re no match for an S!cap IMO.
This was my number 1 performance killer. I don’t want to be whiny about it – I’ve run with blisters plenty of times. They suck, but can be endured for the most part. I ended up with 6 total, plus a detached toenail. 5 blisters and the toenail would have been fine. The one blister (right in the center of my left forefoot) was off the charts. There was some sort of fissure that formed in the crease of my foot there that felt like raw nerve endings were exposed. A much more intense sensation than just the normal skin friction and hot spot feeling. Even after 10 days I was still walking with a limp.
For my training runs I was gritting my teeth for the first couple of miles, waiting until it gets slightly more tolerable. I just looked at my logs, and the Cascadia 3’s I have been using this year are the 9th different make/model of trail shoe that I’ve tried in the 1.5 years I’ve been running. I really thought I had finally found my shoe – and still have hope that I did. They worked perfectly at the Psycho Wyco 50k and Salida, my feet were 100% in both races. I think the difference is that these shoes are just slightly roomy for me and I was wearing thicker socks in the earlier events. For Fruita I went with a very thin Smartwool and I think it ultimately let my foot slide around way too much despite me trying to account for it with my laces. I had thicker socks in my drop bag @ 25, but didn’t even think about them in my attempt to reload with gels and get out of there.
I’ve also been dealing with a foot injury left over from my 100 miler last year. Normal running doesn’t bother it at all, but when I step on a rock or uneven surface with the outside of my right foot it sends a lightning bolt of pain just below my ankle. It dissipates after a few steps, but takes its toll after a while on a course like Fruita – where I nailed it about 500 times.
pushing too hard when feeling good –
I definitely fell victim to this, as I’m prone to do. I have the running-while-feeling-bad part down cold. It’s running-smart-while-feeling-good that is the challenge. Actually, I had run the kind of race up to 35 coming back through Troy Built that I thought I could start winding it up steadily and keep building the pace all the way to the finish. I think the blister and foot issues that I had been dealing with for 25 miles by that point ultimately shut me down. Living with the pain and discomfort is one thing, but the way it caused me to alter my stride and the way I subsequently ran with tons of tension in my body and my torso sort of twisted away from center is what hurt me the most. By the flat section after Crossroads where I should have been cruising, I was running with a stiff and jagged gait just trying to escape the pain. Stopping to address the blister didn’t have much appeal. The damage was done, and with the location on my foot – there wasn’t much to do about it anyway.
The way I’ve recovered leg-wise, and how I’ve felt in training after Fruita have given me confidence that my training was good and I’m on the right track as far as that goes. I still have days that aren’t great, but for the most part have bounced back quickly.
Now the Jemez plan:
Go easy for 35 miles, then run strong from there to the finish. That’s it in a nutshell.
Success will be measured in how well I execute my plan, and how well I implement the things I have learned in my previous races, plus following the instructions from Coach Karl. Finish time and placing are not even on the radar. This is practice, and I’m actually looking forward to it. I want to approach it by giving myself enough slack as far as ‘racing’ goes that I can really concentrate on how to run a good race. Just showing up and running as fast as you can for as long as you can doesn’t work very well in these kinds of events. I know that for a fact…
Before I can start worrying more about speed, I need to get the basics down a lot better. I’m making good improvement in that area, and am hoping to have things pretty well dialed in after this race.
I’m looking at this as a chance for a Leadville dress rehearsal. Run well within my limits and stay on top of the critical areas of fuel, hydration, electrolytes, and foot care. I want to start picking up speed with 15 miles to go and finish strong, but still relatively fresh.
It will be critical for me to keep things under control pace-wise so my recovery period after the race stays short and I am able to quickly resume training towards my bigger goals in the summer. Training is on the upswing lately and I don’t want to derail that with an extended recovery, or forced layoff.
photo credits: Steve Pero
Thankfully my blister is healed. Karl gave me the heads-up on some stuff called Aquaphor. It’s kind of like Vaseline, only more oriented towards actually healing the affected area. 3x/day for 3 days and I was set free from the pain – yes! That stuff rocks!
I’m going with my trusty 2 bottle Nathan pack. I still think a handheld + a single bottle pack may be the best combo for me, but I haven’t been training that way so don’t want to go to it just yet. I will try very hard to stay hydrated. I think my overall slower pace and approach to this race will be a big help in that area. I will also take a little more time at the aid stations and try to consume some additional fluids there.
Stay tuned to hear how all of this works out!