Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pass Mountain 50k race report

I arrived at Usery Park around 6 am and got registered with no problem. After making the typical pre-race pit stop, I was able to get my pack and other items arranged in preparation for a long day of running. The weather was surprisingly warm (~54 F) so I ditched all the gloves and arm warmers knowing that my core temperature would keep my warm running through the desert.

It was great to gain some inspiration from some of the other runners who where still recovering from the Javelina 100 the previous weekend...amazing athletes of all ages.

With only 30-40 other runners toeing the line, the race start was pretty low key. Even knowing the day would be long, I couldn't help get caught up in the excitement of another race start. Of course, I went out hot (fast). Too fast. Within 3 miles, my quads were on fire and I was completely winded. Not good.

As I slowed things down near the first aid station, the first real doubts entered my head. It wasn't even sure I had enough energy to finish one lap. I resolved to eat well at every aid station, keep a slower pace and just try to have fun.

The first 2/3 of the course is actually pretty flat. Gentle rollers and nicely groomed trails made for good, even running. Despite these nice trails, within the first 10 miles, I could already feel a hot spot forming on my right foot. I stopped at the second aid station, ate some food and proceeded to patch my foot with some MoleSkin (highly recommend by the way).

I was feeling pretty good leaving the second aid station but that would soon change.

I will tell you I'm a very environmentally conscious runner when it comes to trails and state parks. When I see trash, I pick it up. Today however, my good citizenship cost me some time. I must have stopped at the exact right spot to pick up some trash and completely missed the turn to head out around Pass Mountain. Arggh. I had to back-track about a half mile only to find the turn lit up like a Christmas tree.

That next 8 miles would be a doozy. If it wasn't the overall elevation that got you, the trail turned rough and semi-technical. There were very few steep areas but the gradual climb was eating away my energy and overall mental fortitude. It was at the highest point of the mountain, did I really consider stopping and being satisfied with one loop (26k).
See that light-colored rock? The trail goes up and over  right about there.

After getting to the 3rd aid station (16 miles now), I stopped and ate for a while, talked with the crew and felt surprisingly refreshed - like the last 8 miles never happened. Which surprised me. At that point, I resolved to keep going. I'm not a quitter. And today would be no different.

Approaching maximum elevation.
My pace had slowed to about 11 minutes per mile but honestly, it felt pretty good. Better than walking anyway. I knew that I'd be walking exclusively during my time on the mountain so I tried my best to keep moving while on flat ground. There was only one point where I felt my stomach go wonky. It wasn't bad so I just kept going. Overall, I was eating well and that never was an issue during the race.

The second ascent over the mountain was definitely hard. I had to stop several times just due to the fatigue in my legs. I was facing just pure exhaustion. When you don't put in the distance, the miles take their toll.

Despite a whole lot of walking, I managed to make it up over the mountain and start the descent into the last 5-6 miles. I never really knew exactly how far I was because of the previously mentioned missed turn. In either case, I just kept running. Running felt better than walking so that's what I did. Despite the sore feet and strained quads, I just kept going. Go Forrest, go.

I was making pretty good time and anxiously awaiting the final aid station before the finish. You know how it goes though...the more you're looking for something, the longer it takes to find it. Those last 2 miles drew out like an eternity. Once there, I paused for a couple shots of cola and a refill on the water before heading out for the home-stretch.

I walked a bit more and rounded the corner to the finish only to see my friend Erik, his folks and my family hanging out and yelling my name. I get such a charge when my kids come out and run with me. They thought it was pretty awesome that they beat me to the finish line :)

Unofficial time: 7 hours 58 minutes

Another day, another 31 miles I guess. I hope to be a little more prepared for the next one. More miles. More endurance. Less pain.

See you out there.

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