Tuesday, November 13, 2012

McNotAgain Race Report 2012

A runner commenting on the 10-mile race loop at McNaughton Park: "... comparing the high altitude, long climbs of the Western mountains to McNaughton hills is like comparing being eaten by a shark vs. being eaten by a 1000 piranhas ... both are unpleasant ... just in different ways."

I ran the McNotAgain 30-Mile Trail race this past weekend (November 10). It was my 4th official finish in the four years that the race has existed.  Not bad. I even participated in the pre-race fat ass run back in 2008 when the potential race director was checking out whether folks would be interested in a fall McNaughton Park event (there was, and still is, a spring ultra race at the same park). I finished this year's race in just under 6 hours (5:58). Typical for me, but particularly good in this year's warmer weather. I feel lucky to have finished without injury. As usual, I had three goals going into this race:

1. Finish without injury
2. Break 6 hours
3. Beat Kevin Cox (my imaginary nemesis, he's real, but not really a nemesis)

I accomplished all three goals! While I'm happy to have finally defeated Kevin, it wasn't really fair. He has recently suffered from back problems and this past week he was ill. If that's what it takes to beat him, I'll take it...for now.  Next year, we'll both be back, we'll be healthy, and we'll both set personal records...but I'll win. I can dream.

In general, the race went well. I kept is easy, but consistent, on the first 10-mile loop. It was warm already and I knew it might be a long and hot day. I didn't pass too many people...and few passed me.  The notable exception was the man with one arm. He passed me running up a hill as I did my standard hill walk (just as we climbed up to heaven's gate around mile 5). Who runs up a hill? I committed myself to beating this one-armed man. At the time, I figured Kevin was way ahead and never to be seen again...so my new nemesis was found at mile 5 of 30.

At the end of the first loop, I felt good. I was under my planned 2 hours per loop pace (around 1:50) and ready to try my first Hammer HEED sports drink. I mixed the drink, downed an Endurolyte salt pill, and went on my way with a handful of pretzels...plus my trusty i-Pod shuffle. After a few miles, I managed to hook up with Steve, a runner from Iowa that I met at a local fat ass event--we pushed each other for a few miles and caught up on running gossip and trivia. It was a nice distraction. The entire second loop saw me trading places with both the one-armed man and "glow sock"--a dude wearing bright neon socks. I was now committed to beating both of them to the finish line. This second loop finished right under 4 hours--a little slower than loop 1, but still at the 6-hour overall pace I wanted. It was getting warmer and I was starting to feel a bit of fatigue. Grabbed more HEED, Endurolytes, and supplemented with Perpetuem solids. Here comes the sun...and loop 3. Only 10 miles to go!

Loop 3 had me thinking about one-arm, glow sock, and the darn blonde woman that just passed me at the 20 mile aid station! Dang, I now had 3 competitors, plus the invincible Kevin. When I departed on loop 3, all of them were ahead of me. I decided to chase the blonde (she was the closest to me and seemed easiest to overtake). The blonde stayed about 100 yards ahead of me for 3-4 miles, but we both passed quite a few runners. It was getting warmer and people were going slower.  I raised the effort level and tried to maintain the same pace as the first two loops. It sure felt harder. My HR was above 155 for almost the entire loop. It peaked at 171. By mile 25 I had lost the blonde (she stayed strong and finished well ahead of me). I was running alone...until glow sock appeared not too far ahead! I had a new mission...catch that brightly clad fella. Like when I was chasing the blonde, this battle with glow sock saw us pass a few runners (including old one-arm), but I never caught him. I tried. We entered the big 1-mile meadow section that signaled the end of the loop (except for the hill leading to the finish line itself) with glow sock about 100 meters ahead of me. I kept shuffling songs on my i-Pod until the one I needed came up...Thin Lizzy's "Jailbreak."  I immediately went into sprint mode (at mile 29, that translates to about 9-minute pace). I didn't think I'd catch my brightly colored foe, but I wanted to ensure a sub-6:00 finish...and it was looking a little too close for comfort. When the song Jailbreak ended, I played it again, louder. Much louder. I pushed hard and finally reached the hill to the finish. I checked my watch and realized I had enough time in the bank to hike the hill and still finish under 6:00.

As I power-walked the long hill that led to the finish line (evil trick of the RDs), I knew I had lost my battle with glow sock, beaten the one-armed man, and lost miserably to the blonde. I was also expecting to see Kevin changed, relaxed, and waiting for me. None of that mattered...I was going to finish under 6:00. I crested the hill and turned into the finish line with the RD clanging a cow bell in my honor. I was done in 5:58:37. After splashing water on my head and grabbing some soda, I asked the race director about Kevin (we are all friends). Paul said Kevin was still on the course and "should finish in a few minutes." Holy cow, I beat Kevin! After a bowl of veggie chili, a quick change of clothes, and another soda, Kevin rambled through the finish line. He struggled, but persisted. It was not his day. We'll meet again at many more ultras. I hope one day we'll both be at our best...and we'll battle it out to a photo finish. Won't matter who wins.

Here are my basic race statistics (mostly from Garmin 305 GPS watch):

Time: 5:58:37
Distance: 28.33 (actually 30 miles, but GPS underestimates)
Placing: 8th (out of 53 starters)
Average HR: 150
Peak HR: 171
Elevation Gain: 3,095 feet
Weather: 57 => 71 degrees, partly cloudy with a little rain
Calories: 3496
Shoe: New Balance MT110
Full mile splits and a little extra detail can be found on my DailyMile log.

I feel pretty darn good about this race because I haven't been in the best running shape the last few months. This was my second race in 4 weeks...my attempt to jump start my training for the April 2013 Umstead 100 Miler. So far so good. I'm on the right path. If I can ramp up my weekly mileage, and get in regular weekend long runs, I should be ready for the 100 miler come April. Next up is the Tecumseh Trail Marathon on December 1.

NOTE: They ran the course "backwards" this year--for the first time ever. I have run this 10-mile loop (in training and racing) probably 100 times (that's a 1,000 miles folks!), but never in this direction.  I felt comfortable, but also a bit anxious and intrigued by this "new course." Everything seemed different, yet eerily familiar. It was a cool experience. A metaphor for life. Change things up to keep things interesting!


Anonymous said...

Great race report! Sounds like you hit it all square on the head!

Chris said...

Thanks. Yep, it went OK.

Kevin said...


Very consistent loop times. Great run!

I'll definitely be looking for you in the spring ;)


Chris said...

Thanks Kevin. Look forward to seeing you at future races.

IJSEvents said...

Congrats Chris. I've yet to run a loop on those trails although I've seen them, that works for me :-)

ed said...

Congrats on your typical(!) sub 6 on the new course.

See you at Tecumseh.

Chris said...

@Ian You should give the McNaughton course a try.

@Ed I'll be at Tecumseh. Starting to get in shape and feeling good. Resigned my current job yesterday and accepted a new position on campus! Things are looking up.