Sunday, December 02, 2012

My First (and probably last) Ultramarathon

I ran the Ridgecrest 50K race today.

This wasn't the race I planned to run, as I was signed up for North Face 50K.  But, hearing about the experiences that people had at North Face yesterday, sliding in the mud, no matter how okay people felt about pouring rain, I felt validated in my decision to run a different race.

This was a smaller race.  The kind of race that doesn't accept on-line registration, let alone have a chip that you wear to electronically register your time.  I'd say there were about 350 people there to race the 50k and 30k races.

The course was less hilly, with close to 2,700 feet of elevation gain throughout the race.  That said, the biggest challenge of the day was wind, with reportedly gusts up to 40 miles per hour.

I didn't really have a race strategy.  I knew I had the training to finish 31 miles, and I can't say I had an expectation of how fast I would run them.  I knew there would be some walking.  I may have started a bit fast, because in miles 3-7 I was being passed a lot.

There were aid stations positioned every 3-4 miles, starting at mile 5.  These consisted of a table full of orange slices, bananas, jelly beans, potato chips, boiled and salted potatoes, pretzels, energy gels, Pepsi, Gatorade, water, and at a few stations, Guinness beer.  The stations were well-stocked, but I would recommend perhaps some sanitary measures, like spoons or small containers for the jelly beans so that people didn't stick their germy hands all over them.

Another suggestion that I have for the race:  port-o-potties.  There wasn't a single one on the course.  And this was a desert race.  So there weren't exactly many places where one could discreetly urinate, or god forbid, defecate if one had the "runners trots".  Most people aren't going to finish 31 miles of running without having to do their business, so to speak.

FINALLY, around mile 8.3, I saw a nice big rock suitable for squatting behind.  I discreetly ran behind the rock to see a man finishing up his business.  I said, because it was a bit awkward to encounter him there and not say anything, "I guess I'm not the only one thinking of this," at which point, this man stopped and wanted to engage me in conversation!  I said, "Please, just go, go, okay?"  He got the hint.  Were it a ladies room, with stalls, and he were a lady, perhaps we could have chatted.  But here... NO.

Onward I ran.  Felt good.  It was windy.  I was climbing from miles 7-10, but not a steep climb.  Ran most, walked a bit too.  And, for posterity, recorded some of the experience.  It's a little hard to hear because of the wind but here it is:



The wind only became more troublesome.  I continued to feel good for a little downhill through mile twelve.  My right hip was a bit sore, and I regretted not rolling on my foam roller a bit more over the past few weeks.

Then around mile 13, we had a steady uphill, with a very strong headwind.  Now, this wasn't a terribly steep climb.  But, when wind is blowing at you with this force, there's no point in trying to run.  So I power-walked uphill, with mile splits of 15-17 minutes apiece.  That said, just about everyone else around me was walking.

With the wind, one loses more sweat.  I have a bad habit of not drinking enough when I run.  So, as the wind pounded me, I drank as much water as I could.

I have to say, this really is one of the friendliest races even!  The volunteers were super nice, and helpful.  When my Camelbak ran out of water, a volunteer would take it and fill it for me while I stuffed my face with jelly beans and other fare at the aid station.

Miles 17-20 seemed to level off, with a steady climb from miles 20-23.  The wind continued to pound us.  And I decided I needed another video:



Around mile 25, the aid station had beer!  Now, I'm not a big beer drinker, but during a race, beer tastes good.  And, two of my best races, Long Beach Marathon 2009 and LA Marathon 2011, included drinking beer.  So for good luck, I had about an ounce of Guinness.

The rest of the course was downhill, fortunately.  My feet ached, I had the expected fatigue from being on my feet for hours, but overall I felt okay.   My miles were about 11-12 minutes apiece from here.

My friend and teammate Jason took this video at the end:



Done!  6 hours and 19 minutes.

Now, I had fun.  I can call myself an ultra-marathonner (I think I said "ultraman" in the second video clip, but the brain does funny things when you're running and talking, so I misspoke).  I'll put it in the header of my blog, because I am an ultra-marathonner, just like I'm an Ironman.  One and done.  Don't necessarily plan to do another.  But, if I did, I just might come back to Ridgecrest.  A small town race with a very friendly vibe.  Hopefully, the wind won't return for next year's racers.

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