Jun 6, 2010

The DC/VA North Face Endurance 50 mile Run

  • Chip time: 9:36:02  Gun time: 9:36:20
  • First ultramarathon
  • Yucky weather: hot & humid
  • Beautiful but torturous course 
  • Multiple gear malfunction

My first official ultra is in the books. My expectations from this run was rather low since I was dealing with a lot of unknowns but I was surprised!

Pre-race (Friday)
Having picked up my packet from DC on Thursday, I checked in to my hotel in Sterling, VA on Friday. Everything went as planned. I spent most of Friday resting and eating. And I ate a lot! Two bowls of spaghetti, four large oatmeal raisin cookies (from Au Bon Pain), three bananas, and an apple cinnamon scone. I also drank two gallons of water.

Travel to this race was entirely on public transport and overall spending was around $15 each way.

Race morning
The race started at 5am so I was up by 1am. Pre-race breakfast included three bowls of cereal, a large banana, three tablespoons of peanut butter (recommend the "JIF to-go" packs), and three cups of hot tea.

I had three gear bags containing various stuff I thought would be useful, including a fresh pair of socks but after running the race, I'm convinced that I could have done without them -- I never once used my gear bags. With the gear bags checked in, I milled around the start line around 4:30am meeting & greeting people I had known only through email.

At the start line, I munched on a Clif bar and a banana and drank more water. I never knew I could drink that much! When the time arrived, I lined up and tried to turn on my head-lamp. All I saw a bright flash of light followed by darkness. Damn! This could not have burned out at a better time. After this, I decided to tailgate other runners, which might have worked in my advantage by preventing me from over-pacing in the beginning. But the sight at the starting of the race was nothing like I've seen before. Imagine a long stream of headlamps in the dark, like ants crawling up the terrain. Splendid!

In all this confusion and excitement, I forgot to turn on my Garmin until we had run half a mile or so. But turns out it did not really matter because 1) Garmin sucks on trails and is grossly inaccurate when you've too many sharp turns and 2) Even my 100% charged Garmin ran out of battery around 35 miles in the course. Bah-humbug!

The course itself was pretty. For an urban road runner, this course a treat to the eyes and torture to the legs. The course can be broken down to a long run to a place called Great Falls, and three 7 mile loops at Great Falls, followed by another long run back to the finish line. The loops at Great Falls are crazy with long uphills followed by rocky downhills and the long run to/from Great Falls involves a stream crossing and crossing a muck pit. I managed to somehow dodge the muck on my way to GF but on the way back I landed deep into the muck sinking both my feet and hand in it. Ugh! 

The next aid station from this muddy disaster was around 6-7 miles and I was already running low on water. I was hungry but could not eat the Gu due to low water supply. This was the most grueling and slowest part of my run. A big chunk of my running time was spent on this part. Finally when I reached the aid station, I was so grateful for the supply of fresh water, boiled potatoes and Gatorade. After this fuel replenishment, rest of the 8 mile run (approx estimate without Garmin) was the quickest I did leading to a strong finish. The total time was 9:36, around 30 mins more than my estimate but I am happy that it did not turn out into a disaster.

The finish line festivities included an expo and hot meal (burritos) for runners. I wolfed down two veggie burritos and drank enough water to feel bloated! Overall, it was a fun race. I met new people, and old internet friends. One interesting acquaintance was Ben from France, who ran this year's Boston marathon in 2:58! We had a nice chat about training methods, French, and a lot of random things. After I crossed the finish line I tried to find him but only saw him cross the finish line two hours later. It's interesting that speed training for a marathon does not translate to longer distances and vice versa -- I can never get close to that marathon time with my current training. I also met several ultra veterans and got some nice conversation along the way. It was both an enlightening and a humbling experience that a runner could hope for.

Post-race (Sunday)
After a nice dinner and a good night's sleep yesterday, I feel great & mostly recovered. I should be out on the streets very soon!


Anonymous said...

Nice job

Duran said...

Way to work those miles. I just can't believe the amount of fueling and hydradting you did before hand!

You're totally right about the hill training though... Especially since City of Oaks is going to be a hilly course. Not that I mind. I'd prefer hill running over tempo, over intervals any day.

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