Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bear Mountain Post Race Thoughts

Hindsight being 20/20, it's always interesting to look back and see what went right and what went wrong in a race. It's actually pretty important: I don't race 50 or 100 miles very often so I need to learn everything I can for those times when I do.

When looking back, it's important to remember the goals I had going into the race. My main goal was to finish while maintaining a good routine. I knew the course was challenging and time was immaterial. I had stated a hope for a 11:30 to 12:00 finish, but I had summoned that number out of thin air.

Nutrition: That went pretty good. I was on a one gel/one waffle per hour schedule and maintained that to the bitter end although getting those waffles in became harder as time went by. I had a close call after forgetting to drink for over an hour, but my flow meter saved my bacon and I was able to recover, although not without feeling pretty crappy for a couple of hours.

Effort: I simply could not risk not finishing this race. It would have scarred me mentally in my Leadville ramp up. I have to admit that I was a bit shaken by how close to the cut-off I was at that first hard-cut-off aid station at mile 20. Still, 20 minutes at mile 20 means 50 minutes at mile 50, which means I kept gaining 1 minute per mile on the cut-off. Had I been alone, I would have gone out faster. Steve kept telling me to cool it off a bit, especially on the climbs but also on some of the flats. He's usually the one freaking out about going faster (see Mohican, Grand Canyon reports), so when he told me to slow down, I listened although I did feel like I was over-reaching. Maybe he saved my race. Maybe I could have gone faster. I doesn't matter. I finished in fairly good shape, although shocked by how tough the course was.

Feet: I thought I was beyond losing toenails, especially on a 50 miler. Boy, was I wrong. Pain, and fear of pain, became my single biggest problem in the last 15 miles. I'm not too worried for now. First, that toenail is now gone so I'm good for the summer! Second, the trails at Leadville (and Laurel, I believe) are nowhere close to that technical, so I don't believe this is going to be an issue. That being said, I need to get better at running on technical terrain. Also, in hindsight, I should have run with my new pair of Crosslites. The old ones, those I wore, were a bit shriveled from previous mud and water action and the toebox felt a bit tighter. I'm also experimenting with the Vertical Ks, which have a much roomier toebox, but are less rugged.

Hills: I mention that separately from "effort", because  I'm making a special effort to improve my hills. I've never been very good at climbing. I had considered trying to run most hills, but given the fact that I really wanted to finish, I just couldn't risk it. That being said, I power hiked up most of them at a good clip and passed tons of people. I did get passed a few times on shallower grades by people running up. Maybe I could have run those, but again, didn't want to risk it. This time. Really happy with this though.

Downhill: I believe that running downhill on technical trails is my weakest skill. I struggled to keep up with runners that I had been catching up to on flats and uphills. On the downhills, I sometimes would lose ground. Nothing I can do except practice. Again, not a big issue for Leadville.

Conclusion: Bear Mountain was a big success. I do wish I could have run faster, but doing that would have jeopardized all my other, more important, goals. I now have a solid, challenging 50 miler in the bag. This gives me some options for the Laurel Highlands 70 miler, my next race. Depending on how hot it is, I might push it a bit to see how my stomach will react. The rocks won't be as much as an issue so this will be more about my fitness than my big toe. A DNF, if it happened for the right reasons, would not be a big issue for me.

This was an amazingly tough race for a 50 miler and I can't believe that, after swearing all day that I would NEVER do it again, I already plan to do just that. That never happens.

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