Tuesday, July 19, 2011
North Fork 50km Race Report
My friend Mariah volunteered to take me to the North Fork 50km and I happily accepted. Thanks to her, you have some pictures to see! She and her wonderful border collie Indigo served as my outstanding crew. We arrived early enough to see the early starters for the 50 miler start at 6:00am.
We also witnessed the race director mark the start line by drawing a line on the trail with the heel of her foot. I love small races for this reason and many more. Of the 165 registered participants, 110 souls finished. I would not be one of them, but that was OK.
At 7:00am sharp, the 50 km and remaining 50 miler participants started the race. At this point, my Garmin decided to freeze and I was without mileage and pace information for the remainder of my time on the course. We started right along the creek, crossed a bridge and started our first climb of the day. Here, I was able to pass a couple of folks and felt strong as I methodically made my way up. The trail then cut through some forested meadows and while it wasn’t hot yet, I was happy there was some partial shade along the way. It was interesting to see the path of the wildfires from a few years ago. Everything was green amongst the burned out trees. It was a different kind of beautiful. Quick enough I was at the first aid station, Homestead. The aid station volunteers here (and at all the other aid stations) knew to take and fill our bottles, offer us food and get us quickly on our way. The Homestead crew did this while sporting some Hawaiian wear and offering us some Swedish pancakes. I skipped the pancakes and took a Hammer Gel and made my way out.
Unbeknownst to me and I think every other runner, course vandals took down very important course markings and almost every runner received 2 to 4 bonus miles. Since my Garmin was not working, I was not aware of exactly how many, but based on time, I’m guessing around 2 miles. Thankfully it was neither a sharp descent or ascent. In fact, this is why I suspected we were off course. After the first aid station, I expected to be descending. Flat trail was not on the dance card. But I was a lemming and followed the group, until our group ran into another group and collectively the 20 of us concluded something was not right – especially when the trail dead-ended. We managed to navigate our way to the correct trail, which brought on a very lovely and shaded descent which then turned into a very exposed switch back descent to the second aid station, Buffalo Creek. In the exposed area, the trail suffered from some erosion and instead of being flat, had a “V” like formation…so that really messed with my running form – do you try to fit in the crevice or do you straddle the thing? I don’t know but my right IT band knew that it was not happy. Soon enough my right ankle and lower part of my shin was also cranky. This was too early on to be having cranky body parts. The Buffalo Creek aid station was an absolute zoo as it was the second and fourth aid station and all those speedy folks were hitting it up for a second time as us slower folks were hitting it up for the first time. Even so, someone immediately grabbed and filled my handhelds, I grabbed a quarter of a PBJ sandwich and a couple of potato chips and went on my way. In between the aid stations, I was taking a gel and 2 succeed salt tabs every 45 minutes. Even with my mad dash out of Buffalo Creek (I heard later that I had missed the bacon), I overheard a few folks had decided to drop out.
When I hear about people dropping, it makes me start to doubt myself. My thinking goes like this - well, if they dropped, what am I still doing on the course. They are obviously stronger and better than I. And then I start to think I don't belong out on the course. I know logically this is unfounded. But it is how my brain works presently. I'm really trying hard to get out of my own way, but it is still a struggle.
Then things got a little out of hand. The second major climb was steep. Crazy steep. Much steeper than anything I remember from Collegiate Peaks and not at all what I had anticipated. So uber challenge plus doubt is not a great combination. Thankfully the majority of this ascent was shaded. After cresting the major climb, the trail was relatively flat with a few rollers. The rock formations along this section reminded me a little bit of Castlewood Canyon. Here there were a lot of mountain bikers, the majority of which yielded to us and gave us words of encouragement. I started to get a headache along this section and I ran out of water before making it into the third aid station. Between the headache, screaming IT band and ankle, I came into the third aid station conflicted about dropping and continuing forward. Then I heard that a few people had dropped at this point. It was here I had the realization that I still had 16 miles to go to the finish, and after waffling a bit, I decided to drop. I hate to admit that I quit.
I had a mighty fine and fun 18 mile run through some drop dead beautiful trails. I had company the entire way, with some accomplished 100 mile racers (Western States and Vermont). All I could think about was sitting at the finish line, drinking a beer and eating a hot dog. Maybe this makes me a buttercup, but I’d rather think that I was being a realist. I had not been hitting the trails the last 6 weeks, so I really wasn’t even sufficiently trained for this race. Maybe fear took over. I knew I had 5 or so more miles in me, but I wasn’t sure about the 11 miles after that. Actually instead of thinking about making it to the next station, I allowed myself to be overwhelmed about the 16 remaining miles. I also heard the remainder of the trail would likely be exposed. Today, there is a part of me that wishes I had been able to push myself a little more to see just how much further I could go, but overall, I’m grateful to have a fun long run under my belt. Mariah, Indigo and I made our way to the finish line bbq, cheered on some finishers and soaked in the creek. It was a great day. I don't regret starting. And I wonder what would have happened if I had only pushed myself a little more. I need to learn to push myself and not give up. Lesson hopefully learned.
I recommend this race. As Happy Trails has commented, it is deceptively hard. It will kick your behind but it is simply beautiful. More beautiful than Collegiate Peaks and the Canyonlands. The aid station volunteers rock. And the race director is awesome.
So what is next? A little rest. And then back to training. Speed work, long runs, etc. I have a half-marathon PR to chase...and a marthon PR too.