Monday, January 9, 2012

Frosty Fifty Race Report

On Saturday I ran the Frosty Fifty 50K in Winston Salem, NC.  I ran this race in 2010 as my first foray into ultra marathoning.  On that first occasion, it was 19 degrees and the lake the course circled was frozen.  I was very pleased with my time of 5 hours and 25 minutes.  Since that time I've run a lot of distance and was really looking forward to going back.  This year was different in that it warmed up to 60 degrees, and they had added a 25K and relay option.  This meant that the crowds were much bigger, but the race still kept the same small, community feel it had the last time I was there.  It was well marked, well organized, and well supported.  For the price, $30 for the 50K before Dec. 15th, it's hard to beat. 

The course is 25 miles of dirt and about 6 miles of asphalt green way that circles Salem Lake in a double out and back course.  I ran with my frequent training partner, Tim, and my neighbor, Rob.  We left Raleigh at 5am and made it in plenty of time to get a good parking spot, pick up our packets, and get organized before the 8am start.

Moments before the start.
I had set three goals for myself but hadn't articulated them to anyone.  First, I wanted to break 5 hours.  If that didn't work, I wanted to be faster than the first time I ran it.  Finally,  if the wheels fell off, I just wanted to avoid a DNF.


We all started off together, and I felt really great.  I wasn't pushing at all and was running very comfortably, with no pain or effort.  I was a little surprised when we hit the first mile marker right at 8:30.  We kept that pace for the entire first leg, hitting the turn around in about 1hr 7minutes.  I carried a handheld bottle full of Gatorade and my own nutrition, eating a little something every 30 minutes.


On the way back I managed to maintain almost exactly the same pace without too much effort.  By the time I was about 5 miles from the start/finish I had finished my bottle and was getting noticeably hungry.  I failed to recognize the prophetic foreshadowing that my hunger represented.  Still, I made it back to the second turn around in 1hr 11 minutes, only three minutes slower than the first leg.  What I chose to do next was the beginning of my downfall.

Prior to the race I had decided to experiment with nutrition at the halfway point of the race.  I have read lots of accounts of ultra marathoners who use Ensure or some other type of liquid meal replacement during races.  I thought this might not be a terrible idea, so I decided that I would leave a drop bag at the start/finish with an 8oz. bottle of Ensure to see how my stomach would handle it.  I hit the turn around, topped off my handheld bottle, and drank the Ensure.  It went down really well and tasted good. 


About a quarter mile into this leg, I could tell I had a belly full of very calorie dense liquid.  I felt full and sloshy.  I decided to just take it easy and give myself 30 minutes or so to digest.  Even taking it easy, I still hit the first mile marker in just under 8:40.  I could tell that I was having to work a lot harder to maintain a pace that had seemed very easy just 20 minutes ago.  I managed to maintain just under a 9 minute pace until the turn around, but it was no longer easy.  I was starting to suffer.  My stomach felt off and I was getting nauseous.  The muscles in my things and lower back were starting to cramp some but nothing too bad.  I was still harboring ideas of a 4:40 finish with a marathon PR in the process.  This all came crashing down on the final leg of the race.


I turned around and started back and was just out of energy.  I knew I needed to eat, but I didn't want to take any nutrition.  My Gatorade tasted sickeningly sweet, and I could only make myself drink a very small sip every now and again.  I was slowing down and my legs were starting to feel heavy, but I was still running somewhere around 9 minute miles.  I hit the 26.2 mile mark of the race in about 3hrs and 59 minutes.  Not as fast as I had thought I would do after the first leg, but still good for my second fastest marathon time.  shortly after that I knew I was going to be sick.  With just over 4 miles to go I stopped, walked over to the edge of the trail, and heaved the contents of my stomach into the woods.  Yes, this was just as unpleasant as you imagine.  Ultra runners being who they are, those who passed me asked if I was OK and even offered salt tablets.  I told them I was fine and declined any assistance.  After a minute or two, I stood up and ran about 20 feet before vomiting again.  After that second round my stomach finally felt much better. The problem was by that time I had no nutrition and was a little dehydrated.  I completely bonked with 3 miles to go.  I had pulled away from Tim and Rob on the first lap and was running by myself until just before the 3 mile marker.  At that point Tim caught and passed me. (Tim went on to finish in 4hrs 56 minutes, achieving his goal of breaking 5 hours and besting his old time by almost half an hour.)  I knew he was putting time into me with each stride and that Rob couldn't be far behind.  Even with that as motivation, the best I could do was run for 3 or 4 minutes and then walk for a minute or two.  I was actually relieved when Tim passed me and then again when the 5 hour mark came and went.  I knew I was going to finish and that I was going to beat my time and no longer had to worry about pushing to break 5 hours.  I crossed the finish line in 5 hours and 4 minutes, 21 minutes faster than my last attempt.  Rob came in just a few minutes behind me. 

All finished and ready for the drive home.


I was hoping to be able to post the results and top finishers here, but as I write this the race website has not posted the official results.  I do know that there were some rockets out there, as usual. I will update this as soon as I have the finishers' information.  I learned that I will not be using Ensure again in the middle of a race as we do not seem to get along well.  I have always heard that you have to eat before you are hungry and drink before you are thirsty, and Saturday really proved that point to me.  From here on I will make more of an effort to have a plan for, keep up with, and monitor my caloric and fluid intake during races. My training schedule called for a 10 mile run on Sunday.  While it would have been very easy to come up with an excuse that would have satisfied me to skip it, my legs were sore and I figured it would be a good way to work out some of the lactic acid.  I expected it to hurt and be slow so I had no pressure or preconceived notions of pace.  I started off with a brisk walk to get warmed up and then launched into a 6mph jog.  As the miles ticked by, I began to loosen up and was able to pick up the pace.  It felt good to stretch out the legs and run fast again.  I'm still a little sore but none the worse for wear and looking forward to another week of running.

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