Saturday, August 2, 2014

Medoc Meltdown

This weekend is my last big training push before I start my taper for Leadville in two weeks.  My plan called for an easy 10-mile run on Friday, an easy 35-mile run on Saturday, and an easy 26-mile run on Sunday.  I use the word "easy" in reference to heart rate; running that many miles in three days is never easy.

My wife had been planning on going to her 25th high school reunion this weekend.  My plan was to either stay close to the house or run the 35-miler on the treadmill.  Due to an insane work schedule, she had to cancel her trip. Then at the last minute her Saturday opened up.  At about the same time, I got an email from Karl saying he was was planning on running the Medoc Meltdown on Saturday, which is a 50+K fat ass run in Medoc State Park.  Because Wendy had already canceled her trip, she told me to go run with Karl.  Not being a complete moron, I immediately recognized that 34ish miles on the trail with other people was way better than 35 on the treadmill.  A few text messages and I was all set.

I met Karl at his place at 5:30am on Saturday, and we headed to Medoc State Park for the run.  It consists of 4 loops of single track trail - each one about 8.6 miles for a total of 34.4 miles.  It was happy and laid back, as most trail ultras are and especially fat ass ultras.  (For those who don't know, a fat ass is an unsupported race where each runner is responsible for all of his or her needs; there are no aid stations, no support, and no whining.)  We arrived, got signed up, heard the race briefing, and were unceremoniously sent off into the woods.

Moments before the start.
I planned on treating this as a training run and following my training plan to the letter.  This meant run for four minutes, walk for one minute, and keep my heart rate in zone 2.  This was Karl's first ultra and he was going to see what he could do.  We started off together for the first 4 minutes until my watch beeped.  Upon hearing the chime I dutifully stopped to walk and bid him good luck as he ran down the trail ahead of me.  For the next several intervals, I would almost catch him and my watch would beep.  Eventually, I lost sight of him as he widened his lead.

The course is very runable, but does have a fair amount of up and down and more than enough roots and rocks to keep your attention focused on your feet.  I plodded along, at times flying downhill in an attempt to keep my heart rate up, at other times walking along, enjoying the day.  It was an unseasonably cool day for August in North Carolina.  However the humidity was making its presence known.  It had rained hard the night before, and rain clouds hung overhead, threatening rain all day.  Before long I was sopping wet.

At the end of each lap every runner had to swing by the picnic shelter and check in before heading back out.  I had this down to a science.  I refilled my two bottles, dumped my trash, grabbed my nutrition, and headed out as quickly as I could.  I had no idea where I was or how I was doing in comparison with other runners.  I lapped a couple of people on the later laps, so I knew I wasn't last.  As I finished my third lap and was heading out for my fourth, I saw Karl as he was running into the shelter behind me.

"Holy shit!"  I thought.  He's done.  I looked at my watch we were four hours and thirty minutes into the race.  That meant he had run close to an 8:30 pace for the entire 50K.  Amazing, especially on this course.  I was super excited for him.  Then I began to get upset.  Here I am at what's supposed to be the peak of my training and fitness for Leadville, and people had crushed me on this course.  I was pretty sure there were people right around Karl, so I expected several people had already finished or were about to.  I didn't expect to be at the front, but I also didn't think I would be beaten by 90 minutes.  Self doubt began to creep into my thoughts.  I'm not ready.  I haven't trained enough.  I'll never finish.  I just don't have the genetic ability to finish Leadville.  These thoughts ran over and over through my head as I ran the last lap.  I continued to pass people and even lap a few.  As I ran past two women, they asked which lap I was on, and I told them my fourth.  They seemed really impressed and told me I was looking strong and good luck.  I was annoyed.  Surely they had already been passed by all the people who were ahead of me.  Didn't they know that lots of people had already finished and been waiting around for hours?  Grrrrrrr.  I hated myself.

I finally broke free of the woods and ran up to the picnic shelter.  I was bummed that I had been so soundly beaten but pleased that I ran even splits for all four laps and finished in just under six hours still feeling fresh.  I ran up to the shelter and gave the director my number, all the time looking around for Karl so I could congratulate him. The race director repeated my name, consulted his clip board and said in a slightly surprised tone, "You're done.  You're our first male finisher and second overall."

Wait, what?  First male finisher.  That couldn't be right.  What about all those other people?  What about Karl?  Turns out I had passed everyone either on the course or during pit stops at the shelter.  I had passed Karl about three fourths of the way through lap 3, when he stopped at the shelter for a minute.  As I sat down and took off my shoes to assess the damage from six hours of wet trail running (see the pictures below), the second male came in, followed shortly after by Karl, who finished third.  The woman who finished first overall was in a hurry because she had to get to Richmond because she was a bridesmaid in a wedding that afternoon.  I was impressed by her dedication, although I would have been more impressed if it was her wedding.

The amazing thing is that my training appears to be paying off.  I wasn't trashed, sore, or spent.  My legs felt fine, and I still had plenty of energy.  We hung around for a while congratulating finishers as they came in before heading back to our families in Raleigh.  Turns out that when Karl saw me starting my fourth lap he thought I was having a bad day and was just starting my third lap.  It was only after running for 20 or 30 minutes and not catching me that he realized what had happened.  We're both idiots.  No offense, Karl.

It was a great run on a fun course with awesome people.  Thanks to Karl for coming up with the idea and saving me from six hours on a treadmill, and congratulations on completing your first official ultra marathon.  It's a slippery slope from here.

Now for another 26 tomorrow.

Still stunned at my results but loving my new race bling.

I knew I felt a hot spot on the side of my foot.  

I guess there was one on that toe as well.  

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