This was my second Ultra and my last truely long distance run before Sulphur Spring. I was confident that my training was more than adequate for this race but I was a bit worried about my right Achilles tendon. So Saturday morning, I got up at 5:45, popped two Excedrins (aspirin, acetaminophen, caffeine) and performed what has somehow become my morning ritual. Tape nipples, lube, get dressed, eat, drink, washroom, go. The race start was only about 35 minutes from my house so I got there before the 7 am start of the 78km racers.
The Seaton race is capped to 130 racers, 30 of which had started at 7 am, so the start of the 52k (my race) and 26k was a small affair. At 8 sharp, we got going.
I had a few goals for this race. The main one was not to relive the total devastation I experienced at Seneca Creek last month. My plan was to do the first loop real slow. I hadn't reaced in trails since my last race and I didn't know this one. All I knew was the course record was around 5 hours, which is about an hour slower than other courses, so the course had to be fairly challenging. Another goal, probably related to the first one, was to fine tune my nutrition. In previous races, I quickly got tired of Cliff Bloks and gels. This time I also brought some Cliff Bars, switched to Powerbar Gels and intended to take advantage of the aid station. My third goal, which I basically pulled out of my ass, was to finish in less than 7 hours.
I had seen a few people that I had met at the OUS Spring Warmup and I started to chat with a guy named Steve. He tells me that he won't be going too hard because he's running Boston on Monday. We keep chatting a bit more and then I let him go, because I noticed that my pace seems to be a bit faster than I'd like. I'm wearing my Garmin 305. At Seneca, I had sworn I would never wear it again, but I decided to use it.
As always, the first kms go by really quickly. There's no way to keep your feet dry. After a bit more than 2 km, there's a river crossing where fast flowing water goes up passed your knees. I'll grow to enjoy this "ice bath" over the next 6 hours. After this, the course becomes more challenging. Ups, downs, mud, stairs, creeks, roots, climbs so steep you need a rope to get up OR down: you want it, they have it.
The aid stations are nicely laid out. There's one at about 6 km, one at 11km and one at the start/finish area. This being an out and back, 26 km course, it seems like the next aid station is never far away. They are well stocked and the volunteers are amazing. I found myself eating very little of my own stuff and fueling mostly at the aid stations.
I got to the turnaround in about 1:38, a pace of 7:30/km (12:08/mile) which I was pretty happy with. I wasn't happy with how fast it was, I was happy with how SLOW it was. I felt fantastic. I start heading back and I meet nobody. Am I last? Then, I see one, two people, then a few more but not that many. It's still early and there's only about 25 people running the 52k, so how many people can be behind me anyway. I keep running and about halfway through I slowly start overtaking people. I'm not going faster but they definitely are slowing down. Eventually I catch up with Steve and another runner I met at the Spring Warmup named Kinga. We would run the remainder of the race together.
What else can I say? I ran, ran and ran some more. After the first loop, done in 3:11, I ate a bit, changed my shirt, drank some Accelerade, popped two more Excedrins, dropped off my sunglasses and got going. My Achilles was achy but holding up well. Other than that I felt good, but it was still early. At Seneca, I crashed and burned at around 35km. But the second loop was uneventful. It was nice to chat with my two running buddies. We took turn leading and our paces were so close to each other than the running was very comfortable. We passed a few people. At the turn around, Kinga told us to keep going and although we tried waiting for her a few times, she never caught up.
I never hit the wall. I was comfortable until the end. Of course, after the last river crossing, we knew how close the finish was and we picked up the pace quite a bit. I have the last km clocked at 5:15/km (8:24/mi) and that last km has a lot of uphills. At Seneca Creek, I couldn't even manage 6:00/km going downhill on a road. I finished in 6:42 and change. This was slower than Seneca Creek, but believe me, I ran much better. As mentioned, the course was hard.
I feel like I'm ready for my 50 miler. After the race, I was sitting down in my chair, drinking Accelerade and looking at those poor bastards running the 78km, going back out for their 3rd loop, I didn't think they were completely crazy, maybe just a bit crazy. This is a good sign.