I probably went out too fast.
So, I re-read the words I wrote the day before the race, and apparently I forgot to be patient. Perhaps coming down in elevation from Colorado to North Carolina lowered my perceived effort, so that even though it seemed like I was taking it easy, I was still putting too much wear and tear on my legs on the first few laps. I think my engine outran my chassis, and I eventually broke down.
Here are some of the gory details.
Lap 1 (2:22): I spent this lap looking around (but trying not to expend much mental or emotional energy in doing so), and making note of particular portions of the trail that I’d want to pay extra attention to on later laps (extended hills, any mandatory walking sections or portions of trail that would be tricky at night, how far it was between water stations, etc.)
Lap 2 (2:17): I felt good, the temperature warmed up a bit, and I just decided to run and continue not really thinking about much. At the end of this lap I re-lubed a toe that sometimes blisters up, but I did this only as a preventative, as my feet were free of hot spots.
Lap 3 (2:31): I was still feeling good, but near the end of this lap I took a look at my time and realized that I was well on pace to getting a 50 mile PR — by a quite a lot. So I added in some extra walking, in the hopes that I could bring my average pace down a little bit and preserve my body for the later laps.
I realize now that I should have been doing this from the very first lap, of course.
Lap 4 (3:21): Just before Lap 4, I made the mistake of taking off the tights I had worn during the first three laps, figuring that this would be during the warmest part of the day and I didn’t want to get overheated. (Ha! As if….)
Over the last half of this lap the soles of my feet started to get sore. Not that I had stepped on anything pokey or sharp, but just from the wear and tear of having covered almost 50 miles. At the end of this lap, I put the tights back on. That was good, but I should have put on a thicker jacket, and maybe an extra shirt or two as well. And two more hats and another pair of gloves.
Lap 5 (3:50): This was a difficult one. At no point during the race did I blister, or chafe, or throw up, or fall, or cramp.
But I did get cold.
By the time I got to the end of lap five, it was all over. I was cold to the core, and had the shivers that started in my belly and radiated outward in waves, causing my arms and and legs, then my hands and feet, to shake uncontrollably. Even the slightest breeze during the last few miles made me grit my teeth, and it felt as though no amount of clothing I could put on was going to keep me warm overnight on the trail. (I was still having shivering fits back in the warmth of my hotel two hours later, and had a bit of trouble staying warm lying in bed under three heavy blankets throughout the night.)
More importantly, I knew my hips were done. I felt something that was beyond fatigue – like warning flags going up. My body seemed to be telling me that it might be able to handle three more laps, but that the cost of doing so could very well be significant.
Just a couple miles into that fifth lap, I simply couldn’t get my hips to open up enough to actually run. Even on the smoothest, most inviting down hills, where the running would have been easiest, I was reduced to walking. (It’s a bad sign when you can’t even shuffle jog the downhills anymore.) And the pace of walking got slower as the lap progressed, due to the hips getting progressively tighter.
I think the moderate pace I tried to maintain during the first 50 miles was just too darn fast for my body and my level of fitness.
It’s very pretty. I didn’t have to pay too much attention to the course markings or getting off track, and that freed me up to just run.
It’s been a while since I’ve run on the East Coast. I’d forgotten about the trees… so many trees! There are trees in my part of Colorado, of course, but things are different here. It seems like in North Carolina, when a new residential development goes in, the builders would have to cut down trees to make room for the houses. Here in the Front Range (at least in the flat parts), the trees are brought in from a nursery and planted around the new houses as they’re built.
While I didn’t try to plan the running itself, I did want to be confident that I could respond to different weather and body conditions. The race was cold, but that didn’t come as a surprise. I just failed to accurately translate the temperatures into how they’d make my body feel after 50 miles of running. I brought lots of cold weather gear, and thought I was doing a good job in staying warm, but it turns out…. no.
For example, by the time I came around to finish lap four, I knew that the next lap was likely going to be finished after the sun went down, so I added some clothing. But what I didn’t plan for is how cold it would get in the 90 minutes before sunset.
The vast majority of my calories came from Tailwind (supplemented with a couple hamburgers, a couple cups of soup, and a few gels and sugar waffles), and I had no stomach or cramping problems at any point.
I think the thing I miss most now is the potential of the race. I’m not particularly disappointed that I didn’t finish, because I’m confident that I did the best I could on that day without putting myself at what I consider to be too great a risk.
But now I don’t have a 100 miler in my future to think about when I’m running the trails here at home. I don’t have any race reports to research, or planning to do. And that feels like a bit of a gap in my running mind right now.
I’d recommend the Umstead 100 to anyone looking to make the jump from 50 miles to 100. The volunteers were all great, and every volunteer pacer that passed me on the last lap asked how I was doing and whether I needed anything. The Umstead staff and volunteers genuinely care about the participants, and really do provide the ideal environment for someone to reach that 100 mile finish.
I learned a lot, and feel like I know so much more more now that I’ll be better prepared for my next attempt at 100 miles – which might turn out to be Umstead again!