Monday, February 13, 2012

Holiday Lake 50K++ February 11, 2012

Training Context: I entered the race for a fun extra long run in the middle of training for Boston in April. It would be my 3rd time at Holiday Lake.  Ten local running friends were doing this race so it was a fun road trip driving together, staying at the camp, etc.  In late December I developed heel pain that increased till it interrupted my training plan and sent me to a doctor.  Big cutback in miles including 7 days straight of no running.  Adjusted goals to finish upcoming races rather than PR.

Goals/expectations: run comfortably, manage heel pain, enjoy the day, finish (or drop out) without further injury.  Run as much as possible on downhills and flats, walk uphills to avoid stressing the plantar fascia tendon that connects to where my heel hurts.

Race day: Dressed for running in low to mid 30 degree temperatures without rain or snow.  Bio-freeze on sore foot, tylenol and more bio-freeze in belt pack.  Inov8 Roclite 295 trail shoes with heel pads (modified to give more room for sore spot).

Looking ok around mile 12 - I have number 341 on my YRat shirt.
Race summary: I managed to run mostly normal effort for a long run, following the run/walk plan above.  Took 2 tylenol tablets at 3 times at about 1 hour 30 minutes intervals.  Reapplied bio-freeze at about 20 miles.  Ate a mix of sweet and salty at aid stations.  Mostly drank my own sportdrink, water, coke.  Was into the halfway / turnaround at 3 hours.  Felt stronger in the middle of the second loop and my heel never got too painful or got to the point of setting off some other problem due to compensation.  Leg muscles definitely felt the extra miles and hills but everything kept working. At the 2nd stream crossing around 26 miles, I stood in the stream for about 30 extra seconds to get a little icing effect for my foot. With about 5 miles to go I caught up to Janice who was in the same cabin as the ladies I travelled with.  We ran together chatting away the rest of the run to ignore the fatigue and discomfort.  Finish time 6 hours 12 minutes and 12 seconds, far better than I anticipated.  Yay! 

Race details:
At the 6:30 am start in the dark, I was with Brenda, Nikki, Anna who are my most frequent training partners and told them "don't wait for me when I slow down".  We were mid pack on the uphill to where the course leaves pavement to get on the trail, waiting as the crowd had to thin down to the single track trail.  I immediately stepped in a hole but thankfully didn't roll my ankle.  Soon I was running my own pace but separated from my friends wondering how soon till I had trouble and they would catch and pass me. 

In only 15 or 20 minutes I put my small flashlight away as daylight arrived.  I was carrying my own homemade sportdrink in a bottle belt arrangement.  I bypassed the 1st aid station at about 50 minutes, too soon to need food or a drink refill.  Traffic was easier by now and I watched a while for a place with enough cover for a semi private pee break.  Upon reentering the trail I heard some lady runners bemoaning the unfairness of how easy pee breaks are for the guys.  It made me smile.  Soon I arrived at the stream crossing and sloshed through, passing a couple of runners tiptoeing across rocks in the shallowest part.  This was at about 7 miles and I realized I had only a marathon still ahead of me.  I considered whether this was encouraging or depressing information.  My heel had been sore for some so I took 2 tylenol tabs and looked forward to the aid station about midway on the first loop.  On this stretch a lady runner emerged from the woods and said something about girls not having it easy as "you guys".  Her bright blue top and socks matched nicely with my gloves and I told her so.  Several times through the race she or I would pass the other and somehow it always brought a friendly feeling to see "Bright-Blue lady" again.

At the aid station I filled a sandwich bag with chips, pretzels, cookies; refilled my bottle with water; left there eating on the walk/run.  Things continued similarly lowkey to the next aid station.  One of our local group, Mike, was crewing for us at this station and it was good to see him here.  He helped me do another quick in and out baggie/bottle refill.  Almost immediately I encountered the race leader coming back on his second loop.  It suprised me at how soon this happened, maybe a mile sooner than last year. I interpretted that to mean he was on pace for a new course record, not that I was slower than last year (the truth). 

I tried keeping count of runners on their second loop to see how far back I was when I reached the halfway mark.  Seeing all of the runners' faces seemed to give me more energy.  Along the way I saw and exchanged greetings with local friends Jill, Johna, Monique. They all looked to be going strong.  Near the end of my first loop a lady runner was down on the trail, crying out in pain with a cramping calf.  I stopped for a minute or so to help by stretching and massaging the tight muscle for her, then finished my first loop.  My count showed me to be behind a little more than 200 others.  I came in right at 3 hours - about 5 minutes behind last year's halfway time.  I grabbed some snacks, refilled my sportdrink, took 2 more tylenol and started loop 2 in the other direction.  Soon I saw my other local friends: Nikki, Brenda, Angie, Brian, Anna.  Seeing each one brightened my spirits.

So 16+ more miles.  Would my foot allow me to run when the terrain was favorable?  Before long I felt the heel pad in my right shoe (the problem foot) working to the side.  So I made a plan to sit down at the next aid station, fix my shoe, apply bio-freeze to my arch through my sock.  Coming into this stop was somehow emotional for me and I thought I might cry when I saw Mike ready to snap my picture. While I did my foot/shoe maintence Mike refilled my bottle and snack bag.  Then I walked up the hill from this point, eating and drinking till the course flattened again. 

A couple miles later there is another long uphill approaching the next aid station and on this stretch I almost caught up to the Bright-Blue lady.  But she jogged the hill and I walked it so she added to the gap.  I checked the time and realized a 6 hour finished was out of the question as I would have to finish by running the last 8 miles faster than I had run all day.  Soon after the refills here at the halfway mark of the second loop (and a visit to the bushes for her) I passed Bright-Blue.  She would pass me once more and finish ahead of me.  I took two more tylenol and rubbed some bio-freeze on my quads and hip flexors that were aching from the day's work.  The next mile was all runnable and then the stream crossing.  I walked into the water to mid calf and stood for about 30 seconds to try to help my foot.

This next section was rather empty of runners, but as I kept on I passed a few.  Then with about 5 miles to go one lady looked familiar.  It was Janice who was in the same cabin with the ladies from our local group.  We ran together for the rest of the race, telling stories and swapping training experiences.  It was a good place to have company as the last miles are the hardest for me to keep focused mentally and to not compromise on the effort it takes to continue.  We finished together in 6:12:12. 

Mike was at the finish taking pictures.  Soon I was sharing experiences with him and with Jill, Johna, and Monique who finished before me.  And watching for our other runners still out.  Angie and Brian finished next, then Anna, then Nikki and Brenda (who was injured by some bad falls, causing a big slowdown).

This finish time was far better than I had hoped for considering my foot problems and the big interruption they have caused in my training.  I was expecting to have to walk and hobble to the finish or maybe even drop out.  Amazingly everything kept working.  I am so glad to have rested so I could have a chance to run, then started the race so I could find out what was possible.

All of our group got medals and most of us showed them off to Dr Horton.
Thanks to Brenda (wearing purple) for the medals!

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