Saturday, September 04, 2010

Woodside 50K -- 4 hours 54 minutes

Every 50K finisher received a coaster; this is a picture I took of mine.

I ran the Woodside 50K today, put on by Pacific Coast Trail Runs. My goal was to treat this race as a kind of "do over" of the Sequoia 50K that I ran about 5 weeks ago which I felt like I had executed poorly, mostly because I ran too fast early on. Unfortunately, today's race was largely simply a repeat of that Sequoia 50K with the added challenge of overcoming some kind of cough or flu.

I signed up for this race last Monday and then soon started feeling fatigued and slightly feverish. By Thursday night, all I wanted to do was sleep and rest. I stayed home from work on Friday and pretty much spent the whole day in bed, trying to rest and recover as much as I could. I didn't run on Thursday or Friday. I decided to prepare and plan for the race but to be willing to back out at the last minute if I felt too sick.

The day started early, waking at 5:40am to eat a breakfast of about 600 calories -- granola cereal, soy milk, banana, and coffee. When I arrived at Huddart Park, off of Kings Mountain Road in Woodside, I was surprised that the main race organizers hadn't arrived yet. Eventually, they did but then announced that the 50K and 10K would start at 9am rather than the expected 8:30am.

As I was getting ready, I had trouble getting my heart rate monitor to work. I eventually gave up and put it in my trunk. I guess the battery had died. Bummer. I had been planning on mainly pacing myself by heartrate.

9am eventually came around and I positioned myself about a third of the way back from the start line and we started off across a lawn and quickly got onto a trail. I really wanted to take it easy. I started having a slight "wardrobe malfunction" where my shorts were overloaded and kept on falling down, so I had to take 3 energy gels out of one of my back pockets and hold them in my hand instead. Fortunately, I had decided to carry one 26 oz water bottle instead of two 20oz bottles, so I had a free hand. Problem solved.

The weather was cool and there was lots of shade and the trails were lovely and easy to run on. I was liking this quite a bit more than the Sequoia 50K, which was much rougher. We came upon the race director who said "make a right on Crystal Springs Rd". OK. Why is he telling me this? In hindsight, I should have asked, "is the turn flagged?" Unfortunately, the answer was "no". A couple of us ran right across the road, which had no signs and continued on the trail on the opposite side. We headed up a steep hill and a short while later heard and saw a large group running on the road. I called down, asking if that was the 50K route. Yes, it was. Damn it! I and the other runner, who would eventually be the first place female, turned around and I found a way to climb down an embankment and get on the road. I think this delay added 3 or 4 minutes. We came across one of the guys who had been marking the course and he didn't apologize, but offered the excuse that "this is what happens when we try to mark the course 30 minutes before the start." Sigh.

I caught up to the large group of runners, who were led by a guy who had run this race several times before, so he knew what to do. We headed up a steep single-track trail and although I felt like could run a lot faster, I bided my time. I didn't want to miss any more unmarked turns and also I wanted to be sure to take it easy.

Eventually, a much faster runner caught up to our large group (I was at the tail end) and I thought, "OK, now's the time to make my move". I didn't want to get bunched up at the upcoming aid station plus I felt like I could easily run faster, so I said "on your left" and rapidly picked up the pace and passed 5 or 6 guys. The fast runner behind me said he was in one of the other races (17K, I think) so he soon passed me.

At the first aid station, I asked how many 50K runners were ahead of me. 2. Presumably they were much faster than me and didn't take any wrong turns, so I never saw them.

This was mostly an out-and-back course, with 8.9 miles being the longest distance between aid stations. I was relieved when I took my last sip from my 26 oz bottle, that within a minute I arrived at the next aid station. So, that worked out well -- I never really ran out of water.

As far as my illness was concerned, I think I was mostly over the worst of it. I felt a little dizzy once and the brief periods of heat got to me quickly, but since most of the run was shaded, I only felt overheated a couple times. I had to walk or even stop 4 or 5 times when I had coughing fits. It was certainly annoying, but I suppose the coughing only added a minute or two to my time.

I started struggling around mile 20, feeling fatigued and slightly nauseous. I drank a cup of Coke at the last aid station with 4.6 miles to go, hoping to feel better, but I immediately got a side cramp instead which mostly stayed with me until the end. Most of the last miles were thankfully downhill and I just tried to hang on and keep on moving. I started having to walk the uphills, even some of the gradual ones. But I was moving pretty well on the downhills and passed a lot of the runners of other races who were finishing.

Finally finally, I entered the parking lot and soon was within sight of the finish. Whew. Yay. 3rd place. 4 hours 54 minutes. There were around 60 runners in my race.

So, on the one hand, I was happy that I was able to finish the race and do relatively well, yet I was disappointed that I ran so similarly to the Sequoia 50K. I feel like I still don't have the knack for pacing myself or training right or something. I feel like I am so much worse at the 50K than I am at the road marathon and I'm not sure what to do about this to get better.

Anyway, I'm grateful to be uninjured and to be in good shape and able to run for so long. I don't feel particularly sore either. I'm grateful to my wife for letting me spend half the day on this. At least she got to see Green Day in concert tonight while I watched Claire. Thank you, again, Jennifer!