Alert: OK, I could make this short and to the point but I wont. If you don't have alot of time or are bored easily, check my previous post. It gets you to the bottom line in a few sentences. This report is long so consider yourself warned!
Note: Since I considered this a serious race effort I didn't stop along the way to take pictures. Any photos of the course used in this post were taken from the race website or the NY state parks website.
This past weekend I drove out to Fayetteville, NY with friend Paul to run the Green Lakes Endurance Runs 50k [results]. It was raining during most of the drive making the 300 mile journey longer than expected. A sudden micro burst and resulting torrent of water falling from the sky brought visibility down close to zero and caused many drivers to pull of into the breakdown lane to wait it out. We arrived at the EMS store to pick up our race packet, grabbed a bite to eat at a nearby Uno's, checked into the our hotel and settled down for the night.
After a semi-restless sleep we were up at o-dark-thirty for some carbo-loading at the Denny's next to the hotel. The service was super slow but I guess you have to expect that at four in the morning. After breakfast it was back to the hotel for a quick shower before heading over the the Green Lake State Park. It was dark and cool when we arrived at the parking lot where we were directed to the start/finish area by one of the volunteers.
It was getting close to starting time but I had to make one more pee break. I ran over the restrooms by the lake and hurried back as quickly as possible. Nothing like running BEFORE the start of a 50K. It was a good thing I did because the RD said "10 seconds to go" when I made it back to the start. Talk about cutting it close.
The course consisted of four loops of 12.5K around Green and Round Lakes and a large upper meadow nicknamed the Serengeti. I planned to use a 5:1 run:walk ratio for the first three loops and then run the last loop without any walking breaks. I really wanted to break 6 hours so my goal was to run close to 1:30 per loop and hope I had enough fuel in the tank at the end to go under the 6 hour barrier.
Easy running on wood chips.
I thought the course would be pretty tame but it was tougher than expected with over 2900 feet of elevation gain. The trails around the lakes were wide, flat and smooth with a fine gravel or wood chip surface. The trails between the lakes to the upper meadow were more technical and steep with plenty of rocks and roots. The trails here had a very high clay content and were super slick with all the rain from the day before. My feet were slipping on the climbs all day even if I walked. The upper meadow, aka the Serengeti is a 5K long stretch of open grasslands. This was the most deceiving part of the course. I had expected this to be flat but it was constantly rolling. There were not any steep hills but there were several small ones and a few long climbs as well.
This hill is much steeper than it appears here.
I started out with my friend Emily but we only got to run together for about 3 minutes. She was using a different run:walk schedule and started her walking break sooner than me. Sadly, I didn't see her again until after the race. I did manage to run with some people for the first loop and some of the second. After that I was running alone for rest of the race except when I was passing people.
Beautiful blue water.
I felt very good during the first loop. I didn't struggle to get into a rhythm like I usually do when I go out for a long training run. I considered this a good omen but I knew it was way to soon to make any predictions regarding the final outcome. I made a conscious effort to enjoy the scenery at this time knowing I would probably have little interest later in the race. The lake was a beautiful blue color similar to the Listerine I use to clean my Camelbak. Not sure how it get it's color, maybe the minerals in the water? The Serengeti was a sea of green, yellow and purple with great views of the city and lakes below.
Grassy meadow with rolling hills.
I finished the first loop in 1:24, six minutes faster than the 1:30 I was aiming for. I took off my Camelbak and grabbed my two Nathan handheld bottles. One was filled with Heed and the other with Perpetuem. I made a made a quick transition, probably spending a little over one minute at the main aid station, then I was off for loop number two. I was a little concerned I want out too fast and thought about slowing down for the second loop. I was feeling good and decided to just run how I felt and not to worry about the splits.
As I began loop number two I had two runners up ahead of me. I kept up with them while I was running and they pulled away a little during my walking breaks. This yo-yo effect lasted until we were half way through the Serengeti and then I went past them for good. I caught another group of 4-5 runners after the Serengeti, right before a long downhill section though old growth forest. The trail was rock and root filled and plenty slick. The group ahead of me were all taking the downhill cautiously. This was an opportunity to pick up a few places and put some distance on them. I leaned forward and threw myself down the hill passing runners one by one. As long as I didn't try to slow down I figured I wouldn't slip. The last person I passed yelled "Nice downhill running!" and I yelled back,"Thanks, I can't run up them but I'm not too bad coming down." I finished loop two in 1:23 and still feeling strong.
I was now 13 minutes under 6 hour pace and I was optimistic about my chances of running sub-six. I didn't want to waste too much time in transition so I filled my two water bottles with Perpetuem, grabbed two gels, toweled myself off and was on my way in less than two minutes. On the third loop I start to have some issues with my left knee around mile 18. The 3 miles of trails on the Serengeti had a slight camber to the left and it was beginning to cause some lateral knee pain. It wasn't anything too sever, just a dull ache, but I was concerned about it getting worse later on and causing me to slow down.
I was surprised how good I still felt at mile 20. On my training runs I am usually feeling pretty tired by 20 miles but today I was feeling strong. I'm sure the cooler temperature (70s) helped but I think up to now I also had nailed my fueling needs by drinking and eating the proper amount. I was taking in a gel every 45 minutes and drinking around 25oz of Heed or Perpetuem every hour. This provided an addition 120 calories to supplement the 100 calories from the gel. I also took one S-cap every 45 minutes to replace the sodium lost through sweating.
I was very happy to complete my third loop in 1:23. So far I had run very even splits and I was still feeling good except for the knee pain and a blister on one of my toes. I haven't had a blister in two years since I started wearing Injinji socks but I got one about 12 miles into the race. That's weird! It never got to the point where it effected my stride though. Again, I didn't spend much time in transition and got back out on the course in less than two minutes to run my last loop. 23.3 miles down, 7.7 to go!
I was feeling OK until I hit the first steep climb thought the forest. I just didn't have the power in my legs that I had during the first 3 loops. I kept moving at a decent pace but it was getting harder all the time. Up on the Serengeti I had to walk some of the longer hills that I was able to run previously. My knee was feeling worse and then it just buckled around mile 25. That freaked me out and I thought my race could be over at any moment. Fortunately, it didn't give out again and was just sore the rest of the way. I went through marathon distance in 4:47 and just kept plugging away.
After seeing my marathon time I thought I had a good chance of running under 5:45 as long as I didn't blow up. I began to play a mental game with myself. Instead of thinking about how many miles I had run, I started counting down how may I had left. By mile 28 I was really starting to struggle and felt like I was doing the survival shuffle. When I got to the long downhill leading to the lakes my quads were too tired to hammer it like I had been doing on the earlier loops. I just wanted to get down without tripping over a rock or root and messing up my race. I was happy to make it down safely to the flatter ground by the lakes.
I "ran" as best I could, my feet barely clearing the ground beneath them. I kept looking at my watch and thinking sub-5:42 may be possible. When I approached the beach area I knew I had less than a half mile to go so I picked up the pace. This was the first time I was breathing heavy during the race. With about a quarter mile to go I increased my speed even more and with about 200 yards to go I went into an all out sprint. I'm sure it wasn't real fast but it felt like it. I ended up passing a female running about 30-40 yards from the finish. I wasn't trying to out kick her, in fact I was so focused on the finish line clock I didn't really notice her initially. Still, I sort of felt like a jerk passing her so close to the finish line. Then again, I'm not even sure if she was finishing the 50K. She could have had another loop to do or she could have been running the 100K.
As soon as I crossed the finish line I walked over to my friend Paul and told him there was no way I was going to run a 50 mile race in the fall. 50K is far enough! Of course, 24 hours later I was reconsidering. I was so psyched to run 5:41:37 and very happy with the way I ran it. Even though I slowed to a 1:31 split on my final loop, my first three loops were run within a two minute time difference. My friend Paul ran an awesome race finishing 3rd overall and first master. His time of 3:58:32 set a new course record for the master's division. Emily also ran a very strong race on minimal training and no training runs longer than 12 miles!
I highly recommend the GLER 50K for the first-time or experienced ultra runner. The race organization is top notch and the volunteers are friendly and helpful. The course is very well marked and has enough variety so as not to get boring even though it is a multi-loop race.
Did I really run that far for a patch?