Sometimes an event happens that causes you to refocus, seriously evaluate your situation, look at what you’ve been doing and make adjustments to achieve your goals. Not everyone is smart enough or humble enough to recognize when these events occur though. If you are lucky and humble enough to recognize these events, then you have achieved…RECALIBRATIONALISM!™ (That’s right, we’re making up new words!) This weekend’s 50K was that sort of event for me. Finishing with a time of 6:38 was not a failure but it was not a PR either. This time was better than the first year, but not as good as last year. However, I feel like I walked away from this race more enlightened and focused than any other race I’ve ran. I feel different, humbled, beaten up, wounded, awesome, and more focused than ever. I’ve had some really great success over the last 3 years, and I’m incredibly proud of myself. However, if I want a 5:30 50K, a 10:30 50 Miler, a sub 24 hour 100, a 350 lb back squat, etc., etc. I need to step things up. I need to make sure my diet is dialed in. I need to make sure I spend time working out a nutrition plan for long races. I need to make sure I work on running skills and drills. I need to make sure I’m putting 100% into my training. Recalibrationalism!™ Let’s do this!
My in-laws have a lakehouse in Moutain Home, AR that’s about an hour away from where this race starts. I’ve been saying for the last two years that I’m just going to stay there instead of paying for a place near the starting line. This year I did it. Turns out, I’m glad I did because they sold the place and this ended up being our last trip up there. We drove up on Friday morning, gathered some firewood and built a fire:
I’m really going to miss this place. We hung out and ate some pizza, had a couple beers and went to bed. I had to get up at 4 am to get ready and leave by 4:45 to get to the starting line by 6 am. I woke up, made coffee, got all my gear together, got dressed and headed out.
I arrived at the starting line right at 6 am, maybe a little before. There weren’t a whole lot of people. I had my friend Shawn pick up my bib and sweatshirt for me the night before so I was just waiting on him to get there. Once I found his truck I sat with him, talked for a little bit and pinned my bib to my shorts. Number 33. Shawn was 32. We talked for a minute about how cold it was (about 24 degrees) and noticed that there were some snow flurries flying around. That creek crossing was gonna be cold! More people started showing up, and it was time to get out and mingle a little bit.
There were a ton of people there from Memphis. We all got grouped together for a photo opportunity, and then we moved to the starting line…
That’s me on the left front there in the black hat.
The goal for this race was to finish in 5:30. Last year Shawn and I finished in 6:03, and he convinced me that we could get to 5:30. It wasn’t that big of a stretch really. At least I didn’t think so.
I didn’t anticipate the sickness though. In the weeks leading up to this race, my Son and my oldest Daughter both had the flu. Not only that, but just about everyone that I work with was sick at the office. Wandering around coughing on everything. The odds that I would end up at this race 100% healthy weren’t looking too good. The week before the race, I started to feel it. Congestion, sore throat, all of that good stuff. Race week normally consists of Back Squats and some interval runs. I did nothing all week. I was focused on drinking water, eating and just trying to get better. By the time the race got here, I felt a lot better but I just wasn’t 100% and I knew it. I remained positive though and went after it. This is lesson number 1: If you aren’t perfectly healthy, you can’t expect to end up with a PR. It’s just not likely to happen. Not that I shouldn’t have ran the race, I just shouldn’t have expected to run it 30 minutes faster than last year!
The race started and we took off. Shawn and I were near the front running at a pretty good clip. The first creek crossing is about 1.1 miles into the race, and our strategy was to get to the creek as soon as we could so that we wouldn’t get jammed up behind a lot of other people. This would give us a good start on the run. Well, Shawn was moving really fast, and I didn’t feel like I should try to keep up with him. I wanted to run 10:37 miles and he just seemed to be ready to run much faster. I stayed back, ran my race and let him run his. It sucked to not have a partner, but that’s the way it is sometimes. Sometimes you just have to spend some alone time in the woods!
I had my GPS watch, and it was reporting somewhere between 10 and 11 minute miles with an average of about 11:05. By the time I got to the second aid station (about 10 miles in) I was feeling pretty tired which is not normal. None of the food looked good. I tried eating a PB and J, but it just wasn’t working for me. I filled my bottle and left eating a GU. Another 5 miles and I ate a GU just before hitting the turn around. I didn’t want to look to see what time it was because I was smoked and I knew it wasn’t going to be what I wanted it to be. I felt really tired. I figured I just needed to eat something, so I got a big cup of chicken noodle soup, ate some pickles, and headed back out. I looked at my watch and it was 10:00. 3 hours after the race start. I knew at this point that the best I could hope for was 6 hours, and I’d have to really work hard and find some energy to make that happen. I pressed on while eating my soup. Halfway there.
The next aid station is around mile 20. About half a mile from the aid station my left calf started seizing up really bad. Bad enough that I was worried that I’d have to walk for a while. That really pissed me off. When I got to the aid station, I could barely walk it hurt so bad. I looked down at my calf and it was quivering really bad. It looked like there was a little alien under my skin crawling around. This was a new one on me. I massaged it a little bit, asked for some chicken broth and swallowed a bunch of salt. By this time I am just angry and discouraged. I should have brought some S!Caps with me. I don’t know why I didn’t. I should have been taking them regularly and maybe this wouldn’t have happened. I kept moving and my calf quickly started to feel better. Lesson number 2: S!Caps are essential. I need to make sure I have them on hand at every race. I need a nutrition plan and I need to stick with it no matter what. Every time. Just GU and Water isn’t enough. For me anyway.
At this point I’m in that “just-keep-moving-forward” mode. I ran into a guy I knew and he asked me why I was bleeding. I said, “I’m not bleeding, what do you mean?” I looked down and my legs were all bloody. I had no idea how they had gotten that way. I guess there were some thorny vines I tangled with and didn’t realize they had cut me up. It didn’t hurt, so I wasn’t worried about it.
I finally made it to the last aid station. 5 more miles to go. I had some more chicken broth and salt, and headed out. I wanted to get to that cold creek so bad. I couldn’t wait to submerge myself in that ice cold water. By this time I had caught up with another runner, and was grateful to have someone to talk to in order to take my mind off the run. I was firmly in the “Walk the hills, run the flats” mode now. Taking it one mile at a time. Honestly, I didn’t feel that bad, I just didn’t have any energy. My legs didn’t want to move. My body wanted to stop. I pressed on and eventually got to the creek!
I can’t tell you how good it felt to get in that water. It was 30 degrees outside and no telling how cold that water was, but it felt great. As soon as I got out of the water on the other side of the creek, bam! My calf started locking up again. WTF?!? I just wanted to be done with this race already! Only one mile left. I hobbled up the last hill and out to the street to finish the race. Once I got to the top of the hill, my calf had stopped screaming at me and I was able to run it in to the finish line. 6:38 was what the clock had to tell me.
At least I made it. That was a tough race. Mentally and Physically. Two years before I had finished at 6:42, and last year 6:03. I wasn’t upset at all about this. After all, it’s another 50K completed and another great time had with friends. Here are Shawn and I at the end again this year:
And another one with the whole Journeymen team:
Good times! On the drive back to the lake house, I thought a lot about training and how this race went. I was doing longer runs on Saturdays about 2 months out from the race, but I didn’t really add in the other running work I needed to add in until about a month out. I really should have started the running workouts sooner. I can’t expect to continue to chalk up PR’s when I’m not focusing on running skills and drills and my running workouts during the week like I need to be. Look, 6:38 is not a bad 50K time by any means. However, if I seriously want to get past that 5:30 mark then I need to ratchet up the training, focus more on nutrition, and really make the endurance training part of my routine all year, not just when a race is approaching. That’s the way this competition/fitness/athlete thing works. You test yourself, see what happens, and then…Recalibrationalism!™ You adjust, and get after your goals even harder than you did before.
It’s vacation time for me now. We’re taking our annual trip to Disney World, and then I’ll be back to training! I can’t wait to get after it. See you in a couple weeks…
Lift Heavy Run Long,