Sunday, November 10, 2013

McNotAgain 30-Mile Race Report

Yesterday I finished my 5th McNotAgain 30-Mile Trail Race. It was also my 89th ultra/marathon. The last three ultras hadn't gone well, but I had a feeling this one would be different. I felt more prepared, rested, and relaxed. It seemed that training was under control too. And I had a new sports drink: Osmo Nutrition. Things were coming together...this might just be my day.

Since I run this race every year, I have "regular" yearly race goals:

1. Finish uninjured
2. Break 6:00
3. Beat whatever friends are running (Kevin, Paul, Eddie, Gregg, Jeff, Letitia)

I managed to easily achieve the first two goals, but couldn't quite pull off all of the third one: Fast Eddie beat me by about 7 minutes. Still, I took down the rest!

We started at 8am. Sun was up and the weather was pretty nice: about mid-40s and windy. The high for the day was around 65. It remained sunny most of the day, but the consistent wind helped keep things cool. Even with rain in the middle of the week, the course was in great shape. No mud. No standing water. Even the streams were passable without getting wet--you just had to be fairly dexterous and hop rocks and logs to avoid the water. It was a nice change for this course--usually my feet are wet for the entire 30 miles.

As we headed out on the first 10-mile loop, I tried to stay in the middle of the pack (10 milers and 30 milers went out together). When we funneled on to the single track trail, things got congested. For about a minute, it was a crawl. Soon we managed a slow, but steady, jog. Within a mile, everyone was basically settled into their regular paces. I stayed with my running buddy Gregg. He typically sets a smooth and steady pace. That was perfect for me. For the first 20 miles, I always had Gregg within sight. He'd pull away slightly at each hill (he jogs them, I walk them), but I'd catch back up on the flats. We finished the first 10 miles in 1:50 and hit the 20 mile mark at 3:50. Perfect. I could tell Gregg was getting tired at the end of the second loop. He even walked the last couple of hills. When we left the start/finish aid station together, I knew I would be on my own for this last loop. Never saw Gregg again until the finish (he ended up about 10 minutes behind me).

I was dreading the third loop. This is where I fell apart in my last races. I do fine until 22-25 miles, then die. That's not good if you still have 5-8 miles to go! In my past races, I slowed to a miserable 18 minute/mile walk. It was brutal. I hoped this would be different. I felt strong starting the loop and was cautiously optimistic. My new sports drink seemed to be keeping me hydrated, and I snacked at each aid station. As I hit each mile (Garmin watch would vibrate), I could tell I was getting a bit slower and feeling more tired. Felt warmer and slightly dehydrated too. But I was hanging in there. Mile 22, 23, 24, 25. Tired, but still OK. The mid-point aid station was where I decided to push. I was tired, but everything else was good--no pains, no stomach issues, and only 5 miles to the finish. I knew the course well and figured if I could get through the next 2-mile hilly section, I would be able to cruise the last 3 "less hilly" miles. As I left the aid station at mile 25, the "pink panda" woman was right behind me (she wore a fuzzy pink panda hat and bright running  tights). I was fairly confident I was beating all my friends, but I really didn't want the pink panda to pass me! I pushed a little harder on the hills.

Before I knew it, I was through the tough section and crossing the last stream. No one had passed me, but the pink panda was still within sight behind me. I pushed hard up the sandy hill section from the stream and headed toward the totem pole (about 2.25 miles from the finish). At the totem pole, I caught a guy. That gave me extra motivation to push hard in the last rolling hills. Unfortunately, on one of the last hills, the guy passed me back and a woman also passed me (not pink panda, but another lady--the eventual female champion). As she passed, she asked if I was OK. Damn, I thought I was doing fine! Told her I was "just tired" and she said, "That's because you've run 29 miles." Yeah, that does explain it.

I decided I would hang with them until the big meadow loop, then push like hell to the finish. I kept them just within sight as we descended into the meadow, and started the 3/4 mile meadow loop. The guy was about 100 feet ahead of me, the woman 100 yards. Would it be possible to pass them both?  I remembered the conversation Jeff, Gregg, and I had in the car on the way to the race--it was about Steve Prefontaine and his ballsy race style. He always said he'd turn every race into a gut check, and if you were going to beat him, you'd have to suffer. I cranked my iPod and dedicated myself to making these last two runners suffer. "Welcome to the Jungle" (Guns n Roses) started to play...I increased the volume and picked up the pace!  Passed both runners. I was running hard. Really hard. With about 1/2 mile to go, "Jailbreak" (Thin Lizzy) began to play. I cranked the volume again and held my pace, while also jumping up and down to the music. I was freaking flying! When I reached the end of the meadow and started up the final hill to the finish, both runners were far behind me. I broke them. I jogged half-way up that final race hill, then walked fast to the finish. I was spent. Finished in 5:52. This was good enough to be 12th out of 51 starters. A full half-hour faster than my last 30-miler. Nice. I was happy. Even when I saw "Fast Eddie" already at the finish line (he finished in 5:45), I was still happy. It was a great day.

NOTE: On my Friday blog post, I predicted splits of 1:55-2:00-2:03. I ended up with splits of: 1:50-2:00-2:02. Not bad.

Big "thank you" to Mike and all of his race volunteers. It was another fantastic event. I'll be back, yet again, to McNotAgain. Welcome to the jungle, baby!


Rob said...

Great job Chris!

Chris said...

Thanks Rob. I'm happy.

Trunil said...

Congratulations for the great timing.