Saturday, May 29, 2010
Sapper Joe 50k, 2010
31 miles, 5:22:42, 4th Place Overall.
I have been working hard (I thought) to get ready for this race. I've put in a bunch of good miles, although flat miles, and had a wonderful taper going into today. I had a goal to go sub 5:30:00. I knew if I could do that I could make the top 10, maybe even the top 5. Yesterday I was anxious and excited. My family and I drove down to Lehi to stay with my mom since she lives only 5 minutes from Camp Williams, where the race is run. Em and I went out last night with my brother and his wife and saw a movie and then came home and I got things together and we were in bed by 11pm. Unfortunately, my kids struggled throughout the night and I was up several times. The alarm at 4:45am came very early. I wasn't worried though. I popped out of bed, got dressed, and got my things together. The weather was dodgy all through the night so I decided to wear shorts, a t-shirt, and arm warmers that I could strip off if I got hot. In the advent that the weather turned nasty I decided to put a long-sleeved shirt in my drop bag, which I could pick up at the 3rd aide station, about mile 19. When I walked out the front door the skies were clear and it was just a little chilly.
Scott had picked me up and we were to the starting line by 5:30am, huddled with the other runners in the race headquarters building, a large rec area on the military base. I said hello to a few friends, met some new ones, and after a brief pre-race speech by a few military folks and the race director we all gathered outside for the starting canon. Yes, canon.
They had us off promptly at 6am and we quickly spread out. I was running in a small group not far behind the leaders. As we hit the first hill I dropped Scott and a friend Mark and pressed the pedal a little harder up the gradual dirt road. The leaders were off in blazing form. It was impressive to see them power up the hill. The trail/dirt road climbs over several LARGE hills in the first 4.5 miles, topping out after 1700 vertical feet of climbing on top of a mountain. I felt great going up and knew I was on better pace than last year through this section. Once on top I hit the downhill, a ridiculously steep dirt road that drops all of that elevation in about half a mile. From there it is rollers all the way to the first aide station, mile 5.7. I ran this first section in 1:03:17, 3 minutes faster than last year. I didn't stop at the aide station as I didn't need anything. I just dropped my arm sleeves and kept running. I felt really good at this point and was having a lot of fun. The field had spread out considerably. The 30k runners had turned around to break off onto their own trail while we headed further out onto the test range. The next 6ish miles would roll through hills and into valleys, allowing views of Cedar Valley and Eagle Mountain. The weather had been holding pretty well and I was plenty warm. At about mile 10 my left knee started to hurt. Not my ITB, but basically all around the knee. I've experienced this before and knew that it would eventually go away. However, because of that and the wind and incoming clouds and cold I started having some mental issues. By mile 11 I just wasn't feeling it. I was trying, but I was basically miserable. I was doing a good job maintaining my calorie intake and salt, but it just didn't seem to be enough. I was not happy. I was even having thoughts of DNFing at the 2nd aide station. However, when I got there the guys working it (all military) were so nice and encouraging I found my spirits were higher and I was ready to tackle the next 6 miles.
Leg 2, from aide station 1 to aide station 2 (mile 12.7), 7 miles - 1:02:37
The next section of the course is really awesome. It moves up through Oak Springs and is set deep in a narrow valley, enclosed by scrub oak and surrounding hills. Much of the trail is runnable, but with my limited energy (shortly spiked by a gel and half a banana) I found that I had to walk quite a bit of it. Leaving the second aide station I was told I was in 3rd place. The 4th place runner was pretty close behind, but even with my walking I seemed to have put on some distance in front of him through this section. The last third of this section climbs up a steep hill to a ridge. Mr Blackshirt was closing in on me. I was waiting for him to power hike past me any minute. I was miserable and didn't care. I just wanted him to blow by me and then I could get back to being miserable. My legs were wrecked by this point. All of the training I had done up to this point was great, but it just didn't include enough hills (I haven't run hills in almost a month). I was in pain. Once on top of the ridge I was able to run again and I maintained a little distance in front of him and even found a little 'something' to power down to aide station 3, mile 19.2. The clouds and wind were too much for me at this point and I decided to retrieve my drop bag. I put on my long-sleeve shirt and grabbed my other water bottle. I didn't need it, but if I took it with me I wouldn't have to wait for them to bring the drop bags back after the race. It was during this little stop that Mr Blackshirt passed me. I tried to be friendly and sarcastic, but he was awfully serious and didn't even answer. I was glad he moved on ahead.
Leg 3, aide station 2 to aide station 3, 6.5 miles - 1:10:41
The dirt road climbed steeply out of aide station three to the top of a large hill on the ridge and then descends equally as quickly to the valley floor below. I kept Mr Blackshirt in my sights, but once onto the next climb he kept running and I slowed to a walk. This would be about the last time I would see him. The next four miles consisted of a series of large climbs, broken up by shorter flat sections. I actually looked forward to the climbs since it felt better to walk than run and was not happy when I had to break into a trot. I knew I still had a shot at reaching my goal, but I would have to push it. I kept looking behind me through the climbs to see if there was a runner catching up, but I never saw anyone. As I worked over the last big climb I caught up to the last of the 30k runners, an old chap who was slow, but grinding away. He was truly an inspiration. After the last climb it begins to roll down and then quickly into the 4th aide station. I stopped to stretch, refill on water, and eat the biggest piece of watermelon I could find. I stayed no longer than 2 minutes. The longest aide stop I had was the last one (aide station 3) and it was only 3 minutes.
Leg 4, aide station 3 to aide station 4 (mile 25.7), 6.5 miles - 1:16:45
From the last aide station to the finish is almost all downhill. There are only two very small climbs and the come at the end. The watermelon really helped revive me and provide some good energy. I often refer to it as my race 'rocket fuel' because it just seems to really make a difference. Last year I was running 7:30 min/miles. I'm sure I was slower this time, but was still able to maintain a good pace. I only had about 5.5 miles to the finish, but just after 2 miles down I needed to slow to a walk. It was just for a minute, but it really helped. A mile or so later I stopped to take off my long-sleeve shirt and tie it around my waist. To my surprise, just before starting again I noticed a runner behind me, and he was close. I had an inner battle about slowing down and letting him pass ("come on Craig, 5th place is still good" vs "dude, suck it up and take 4th, you can do it"). In the end I started running faster. I knew if I could get over the first of the last climbs, a very short and low angle rise for about a quarter mile, I knew I could power to the finish. But the best I could muster was a walk up the hill. I turned around about 3/4 of the way only to see Mr Greenshirt running at a slow trot. Crap! I moved back into a run and after cresting the top turned on the speed again. My legs were blowing up, my hips hurt, and I had no clue where I was getting any energy from. I just knew that I was moving my legs forward. Surprisingly, Mr Greenshirt slowed down and with only a quarter mile left I couldn't see him any more. I passed three more runners (all doing the 30k) on the way to finish, somehow ran the last hill coming out from under Redwood Rd, and with 100m to the finish I pushed into a sprint, pumping my fist with excitement. I finished in 4th place in 5 hours, 22 min, 42 seconds. With all of the energy issues, pain, and mental battles I was still able to reach my goal.
I know I need to hit the hills again. I am going to really focus on putting in some elevation miles. I don't want this to happen next year. Next year my goal will be to go under 5 hours. I know I can do it.
My wife and two youngest kids were at the finish. To my surprise though, my mom, brother and his three kids were also there. It was so awesome to have them there to share that with them. Of course the kids didn't mind. There was lots of grass to run on and my brothers girls loved the free climbing wall. I tried to each some watermelon to recover, but every time I came back with some my kids would steal it from me and eat it. Oh well, they deserve it too. It was a great day all around. And I'm pretty sure I won't be able to walk tomorrow.