Lessons learned from my second 50K (notes to self)…..
3) THE UGLY
- I should have expected the unexpected (spring snow)….I trained often and I trained hard leading up to the race, but I did not train long or hard enough in snow conditions. I should have “mushed” more and “plowed” through more snow (sacrificing training mile split times). Lord knows there was enough snow. Some place deep down inside I just hoped that it would have magically melted for the race. Then we got 6″ of new fresh powder. My mind was not ready for it. Worse of all, either were my legs. I expected up to 5 hours of running, just not at such a high intensity.
- I should have trained specifically, specificity matters (trails, jumps, leaps, time on feet, pain)….I expected to run slower on the trails but I trained for +/- 8 minute marathon, not a 31 mile trail race in the snow. My muscle strength just wasn’t there. after about 12-15 miles my mind caught up with the my legs.
- I should have conquered my mind over matter (again)….I made some of the same mistakes as last year….Went out to hard following my friend; I jumped and leaped over obstacles, which I promised myself I wouldn’t do (stretching out my muscles, staining them, expending valuable energy throughout the course).
- Follow the plan (plan? I don’t need no stinking plan)….Plans change I know, but they are there for a reason. Next time I really need to stick with the plan…. start off slow, even a 10 minute mile is OK for the start; progressively get quicker as you go along. It is really disheartening (to me) to see my average pace slipping away with every passing mile. My dream of a 9-min per mile average pace slowly slipped to just below 10-mi. per mile pace by the cross of the finish line.
- Don’t be stupid (Stupid)….This one is the hardest one. You plan your run, then you run your plan. I let my ego take over and I had to swallow my pride at the end of the race as I slowed down, just trying to finish.
- Fell for it (again)….I thought that I could hang on; and I did great for the first 10 miles; by mile 20 I knew that although my cardio was great; I had to reduce my intensity if I was to finish the race. Once I adjusted my heart rate from 150+ down to 135 or so I was OK. The intensity of the first 10 miles killed my chances for a 4 hour 40-45 minute 50K. I ended up with a slower time than last year, my first 50K, when I didn’t know the course or the race. I was pretty upset.
1) THE GOOD
- Mental toughness (momma didn’t raise no quitter)….Lots goes through your mind during a 5 hour race. After the first loop (out of three) I felt good and if I could have continued at that pace I probably would have finished top three for the 50K. The reality was I did alot of cross training, swimming, biking, and running, and I was prepared to run a solid race for 3-4 hours. I was not prepared to run an Ultra. I was not prepared to run a Trail run. I was not prepared to race 31 miles at top speed, especially through old harden snow and fresh powder to boot. I just did not have the strength or the conditioning for the sort of race I needed to run to meet my goal of a 9 min per mile race. The good news is that I defeated my mind which wanted me to quit. My legs paid the price, but I finished, and only a few minutes slower than last year despite worse trail conditions. Last year was no picnic but there was some relief between the packed hard slippery snow, the mud, and leaping through streams and transversing makeshift plank bridges. This was a tougher race and I finished within respectable time from last year. I’ll check that off as a win.
- Physical pain, the other side (break on through to the other side)….This was the most gut wrenching run I have ever done. Mentally, I broke through into a zone from miles 26-31 that despite physical discomfort I was able to push through and complete what I set out to do. Another victory.
- Mission accomplished, the bigger picture (Off-season)….Maybe the secret is already out. I’m just a guy, a dad, a husband, a son, a brother, a friend. I am not elite, I am not great, I am not gifted (I just tell myself all those things when I train so I stay motivated and keep pushing myself, my limits, my boundaries). I work hard, like to stay fit and in shape and I enjoy mixing things up. I rather sacrifice a race than my training (fitness). I rather be strong, above-average all year than peak and dip throughout the year. I like to be well maintained to do multi-sports at any given time throughout the year, i.e., swim a strong mile, bike solid for an hour or two, run a fast 10K or a half-marathon distance fun run on the weekend, that sort of thing. Living in NJ, in the off-season, options are limited. Doing the long race keeps me focused and motivated from December to March. It takes a lot out of me, but it certainly gives me a great base for the rest of the year. Recover in April, and start doing some more fun stuff in May and June.
Time and places are not the only productive goals to have. There are other things that matter. Things like staying healthy and injury free. Staying motivated and meeting challenges head on. Although I am disappointed with certain aspects of this year’s race, overall I am impressed and happy with myself for coming this far in such a short time. During the end of the race and immediately after I crossed the finished line I thought and said I would not do this again next year, maybe in the future, but not next year. After resting for two days I am already starting to strategize how I can improve my experience for next year.