After getting sick and having to bail out early at Rocky Raccoon I really needed a goal race for the Spring. I had made the lottery for MMT, but did not feel I could appropriately train for the terrain. Instead I decided I would continue my trend toward faster 100 milers and try my legs at Umstead 100. There is about 2 months between Rocky and Umstead, so I wanted to run something in-between to get a bit of a confidence boost. I had originally planned on running the Rock’n Roll D.C. marathon, but our plans changed and we would not be in D.C. the weekend of the race. So I looked for something local to run and found a race about 2 hours away in northern Alabama.
The Delano Park Run consists of a 12 Hour Solo/Relay and 50 mile race. Twelve hours would be more running than I wanted, but a 50 miler would be a good training run one month out from Umstead and hopefully give me a bit of a confidence boost. It has been almost a year since my surgery, and although I have been training and running well, I still had yet to complete an Ultra. So, a couple days before the race I registered and Friday night I drove down with Anne and the boys.
After battling traffic to get out of Nashville, we made it to Decatur, AL around 8 PM. After a few slices of pizza and some wings I was tucked in bed. I really had no expectations for the race. I knew there wouldn’t be much in terms of competition and I hadn’t run a 50 miler since before my injury over 2 years ago. My fitness was pretty good, and I had been coming off a string of 90-100 mile weeks. I didn’t taper at all, which was part of the plan. The course is a one-mile loop (a format I’d never run before) and is almost flat. So, as I told Anne the night before, I was just going to treat it like I was going for a regular long run.
Race morning was a chilly 36 degrees, but temperatures were expected to rise to the low 60s. We got to the start line about 20 minutes before the race, I grabbed my bib and pinned it to my shorts, dropped my bag on the ground, and waited in the car to stay warm. I was very calm and relaxed; looking forward to spending the next several hours running. The race started right at 6 AM and we headed out on the first loop. The course is primarily crushed gravel and winds its way around the park, with the only little hill leading up to a water tower and a slight downhill back to the start/finish. It’s not much more than a bump, but is just enough to break it up from being completely flat. The first lap I settled into about 6:50 pace and it felt easy and comfortable. The only person I would run with all day was a member of the leading relay team, but because of the looped format you are constantly surrounded by other people. After a few miles I settled into about 6:40 pace and was just clicking off the laps. As I began to lap people multiple times I got several cheers, and some questions about which race I was in. One lady jokingly asked if my twin and I were running the relay.
Ten miles came and went in around 67 minutes. I shed my long sleeve as the sun was coming up, failing to notice that my nipples were already bloody. It didn't hurt, but looked gross. Despite the looks I was getting, it was still too chilly to run shirtless. The miles clipped by as I settled into a groove running 6:30-6:40 pace. The cooler weather meant I probably wasn't eating and drinking as much as I should, but tried to stay consistent eating something every 20-30 minutes, primarily shot blocks.
About mile 22 Anne and the boys returned to see me through the second half of the run. There was a big playground in the park so about every 7 minutes I heard a “hey dad” from Logan and Gavin as they were chasing each other around the park. I hit the marathon mark in 2:53 and the 50K point in about 3:27. At this point I realistically thought I had a shot to sneak in under 5:40, but there was still a lot of running left.
It was also about this time that the sun was fully up and the temperature started to creep into the 60s. While not very warm it was 25-30 degrees warmers than it was at the start. I ditched my shirt and tried upping my fluid intake. However, around mile 35 I started slowing. I did expect to slow, especially since this was the furthest I had run in a couple years. I thought I could hold it together and tried to keep the pace around 7 minute miles. However, my energy level kept dropping (probably a lack of calories) and my right leg started acting a bit funny. I don’t think my glute was firing right, so I was dragging the leg a bit. What I would have given for a good hill to break things up at this point.
It was also hard to keep the pace when there was no one to chase or chasing me and mentally I only considered this a training run anyway. I knew I could jog it out and still finish under 6 hours, so there was very little incentive to push hard through the pain.
So, my focus shifted on simply finishing the run and I plodded along at what felt like a snail’s pace but in reality was 7:30 to 8 minute pace. I entered the last mile and said goodbye to the ever familiar landmark: the playground, the bench, the water tower, that one tree – I had consistently counted them down and now this would be the last I would see of them.
As I approached the finish line the RD got on the loud speaker to announce my finish in a course record time of 5:51:52. A small group of the 12-hour runners gathered to congratulate me, reminding me of the many great qualities of the Ultra community.
After the race I drove over to the local church with the RD, Jon Elmore, to pick up my award. My stomach was off for several hours, until I was able to get down a chocolate shake from DQ. Later that night I was nitpicking my run, when Anne reminded me that there aren't too many people that will run sub-6 for 50 miles. I know I can run faster, but given this was a last minute decision, at the end of a couple high mileage weeks and I am still less than a year removed from surgery, I have to be pleased. Next up is Umstead 100, we’ll see what happens…
Strava data here: http://www.strava.com/activities/119188941