My prior experiences at Holiday Lake 50K were fun trips with friends from my local training group. In those years I was training for a spring marathon and this race was more for fun. This year I travelled alone and didn't know anyone personally who was there. Somehow this time seemed more serious for me as a race. I did meet Kathryn who posts in a forum I follow at RunningAhead.com so that was a friendly aspect for me. I also had a support / encouragement package with notes and fun things from my 2 most frequent training partners to remind me they were thinking of me.
I felt some pressure to 'live up to' my bib number 92. Last year to be in the top 100 men meant a finish time of 5:20 or better. My previous best here was 5:58. I moved forward in the start to avoid some of the bottle neck a half mile from the start when going from the road to the trail. And I ran all the way up the hill to the trail rather than walking some as in prior years. This meant that I started too fast, and I mainly stayed at the common pace around me to the stream crossing at around 7 miles. I had been evaluating the fast start and decided I would walk more of the uphills and ease my pace some.
My watch gave me trouble from the start too. About 20-some minutes into the race someone's watch beeped for what I supposed was mile 2 and I checked my watch to see how quickly we reached that point. I saw zeros. No problem I thought - start time was 6:30, I could use time of day. My watch apparently reset and was showing Monday 12 am. Oh well, I would run by feel. I started the chrono anyway. Approaching the second aid station I got the time from another runner and used that to figure how much time to add to what my watch showed. We had gotten to the 8 mile mark in 1:16, about 15 minutes faster than I had done before. (Eventually at the turnaround I confirmed the difference on the race clock - 27 minutes.)
The too fast start was already wearing on me in the second half of this loop and I tried to think about taking care of nutrition and just run comfortably. I carried a homemade honey energy gel and I ate cookies, chips, PBJs from aid stations. It seemed I was taking too much time at the aid stations, but made sure I got what thought I needed. After aid station three I began thinking of when I would see the race leaders coming back on lap two. Eventually the leader appeared and the pack following him was several minutes behind. Near the end of the first lap I was feeling pushed by runners behind me, but they never took opportunity to pass. I think I speeded up even though I tried not to do that.
My legs were tired and my right foot and ankle were aching - a PF flareup like I have had the last number of weeks. Shinsplints were coming on. I planned to take some tylenol from my drop bag. I would also refill my bottle with my own sport drink and change from a fleece hat to a ball cap style hat. Again a slow in and out at the aid station and I forgot my tylenol. I walked out, eating the things I picked up. The race clock was at 2:43. After a bit I was running and thinking about how well the second half could go since I was already tired and sore.
I had chosen a Bible verse for my 'mantra' for the race and returned to that. "Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous; do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." While I continued with this on my mind, my mood did not brighten. I had a long mostly dark period from about mile 17-30, gradually fading. I mostly had my eyes on the ground, seldom greeting other runners or giving or returning encouragement to anyone. I did pass a few people who were fading worse than me. In spite of the down mood, all my moving parts were working, so I continued if only so that it could get over with. I then remembered that at the beginning of the day I had offered the day to the Lord, so I recommitted to use what I still had in me and finish the race. I also remembered what Dr Horton says about things not always getting worse.
So I was running the flats and downhills, hiking the uphills. I had surrendered any idea of a PR or finishing ahead of my bib number. I also considered pulling out of the other LUS races I had already signed up for. All but a few of the runners I saw were passing me. Sometimes I would count my steps walking no more than 100 at a time.
For part of the section leading to the halfway aid station on this lap I was running beside/with a lady who has a long list of ultra finishes and we chatted some about races we had done. Eventually she stopped for a potty break and I was alone again. (She would pass me back and finish ahead of me.) But chatting had taken my mind off my troubles for a while. As I approached the aid station I tried to do the math for how long the last 8 miles might take. It was about 4 hours into the race. I made some errors there and somehow thought I had gotten that far in 2 hours on the first lap. And since I was moving slower, even a 6 hour finish would be impossible. I asked about tylenol at the aid station, but they had nothing like that. My stomach was feeling bloated and 'off', meaning I didn't feel like eating. All I took there was get a water refill.
Soon I was at the stream crossing and took my time going through, hoping the cold water would help my sore ankle. In the prior year I had thought the next section was easier running, but it didn't seem so this time. After a while I rechecked my math and realized I had gotten it wrong, deciding to recalc with 4 miles to go at the upcoming aid station. As I approached the final aid station, I took that last of my homemade energy gel. I looked for and drank some ginger ale at the aid station, hoping it would help my stomach. I asked for tylenol, they had ibuprofin and I reluctantly took 2 of those. Soon after leaving the aid station I took a powerbar gel.
And things began to improve. I was able to run easier and was willing to even run most of the uphills. Maybe I had finally caught up on calories, maybe it was the good news of only 4 miles remaining. Or God with me was pushing away the discouragement. Or ginger ale or ibuprofin... I caught and passed a runner, then another. With about 2 miles to go I was recovered. Still more runners appeared ahead of me and soon were behind me. And then the 1 mile to go mark. According to my watch and calculations I had 20 minutes to cover the last mile, including the downhill half mile on the road. I felt like a chance to PR had been given back to me.
And then I came out onto the road and gradually picked up the pace. My shoes made a lot of noise on the road. My feet seemed to be slapping the pavement due to my shin splits. I passed probably 5 more runners before the finish line, nearly sprinting at the end. No one seemed to mind or resist being passed. The clock ticked to 5:49:59 as I crossed the line and was greeted by Dr Horton.
Starting too fast is bad and if it feels too fast in the first fourth of a race, slow down.
Thinking about keeping up with nutrition should be accompanied by doing it. I didn't take enough calories.
Running well is largely mental. Even when not feeling good I should act like it - smile, encourage others, etc. Find things to be glad for even when it is tougher than expected.
Be patient with pacing, with how things are going. It doesn't always keep getting worse.