These are the words I said to myself as I walked to the starting line of the Bull Run 50 in the pre-dawn darkness on Saturday morning. I knew my body was seriously under-trained and still struggling to regain its normal energy/breathing levels after fighting through the longest respiratory cold in the history of phlegm. I knew the only way I wouldn't embarrass myself is if I made sure to focus on the things I could control (fuel, pace, snot-rocket trajectory, etc.), and then hope the 5 days off from running leading into the race did something to help my energy levels return. Also important to note: Bull Run is only a 50 miler, not a 100+. This means after the first step of the race, my brain begins telling me, "Only 40-something miles to go...". Good thing I'm dumb enough to buy into "glass half-full" stuff like this when I'm running.
|The starting line...so much talent from all corners of the Ultra world! Robert Fabia Photo|
|...and we're off! Robert Fabia Photo|
|In retrospect, it was probably not a good sign to be straining on the first mini-hill of the day! Robert Fabia Photo|
|A few of the concrete cylinders were still semi-useful in the high water! Robert Fabia Photo|
|Others were just slippery ramps into the river. Robert Fabia Photo|
|It was a little sloppy out there, but who was I to complain, I couldn't run fast anyway! Desiree Williams Photo|
Reality caught up to me shortly after passing through the mile 11.6 aid station. This is where runners climb back up/down the first couple hills they traversed to start the race before continuing on with the southern part of the course (which has dozens of hills itself). Since I've run these couple hills on the northern part of the course roughly 47,000 times in the past few years of training out there, I knew I was in real trouble when about 1/2 way up the very first one my lungs pulled the emergency brake and I was forced to walk. I believe the exact words I said matter-of-factly to myself, bad grammar and all, were: "Well, this ain't no good!"
|No wonder running uphill was so hard, my GIANT head must weigh 50 lbs. Thanks fish-bowl lense! Bobby Gill Photo|
All of those treats were nice pick-me-ups to have handy, but they wouldn't mean much if I didn't figure out a way to make up for the lost time from walking all the hills. Lucky for me, I have two things that I figured could make up for the problem: 1) Really long legs, and 2) A complete fearlessness of running downhill like my Camelbak is on fire. Normally I run quick-but-controlled while going downhill, like most of us do, but I needed to throw a little caution to the wind on this day to make up for the lost time on the climbs. Why not let gravity do the work for me, right? I opened up the fly-wheel on pretty much all the downhills and ran some of them thisclose to reckless pace. I would never do that in a 100+ mile mountain race since it would trash my quads pretty quickly, but this was only a 50, so I just embraced the fun!
As it turned out, the downhills were a total life-(and time)saver all day long, and even though I felt wiped out so early in the race, not struggling to run up the hills kept me from ever reaching a level of true suffering. I'll take "wiped-out" over "full-on suffering" any day! A nice distraction I also had for the final 25 miles or so was chatting (and playing leap-frog with) Jim Blandford from PA. James was annihilating his course PR by over an hour out there, and it was a treat to watch him do it for all those miles. Just when I thought he was fading behind me, he'd come storming back to jump in front of me. We cruised in the last few miles together, and I figured he deserved the extra spot on the finishers list so I stepped back at the last second to give him the clear 7th place finish. Awesome run, Jim!!
|Crossing the line with Jim shaking RD Anstr Davidson's hand in front of me. Robert Fabia Photo|
Finally, BIG congrats go out to the winners of this 19th edition of the Bull Run 50 miler: Matt Woods broke the course record by one minute (!!) in 6:08, and super-talented Annette Bednosky came up from NC to take the women's race in 7:39. Just as big of a congratulations goes out to my friend Andy Gingrich who went from volunteering at this race last year (having never run more than 13 miles) to racing in it this year and scorching the course in 8:39! Awesome job!
|David Frazier (2nd-tie, 6:44), Matt Woods (1st, 6:08 CR), Neal Gorman (2nd-tie, 6:44) Robert Fabia Photo|
|Annette hammers it all the way to the finish for the win! Robert Fabia Photo|