Within the next week or two, I managed to find a 50k trail run that looked pretty epic. The North Face Endurance Challenge - California 50k would start in Sausalito, wind around trails and fire roads in the Marin Headlands, and finish at Chrissy Field after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. The total elevation gain and loss would be a little over 6,700 feet.
Following a modified Hal Higdon training program, I steadily ramped up my weekly miles to about 50, with my longest training run being about 25 miles. On my last big training week before beginning a 3 week taper, I finally managed to give myself an overuse injury significant enough that I would need to rest. At the same time, I acquired a pretty bad cold. This combination instantly dropped my weekly training miles to about 9, and 5 for the third and second to last weeks before the race. I wasn't sure if my legs would cooperate, but my daily mucous production was much lower by the time race day came around and I was determined to give the race an honest attempt.
With Ava away traveling and my fear of driving in cities, I managed to put together a somewhat unsuspecting support crew. My mother-in-law, Nancy, kindly offered to get up with me at 5 am and drive me to the start. My good friend, Shane, and Ava's cousin, Gina, would meet me at the aid station at 23.5 miles and again at the finish.
I started running at 7 am with about 550 other runners. I was planning on averaging 13 minute miles and hoping to do slightly better. I was right on schedule and my body seemed to be cooperating through about mile 21, at which point my legs started feeling heavier. I was fortunate to find a 61-year-old woman who had run about 40 ultra runs to pace me for a while. We ran and chatted until we got to the 23.5 mile aid station, which was at 25 miles according to my GPS watch. At the aid station I met up with Shane and Gina and took a few minutes to rest. From here I would have one significant hill, then it would be downhill and flat to the finish.
|Approaching the aid station at Mile 23.5|
From here I pretty much put my head down and kept my legs moving, feeling like my hamstrings were about to cramp the whole way. Soon enough I found myself crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, knowing the finish line would soon find me. I ended up finishing in just over 7 hours. My watch claimed the total distance was 33 miles. Doing the math, 50k should be 31 miles, which means we all got two free bonus miles! Depending on what distance you believe, my pace was either a little over or a little under 13 minute miles, right about where I planned to be, and right near the middle of the pack.
|Victorious finish pose / I am the fastest man alive!|
I can't say I felt so good at the end that signing up for a longer race seemed like a good idea. However, I felt good enough that I signed up for another 50k. For the next one, I'm planning to meet up with my friend Graham (my main running inspiration) in August in Squamish, BC for a 50k with about 8,500 feet of elevation gain and 9,000 feet of loss.
I won't claim this endurance running thing is rational. I suppose I choose to do it because it's challenging, a good excuse to stay in shape, and a wonderful source of Type 2 fun. I think I'll take a bit of a running break while I continue to recover and transition to ski season. Thanks to Graham and Shaun for the inspiration; Ava for helping me train and supporting me through the training process; Nancy, Shane, and Gina for the race support; and my physical therapist for helping me get through the last few training weeks!