Yesterday, a trail-running friend and I drove out to Warda to do the Wild Hare 50K. I am so happy to report that there was no awful foot pain, freak snowstorm, heat issues, harmonica-playing weirdos, or extreme allergic reactions involved at any point. Everything went right and nothing went wrong. I met all of my objectives for the day, and I refuse to let myself be drawn into the “well, you should’ve run faster” internal beat-down. It was simply a wonderful day. I didn’t run my fastest 50K…nor did I run my slowest 50K…but I have NEVER felt better at the end.
I had a range of goals for this race. I wanted to
1) see if my foot could make it. This was the primary goal and really the entire reason for doing the run. At Nike, my foot had given out somewhere prior to 4:00; I did my greenbelt run last weekend and discovered I could make it to 4:00 on the trail without show-stopping pain, so the test was to see what happened beyond that mark. I knew I’d be somewhere between 7:00-8:00 on my feet for the 50K, depending on pace and trail conditions. I’m anticipating twice that plus a couple of hours for the 100K, so I needed to know asap if there was no way in hell of that happening.
I quickly found that the soft piney, sandy, mostly flat trails out in Warda felt good on my foot. There were a few uphills and the second loop taught me that, as long as I kept my foot relatively flat and didn’t come onto my toes like (evidently) I normally do as I climb, then there was no achey pain after the hills. After I finished, I immediately went to the aid station, filled a ZipLoc with ice, and sat down to ice my foot, eventually directly applying the ice to the sore spot. I was able to walk normally–well, as normally as one walks after 7:30 of running.
2) test out my new nutrition and allergy avoidance at a trail run. This was my first time to put my special food needs to the test in a long trail race scenario. A marathon on the road is a whole ‘nother beast than being out in the woods for many hours. I’m happy to say that the new Nathan 70-ounce backpack is perfect. My EpiPen and all other accoutrements fit perfectly in the back pocket and still leave plenty of room for food. I put 35 ounces of water in the backpack and carried a 20-ounce handheld with my mix of E-Load and CarboPro, and I brought a snack bag full of plenty of electrolyte tablets. We set up camp chairs near the timing mat at the start/finish, and I had extra bottles prepared to pick up, packets of Sport Beans and Honey Stingers set out to grab, and necessary girlie supplies handy (the port-a-potty was conveniently located near by, thank goodness).
I noticed that my eyes got puffy and my nose began to continuously run around 45 minutes into the race. We’d started out at a fast clip, so I consciously slowed, bringing my exertion level down. That cleared up all of my allergy symptoms by the beginning of the second loop (I’d been worried I’d have to pop some Benadryl, and I do NOT want to run under the influence of a drug that makes me sleepy). The day warmed up, and I found myself feeling sloshy and a bit off stomach-wise at the end of the second loop, so I upped my electrolyte schedule from one per hour to one every 30 minutes. Wow! It made an amazing difference! My third loop felt better, and my fourth felt amazing. That’s where I caught people walking and passed several who’d been ahead of me throughout most of the day. I also made up some time throughout the day because I had no need to stop at aid stations at all for the first half, and had only brief stops during the third and fourth loops, primarily to grab a cup of Coke and stuff some ice in my bra and hat. I drank every bit of water in my backpack, 3.5 bottles of my nutrition mix, two Dixie Cups of Pepsi, two packets of Sport Beans, and one packet of Honey Stinger. I could’ve easily finished another loop.
3) finish feeling strong and ready for more. It’s hard to go out to a race and be one of the slow people, even when you’re me and the years have conspired to strip away any ego I’d ever had regarding my performance. I was not out there for a PR; it was a training run, and I needed to know that not only could I finish the distance but that I’d have more left in me. This was a huge success. I briefly considered doing another loop just to push beyond the 50K mark; I talked myself out of it, choosing to err on the side of caution and not test my foot unnecessarily. (Also, I didn’t want to take up another 1:55 when I knew my much-faster friend had already been waiting.) I finished the back half of my last loop in the same amount of time as I’d run it in the second loop, and that’s where all the hills and technical bits fell.
The course was very loopy, and it was easy at points to see people ahead of and behind me. This was extremely motivating. What I found was that people caught up with me in the first half, which was very windy and quite flat. I seemed to lose focus here and unconsciously slow down, while other people seemed to speed up. The second half, the longer portion, was hilly and more technical, with a couple a flat open field sections interspersed. I destroyed my competition on the technical bits and then had to really concentrate to maintain my lead on the flat sections. This was by far my favorite part of the race, and it showed me that all my running over at St. Ed’s is going to pay off at Bandera.
4) have a fantastic and joyous time. I wanted to enjoy the day, primarily because my friend Dano’s death has shown me how thankful I need to be for every day I have alive and living life the way I want to live it. He was very much in my thoughts out there, and several times I talked to him. I could honestly say, “It was a good day to run. Hokahey!” when I finished. There were so many really precious moments: hearing my friends yell my name as I came through the aid stations; meeting and running with and supporting (and being supported by) the other runners, particularly Heidi, Nadine, and nameless-Ironwoman 50-miler; feeling physically strong and mentally focused; beautiful piney woods scenery; good food and good company post-race. Yesterday was just about the perfect running experience for me.