Fair Hill NRMA, Elkton, MD
My first ultra of the year
My fourth race of the year was my first 50k of 2020, and my second ultra-marathon so far. In addition to my goal of 100 races this year I am also aiming to complete at least 1 ultra per month, so this was the one for January.
Since I had not run this race before I did my research and checked out last year’s results and some Strava data. I knew the course was two loops and the hills were not too bad. My 3 goals for this one were:
-Finish under 7:00:00
-Finish in the top 75
-Enjoy the experience
The week leading up to the race…
Since this was a long race I basically treated this as a taper week. I took Monday as a rest day after my two 10k races last weekend, then had a few short runs for the remainder of the week. I was well rested for the days leading up to the race, averaging between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night. I have been doing a decent job of cutting the empty calories but I still have room for improvement in getting more dialed in on giving my body more of what it needs. Here is a summary of my sleep, runs, and caloric intake leading up to this race:
Monday- 7:46 of sleep, rest day, 2451 calories (= 79 over net goal)
Tuesday- 7:30 sleep, 4.0 mile run, 2773 calories (63 over)
Wednesday- 7:59 sleep, 5.0 miles, 2055 calories (993 under)
Thursday- 7:44 sleep, rest day, 2702 calories (512 over)
Friday- 7:00 sleep, 1.69 miles, 3905 calories (1492 over)
My nutrition is something I feel I definitely need to work on improving more, especially heading into an ultra. Hopefully I will have that more dialed-in before the one next month.
I prepped my gear the night before, as usual. The forecast was calling for temps in the low 30s, with some snow and sleet. I knew I needed to make sure I had proper gear for this one since it was going to be a long day out there. Here’s what I went with:
Under Armour Charged Bandit Trail GORE-TEX shoes, UA Storm ColdGear Reactor Pace Jacket, UA Launch 2-in-1 shorts, UA Truckstop Beanie 2.0, UA RUSH Leggings, UA MK-1 Long Sleeve shirt, UA Run Cushion Crew Socks, Aegend Lightweight Running Gloves, Cougar Sport warmup pants, Nathan VaporAir Hydration Pack., and of course my Optishokz, and Garmin Forerunner 235.
Nutrition and hydration needs would be key for this one. I packed my Accelerade, Endurox, Honey Stinger energy chews, Honey Stinger gels, and a Honey Stinger waffle. I made sure I also packed my handheld bottle and both of my flasks.
I put everything downstairs so it would all be ready to go in the morning, and then I headed to bed around 11pm. That was later than I planned, but at least I would be ready to go.
I woke up just before 5am. Got in the shower, got dressed and then had a bowl of cereal for breakfast. I got everything gathered up, toasted my bagel to eat on the way, and then headed out the door and got on the road around 6:10. I was allowing for a 2 hour drive, but thankfully there was very little traffic and I was able to get there by around 7:45.
The location was easy to get to, there was more than ample parking, and plenty of volunteers. I headed into the activity hall to pick up my bib number, collapsible cup, and buff. Inside there was also plenty of room to hang out and stay warm, there were changing areas setup, and indoor restrooms. I skipped the indoor lines and just headed to the porta-potties outside for pre-race pee #1. I then headed back to the car to get ready. I put on my AMP Human PR lotion, Body Glide, and BioFreeze Professional. Then I mixed my Accelerade and filled my handheld bottle (which I actually kept in my jacket pocket) and 1 of my flasks with it. I debated on whether or not to add some Nuun Sport tablets to the water in my hydration pack; but since it’s not as easy to open and close as it used to be I decided not to. I used my BibBoards to put my bib on my shorts, and then did my stretches before my warmup run. I got in about three quarters of a mile with one stride at the end then got back in the potty line for pre-race pee #2.
I made my way to the starting line and found a spot towards the front/middle of the pack of 600+ runners. I don’t recall really hearing any pre-race announcements and I’m not even sure what the noise was that started the race; it caught most of us by surprise, but we were off at 9:02 am, and the light snow flurries started at the same time.
The first mile started on paved road and then transitioned to gravel road. I ran a good pace of 8:09 for that first mile because I knew it would transition to single track trail shortly after that. Once we got on the trail it was a little bit of everything you would expect: some rocks and roots, downed trees, stream crossings, and a lot of ups and downs as we winded our way through the woods. The ground was mostly hard/frozen, but there were a few small muddy sections. It was all very runnable and not too technical. My mile 2 split was 9:37, and shortly after that was one of the first bigger climbs. I happened to glance at my Garmin and noticed my heart rate was over 200 (I think it was 212 at that point)! I didn’t feel like I was over-exerting myself though so I just continued on. Mile 3 was 10:03 and then mile 4 was 9:31.
I made it to Aid Station #1 (4.43 miles according to my Garmin) in 41:31 (9:22 average pace). This aid station had a MASH theme to it and there was a nice assortment of offerings: GU gels, candy (M&M’s, swedish fish), cookies, oranges, pb&j sandwiches (uncrustables), jello shots, water, tailwind, and a few other things. I just opted for an orange wedge and a quarter pb&j. I had taken a few sips of my water and Accelerade as I got thirsty and I also had 1 of my Honey Stinger chews about 8 minutes prior, so I felt okay so far with my fueling.
My split for mile 5 was 9:54 (HR still showed 194), mile 6 was 8:56 but my HR came back down to 160. That was my last sub 10 minute split though. In mile 7 we crossed into PA for a very brief section of the trail, and then right back into Maryland. Shortly after that we went by some old ruins that were pretty cool to see. I made it to AS # 2 (7.73 according to my Garmin) in 1:13:23, for a 9:30 average pace. This aid station was well stocked with an ever wider variety- in addition to everything that was at the first aid station, they also had bacon, pierogies, chips, bananas, Honey Stinger waffles, soup, and a few other things. I opted for a few pieces of bacon, a pierogi, an orange wedge, and some tailwind. I also grabbed a Honey Stinger waffle and put it in my pocket in case I wanted it later.
I continued on enjoyed the scenery in the woods. I felt good and was making decent time. I got to AS #3 (10.62 miles according to my watch) in 1:46:35 (10:02 average pace). This one was stocked with the usual candy, cookies, chips, GU gels, Honey Stinger waffles, Tailwind, water, oranges, bananas, and also had bacon and baked potatoes wedges with some salt. I opted for a couple strips of bacon, a potato wedge, an orange, tailwind, and took another waffle to put in my pocket. A running buddy from my area was there at the same time so we headed back out and chatted as we ran together for a couple of miles. He slowed up a bit to let one of his other buddies catch up to him, so I went ahead for a little while. They caught up to me in about a mile or so and then all three of us were running together for about another mile until one fell back and the other went ahead of me. Even though I was still running about an 11:20 pace it felt like I was running slower than that. Probably because I was getting passed a lot at that point. Granted it was by a lot of college runners that were doing the 25k though, so I just continued on. I was still happy with my time so far.
I got to AS # 4 at the start/finish line (15.51 according to my watch) in 2:44:55 which was a 10:22 average pace. I was feeling pretty good about that and it seemed that I would be on track to beat my time of 7:15:38 from my first 50k last month. This aid station was stocked with the standards, and there were also fries here! I grabbed a handful of fries, had 1 fig cookie, an orange wedge, and took a waffle and a whole uncrustable to put in my pocket for later. I also went to fill my cup with some tailwind from the cooler; well I probably should have just let one of the volunteers do that for me because the faucet on the cooler was a bit leaky and my gloves got soaked. I tried to wring them out as best I could but it was still very wet which was not good since it was so cold out. I gave myself a moment to eat, hydrate, and rest before getting ready to start the second loop; it was right around 5 minutes altogether.
I got myself prepared and then headed out for round 2. I was by myself when I started the second loop, which seems to usually be the case. I think I was still feeling mostly good at this point, but I knew this lap was going to be a slower go. About 3/4 of a mile in another runner caught up to me. We were running together and chatting for a bit until he went off ahead of me. Somewhere in the switchbacks in mile 18 I started feeling it. My hips were getting sore (especially my left side), my back was hurting a little, I had some tightness in my right knee, and a slight pain in my left ankle. Thankfully the ankle pain wasn’t nearly as bad as it was during the Naked Nick 50k, at least I could still run without feeling extra pain each time my foot hit the ground. I was also feeling the fatigue set in. I drank the last bit of my Accelerade and started to have a Honey Stinger gel. I tried to run as much as I could and then I would take a short break once I got to the aid station. Of course it seemed to take forever to get there this time, and it seemed farther away then it did on the first loop.
I got to AS #5 (mile 19.88) in 3:49:55 (11:34 average pace), which was 19 minutes longer than it took me on the first loop. This time I had an orange section, a pb&j sandwich quarter, some chocolate covered espresso beans and had them fill my flask with Tailwind. They also had some handwarmers here but I didn’t take any. I took a few extra minutes at this station and my HR went down to 106; then I made my way back into the woods. I very quickly regretted not taking the handwarmers but I was okay a few minutes later.
It was a slow go for the next few miles, but I managed to just about catch up to a young woman who was moving at a good pace, so I used her as a pacer. There were also a few people close behind me so we had a nice small group which helped. We continued on and again briefly crossed in to PA and then back in to MD, then went by the ruins again. Still a cool site even though I was in a bit of pain. It took me almost an hour to get between these aid stations. I got to AS # 6 (23.23 mi) in 4:43:46 (12:13 average pace); almost an hour after leaving AS # 5. I was disappointed that there were no more pierogies this time so I just went with my usual: a couple strips of bacon, orange wedge, chocolate covered espresso beans, and Tailwind. (Grabbed another waffle too, just in case).
I was able to keep the young lady in my view as we traversed up and down the hills and on the switchbacks, but then she pulled well ahead for quite a while. I didn’t see her again until just before we got to the last aid station. I made it to AS # 7 at the marathon mark (26.21 miles) in 5:31:19 (12:38 average pace). This was almost 50 minutes after the previous aid station, which was about 20 minutes slower than the first lap. I had the same as I did at the previous aid station, and then embarked on the final segment to the finish.
The hip, back, and knee pain were getting worse but I was still able to continue on. Those last 5 miles were more of a shuffle than a run, and there were frequent short walking breaks. I got passed by a handful of people, but I knew I was getting close. Once I made it out to the gravel road that was covered in some light snow, I knew I was on the final stretch. I made my way up that hill and back into the park area.
I crossed the finish line at 6:50:41.45, for an overall average pace of 13:13. I met my goals of finishing in under 7 hours, finishing in the top 75 (58th), and I enjoyed the experience.
I was exhuasted so I didn’t bother trying to get a cool down run in, and probably didn’t really need it since I was going so slow at the end. I headed back to the car, did a few stretches, changed into some dry clothes and drank my Endurox R4 recovery drink. Then I slowly waddled back to the activity hall to enjoy the post-race food and festivities. The food options included: fries, grilled cheese sandwiches, hot dogs, chili, lentil soup, chips, cookies, candy, soda, beer, water, and probably a few other things I’m forgetting. I opted for fries, grilled cheese, lentil soup, water, and a beer. I saw my running buddies from my area and sat and hung out with them. It was nice to talk about the day’s race and our training, and upcoming races. There was also a DJ that was playing some great tunes that some people were dancing to, and there were a few people playing a game of bean bag toss.
Overall this was a great experience. I can see why it is such a popular event and sells out a year in advance. I actually went to register for this one when I saw some Strava friends complete it last year; but it was already sold out so I put my name on the waiting list. I had actually forgot that I signed up until I got an email earlier this month that spots had opened up. I was excited to be able to register and was looking forward to my 2nd 50k. Knowing that I had several 50ks planned for the summer I decided to go ahead and make my additional goal of running at least 1 ultra per month. I am looking forward to seeing how I progress in the coming months.
I also went to sign up for next year’s race but it had again sold out already; so back to the waiting list I go. Hoping I will again get in and be back for the 2021 Phunt 50k.
Previous 50k race:
12/14/19- Naked Nick 50k- 7:15:38 (course was slightly long- 32.85 according to my Garmin)
Ratings based on the following scale:
2- Below Average
4- Above Average
Course- mostly single track trails through the woods; rolling hills, switchbacks, some gravel roads
Course Markings: 5
Aid stations: 5
(3 aid stations on course, plus 1 at start/finish)
Post race food: 4
Pre-race communications: 5 (plenty of pre-race emails, no on-site pre-race announcements)
Results: 5 (printouts posted on-site, on-line next day)
Start time: 5
Awards timing: N/A
Finisher Medal: 5 (also doubles as a belt buckle)
4 races down, 96 to go!
Next race: Sunday 1/26; Pretzel City Sports Chilly Cheeks 11k Trail Run, Reading, PA
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