Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bad Marsh Ultra Race Report - May 13, 2011

Friday night was the Bad Marsh Ultra 50K in Lady's Island, SC. The race consisted of 7 laps, 4.5 miles per lap. The race takes place on an old golf course that is closed and the cart path has been removed. The majority of the race is run on compacted sand with 4 road crossings and less than 1/8 of a mile on the road. We ran the course clockwise as the June race will be run the opposite direction.

Going into this race I felt that my training was exactly where it needed to be and my plan was to train through with race without a taper to get ready for my 3 day Stage Ultra event in Chattanooga in June. On Tuesday morning before the race, I woke up with a "bug" that left me with a fever and spent most of the day with my head in toilet. I was finally able to stomach some food late Wednesday night, but still felt weak. I finally put together my race plan the day before the race. I would run 8:30 pace and just cruise through the miles. This would put me with a new PR of 4:27.00 and felt that this plan would be a push due to my last minute illness.

We had a great turn out from the PRC - Footbalance Racing Team with over 8 runners including: Holly Waz, Giancarlo Rodriquez, Paul Kiefer, Gary Davis, Rob Fyfe, Sarah Drilling and Bev Wood. Several other folks made it out from our running club to try the event for a first time. I set up the tent and had plenty of drink and fuel for our group to make their first Ultra event one to remember!

As we got called to the starting line for last minute instructions, I was still planning on sticking to plan "A", I even mumbled "8:30 pace, right?" to Giancarlo as Race Director, Becky Water sent us on our way, down the trail for the next several hours. The race started at 7:00pm and if all went well, I'd be wrapping up my second lap as the sun went down, just in time to grab my headlamp and keep cruising down the trail.

I think it's funny how quickly a plan can change. Two seconds down the trail I quickly switched over to plan "B". Plan "B" was a short lived conversion that G and I had via text the day before, stating that I would hammer out the first 4 laps (18 miles) at a 7:00 minute pace and then hold on with tired legs for the last three laps (13.5 miles). I found myself at a 7:02 pace with a HR of 150BPM at mile one and very comfortable, but I quickly became disappointed in myself. How could I go out and do something so reckless after being sick, not to mention in a race of this length. I comforted myself by reassuring myself that this was in fact another pre-race option for this race and that I wasn't just flying by the seat of my pants.

The first lap was very comfortable and clicked through the rolling course between 7:00-7:18 per mile. Around mile 3 I came up on a runner by the name of Eddie Demasi from the Atlanta area. He was a hardcore runner, which I'm guessing was in his late 50s. Eddie had started the race an hour before everyone else as he was in a time crunch. He had to finish the 50K, get back in his car, drive the 8 hours back to Atlanta in time to run a marathon the following morning! The prior week he had run a 50 miler in Georgia and I'm sure he's getting ready for some crazy race or adventure this weekend.

We grazed fingertips as I ran by, cheering him on with my typical "keep rockin' it, lookin good". I would see Eddie again through out the night, but what I could not get out of my mind the entire race was the ear to ear grin that he flashed back at me as he trudged down the trail. Eddie would pop back into my mind each lap as I passed our meeting spot on the trail. He continued to pushed on and finish in 5:32:54, then quietly get in his car at 11:30pm and began his journey to his next race.

Laps two and three were mirror images of each other as I kept clicking out the miles right at 7:05-7:10 pace and remained in the lead. I caught up with Holly towards the end of the second lap, and was able to cheer her on before stopping to refuel, grab my head lamp and head back out. My body still felt strong, but I was beginning to have a hard time drinking and GU's were the last thing my body wanted. I took a bite of a potato wedge as I headed out on lap three and my stomach told me to throw the rest away. That would be the last thing I would eat till I finished the race.

Sean Kennedy came up next to me on at the start of the fourth lap. Super nice guy. I could feel my body beginning to get weak from not eatting or drinking enough. We cruised through the next 3 miles together before my right thigh began to lock up on me. I backed off a few strides and then picked up the pace to see if I could shake the cramp out without stopping. Sean and I ended up coming into the checkpoint together after 4 full laps. Only 3 more laps to go. I still had a full water bottle and 8oz of Nuun after the last lap. I knew that I was in trouble at that point. I picked up a bottle of Ensure and my hands were shaking nonstop. I asked Kayla to open the bottle and I took 3 or 4 small sips. When creamy fluid hit my stomach I could feel that it was empty which hit my gag reflex. I was able to hold it back but I still had to get something in me. I continued to sip on the Ensure as I muttered out "how's G doing?" I know I got an answer but it didnt translate into anything that made sense to me, so I grabbed a watter bottle full of Coke and clipped it into my amphipod race belt along with the bottle of water that I had not touched the last two lap.

Lap 5 was bad. My thigh muscles were sticking out of my legs like I had two bags of sugar strap to each leg. It was pitch black at this point and I could see Sean's headlamp bouncing down the trail. I continued to lunge forward trying to stretch out my thighs, I turned around and ran backwards for a while, skipped, walked on my toes, walked on my heels just trying to loosen out my thighs. I knew that this was coming from dehydration so I grabbed my coke and downed every last drop.

At night, in the woods, every source of light looked like a runner trying to sneak up behind me. Out of fear of losing Sean or being caught by Giancarlo I started limping down the trail again. The faster I ran the better I felt. I knew that I had just lost a lot of time and wated to try to make it up, but not all at once. Lap 5 really hurt but I made it, but was now way off my pace. I limped into the checkpoint right behind Holly as she finished her race. She told me that she was done for night, but would wait for me until I finished. Three miles after I chugged the Coke it finally kicked in, I felt a little surge of energy and was even able to open another bottle of Ensure and began easily drinking it down. I had it in a cooler of ice and it felt great running down my throat. I finished off about 4 oz, replaced my empty coke bottle for Nuun and headed out, asking "how far in front of me was Sean". Kayla responded back, "about "Twelve minute".

Lap 6 went by really fast. I kept trying to figure out how I lost 12 minutes on one guy in only 4.5 miles. It took me a long time to do the math and figure out what I'd have to do that last 9 miles to make up that time lost. Thanks dehydration. The moon began to appear from behind the clouds and heat lighting was blasting off giving me a nice distraction. I kept feeling something run down my leg and I couldnt for the life of me figure out what it was. I then realized that the pressure had built up in my Nuun bottle and had popped the valve on my water bottle and the foam was running down the back of my leg. I took a few sips, but still could not stomach anymore. I finally took the water bottle that I had been carrying for the last 4 laps and began to pour it on my head, face and neck trying to cool me off since I couldn't drink it and I was tired of carrying it. My legs were feeling loose now but mentally I knew that I was getting beyond tired at this point.

When I came into the check point to start my last lap it was like a ghost town. Only the Ultra guys were still out on the trail and everyone had packed up and left. Holly and Kayla were on post at the tent and my only thought was, where was Sean. Kayla looked at her phone and quickly said four minutes ahead. I had a quick transition, replaced my bottle and headed down the trail. I knew that I had a good last lap, but Sean must be slowing down if i made up 8 minutes on him in the last lap. I thought I could catch him!!! Up ahead I could see a single headlamp bouncing down the trail. The moon was out in full effect now and I decided to launch a sneak attack. I turned my head lamp off and slowly began to gain on the glow of the headlamp in front of me. Over the next 3 miles I began to get closer and closer until, almost at the exact point that I met up with Eddie on lap 1, I realized that this was not Sean. With a mile and a half to go I put it on cruise control and floated in to a second place finished in a total time of 4:50:32.

All in all, the race was pretty good, considering. I was completely drained after the race and felt my blood sugar tanking quickly once I finally sat down. Getting up and moving around was not a difficult task, but I needed to get some fluids and food in my body one way or another. The race director's husband had IV bags on hand so I decided to man-up and go ask for one. I was able to
stomach a few orange slices before asking for the IV and slow began drinking some fluids and spent the next 30 minutes nibbling on gummy bears, chips and the greatest tasting Oreos I've ever had!

Lessons learned: Make sure there is fuel in the tank before heading out on a long trip. Last minute race decisions based on how you feel at the time can be implemented but at a cost. Running with friends is much more enjoyable than chasing shadows in the middle of the night. I'm in better shape than I thought.

Next race: Chattanooga 3 Day Stage Race on June 16th

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