*Getting ready to run this race again in February so I thought I’d share last years recap*
7 Days out I did what I call my “confidence run.” Since most of my training consists of Crossfit WODs, I find that it helps boost my confidence to fit in a long run. I got in 20 miles. It was pretty easy. I was trying to keep a pace somewhere between 11 and 12 minutes a mile. I ran the St. Jude Marathon at about an 8:30 pace, and I knew that I was going to have to slow down for the 50k. I also wanted to practice my hydration and eating plan. I took some powerbar protein balls, some gatorade and water with me. This worked out pretty good. I also left a workout shake on my truck, and grabbed that halfway through. At the race, they would have aid stations every 5 miles with food, and I planned on eating at all of them. I did just that.
I woke up at about 5 am on race day. My Wife, Daughter, Son, Mom and Dad all stayed in a cabin about 20 minutes away from where the race started. The sun had not come up yet, but it felt great outside, and I knew it was going to be a great day. I grabbed my hydration belt, workout shake, an apple, a banana, put it all in a cooler and took off. It was still dark when I arrived at Anglers White River Resort, but I parked the car and put my headphones on to begin getting fired up. This is a pre-race ritual of mine. I don’t really fit in at all at these races. I look more like a guy getting ready to PR a dead lift than a guy getting ready to run a race. I’m bouncing up and down, doing Sampson stretches and pacing back and forth. I’m ready to kill somebody. I realize it is going to be a long day, so I put the headphones in the car and went to socialize a little bit.
I had a friend there with some of his teammates, some of which were running the full race and some of which were running the half. My friend introduced me, and I had remembered some of them from a race I had done earlier in the year. These are pretty good runners. The kind that I usually don’t keep up with at a race. We talked for a while, and when asked about what my goal was for this race I just said, “I just want to finish.” It was nearing race time, so I wished them good luck, and headed over to the starting line.
The sun had come up, and it was feeling very nice. I had everything I needed: Gatorade, Gu, Endurolytes, Water, extra pair of socks. I brought the extra socks on advice from Josh Fletcher who said I may want to change after crossing the water. The water crossing was something I had been dreading for the past few months. I had convinced myself that it was going to be horrible, and I needed a plan. I had thought about bringing extra shoes, removing my shoes and socks before crossing, and a hundred other ideas. This morning, I decided to scratch all those ideas and just run through the water and not worry about it. I did take the extra socks though so I could change if I needed to.
The race started. I was dead last. I thought I was running at a pretty good pace, but I was at the very end of the pack. I didn’t let it bother me, and I told myself that I needed to stay where I was and not worry about being last. The runners I was talking to earlier were way in front of me, and I thought to myself that I would never catch those guys. I continued on for a couple of miles until we reached the first water crossing.
The water was freezing, but was only about knee deep and didn’t really bother me at all. In fact, I think it took my mind off the race for a few minutes. After the water crossing, I was stuck behind a group of runners. I hadn’t yet learned that I could just tell them I wanted to pass. We came to this first climb:
Climbing up these stairs, I started wondering what I had gotten myself into. I could run tour de wolf, stanky creek, or on the street in my neighborhood, but if this whole race was like this I may not make it! I continued on with my current pace. Eventually people started letting me pass them, and I learned to just tell people that I wanted by and they would let me by. I was taking my time, and enjoying the views. I had my phone, and took some pictures and video. The first view off the side of the mountain:
It wasn’t long after we crossed the water that we came to this little rock maze thing we had to go through. I had to take a video:
I couldn’t wait to get to the first aid station. Not because I needed it, but because I couldn’t wait to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!! It’s been a while! I finally got there, and I loaded up on brownies, m & m’s and pb & J. I refilled my bottles with gatorade and water and headed out for the next aid station at 10 miles. Here are a couple of videos I took between the first and second aid stations. Obviously I was feeling pretty good:
At the 10 mile aid station, I decided to change my socks. It really felt great to have dry feet (thanks, Josh). I grabbed a couple of pb & j’s and found a picnic table to sit down at. I dried my feet, and put my new, dry socks on. I went over to the food table and grabbed some pb & j’s, an orange, and some peanut butter and crackers and continued running. At this point, I told myself that I was running too slow, and needed to step it up. After the next aid station, I decided that I would just give it all I’ve got. Since it was an out and back, I knew what terrain I was going to encounter, and there was no reason not to go all out on the back half. I came to the aid station at mile 15, grabbed some food, filled up my bottles and began my run back to the finish line. Here’s a video I took around mile 16 or 17:
It was at this point that I started passing people. It felt great. “Passing on your left,” I would say. Every time I said that it was like a burst of energy passed through me. I was feeling great, but my knees were starting to ache. I eventually got to the aid station at mile 20. I was grabbing a handful of pretzels when the guy working the aid station said, “you want some of this hot chicken broth?” I remembered Josh writing about how great it made him feel so I took him up on his offer. I took off with my cup of broth and handful of pb & j to attack my last 10 miles.
“You just have to go 5 miles then you can eat another brownie or something,” I told myself. I don’t know if there was any Jack3d in that chicken broth or not, but it sure felt like it. I was gone! I was moving faster than I had the whole race. “Passing on your left,” I would say without missing a beat and ran right past people. This was totally opposite of the St. Jude Marathon when I pretty much gassed out at mile 19. Instead I was fired up!
As I approached the last aid station at mile 25 I saw the runners I had met before the race leaving the aid station and continuing their run. “It’s on now,” I told myself, “you better catch those guys and beat them!” I stopped in the bathroom, hit the aid station up for some bananas and a cup of Mountain Dew and took off. I was on fire!
I passed about 5 or 6 people, and then I saw the group I was trying to catch. I swallowed a Hammer endurolyte pill, took a swig of gatorade and took off. I came up behind them, and shouted, “I finally caught up with you guys!” They all turned around and said, “hey, Von.” I said, “passing on your left if you don’t mind.” I felt like an ass, but my adrenaline was rushing for some reason, and I just had to go with it. My knees were hurting, but I knew if I could get to the creek crossing at 30 miles, that problem would go away after dipping my knees in the cold water.
I finally got to the last creek crossing. There were a bunch of people there cheering runners on. I stepped into the water and let out a huge cry of relief. It felt SO good. I slowly made my way to the other side, and one of the spectators said, “only a half mile left.” I had made it. I was going to finish this race! I came out of the creek, and onto a road to take care of the last part of the race. It was a huge hill. I looked ahead, and saw a guy running in front of me and a group of 3 women walking. I told myself, “just do this.” I started sprinting up the hill. I passed the guy and then approached the group of ladies. As I passed them, one of them said, “You have GREAT legs!” Had I not been so concerned about negotiating this hill, I would have turned around and said something witty like, “You should see me with my shirt off!” As it was, I just muttered a small “Thank you,” and continued my sprint up the hill.
She was right though. I do have pretty good legs. I had just run 30 miles, and here I was with enough gas left to sprint up this last hill. All those heavy squats and deadlifts really do pay off. All that crazy shit we do at the gym really does work. It really does prepare us for more than we ever thought we could possibly do. I can’t wait to see what I do next.