Deciding to register for the 50mile race at woodstock was tough, especially since I had just experienced the ultimate runner's high after the North Country Trail 50. NCT was a perfect race weekend-good friends, family, perfect weather, and a solid race resulting in a bullseye for my time goal of 8 hours. The long,overly dramatic race report can be read here on my blog as well.
I had qualms about signing up for the race because I was worried that doing the same distance 3 weeks apart would result in dissappointment at the best, injury or burnout at the worst. Upon registering online, I felt a sense of discomfort that was unfamiliar. I knew I should be playing it safe, focusing on 5k/10k distance, lifting some weights regain the 20lbs I'd lost since spring, and getting focused on swimming season. As I recently learned in a holistic health class, feeling physical discomfort upon making a tough decision is usually a sign of that decision being "kharmicallly inappropriate"(Holistic health, though I'd consider myself a fan and student of it, is referred to by many as "hippie-ology," touchy-feely, etc.). I was running short on funding and long on bills, but for some reason, there I sat, credit card in hand at the inviting "Run Woodstock" webpage.
I was so worried about the decision that I omitted my registration from conversations with Abbey and Alex, my close friends and training partners. The decision to run my second 50 ever 3 weeks from my first was seeming poorer and poorer.
Training between NCT and Woodstock went fairly well, with a scattering of hard tempo efforts with Alex(Note: Alex tempo=My eyes are about to explode), some good mid-distance runs with Gazelle Sports' Wednesday night group, and some good trail runs with Jeremiah, Jason, Shelly and Mark. In case you can't tell by my name dropping, I have a pretty good support network. I peaked with a 91mile week that was punctuated by a double combo of 14and16 miles. The following 2 weeks were relatively easy and of unsatisfactory mileage. I wasn't too worried about cramming in training miles for fitness sake, but for sanity. Life outside of running took its toll and mileage dropped, and so did my spirits to a much lesser degree.
The week leading up to Woodstock consisted of very little running. I ran almost daily, but sometimes barely over a mile. These runs were not scheduled training runs, but runs with my group of middle school kids that I coach. The two runs of any quality were a great 9 miler with the Gazelle Group and a nice 5 miler with Alex, Abbey, and Shy the day before the race.
As I sat in class waiting to be done for the day and head out of town, I get a disturbing text. It was from my friend Ryan about another friend of ours. Apparently, Stevie had a mild heart attack while working at his job. He as two kids and a wife. I was immediately sickened by the news and was really shaken up. Rather than meeting Shelly, Jason, and Mark to depart for the race, I had to go home to make sure my friend was ok. A small price to pay for stopping to make sure my friend was alright and maybe lift his spirits. I hope it did.
Sam and I then headed for Novi...and then realized that we didn't know how to get there. My GPS car charger had quit working...I forgot about that until I had to use it again. We had to text Shelly to get directions to the place we were staying, and ask my crew to pick up my race packet.
After a nice ride with Sam we finally arrived at Ken's apartment. Ken is a mutual friend of ours that was so incredibly gracious that he offered us the use of his apartment, which was only about 30 minutes from the start line of the race. Upon our arrival, we ate pizza and wings, and drank some beer. The ultimate prerace meal that has yet to let me down. I was also suprised when my crew even had matching "J Crew" shirts! I was officially legit.We laughed a lot and caught up with each other before discussing race logistics. It was then that I realized that I had no actual nutrition or hydration strategy. I went with my default plan: 1 bottle of water and 2 GUs berween aid stations for the entire race. I wanted redbull on standby just in case of a low, but other than that, no plan B. The logistics discussion was obviously quite brief. I would drop my empty bottle, and someone would hand me a fresh one with 2 GUs stuffed in the Nathan Handheld pocket. Easy in, easy out with no actual stopping the entire time. Time for bed.
|Sam and I attempting to smile at 4am|
|standing around as the race is about to start|
|standing around as the race is about to start|
|Coming up one of the connector roads to a trail system|
I Reached the second aid station. I drained an entire bottle this time, but only consumed one of my GUs. Progress, but I still needed to focus on getting more calories in while my body was still under control. As I rolled through the aid station, I tossed my bottle on the ground, picked up my other one, and stole a kiss from Sam. I was riding one of the highs that make me love running, and I was so happy that Sam had gotten involved in my crazy misadventures. I sped off into the next section of trail.
This was another hilly section. A couple of these short, steep ascents were dubbed "walkers." after some experimentation, I found that powerfully walking up, then speeding back down was more time efficient than a shuffle follwed by recovery. I find this especially effective on short climbs like the ones all over this particular course. After a few more miles, I was back on the connector road to the other network of trails. This was the only part of the course where I got a little firghtened by my pace. I don't entirely trust my Garmin, but as I felt like I was running just a little too quickly, I glanced down just in time to see my watch beep and notify me of my latest mile split. 6:30. stupid. Running that fast this early is foolhardy at best, dangerous at worst. I backed it off a little, but found comfort in a low 7 minute range. It wasn't long before I was back at Grace AS. I did the usual routine without stopping, and hardly slowing down. A few miles later, and I had completed my first lap. I think it was around 2:25. I checked into the main aid station, and grabbed a single pretzel and a fig newton. I ran up the hill with Jason. He told me to keep doing what I was doing and asked me if I would need anything at the next AS. I told him to keep the GU and water coming and maybe have some lube ready. 1 quick stop in the porta-jon and I was off. The course was much more beautiful in the light of day. There were some logs and things I didn't remember the first time around, but it was easier to navigate the second time around. I hit the bike path much sooner than on the last lap. I had a layout of the course now, I decided that my second lap would be a negative split. I forged ahead on the flat sections, deciding again to rest on the technical trail sections and keep my steps nice and light. I hopped back into the woods and kept going, upping the cadence and taking small steps. I was really enjoying running with speed and feeling like the trail was working with me, not against me.
|Coming into Grace Aid Station|
The rest of the loop was almost a carbon copy of the first, only the pace was pushed just a little bit more. Other runners from other races were starting to populate sections of the course. It was nice to see them and talk to them as I passed by. One guy blew by me as if I were standing still. Im not sure which race he was running, but I felt like I was moving. He flew by and was instantly gone on a technical section of trail. I was impressed and scared at the same time. "Is this dude running the 50? If so, I can kiss a W goodbye." I shrugged it off and continued on the trail. I could hear the band playing at the finish line. I had completed another lap! I looked at my watch, and it had been less than 5 hours, so I completed my goal of having a negative split for the lap. This is where the race started to get fun.
I picked up my 1st Pacer. Jason was still getting ready, so I forged on without him. He caught me in the first quarter mile or so, so I didn't have to go long without him. He asked how I was feeling. I told him I was feeling well, but starting to fatigue. He asked "do you want to know where everyone else is?" I replied, "no, Im good...well...ok...tell me." he told me I had a 9 minute lead on second place. I really was in first! I told jason I wanted to rest up on the first half of this lap, then run hard the last 8. Running with Jason made me feel more at ease, like we were on one of our fun training runs.
Fast forward to the next AS- I ran my "rest" section faster than I had in my last 2 laps, continuing the trend of 7ish min/miles on the short road section. and maintaining it for as long as I could into the trails. At the next AS, Jason traded places with Mark. Mark was now my pacer. We chatted a bit, and then started joking around as we normally do. Mark's sense of humour was very welcome on this 4 mile stretch. If I were to consider any part of this race to be my "low point," it would be this section of the race. I was happy to have Mark there. We pulled into the next AS, and Jason was ready to resume pacing duties. We picked up the pace once more, and I followed. I wasn't complaining, but I was hurting. Any pace felt uncomfortable, so I just gutted out a rough section of fairly technical trails with mud and swamp grass.
|Getting schooled by Mark, flying down the gravel in his VFF Treks.|
|8 miles to go- definitely tired|
|My two great pacers keeping me in line in the final miles|
Back to Grace aid station. 4 miles to go. Mark came to greet us, and had some good news. He asked around and found out that it was legal to have 2 pacers. I was excited, so I said, "hop in this conga line then!" I dropped my bottle after taking another drink, then told Sam that I was going hard these last 4. I left the heavy water bottle behind and started my charge. Jason asked what I wanted for a pace. I said, "give me a minute to get warm, then give it hell and see if I can keep up!" He obliged. Jason is fast, whether he'd admit it or not. Mark followed, hot on my heels, saying generally encouraging and inappropriate things. I have great friends. We passed a small group of racers, one of which was a friend from our Runner's World Online Forum. "Jason?" he said. Jason replied, "Thats me!" "Dogsnameisleroy from the forums! Which one of you is jscott87?" I said hi, and told him how great he looked. He was in great spirits and looke healthy. We had to get going, so we forged on. I walked a couple hills, then forged on to make up the time from my slight pace lagging. We were really starting to cruise, then Jason asked me a tough question. "You ready to start that kick of yours? We have 1 mile left." I said, "sure, lets do it." 2 more corners, and we were on the last hill before the Hell Creek Ranch. I ran in, rounded the curve of the gravel trail and kicked it into gear. "Give it hell, man!" Jason said as he and mark broke away to let me finish. I saw the finish. I had passed it 2 times already, and I actually got to cross it this time. I was too afraid to look behind me. I just ran. My legs opened up and I felt my feet covering ground with each step. Just in time to step on the blue mat. I was done.
|Coming in to finish, about 40 yards to go.|
|coming in hot for a landing|
|Spending the rest of the day goofing around|
I think my relative success in this race had more to do with mindset than talent. I was focused the entire time, not worried about where others were and fixated on feeling "right." I wasn't overly focused on pace. At NCT, I wanted to hit 8 hours, and I ran 8 hours and 30seconds. I think putting that number in my head limited my potential for that particular day. At Woodstock, I went into it just hoping to run strong. Without my crew, the day may have been a disaster. If you ever get the chance to be part of a crew, I would recommend it. I've done it before, and its a really intense and enjoyable experience.
End Babble sequence.