Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Wildflower Race Recap OR How to not end up walking at the end of an ultramarathon

So I ran Wildflower this last weekend and I told myself it’s just a 50k and it’ll be over before I know it. But the other part of my brain told me that since it’s shorter, I’ll have to run faster. And I hate running fast. And before you think that, the terms ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ are all relative. Your fast is someone else’s slow and vice versa. And your slow at the beginning of a race may be lightning fast at the end of your race.

How to run right (according to me)
Let me preface this all with what a gold shiny friend once said about me: “He has been known to make mistakes...from time to time.”

I’m too cheap to get a Garmin or Suunto or whatever. I learned to run by listening to my body. It might sound like I’m some Zen man or whatever, but it’s the only way I know how to describe it. And I use this to help me with my long 50-100 milers. Maybe the same concept works with shorter runs. I don’t know. Try it out. So here’s what I’ve learned that works great for me.

If you go too fast for too long, your muscles will die out before you’re mentally ready to quit. So you have to slow down at the beginning. It’s a little annoying because you feel so fresh and you just want to go at the pace you feel comfortable with. But believe me, ‘future you’ is gonna open a can in about three hours down the trails. And it won’t be pretty. Lots of people will be ahead of you and the competitive devil inside you will try to convince you to speed up. But for most of us, we’re not out here trying to win. We’ve all got various reasons for why we torture ourselves (as others consider it). You need to keep your body’s work output lower than what it can produce from your “energy reservoirs” and the awesome aid station all-you-can-eat buffets. Otherwise you’re using up energy faster than you can produce it, ‘future you’ becomes ‘present you,’ and then Pandora’s Box is opened.

How do I know when I’m going to fast? Again, I never even look at the watch I carry. It’s strictly used to keep track of overall time when I finish my run. You could use a heart rate monitor and do whatever calculations keep you below your max heart rate. But that’s a lot of work. I feel that heart rate is closely connected with breathing rate. All I need to do is listen to my breathing rate and that doesn’t cost me a fancy anything. If I’m breathing hard and fast, my heart is beating too fast, and I’m running too fast. And ‘future me’ tells me to slow down. My favorite pace is what I call ‘conversation pace.’ I’m pretty sure I got this from the Bible*. It states that if you’re running too fast to hold a long conversation with someone, you’re running too fast (for a long endurance run).

My race recap from this last weekend’s Wildflower 50k at Bastrop SP
There were five 10k loops. My times were 55 minutes, 53, 56, 59, and 61. Consistency goes along with paying attention to your breathing. I know I could’ve ran a much faster first and probably second lap, but then my other laps would’ve been incredibly slower. I have found that consistent pace with a jog is better than a fast run followed by slow walking. I found a pace that felt slow enough that I’d be able to hold it throughout the race. I was by myself for a lot of the time- sometimes this can be difficult because there isn’t anyone to encourage you, but it can also be good as you won’t get sucked into someone else’s race pace. I vaguely remember stopping at the aid stations to refill water, pick up some pbj’s and gels, get a sponge of ice water over my head, and then be on my way. But I know that the volunteers helped get me back out on the course a lot faster than I could’ve done on my own. Huge thanks to all of them.

Gear Used
Shoes: Altra Lone Peak NEO- I’ve mentioned this before but I’ll say it again. I don’t think this was the purpose in the design for the shoe, but there were plenty of sandy spots on the course and after finishing the race and removing my shoes, I had NO SAND at all in my shoes. Just sayin’.
Water: Nathan Peak waist pak- The aid station was only 3-3.5 miles away and the insulated 18 oz bottle was plenty large enough to keep me hydrated and keep the water colder for longer.
Gear Bag: Victory Sportdesign Kodiak- I love the moveable dividers on the inside. I also like to put another one of my Victory bags (the Bear III) inside of the Kodiak for even more organization.

*The Bible being referenced here is “Born To Run” by Christopher McDougall.

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