Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ouacha waitin' for???? Ouchita 50 Mile race 2013

"My turkey call sounds like an owl."  I had taken to calling through the woods with a sound instead of a name to figure out where my running partner was.
"That's what it's supposed to sound like." My running partner is an avid and skilled bow hunter having already bagged two turkeys this season. I'd learned a lot about turkey hunting, including what kind of replacement netting is nearly impossible to find at any hunting retailer. My friend started running in October and this was his first 50 mile race.

There wasn't much of a real plan, and perhaps too many assumptions based on the past. 2 hikes of sheer terror (for me)  up east Pinnacle, where I watched as he expertly climbed and even carried my 12 pound dog Puccini. Meanwhile I wobbled and slipped in disbelief that this was actually part of the race course. On the second climb, I tripped quite near the top and looked up. He was admiring the view across the valley. I felt nauseated, cried and cursed that I would NEVER climb that mountain after Saturday, and that I'd rather do Hope Pass on the inbound side ANY day than labor up that rock scramble. It is an odd feeling to have achieved a buckle at the Leadville 100 without much drama (blog unwritten), yet feel defeated by an 800 ft mini mountain.

Also in the past, a 3 loop 50k we both ran. After loop 1, I could tell my running partner was itching to take off-- so I let him. He was too new a runner to take much advice, and I was too inexperienced at helping someone learn to run from scratch to convince him that what he was about to do could have some frustrating results. So, I let him go. He finished that second 10 mile loop, 15-20 minutes ahead of me. I was excited for him. Maybe he had it in him to keep that pace through loop three? I caught him with 3.5 miles to go on the third lap. As I came up on him, he looked like a hunched old man and was spending far too much energy plodding than going forward. But as will happen, a friendly face and steady pace got him going again and we finished together in a respectable time .
So my assumptions were as follows: go out at my usual 12 to 13 pace. Suffer up that thing, run in gear 4 and hope gear 3 kicks in around mile 20 to 30. I figured it was possible I'd run into my friend around 25 or so. I was going to allow myself to run my own race-- and if I could race, do so. No chitty chatting with new friends. No lollygagging at aid stations. No whining and watch out for those who want to latch onto my energy. I realize this may sound harsh, but I've gotten glommed onto by many a runner that as soon as they get a little energy fix, takes off and never returns the favor. (this totally happened to me at Rocky Racoon 2012- blog still unwritten. ) My running has been troubling to me since Leadville (unwritten blog). It is at best average (Rockin' K-also unwritten, 3 years in a row) or at worst a walk ( Bandera 100k- unwritten too and probably never going to happen). The walking is usually due to mental chaos that in the past was always sorted by running in third gear. The average running is due to asthma that re-developed after Leadville and keeps me from getting to third gear.

So here's how it went. At the base of Pinnacle, my co-hort decided to trek up behind me, lending encouragement to myself and many scared others. Now my plan/assumptions were out the window. Looked like I was going to be helping a friend through their first 50. Around mile 9, there was some conversation regarding the pace according to Garmin. Can I just say , I hate those things?! I don't mind them for reference such as: I'm feeling good, what pace am I going? Or, I'm feeling bad what pace am I going? That way when I am running without the Garmin I can make good calculations and adjust as needed based on how my body feels. What is very disturbing is to be told that the pace is "x," and it means I'm not going fast enough. I run by feel. I wear a watch, but don't micro-pace, instead preferring to look at how long it took between aid stations and make small adjustments that over the course of 50 miles make a big difference. (this works in life, too.)

It was a little early to do so, but I picked up the pace to satisfy the Garmin. It was my kind of terrain. To run it successfully you need solid core strength, quality glutes and the concentration you would use for a difficult timed college final. I was up for it mentally and I actually thought I might be able to test my fitness by keeping it going on this race since I had just had an average race two weeks prior. My running friend is a much more naturally talented athelete than I am, and can run in all gears (let's say there are 5 with 1 being the fastest) more quickly than I can. However, he's not quite ready yet to be in gear three for a sustained time in an ultra. So, my 3rd gear running landed us at the 15 mile aid station with him a bit drained. I was good to be in and out of the aid station, but could see he needed more time refueling. Since he didn't leave me in a crying heap on Pinnacle, I stood and waiting.

WOW were my legs stiff for the next 8 MILES. I just couldn't get back in rhythm. And it was FLAT. I can run well on flat, but only when the race is exclusively flat. Flat terrain after rollers just sucks me dry. There were about 10 water crossings that were slippery (I totally landed rear down once)- but REALLY SOPHIA???? Get moving. Yup. More average running. Again. Oh, and I haven't mentioned my butt. My unwritten blog of the LT 100 would surely mention that I ran for 28 hours and 51 minutes without emptying my colon, but also with very little trouble despite not emptying my colon. Because of that, I've developed a rather cavalier attitude regarding my pre-race defacation. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't-- well who cares, you made it through Leadville. Right? Wrong. My belly was all poofy and uncomfortable the entire race, I kept dashing off to try and go in the woods and would get noise instead of relief, and really just couldn't either relax and go or hyper focus and race. So there it sat- the previous day's nutrition in the purgatory of my colon. Neither in nor out. (It would be until Tuesday morning for my digestive system to get back on track.)

After the turnaround, I took a backseat and followed in 4th gear. I was grateful not to have to set the pace on the flat. And the pace was good. I would have to scramble here and there as I was following a 4th gear that is a bit faster than mine, especially on the uphills. I was quite impressed that my friend chose to run such a smart race, instead of whooping it up in the first half and suffering through the second, as so many newbies do. That gave me energy- but the dreaded aid stations (I can't believe I said that) were coming up. What to do... I knew I wanted to be in and out so I could keep the warmth in my legs. I knew my friend needed to eat a lot. I started bolting out of each aid station hoping he'd catch up. But it made me nervous. I didn't want him to feel abandoned after all we'd each sacrificed. Him waiting for the numerous ducks into the woods, and my adjusting to his pacing needs. So begins the turkey calling. It wasn't part of the plan, was never discussed and was certainly not an assumption in a running race. But it worked. He'd hear me and whoop back. "Awesome." I could tell he was getting closer and I knew this slight adjustment of leaving the aid stations and playing catch up was netting some decent time. Enough to come in under 12 hours.

Not by Garmin as they always measure short, but my calculations based on the mileage from the final aid station it was a yes. If we ran the road portion.

"I need to walk this."

Ok. Running buddy dislikes pavement. But running buddy is competetive and ambitious. That's part of why I assumed he'd be ok to catch up with me versus defeated when I left the aid stations ahead of him.

" We can finish under 12 hours if we run this."
"There's no way .. my Garmin calculates a 12:15 finish."

But my calculations based on experience, terrain and determination said otherwise. We picked it up and came in running at 11:56. Not my fastest finish and not my slowest. It was not even faster than my Leadville Silver Rush 50 in 2011 (11:41, blog still not written.) What matters is that somewhere between mile 26 and 50 we went from assuming a 12:30 finish to calculating a 12:15 finish to running in at 11:56. I'm sure it was that turkey call that made all the difference.

Mud Hugs, Sophia

RACE ASSESSMENT: Superb race directing with a race director who cares. Below is a list of what constitutes care for me. Never ran out of water. Even at a remote, un-womaned aid station that got visited twice. Well marked course. I don't think anyone got lost. There were several places a less careful race director could have cut corners. Road crossings could have been minus the spray chalk--we could have had to rely solely on the permanent blue markings on the trail, and the blue ribbons could have been placed too high for the runners concentrating on the technical trail to see. Results posted quickly. Great volunteers and well-stocked aid stations that included electrolyte tablets. (did I mention the course was well marked?) Women's cut shirts that actually fit. Charming awards. This is something that would irritate me if the above hadn't been executed expertly-- but are just one more wonderful aspect of this race. Beautiful photos courtesy of Arkansas Outside and whatever photographer she found who could scale Pinnacle with camera equipment so that the ascent could be saved for all time.

COURSE: This race is really challenging because of the rocky terrain and climb over Pinnacle. Once the terrain gets smoother, you trade rocks for slippery water crossings. The fun in it is to keep your concentration and run as much as possible. The cutoffs mean the only casual hikers or runners who decided to do the race without training, will probably need all thirteen hours to complete the 50k. Finishing dead last on the 50 mile here, means you're a really good trail runner. Shade: Lots of shade. Really made the running much more pleasant.

GEAR REPORT: Shoes: Mizuno Inspire 9's in a regular width. I toyed with wearing the narrows that I wore on Rockin' K, but decided the regular width would be better in case of swelling. I was asked about Mizuno's trail shoes while scaling Pinnacle. I love the Mizuno Wave Ascend- but my feet get really hot and I needed air mesh. Also the Ascend actually has a little less under foot than the Inspire, and I just wanted a little extra padding with flexibilty on the rocky terrain. No stone bruises and my feet felt great. Plus, they matched my skirt. Jog Bra: Mizuno Colt. Enough support for me, but I forgot to lube. Ouchy post race shower. Top: 2013 Creation Singlet. This top rocks. I don't know where the Mizuno apparel team found this fabric, but it feels like butter next to my skin, yet wicks like sponge and breaths like a crisp fall breeze. bottoms: I like skirts. Mizuno's 2013 meridian skirt in orange is attractive and the shorts do their job. In addition the inside doesn't rub funny. I also wore 3/4 tights but took them off to make all my bathroom stops faster. These were the new BG3000 tights and gave me some great and needed support on the IT band and knee. Jacket: I started the race with the thin stashable Cabrakan jacket. Worked great and a must for every runner.

Water: 120 oz. Coke: at every aid station Gatorade/Heed: at every aid station
Oranges: 4 slices
Watermelon: one slice
Salt: maybe 10 tabs, but I wasn't sweating profusely, except up Pinnacle and that was from panic. One chocolate chip cookie. One inch of cherry licorice.
Honey stinger chomps: 2 packages.
Honey stinger honey: probably 16 packets. Yes. Gross.. but it works for me. For now.

Breakfast: One egg Gatorade Rock Star energy drink with sugar Coffee Lame butter croissant One toaster waffle

OTHER: Most people associate me with my "signature race braids." They work great, but I've had some problems with uneven breakage from where I put the elastic on resulting in having to cut 3 inches off my precious blonde/red locks. (Boo hiss.) So for this race, I opted for a hairdo I used a lot in 2005 when I first started running- but my hair was much shorter. Cheerful ponies up top. I added a colorful headband that doubled as a sweat magnet. It worked great and I have the photos to prove it. Mostly I needed to keep the hair off my neck, so I'm cool. Lancome waterproof mascara is still the benchmark when it comes to racing with style and not getting racoon eyes. It also helps keep a little sun out of the eyes. I covered myself in 50 spf coppertone before getting dressed and didn't get sunburnt.

DROP BAGS: 2 locations- one that you hit twice. I just used gallon zip lock bags with my info printed in horizontal on a paper. I put my gloves, jacket and 3/4 tights that I took off in them. Mostly I just needed the honey packets. I had sunscreen and lube in one but didn't need it. (no sunburn post race).