Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Three 50's Part One: USATF 50 Mile National Trail Championships

Since March I've run three 50 mile races.  Here is the first one :

March 5, 2011

Desert conditions in Texas

Since I didn’t make the lottery for the Hardrock 100 or Western States this year, it opened up the race schedule a bit.  Without the travel expenses of either, I thought a short road trip might be in order this winter.  And, time to get out of VT and experience summer in the middle of winter.  I researched the ultra schedule and found thru the USATF, a 50 mile race in Texas which was also the National Trail Championship as well.  Having never been to Texas I signed up for the Nueces 50 mile Endurance Race located somewhere near Rocksprings, Texas.

The road in, a bit dusty.

One question I had, was I ready for a 50 miler this early in the year?  Training all winter on snow covered roads in the cold isn’t the best to get ready for a trail race in the Texas heat.  But what the heck, I knew I could do the distance.  But how fast and how soon until cramps kick in from lack of any heat acclimation would be the challenge.  And being a Saturday race I knew I had to get off a couple of days from my early morning work schedule.  Getting up at 4:00 AM and lifting boxes for 4 ½ hours each day is not what I call being in “taper” mode before a race.  Luckily I was able to get the two days off prior to race.  Leaving Burlington, the temps were close to zero.  I arrived at the San Antonio airport shortly after 11:00 AM.  It was already showing around 80 degrees.  This was going to be interesting.  The drive out was 2+ hours which went from the city to suburbia to ranch country for the last hour which was flat and desert like.  All I could see was scrub brush, cacti and signs for exotic hunting.  I finally arrived at the race site, Camp Eagle to preview the course and met the race director and his wife, Joe and Joyce.  I grabbed some water since it was now 83 degrees.  Shorts, no shirt and running in the heat in the middle of the winter, this was ok.  I don’t think I had seen trails without snow on them since November.  A lot of the surface had loose rock which was a little tricky to run on but overall, the trails were not that technical.  There were a lot of switchbacks and not too much for hills.  Most was quite run-able.  Although it was hot, it was so dry that you didn’t even sweat.  After the run, I headed back to Kerrville just over an hour away to find a place to stay and food as there really was nothing at Camp Eagle.  Friday morning I drove back up to Camp Eagle and ran the trails a bit more and checked in for the night in one of the hostel type rooms. 

The bunk house.

Race start was at 6:00 am, about an hour before sunrise.  Glad I brought my headlamp.  Temps were a bit cooler, maybe 50’s and the wind was blowing.  Way better than the 83 degrees from Thursday.  Just before we headed out, I caught up with Lisa Howard, a local Texan and the 2010 winner of Leadville who I met last year at Leadville.  We chatted quickly just before the start and then we were off.  A group of maybe 10 or so took off quickly and settled in.  Shortly David James, Jason Schlarb and another youngin left the group and took the lead.  I was running in a pack which included Lisa and we chatted for quite a while.  By the first aid station at mile 5, the group started to scatter a bit. I ended up running with Jason Bryant from NC and Steve Moore a local Texan.  The three of us spent quite a while running together for the first 2 loops of this 3 loop course.  The course was fun with lots of switchbacks, some loose rock climbs and running in dry streambeds, much different from Vermont roots, rocks and mud.  Not a lot of vegetation either except for scrub trees which provided some shade.  The air was starting to warm but still was bearable for a northerner.  But by the middle of the second lap I could feel the heat.  At one point I was zoning out and took a nasty fall.  Those rocks are not very forgiving but I did my usual tuck and roll and kept on going.  I think I would manage to fall a couple more times during the race but nothing unusual and everything stayed intact.  At the start of the 3rd lap I decided to back off a bit to try to prevent the heat from hitting me too hard.  Jason had moved out ahead and Steve was somewhere behind.  I was taking my electrolyte supplements and drinking but still not seeing any heat like this for 6 months or the extremely dry air was taking its toll.  I could feel the cramping starting in my toes and working its way up.  Not much I could do but keep moving, just a bit slower.  Most of this third lap I was by myself.  With a few miles to go, I could see Steve coming along.  Usually I enjoy the end of the race with a good push towards the finish but today, any time I tried to push cramps would kick in.  So it goes, just as expected but that’s what early training runs are all about.  With about a mile to go, Steve came by looking strong.  In the end, Steve finished in 4th overall, less than 1 minute ahead.  Jason Bryant finished in 3rd overall.  David James was second and Jason Schlarb from CO finished first.  The other youngin who went out with David and Jason blew up somewhere on course and was a DNF.  Not far behind me was Jeremy Pade from MD.  Liza Howard was first for the women.  All seven of us beat the previous course records.

Part of the race course.

Special thanks to Steve Moore for those ice cold Lone Start beers immediately after the race and to race directors Joe and Joyce for a great event.

The gear:  I wore the Mizuno Cabraken 2 shoe which provided excellent traction in the loose rock conditions.  The Mizuno Ascend shorts also worked great!
Crazy moving bridge we ran over three times.

Exotic Hunting??

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