Monday, November 5, 2007

Zero to 54 in Six Weeks

Well, my Cross Country team missed the state race by one place at regionals, so I had no excuse not to run the Mountain Masochist 50 miler on Saturday. I was concerned about running the race, since I've only been training for six weeks after three months off with my hamstrings. My longest run was 25 miles and my weekly mileage was low, so I was worried about my endurance. In addition, my pace is a lot slower as I am learning to run with shorter strides, so I was worried about not hitting the cutoffs even if my endurance was up. But one of our friends, Alan, was going up to run it, so I decided that I would go and run as much of it as I could. My two goals: not to reinjure myself, and run as far as I could before missing a cutoff.

The race started at 6:30 a.m., with the temperature around 32 degrees. It would not get light until a little after seven, but then it warmed up nicely into the 40s and 50s, depending on the elevation. The day was beautiful, with a clear blue sky and a lot of the leaves still holding their fall colors.

The first few miles of the course are on pavement- first on the Blue Ridge Parkway, then paralleling the James River. After that, you are in the woods on single and double-track and forest roads. I was hoping to see my husband, Tony, at aid station 4, but he was apparently still eating the breakfast buffet at the Peaks of Otter Lodge, so I sucked down another GU and headed on. I was a little concerned when Jay Finkle passed me, because where he passes me in a race usually indicates whether or not I am doing well. If it's not until later in the race, I usually end up fine, but during my only two DNF races, he has passed me early on.

The next sections of the course consist of a long, steady uphill on a gravel road, followed by an even longer downhill. I got frustrated on the downhill because of my shorter strides and I was passed by a lot of people. I reminded myself of my two goals, though, and just kept moving. Tony had shown up aid station 5, and it's always a good morale boost to see him at the aid stations. At the halfway point, I was on an eleven hour pace and was staying well ahead of the cutoffs. I relaxed a little and began enjoying the day more. The "5" mile loop was particularly beautiful, even though I had a bit of a low spot there on the climb. I forced myself to think about the here and now and not what was coming up in the run. I've made that mistake before in runs- thinking about how much farther I have to go and how hard it would be.

I got my second wind in the next to the last section (only 7 more miles, the sign says, even though it's more like 10-11) on the last climb. In the past, that climb has really sucked, but it didn't feel any harder than a trail I do on a weekly basis here at home. I thought about that, and not how I was about 48 miles into a run. I hit the top and felt good, and was able to run strong (not fast) the last six miles. Tony was waiting for me in the last mile and I finished 40 minutes ahead of the cutoff in 11:20. It was not a PR, but it was my second best time of my four MMTR finishes. Nothing hurt out of the ordinary, just general soreness. Not even any blisters (thanks Brooks!).

As always, I met a lot of nice people, several of whom were running the race for the first time. Alan finished his first 50 (ahead of me) and his wife Trish and our friend Larry got to crew for the first time at an ultra. (At least it wasn't Hellgate). The aid station volunteers were great and Dr. Horton puts on a first-rate race. I'll be back next year, unless my xc team is at state, which will be fine, too.