What a tough race!  I haven’t decided if it was the heat that drained me, that I was running harder than normal or a mixture of both.  While I didn’t hit my 5:30 goal, I did end up with a pretty nice PR that I am very happy with.

I took it easy Friday night.  I ate a bunch of food and got all of my things together:

After a minor panic from not being able to find my water bottle, I had everything together and ready to go.  Two pairs of shoes, workout shakes, pb&j’s, GU, Beer, Band aids, etc., etc.  Everything was together, and I took my ZMA and went to bed.

I woke up at around 4;30am ready to go.  I was pretty excited. I made a cup of coffee, grabbed my ipad and looked over news and the social interwebs.  I got all dressed, lubed up and headed out at around 5:30am.  I got to Stanky Creek around 6am on the button.  I parked, chatted with my friend Ying and picked up my packet (I didn’t feel like driving down the day before to get it).  I got my bib, #424.

There were 44 men signed up to run the 50K.  Some of them I knew, and I knew that there were a couple of really fast guys running.  I had spent some time looking at the results from last year, and was surprised to see that if I actually hit my goal of 5:30 (according to last year’s results) I’d be in the top 10.  That fact had got me to wondering what was so hard about this race.  Why weren’t there more sub-6 hour times?  I realized that this was the first ultra I will have done that was not in the winter time.  Perhaps the temperature difference is a pretty big deal.  Up to this point, I’ve only ran races in sub-70 degree weather…

My friend Brian Swanson was to run his first 50K today, and was the reason I signed up for this race.  His wife was going to “crew” for us, watching all of our bags, coolers, and just be there for general support after each loop.  This was VERY cool.  I loved having people just to run my mouth with while refueling or restocking on GU, changing shoes, etc.  I found Brian’s car and brought all of my stuff over to where they were parked.  There were several other Journeymen hanging around and running the race, so I walked around for a bit and socialized.  My friend Charles (fast guy in my age group) was signed up to run this race, but I noticed he was wearing jeans and a t-shirt.  He told me he had passed out a during a run a couple days before and was sitting this one out.  This was good news for me having one less fast guy in my age group, but it really sucked because I was looking forward to racing with him.  Local running celebrity/endurance athlete Kevin Leathers was running also, and I got to chat with him for a minute as well.  He had just finished running Leadville and asked him a little bit about that.  Long story short, he said, “if you can do a 50 Miler you can do a 100.”  Hearing that from someone like him gives me a bit more confidence about trying it in 2014.

After chatting with everyone for a little bit, I went back over to Brian’s car and we started to make our way over to the staring line.  As I approached the starting line, I saw my coach waiting there!  This was awesome!

It’s nice seeing him there because I feel like we’re a team working together to achieve my goals.  It’s cool just to say, ok, here I go.  We’re gonna test what we’ve been doing.  It also give me an extra bit of motivation knowing that my coach cared enough to show up at the race.  Pretty awesome!  Thanks, Mike.

At the starting line:

I was pretty fired up when we started.  The course is one 1.5 mile loop and four 7.45 mile loops.  I was with the fast guys on the 1.5 loop and realized I needed to back down.  After the first 1.5 mile loop we headed into the first 7.45 loop.  I found what I thought was a comfortable pace and ended up with a group of about 4 or 5 guys for most of the first 7.45 mile loop.  The guy behind me asked me about Crossfit.  He saw that I was wearing a t-shirt that said “Mo Fit” and assumed I was a crossfitter.  Haha.  We talked a bit about that, and the guy behind him talked about how he use to be a bodybuilder and was on steroids.  I listened to them talk for a while, and then stepped aside and let them all pass.  Although I felt good, I felt that I was running too fast at this point.  If you think you’re running too fast at the beginning of a long run like this, you probably are running way too fast.  So I slowed down and moved back a bit.  The bad thing about this was that I was now by myself.  Not as bad as being by myself at Ouachita, but still a little boring.  I talk to myself a lot, but that gets kind of old.

I came out of the first 7.45 mile loop about 15 minutes ahead of the schedule that I knew I needed to make in order to finish in 5:30.  I was kind of talking to myself and whoever was around, but I said, “I’m ahead of schedule and need to slow down.”  I grabbed half a PB&J, some GU and took off into my second loop.  About 3/4 of the way through the first big loop I decided I wanted to ditch the shoes I was wearing because my feet were hurting.  However, I forgot to change shoes at this stop.  No big deal, I’ll change after this loop.  The second big loop was much harder than I expected it to be.  Luckily there was an aid station at about the halfway point of the big loop.  So, basically you ran about 4 miles, got to an aid station, then ran another four to the parking lot.  Nearing the end of the second loop I had joined up with a couple of other guys running.  We talked a bit, and I remember telling the guy behind me that this loop was way harder than I expected.  My feet were killing me.  The Inov8 X-Talons were just not enough for me.

I came out of the second loop, and Brian’s wife Carol asked me “How are you feeling?”  I said, “Oh, I feel like I’m about half way done.”  At this point I was noticing the heat.  It really wasn’t that hot, it was about 80 degrees and sunny but I was really feeling hot and worn down.  Maybe I wasn’t taking enough S!Caps.  I had my first workout shake, changed shoes and headed off into my 3rd big loop.

I immediately noticed a difference and was glad I changed my shoes.  My feet felt much better, I felt much better after the shake, but it wasn’t long before the voices set in.  The toes in my left foot were hurting, and my right quad was screaming at me.  It hurt so bad that I was wondering if I’d finish this race.  I then realized that because it was hot, I was sweating a lot more than usual.  I popped another S!Cap and it wasn’t long before the quad started feeling better.  I was hot, and at a few points felt like I just needed to throw up and things would be better.  Maybe I ate too much GU or took too many S!Caps, but I was HOT and uncomfortable.  It seemed like forever before I got back to the parking lot after the 3rd big loop.

I was miserable and hot.  At this point I had taken my t-shirt off because it was soaking wet. “Let’s get this shit over with,” I said as I grabbed my Journeymen jersey and took off on my final loop.  There was an old blue bicycle laying in the woods about a mile before the aid station, and as I started the last loop I was looking for that stupid bicycle.  I knew that if I could just get to that bicycle I’d be at the aid station soon and could get some ice and cool myself down.  At this point I was “walking hills and running flats.”  That’s what I kept telling myself.  Walk the hills and run the flats until you get to this stupid aid station.  I finally came to the bicycle.  Yes! just a few more minutes and I’ll be at the aid station and will have just 4 miles left to finish this thing.  At the aid station I just wanted ice and water.  I felt like I was going to puke, so I didn’t want any food.  I just drank a ton of water and was rubbing ice on my neck  and head.  It was now 12:15pm and I had 4 miles to go.  Obviously I was not going to make my 5:30 time because I would need to finish in 15 minutes.  I took off to run the last 4 miles of this race.  I needed to finish this 4 mile distance in 45 minutes or I would not even beat my last Sylamore time!  I honestly did not think I was going to make it.

It’s funny how at the end of an Ultra Marathon 2 minutes can seem like 20 minutes.   I must have zoned out and found a happy place or something because it wasn’t long before I heard someone yelling, “Von, is that you?”  My friends Adam and Becky were waiting to cheer me on at the last 1/4 mile of the race.  I was SO excited to see them.  I looked at my watch and realized that I was going to finish sub 6 hours!!  I ran a little bit more, and saw my daughter and son standing on the trail just ahead of me!!  Yay!   This would be a PR after all!!  Just like at the last Ouachita, my son was running along side of me as I came to the finish line.  That’s a great feeling, seeing your wife and kids at the finish line waiting for you.  Pretty cool.

I learned a lot from this race.  I don’t think I need as much GU as I think I do, and I need more S!Caps than I think I need.  Especially in the hotter weather when I’m sweating more.  There were  couple of times mid-race where my right quad was killing me, and the S!Caps really helped out with that.  This race took a lot out of me, and I’m convinced  that if it was 50 degrees outside instead of 80 I would have made my 5:30 goal.  All in all it was a great race, and another PR.  You can never complain about getting better…

Lift Heavy Run Long,


UPDATE: Results are Posted!!  15th Place overall. http://www.runacrossamericaontrail.com/Bartlett_Park_Ultras_files/Bartlett%20Park%20Results%202012.xls