Saturday, February 21, 2015

Everglades Ultras

50K - 4:47:47 
5th Place Overall
1st Place Males 30-39
Everglades National Park, Florida

Pre Race
I am usually a very conservative runner especially in marathons and ultras. My original plan was to just use this as a training run and get in some sightseeing. Because this was my vacation and it was only a training run I had a very “whatever happens” attitude. In the days leading up to the race I keep thinking that if I didn’t care about the race why not take a risk and start out fast. If I held on to the pace I could smash my PR and place high in the standing, worst case I blow up and walk/run the last 10-15 miles and get in some good sightseeing like I planned. Training had being good and I felt great so I decided it was worth the risk and threw caution to the wind. My plan was to run 20 miles at 8:30 pace and then pick it up if I was feeling good. I knew it would be hot but I really underestimated the difficulty of the course.

Start: Miles 0-12 (pace though this section 8:32/mi)
The race started off on a nice hard packed dirt road it felt nice and cool at about 65F. I paired up with a local guy named Rick, first few miles where around 8:20 pace which was very aggressive. Only about 10 people shot out faster and ran away from us. It didn’t take long until we turned off the road right into the woods. We wouldn’t on the road again until the final 8 miles. Coming from Colorado the sights were amazing everything was so foreign. Early on we ran through a prairie that was nearly 4 miles long which was another amazing sight. Rick and I chatted while running 8:30 pace and the miles just ticked off easy as cake. The ground surface of the woods and the prairie was cleared grass. It felt similar to running on recently watered soccer fields. It was very soft and stole some of your energy with every step.

Middle: Miles 13-26 (pace though this section 9:30/mi)
At the 12.5 aid station Rick needed and extended bathroom break and convinced me to not wait for him. Now running on my own and about 2 hours into the race the soft trails were making my legs feel sluggish. Out again in the prairie without shade I started to feel the sun and humidity (I have mentioned more than a few times that I am a wimp in the heat). My stomach started to ach and I decided it was a good time to slow down and rethink my strategy. Around mile 17 I passed 2 guys which didn’t seem happy to see me. After running in the sun with no shade for about 8 miles the course finally heading into the woods for some much need shade. Unfortunately the next 2 miles where covered in soft mud on a trail called Mud Tram. The upside was we merged with the 25K race and I was no longer alone. I passed a ton of people but only 1 who was in the 50K. My plan was to pick up the pace once I hit the solid dirt road but my legs just wouldn’t move. Finally around mile 23 Rick caught up to me and had energy to spare as he flew passed.

Finish: Miles 27-31 (pace though this section 10:18/mi)
I had slowed down so much but looking at my watch I believed that I could still get my secondary goal of finishing under 5hrs. I didn’t walk at all but now I struggled to run 10:00/mi pace. I didn’t let it get me down I knew I would finish high in the standing if I could just hold on a few more miles. My stomach hurt so much and finally I figured out why, I had been drinking so much more Gatorade than I could digest to try and compensate for the heat (plus gels, food and salt). I caught up with Rick again at an aid station where he was sitting down changing his shoes and eating. I only stopped to fill my handled before again taking off. A few miles from the finish Rick caught me again but I was done racing and in survival mode. “I cannot believe how hot it is” I just wanted to hid under a tree for the rest of the day. About a mile out I could see the finish line and I picked up the pace “come on body hold together for another 10:00”. These last 4-5 miles were absolutely miserable. I was happy to see the finish line but happier to see chairs in the shade.

Post Race
Immediately after the race I sat down out of the sun, I was in bad shape and I needed some liquids. Within 1hr of finishing I had drank 2 cokes, 2 bottles of water and a Gatorade. Not long after that I was happy again and eating a well-earned double cheeseburger. Looking on the finishing board I was very happy to see that I was 5th overall and 1st in my age group. My new friend Rick was a perfect ally as he finished 4th and also won his age group.

Huge PR
Before this race I had a PR drought of 18 months but that was for a new distance which is an automatic PR. The last legitimate PR where I beat an existing best was nearly 3 years ago, I really needed this one. I took a whopping 1hour and 7 minutes off my previous 50K PR.

Off we go

Woods: Glad I had my calf sleeves

Everglades Prairie: Panthers, Alligators and Bears oh my (apparently a whistle stops them dead)

Finish line

Award Ceremony

Race Souvenirs: Finisher Medal, Age Group Medal, Safety whistle, Age Group Award and PR (Garmin)