April 1, 2017… 12 weeks out from the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run.
The previous 3 weeks have not been ideal for training. A few big things have happened recently including closing on and moving into a house. Life and stress took over and running became less of a daily emphasis. I still got out for runs, but things were extremely unstructured and my motivation/desire to train took a steep nose dive.
Hell’s Hills 50 Mile presented itself as a perfect opportunity to get a lot of time on my feet, get comfortable with a longer racing distance and try out some great new gear. How my legs and body felt leading up to the race can be summed up in one word, Blah. I felt sluggish and off, even with a taper going into the race I still didn’t feel that great. Despite not feeling my best, I got to the race on Friday afternoon and got a quick run in on the course and things seemed to be loosening up. I always get a big adrenaline boost on race days and hoped that the next morning would follow tradition.
I chose to wear my Nathan Halo Fire Runner’s Headlamp to get me through the first loop, by which time it would be light enough to run without one. My gear for the race included the Altra Lone Peak 3.0’s to protect my feet from the roots and rocks on course, my Victory SportDesign Bear III to hold my gear and additional nutrition I may want after each loop, Nathan VaporKrar 4L Race Vest with a SpeedMax Plus Flask, and Outlast Sports Nutrition as my pre-race and first bottle fuel, then switch to relying on aid stations.
The race started at 5AM in darkness. My goal was to simply get in a strong training run for Western States and shoot for sub 7 hours. I took off up the trail as the first 2 miles climb with the most technical areas of the course. I felt strong and was going at a comfortable pace, feeling in control. Everything was clicking well and I came through the 7 mile aid station somewhere around 52-53 minutes, stopped quickly to refill my bottle and was on my way. Everything continued to go well and I reached the 12 mile aid station right around 1:29, didn’t stop and pushed forward. At this point, I had crossed 10 or so small water crossings that I was able to jump over and two longer creek crossings that were 10-15 feet long and ankle deep. The cool water actually felt nice as it was extremely humid and the sun hadn’t even come out yet.
I came through the first loop in 2:08, right around where I expected. The great volunteers refilled my bottle, I dropped my headlamp off in my Victory SportDesign bag and headed back out on loop two. At this point, the 50K and 25K races had both started so I started passing other runners as I went along. I started to feed off of their energy, but had some difficulties getting around some individuals, especially in the tight single track. I came through the first manned aid station in exactly the same split time as the first loop and still felt amazing. I continued to run strongly up until I split through the Marathon mark around 3:20. All of a sudden I started to feel nauseous and my stomach began to turn on me. I still am not sure what caused my problems, but hope it was an anomaly and doesn’t happen again.
My internal time goals went out the window at the Marathon, but I continued to run where I could and walk when my stomach started acting up. I completed the second loop in 2:17 for a cumulative time of 4:25 at 33.33 Miles, still holding just under 8 minutes per mile average. The final 16.67 mile loop was all about survival and digging as deep as I possibly could, ultimately finishing in 7:03. I believe I learned a lot about myself in the final stretch. The days where everything goes perfect are few and far between. It is the times when we are presented with adversity and non-ideal situations where we find out more about the person we truly are and push our limits.
Although I didn’t have the day I expected, I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to run on beautiful trails in a new place. Thank you to the race staff and volunteers for making my race possible. This was a great training run as I move into heavier training for Western States. My next big race will be the Wings For Life World Run in Santa Clarita on May 7th. I’m excited to see what I’m able to accomplish this year and look forward to the journey.