Sunday, February 2, 2014

Redefining Success - the Jed Smith 50K Race Report

I know the real question burning in your mind isn't how my day went, but whether or not UltraIronHubs managed to lap me, so I am pleased to report that he did NOT.  Of course he caught up with me and passed me.  I strongly suspected that he would, but couldn't noodle out where I would see him.  It was Mile 13, at a water station.  I had just grabbed a cup and was walking away drinking when I heard the volunteer ask the person behind me if he wanted water.  As he replied, "No thanks," I thought, "Hey!  I know that voice!"  UIH slowed down long enough to kiss me, then hustled away to a phenomenal finish (more about that in a minute)!
So.  My race.  It was freakin' awesome in every single way, from start to finish.  I went into it feeling cautious, trying not to let December's DNF at the CIM mess with my head.  I told myself to focus on running easy and fueling well for a long day.  
I slept surprising well the night before, maybe because I actually got to sleep in a little.  I get up around 3 am typically, so setting my alarm for 4 am felt like a huge luxury!  I went about my usual routine with coffee and oatmeal, got the kids up, prepped my hydration pack and food, made the kids a million sandwiches and snacks for their long day of spectating, got dressed and was out the door by 6:15.  We got to the race venue really, really early for an 8:30 start time, but the parking for this race is very limited and we wanted to make sure we got a good spot where the boys could hang out in the car and see us as we ran.  The Jed Smith is a spectators dream:  You can park right at the Start/Finish line, and the course runs around a 4.86-mile loop six times, plus a short out and back at the beginning.  All told, I got to see my cheering fans seven times!
Packet pick-up took less than two minutes, so most of the early part of the day was spent using the bathrooms and huddling in the car, trying to stay warm.  ("Warm" is relative, of course.  It was about 38 degrees at the start, which probably sounds downright balmy to anybody outside of Cali!)
Lucky bib number!  I have a weird thing about double numbers and this one didn't disappoint.
 Eventually, it was time to get this show on the road, so I did my warm-ups and went to line up.  The field was pretty small (just under 100 runners), but I chose to line up near the back.  I wasn't in it for a fast finish!
Heading to the start, trying to keep the nerves at bay.
 The out-and-back at the beginning was just under 2 miles of narrow-ish trails, and the field really didn't seem to be spreading out, so I decided not to start my run/walk until we got back to the starting line and onto the main road of the course (this race is mostly paved bike trail, with some levee gravel paths and some dirt trails - no single track).  I knew that this decision could completely fuck up my day by getting me behind on my planned hydration and setting me up to go out too hard, so I tried to rein it in.  Lots of people passed me, even though I swear I started in the back.  I relaxed and ran easy, but I refused to look at my Garmin.  It was way too early in the day to start thinking about times or paces, so I just emptied my mind and enjoyed the run.  As I passed through the loop/finish chute, I grabbed a cup of water and walked for a bit while I put on headphones and started my GymBoss.  The plan was to hit 5 minutes of running and 1 minute of walking/drinking/eating for the rest of the race.
Having run this race before, I kinda sorta knew what to expect terrain-wise and landmark-wise, but the first loop seemed to go really fast!  The far end of the course ("far" being about 2.5 miles from the start - lol!) crosses the American River on the Guy West Bridge and my sister had told me that she was going to cheer for me there.  As I approached, I didn't see her, but figured she would be there later, no problem.  Then I heard her shouting my name and hustling up the ramp to the bridge.  Hooray!  A cheering fan!!  She gave me a hug and a high five and sent me smiling on my way.

Coming in from Loop #1 with a big ol' smile!
By the time I came in from Loop #1, UIH had already started his race.  One of the fun things about running a loop course is that you have a wide variety of people running different distances at different paces.  Okay, it's a tiny bit disconcerting when the eventual winner of the 50-mile race blows past you like you're standing still even though she's (yes, "she!" - four of the top five in the 50-mile race were women!) running 20 more miles than you, but whatever.  I wasn't racing her.  Really , I wasn't racing anybody, I was just trying to give it my best effort.
Done with Loop #2!
 Loop #2 went by in a blur.  I fretted about my stomach, which was doing completely fine, but can turn on a dime.  I saw my sister again.  She had made a friend who was also cheering at the bridge and told me he would be there after she was gone (she only had time to cheer for three loops).  I passed a few people and the eventual winner of the 50K and the 30K passed me.
On Loop #3, I saw UIH and used one of the bathrooms.  Yay for hydration!  My belly was cooperating quite nicely and my legs and lungs seemed to be holding up just fine.  I finally looked at my Garmin and was really happy with my average pace.  I was halfway done!  And I felt good!  It was too early to be giddy, but I could feel it coming on.  Things were really coming along nicely.  As I cruised through the long loop/finish area, I didn't see my kids, so I stopped at the car and banged on the window.  "Hello!"  Big Boy was reading his book and Little Boy was using the bathroom.  Ooops, guess they should have been paying attention to the time.  It wasn't a problem for me, with so much of the race left to go, but I knew UIH would be finishing up soon and didn't want them to miss it.
Heading into Loop #4, I definitely started to feel giddy.  Things were going really well.  I was drinking and eating on schedule, I was stopping for water at every station, and other than having to pee that one time, my gut was behaving in a most cooperative manner.  I started calculating how many miles I had left and it really didn't seem like that many.  I saw my sister's new friend at the bridge and he cheered for me, just like she had promised.
Finished with Loop #4.
Finishing Loop #4 was awesome!  I got to see UIH and hear about his race - he did great, of course!!  He hit his pace goal and wound up fifth place OVERALL and second in his age!!
Age group prize is this sweet hat.  It says, "I ran far.  I ran fast."  Love it!!

I lingered at the car for a few minutes to take off my shirt (it's okay, I had a tank top on underneath) because I was getting pretty hot.  UIH topped off my hydration pack with some of his leftover Gatorade and I was off again.  I saw some friends of ours near the finish line, cheering, and that was a huge boost.  Two loops left!!  I am totally going to do this!
Yes!  Done with 5 loops and still smiling!!
 Loop #5 is pretty much a complete blur to me now.  I remember ticking off the landmarks:  hill, water station, road crossing, bridge (my sister's friend was still there!), down off the levee, water station, long rocky stretch, dirt trail, climb up the overpass, steep downhill, family!  My one and only thought upon finishing Loop #5 was, "Keep going, you're almost done!!"  I cruised into the marathon distance at 4:40 and change.  Not my best, but not my worst by a long shot.  I felt good.  In fact, I felt better than good.  Going into Loop #6, I picked up my pace and even briefly considered trying to run the final loop without walking breaks, but figured that would be the fastest way to a crash and burn.  I was full-on giddy at this point.  My footsteps were chanting "almost done, almost done" at me, so I picked it up a little more.
I remember very clearly how awful that final loop was last year.  I was in tears, barely trudging along, feeling completely overwhelmed by the task of running five more miles.  I was disappointed in my time (as if!) and had nothing left in the tank.
This year, I spent Loop #6 passing people right and left who looked an awful lot like I did last year.  I probably should have felt bad for them, but I just felt so darn good for myself!  I sent out my line and reeled them in one after another.  People who had been ahead of me the whole race were suddenly in my rearview mirror.  Honestly, it wasn't about beating other people, though that was a nice little side benefit.  It was about beating the girl I felt like last year.  Time-wise, I knew I wasn't going to PR, but feeling good on that last loop was all the victory I needed!
So, so, SO happy at the finish line!!  The clock is set for the 50-milers, so I got to subtract an hour.

Lap #1 is the out-and-back portion of the race.  I love the comparison to last year's lap times, particularly lap 7!!
Here's how my day stacked up against my goals:

  • Don't drown.  BAM!  I beat this one like a boss!
  • Fuel and hydrate properly.  I think this is the one I'm happiest with, to be honest.  I stuck to my schedule and ate and drank like it was my job, which is definitely why I was able to meet my next goal...
  • Finish strong.  Absolutely the strongest finish I have ever had.  Ever.
  • Finish under 6 hours, or - if I'm having an amazing day - under 5:30.  Yep, it was an AMAZING day!  By 21 seconds!  :)