Sunday, October 6, 2013

Lucky Horses...

During the 4th loop at Run for the Toad I was reminiscing about the old westerns where the hero's horse had to be "put down" after breaking a leg.  It made me sad.  Horses are so lucky.  I was experiencing pain on a level where "broken leg" would take a back shelf.  Dusty back shelf...

And pain is the wrong word.  After recovering from knee surgery in July 2012, I have not truly had any painful episodes due to injuries.  While running 50K at the Toad yesterday, only my "bad" knee, the left one, the one I did not have surgery on last year, caused me any grief.  Don't worry, this good knee / bad knee stuff has even me confused.  My back never acted up.  Oh, it was sore, stiff, - painful could be used here, but it was a good muscle pain, not shooting-nerve-pain that left dark spots in my sight and a loss of feeling in my right leg.  Healthy "you have overdone it" pain.

You have overdone it.  Such an inadequate description of what I attempted at the Toad, after such inadequate training.  Think of training that would allow you to finish a 25K race.  Not do well, no podium finish, just "finish" the race without major discomfort.  I was trained for a 25K race.  I ran the 50K.

The Toad 50 is 4 loops of a glorious 12.5K course, with a sprinkling of roads and single track, but mostly broadpath.  It has to be, with 1250 runners completing either 2 or 4 loops.  The weather was perfect.  I ran in shorts and a T-shirt for the entire race.  It was almost as if Peggy or George had special connections.  Hello Weather Control?  Yes, I would like 18C all day, no variance in temperature and cloudy.  Yes I understand about signing the contract and its implications - where do I send the cheque?

The Race Plan

Quite simple.  When you attempt a race in which you are woefully under trained, there is only one option.  Plan a Utopian flight path and expect the worst.  I even spec'd out the points at which I could DNF without a long walk back to the start/finish.  That was a slight exaggeration, but you get the gist.

Run the first 30K (5K into loop 3), run/walk until the end of the 3th loop, then walk/run the 4th loop.  "A" goal was 6:30 and "B" goal was make the 8 hour cut-off.  I mentally had an A+ goal of beating my heat-influenced time of 6:29 at Niagara 50K (my first 50K in 3 years) earlier this year, but that was on a flat paved trail, whereas the Toad had a never-ending series of tiny rolling hills.

Let me explain what normally happens to someone used to the larger "Creemore" hills, when running the Toad.  We don't consider those baby rises as hills at all.  We surge forward at max VO2 in our arrogant display of superior hill running ability.  On the third loop, we whimper like puppies.  I have run the Toad enough times to be well versed in results of my vertical arrogance.  I now know what happens if I don't treat the rollers with respect.

I was also under trained.  Did I mention this already?

I was hunting for a first loop (12.5K) time of something slightly south of 1:30.  I came through the S/F at 1:21, a bit fast, but hopefully an indication I had not already blown my chances of completing 50K.  I was feeling good (you better damn well hope you are feeling good with 37.5K to go!) and decided I had every right in chasing the A goal.  Loop 2 had to be slower, but when B plan was to chase the cut-off, slowing too much is not an option.  Loop 2 went surprisingly well, and I hit the S/F for 25K at 2:48, for loops of 1:21 and 1:28.

During the first 2 loops, an interesting thing happened.  Lee Anne is a much better LD runner than I.  At this point in my 5 year recovery plan, she is much faster on roads.  I enjoy trails so much that I have trouble running them at a "reasonable" speed, the speed at which I should run them!  For much of the first 2 loops, Lee Anne was either just ahead of me, or I would chronically hear "slow down" from behind.  My expectation was that I would be 30 minutes behind Lee Anne at the half (25K).  As it turned out, we ran much of the first 2 loops at about the same speed.  This did wonders for my attitude.  You all know how important it is to maintain a positive attitude during a race.  When things go wrong (you go off course, they run out of coke at an aid station, etc.) you cannot dwell on the issue, but focus on the next section of the race.  Staying with Lee Anne made the first 2 loops enjoyable, but more importantly, gave me the optimism to think that I could actually finish the 50K!

Unfortunately, the 3rd loop brought me back to reality.  In the first full year after knee surgery, I have had an impressive comeback to ultra running.  Okay, impressive to me!  I ran 44K at the Kingston 6 hour race (you have to try this one, especially if you want to toy with running long - the venue lends itself to pushing your limit), the Barrie half marathon and the Niagara 50K in a 2 week period.  Definitely stupid, but it provided feedback that ultra running was still possible.  Since that stretch in June, I have not run very long.

The third loop was a study in shoring up the running defences.  Hydration, salts, gels, electrolytes, effort and emotional stability.  When asked how I was feeling, invariably the answer was "stable".  I was focused on staying on course, continuing to run and avoiding any mistakes that could cause my race to fall off a cliff.

I think I did a good job.

The fourth loop had other ideas.  No matter how "intelligent" you are in maintaining your body during a 50K, at some point a lack of training will shut down your best intentions.  My plan to walk/run the last loop (as opposed to run/walk) was realistic.  I was out of energy, motivation and the ability to react in a positive way mentally, to what the course was throwing at me.  This is the fundimental aspect of a 50K and why they are appealing to runners.  This is the point where smart planning and judicious allocation of resources falls to the wayside.  You are now into the pain slugfest and all you can do is to find a long list of reasons as to why you shouldn't roll over and die.

Splits:  1:21:50,  1:26:37,  1:38:30 and 1:48:28  Finish:  6:15:24

For the last 6K, I had to "hunt" sections where I could convince my legs to run.  There was no thought of increasing the pace, to have a strong finish.  Don't forget I was quite slow for a 50K, so there is no reason to sprint to the finish, to improve my place from 115 to (let's say) 113.

Recovery after the Toad was much better than at Niagara, in which I suffered from heat issues.  I also received an award from the ACU (Association of Canadian Ultrarunners) for supporting the national team.  I was likely the slowest runner to receive an award!  The ACU does an incredible amount of work fielding the national ultra team during several world events (the worlds) without much funding from the government or any other sources.  For this, I thank those who run the Creemore Vertical Challenge, as 90% of the profits go to the ACU.

Well, it is now Sunday afternoon and my legs are showing signs of recovery.  Lee Anne and I are hosting a 50 mile run in Dunedin (suburb of Creemore) on Saturday, November 2.  Email me if you are interested.

Otherwise, enjoy the running!

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