R2R Race Report
Rainier to Ruston 50M was my first attempt at 50 Miles. The course was a downhill point to point course with about 20 miles of trail and about 30 miles of paved trail. This is a very fun course with the whole distance being very runnable.
The start of the race was a bit disorganized, not bad, but a little crazier than I’m used to. Driving to the starting line, we nearly turned around before we got to the start due to lack of signage. Much of the confusion is understandable. I’m used to races set in rural areas or mountain trails in the middle of nowhere. Those RDs mark the course during the week and get everything set up the day or night before. This race was on a heavily used urban trail and ran through city parks. The RD must go crazy trying to get a 50 mile course up in time for us.
My ‘plan’ was a 12 minute mile pace for a 10 hour finish. Figured I might drag at the end but still be able to make 12 hours. We were off and quickly I ran into my first strategic error (second if you count the goal pace). Turns out there are trees in Washington. I’m used to running in the desert southwest where I can always see the sky. My Garmin lost signal under the canopy of trees — so my primary tool to rein me in during the start of the race wasn’t very useful. Without the feedback of the watch, and with the wave still tightly packed, I probably was running 9-10 minute miles.
The first 3 legs of the course are primarily trail. Some of the relay runners were nervous about the ‘secluded wilderness’ advertised on the website but these are the best legs! (Assuming it hasn’t been raining) This was a very pretty trail that you could actually run on. Some roots are there to try and place you in the dirt but I was able to get through unscathed. There were a few muddy sections to scramble around but it was a dry year for the course so it wasn’t too bad. This section could be very challenging in a wet year.
After the trail sections, the course moves onto a nice and active urban trail. From this point on it was like running a ‘supported’ run out in the community.
Navigating the course was easy; although I spotted some runners heading off in the wrong direction in 2 spots so you can get lost if you try. Some of the city portions can get a bit sketchy – especially if your pace starts falling off. I was cheered on by some homeless guys later in the race as I ran under a freeway overpass.
I really enjoyed the course, but I struggled the whole way with my pace. It didn’t help that my left knee was killing me. By about mile 39 I lost the desire to go on. It was a combination of exhaustion and nausea that probably finished me – though I didn’t realize how much the exhaustion hit me until 2 days later when I noticed I had 2 black eyes. I kept on going until about mile 41, search and rescue was stationed there and my wife and her friend also had walked down the trail to that point to cheer me on.
I sat and talked for a half hour trying to rally but that wasn’t happening. I ended up DNF’ing at 41 miles and 11 ½ hours or so.
Perhaps with more experience I could have rallied and gone on. I didn’t notice the nausea. I’ve been nauseas on runs before but this felt different. I just didn’t feel good. While I was being driven to my car I fixed my nausea problem :-). My pace had dropped off to somewhere around 20-25 minute/mile pace but perhaps with caffeine and an understanding that I was going to take 12-14 hours and not 10-12 hours to finish I could have combatted the fatigue.
But those are all …could have dones… They didn’t start to hit until a week after the race. I was pleased with the distance I went. I am starting to plan my next 50+ mile attempt.
- I figured the ‘easier course’ would compensate for the longer distance. I had run several 50Ks, but they were intense courses. -Nope – Miles is different than intensity.
- Pace. Argggh. –Maybe I should have spent more time ‘resting’ at the early aid stations. That would have helped me get away from the pack that I was running with.
- My left leg – Grr. I wore an IT strap above my knee. I think it worked – or rather it hurt worse when I tried to run without it on.
- Hammer Anti-Fatigue caps seem to work. When my legs got sore, taking one of those eased the pain.
- Around mile 20-30 my shoes felt like they were a half size too small. Not sure if that’s just my mind finding something else to worry about.
- I’ve never had problems with socks before. But after a while my socks felt a little like sand paper. I even changed socks at mile 20. My feet were fine after the race so maybe it was all in my head but it will give me a reason to buy more running gear.
- Caffeine! 10+ hours running – I need to add caffeine to my nutrition about 8-10 hours into the course.
Aside from the DNF, I had fun on my run. I need to figure out my stupid left leg and make some other changes to my strategy and try again.