Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Desert R.A.T.S Fruita 50

After my failed attempt to do my first 50 at Antelope in March I worked hard to get my leg better (chiro, laser, heat/ice, ultrasound, rolling etc)  Things were feeling good and timing was right so I selected this race as my redo.  7000+ feet of climbing over 2 lolipop loops.  Not flat, but closer to flat than climby in my opinion which is what I was looking for for this second....whatever - for this 50.  I wanted to be able to run it. 
Only 4.5 hours away northeast of Moab is Fruita, Colorado.  I'd never been to Fruita before or run in Colorado.  Beautiful desert scenery similar to some of what we have in Utah.  We got in late Friday night, attended the pre race meeting and set up the tent in Rabbit Valley, an excellent free camping option closer to the start than even the hotels.  The air was warm out and I slept really well that night.  I was up at 4am to eat my typical all natural PB&J on wheat, we packed up the tent and headed to the race about 10 minutes away. 
I hung out in the car as long as I could because I hate cold and it was a little windy.  It really wasn't that cold but I'm a baby.  As per my usual I was scrambling a little at the end putting on some KT tape (of which only some stayed in place) and getting my reusable fabric race number and pack together and on.  I ran to the line just as they'd said go.
In this race they had a $100 bill for the first man and first woman up the hill at 1.3 miles. I figured I'd test the waters and go for it if I had a chance but decided to rein it in after being 3rd at close to the 1 mile mark.  No biggie.  It did take me several miles to get my heart rate back in check, probably not the smartest move, but didn't hurt me in the end.  The 5.9 miles to the first aid station were almost exclusively technical slickrock.  Not my favorite stuff.  It seemed to be either switching back up or down and just didn't let me take my eyes off my feet to see the scenery around me.  The runners behind me were also running what to me seemed really fast and I was getting a little tired of having people breathing down my neck and having to pull over to let 4-10 of them pass at a time or running hard to stay in some open space and avoid being passed by a wagon train.  Finally after that first aid station the slickrock went mostly away, the course flattened out and the field spread out.  I could settle in to a groove and just get running.
Reference splits

I went into this race truly just wanting to finish.  Yes I had some splits written down but that was mostly just to see how I was doing and gauge when I'd be to the next aid station approximately since I chose to wear a non-GPS watch (too easy to look at the mileage every 3 seconds).  I wanted my leg to cooperate and I wanted to finish solid.  So I ran the majority of the race at a very conservative effort, simply a pace I could settle into.  I don't know exactly what it was but I bet it was between 9 and 10 minute miles on average on the flatter terrain.  I walked when it was steep which wasn't too often (I maybe walked 20% of the race, maybe). 

I met 3 ladies around mile 13 and ran with them for the next 10 miles.  That was nice.  I put my headphones in earlier than usual because there just wasn't anyone to talk to.  Most of the time we were fairly spread out.  I don't mind being in my own head, but it was nice to chat and pass a few hours by.  Heading back to the start/finish to get ready for lap number 2 I was feeling a bit tight and sore and hoping the next 26 wouldn't feel like this, but no quad specific pain and no question I'd head back out.  Enjoyed pushing what felt like a good pace on the mile of dirt road back to my husband.

He had everything ready for me including my ingenious idea of simply switching packs.  I know not everyone has the luxury of having 2 hydration packs, but being in the industry, we do.  I wore an Ultraspire Surge for the first half and had my Nathan VaporShape waiting for me already filled with the gels and pills and food and water I wanted.  No worrying about forgetting to switch something or calculating how many gels to reload with.  Perfect.  I used the bathroom even though I didn't really need to (no portapotties and really no bushes out on the course so might as well I suppose) and decided to throw on some CEP compression socks as my ankle kept feeling weird when I'd land on a rock wrong, like it was compressing more than usual, and my right soleus was a little sore.  It was a good choice.  They also helped keep the new KT tape I put on to help with some plantar pain I've had flare ups of lately.  It had been overcast and cooler the first have, but now I wanted to switch shirts as it was warming up.  I decided to pack a tank top with me and run just shorts and sports bra.  Felt good.  We got lots of sunscreen on my face and arms and neck.....but failed to put any on my stomach.  I kind of took my time in 'transition' if you will (the triathlete in me), and my husband tried to hurry me back out onto the course.  I came in at about 4:48 and left right around 5:00 (timer time, not time of day).

Coming into the halfway point
Left the halfway point feeling good.  Didn't push as hard going back out as when I was coming in, but I felt fine.  Felt good to have my shirt off too.  We did the second loop backwards so there was a steep downhill section around mile 30; really bothered my knees so I ended up walking most of it.  The first aid station of the second loop came a little faster than I expected which was nice.  I put an ice pack on my knees for just a minute.  My husband was there waiting for me and said he would meet me at the next aid station and run the last 12 miles with me.  Sounded good.  I left that aid station feeling amazing!  I was seriously flying for what felt like an hour.  Anything seemed possible then!  Unfortunately all good things must come to an end I guess and I went into a low. It wasn't a true bonk, wasn't a nutrition bonk, I stayed right on top of that.  No real pain in my legs, more of a mental bonk I guess.  I expected to be able to see the next aid station for a quite a while, even if it weren't close, and it just never came.  I went around hill after hill thinking it would be there.  It was really warm out now (70 maybe which is warm for a spring runner from Utah), I had just run out of water, was way behind schedule for any goal I'd written down.  I was convinced they had moved the aid station.  Had periods of fast walking just to keep moving because I was pretty discouraged. 

Scenery with the blue skies was so great in the afternoon!
Finally finally finally I saw the aid station and came tromping in a little grumpy and ready to see my husband.....who wasn't there.  Oh boy let me tell you, I was as mad as a wet hen!  I'd been without water for half an hour and was due for a gel a while ago but wasn't going to take it without water, went through a discouraging hour+ and all I wanted to see was him.  We left the kids at grandma's at home so they weren't his excuse, this Crossroads aid station was a 10 minute hike over the finish line hill.  He had no excuses.  I tried to stall for a couple minutes watching the ridge hoping he'd come but had to keep going.  I was moving slower now and wanting to be done soon, but not dying.  I think I was mostly tired of how winding the course was.  He happened to show up a mile or so down the trail after getting lost and going to the wrong aid station.  He waved to me.  I didn't wave back  :)  I told him I was happy to see him but not very happy with him.  We kissed and made up quickly after I hassled him and were on our way.  Was nice to have him there, someone to talk to.  I ate a little at the second to last aid station, Pizza Overlook, just a few chips and some watermelon, the most I had eaten at any aid station and the longest I had stopped at one.  We hung out there for a few minutes eating, putting on more sunscreen...still not on my belly though...then carried on.

I figured once we got the last aid station I knew we had 5.9 to go and could set a new goal.  We'd be almost done, pretty much home free.  What I forgot was how winding and how many blasted slickrock switchbacks there were in that next 5 miles.  I had wanted to finish that 5.9 in an hour but between waiting for my dear pacer, bless his heart, and walking up more than I remember being down I didn't make that goal.  That really was ok though.  I came to finish and was happy my husband was with me.  Yes I did want to run ahead and go faster, he wasn't having the best day, and we'd both run out of water again thinking that section would be faster, but I didn't want him to feel bad.  With probably 2 miles to go though I listened to him and took off to try to get in under 11 hours.  Was grateful to FINALLY see the road to head down to the main road, both of which felt like they were taking forever, but I ran the best pace I could -probably a 9 min mile :) and finished with a couple minutes to spare.  52 miles - 10:55.  5th woman, 2nd in my age group.  Finishers dog tag and shirt and good post race food afterwards.

Love that sunscreen white tan...
My second loop was about an hour slower than my first which is more than I'd like, but not too bad in my mind actually, considering the low that felt like a couple hours in an of itself.  I never felt a ton of pain, never a ton of tightness or lead legs.  I never bonked nutritionally, a little mentally, and the heat didn't get to me as I worried it might.  I never looked at the clock really and thought "Uhg!  I have x number of hours left!".  In fact I remember looking at my watch on that last mile back to the finish and it was 5:20PM. The first time I knew what time of day it was.  It astonished me I had been litterally running all day, since 6:30AM.  I had probably only stopped moving for 20 minutes at most.  I had run ALL day! 
I didn't finish or come away from the race with this big "Wow I did it!" or big epic feeling and I'm not sure why.  I did train really well I think but I never ran longer than 30 miles, 50 is indeed a lot longer than 30.  I wasn't unhappy with my time or placing, I wasn't concerned with it at all during the race.  The scenery was great, not amazing but I did stop 5-6 times to take pictures.  It was beautiful.  So I don't know.  It was more of just a satisfaction and check, got the 50 done.  I certainly wouldn't say it was easy, but maybe it's that it wasn't "smash me, kill me, leave everything out there" hard.  I took it conservatively like I wanted and finished strong.  It was never a death march and that I am really happy with.  And I am SO grateful my leg played nice!  It was a really good experience taking it at a reasonable pace like that and while I would like to improve upon that time and maybe even actually race this distance, I still think I'll go into it with the same attitude of running a pace I can hold but maybe push the last 6-10 miles more and see where I end up.

Really my only regret of this race?  Not putting sunscreen on my stomach - OUCH!  I'll take that regret though over anything else any day!
LOVED these canyons!  Seeing them more than running in and out of them  ;)
Technical stuff
Course:  Mostly hard packed dirt single track but a fair amount of slickrock too and a little bit of dirt road.  Felt like a rolling course with a few uphill specific sections.  A hard course, but not brutal and mostly runnable.  Almost zero shade.  Lots of winding trail going in and out of small canyons above the Colorado river
Aid Stations: 5 aid stations each 26 mile loop approximately 4-7 miles apart.  They had Hammer Gel, potato chips, peanut butter and jelly, chocolate, trail mix, oranges, watermelon, bananas, ice water, HEED, ginger ale and Coke.  They also had first aid stuff, chairs, ice, electrolytes, and excellent and very helpful staff!
My nutrition:  quick and dirty - water every 20 min, gel every 40, electrolyte pill top of every hour, 3 granola bites/2 hours, Coke at every aid station and halfway in between.  Totals to around 140oz of water, 14 electrolyte pills, and 2000 calories.  Breaks down like this
  • Drank about 4oz of water from my pack around every 20 minutes, my body has gotten good at an internal clock.  I took 70oz with my on the first 26 miles and did not finish it all.  Emptied a little of my 1.5L, 50 oz Nathan bladder a few miles into the second half because it felt heavy and I figured I'd fill it up later (note to self, remember to do so).  Drank A LOT more water the second half of the race. Filled it up at mile 35 and should have again at mile 46.  Drank probably 140oz total.  
  • Carried a 5oz flask with me during the race.  Easier to carry with you than a cup and less messy.  Sometimes I had room to put it in my pack, other times not and I just held it, no big deal.  I would fill it with Coke at every aid station and drink about half of it there, then half of it before the next aid station.  Around 500 calories.  Does a number for settling the stomach and adding a little caffeine and sugar.  And it just tastes good and I'm not a Coke drinker.  NOTE - you must shake it up and slowly let the carbonation out several times or it will leak out all over you and make a sticky mess.
  • 1 electrolyte pill, SaltTab or Metasalt (yes I use whatever I have) at the top of every hour - 10 pills total.  The only time I would look at my watch was for the top of the hour but I had a pretty good idea when it was. Kept them in a small Mentos container with a tissue packed in so they weren't noisy. I also took 4 SportsLegs pills.  Should have had more but forgot to pack more. I also believe I took 400mg Ibuprofen but I honestly can't remember where in the race.
  • I have a 40 minute repeating time on my watch.  Every time it went off I had a gelVI for most of them, Gu Roctane for the caffeine as every 4th gel, every 3rd gel miles 26-52.  Stayed right on schedule except for one gel while chatting with the ladies around mile 15.  Got back on schedule after that.  Consumed 15 gels total, 1500 calories
  • Kept a 10oz Nathan bottle in my second pack with First Endurance EFS drink.  150 calories worth then filled it with another baggie of 150 calories worth of powder - 300 calories total. 
  • Real food wise I had organic flax seed nut granola bites from Costco, consumed 1 about every hour totaling about 600 calories.  They pack well because they're reasonably moist but don't crumble.  Kept them in a snack size baggie.  Also had a couple pieces of watermelon, a few chips and a handful of trail mix at mile 38 - about 100 calories.  That was my only aid station food.  I do well with gel.
Gear:  Ultraspire Surge pack - love it, but the nozzle was leaking bad enough I had to reroute the hose to loop up under and elastic and was still getting things wet so moved my pills out of the awesome electrolyte pocket to my shorts pocket.  Was easy to stuff my ear warmer into the back pocket without stopping.  Nathan VaporShape pack - a nice change of feel and no leaking hose.  And it's cute.  Ace brand knee strap to keep my quad happy.  Soleus watch.  No GPS, just a cute orange and yellow watch.  I did bring and use our little iPod shuffle too.  Love that it clips on.  Yurbuds are the best earbuds ever.  I only listened with one ear for safety reasons.

Clothing:  Altra Lone Peak 1.5 trail shoes the whole time.  LOVE THEM!  Worked great, protected from rocks well, never needed to change shoes.  Wool socks and gaiters first half (didn't need the gaiters), CEP compression socks second half.  Started with arm warmers, cheap stretchy gloves and a fleece neckwarmer on my head, shed the gloves and neck warmer by 10 miles in, arm warmers came off at halfway.  2 Altra tech shirts, my favorite blue RaceReady shorts my husband hates (have to go for comfort and trust in a long race like this) and sunglasses the second half of the race.

Had a chance to talk with the race director Reid from Gemini Adventures a few days after the race for some Q&A.  This race of his is not just a race, but a festival.  They start a pre race dinner at a local hotel on Friday, the marathon and double on Saturday followed by awards and a party, then a half marathon and 5 miler on Sunday.  A whole weekend of events.  I wish we had time to stay for awards and the party, but had to head home quick.
Gemini Adventures prides themselves on scenic courses, and this one does fit the bill.  They have several other events that would be worth looking into as well.  I'm pleased with the way the race was run.  Organized, scenic, plenty of aid station support, good flagging, and very supportive race staff all over the course.  It is a race I would recommend, especially for someone newer to ultra running or someone looking for an early season race not too challenging.  Thanks for a great race Reid!

Before I make this race report sound like it was easy, it wasn't....
...and the drive home requiring me to lay in the backseat (with a seat-belt awkwardly on) on a sleeping mat and sleeping bag prove my point
But I did it and I'm proud!Thanks for reading!

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