Monday, July 20, 2009

El Scorcho 50K

Ten 3.1-mile hard, flat loops through a city park. At midnight. In July. As RD / race-creator, Ryan V. reminded me a number of times, "you get what you paid for." Given that my entry was comp-ed, truer words were never spoken. Seriously, though, El Scorcho gave me plenty. A chance to get outta town for a bit. A chance to visit with some nice (and equally crazy) folks. A chance to log 31 miles and pocket some nice swag for doing so. All good.

Got up to Fort Worth around 3:30 or so and met Ryan at his lovely new casa. He was kind enough to drive me to the Fort Worth Running Co. for packet pick-up (nice shirts!) and then off to Mellow Mushroom for an early pre-race dinner. Also got a quick tour of the course (there's the crushed-limestone path, there's the basketball court, there's the concrete path, don't trip on the miniature RR tracks...) and a very useful primer on where to park. Made it back to the hotel by 6:30 and was in bed by 7:00 for a couple of hours of fitful napping. Although I've run into and even through the night before, I've never started a race at midnight, and I had no idea how my body would react.

Made it to Trinty Park and the start line by 11:15-ish. Grabbed my timing chip and ran into Jay from HTREX (hope your race went well!). Saw Lynnor briefly, but not a lot of other familiar faces. I suspect a majority of the runners were local road runners (judging by the number of cups and other trash strewn across nearly the entire course - ugh). At midnight, Ryan and crew gathered the 50K-ers (25K started 10 minutes later) and sent us on our way.

Not knowing how dark parts of the course would be, I started with my little Petzl e+LITE, but after a loop I realized that there was enough light and the footing was good enough that I'd be fine without a light. During the early loops, I ended up running with John Sharp, a guy I'd run into at a number of races but never had the pleasure of talking with. John made the first 4-5 loops go by almost painlessly. Just a week removed from a hugely-impressive 82 miles at Hardrock, it was fascinating to hear John talk so passionately about that amazing race. At some point around loop 5, John said he was feeling a bit tired (wonder why) and he dropped back a bit.

Don't recall anything about loop #6 except that I think it was around this time I ran into Shelly Grahmann. At the end of loop #6, I was definitely beginning to feel the miles and the heat (a very warm but dry start to the race, but increasing humidity throughout night) and for some reason decided to grab an Oreo. Mistake. My stomach wanted nothing to do with it and I spent a good chunk of the loop walking and hoping not to vomit. All from a single Oreo. Shelly had pulled well ahead by this time, and when I made it back around for the start of loop #8, I was feeling a bit better but had made peace with the notion that I'd be running the last 9+ miles alone. My mood was also boosted by the presence of Coke (with ice!) at the aid table. How I love Coke late in races.

Downed some of that icy nectar of the gods and within minutes began to feel much happier. Started running again and less than a mile out, came up on Shelly who was taking a short walk break. We chatted a little and then began a pattern that would play out over the remainder of the race. We'd start running and since my normal pace was a little faster, I'd pull ahead. Then I'd decide to walk for a bit and since Shelly ran more (walked less), she'd catch & pass me. Inevitably, we'd come into the start/finish more or less at the same time & walk out together, nursing our wonderful Cokes. Finally, on the last loop, I was utterly sick of being out there and decided to simply run until I couldn't run anymore.

Crossing the line in 6:18 and change, I was bit woosy but pretty happy with my effort. I suppose I could have shaved 10-20 minutes off the time had I pushed a bit more throughout, but there would have been a price to pay. As it stands, it might not be my fastest 50K time, but it was a solid effort and a good way to get in 31 miles leading up to Waldo next month. Executive summary: 5 S-caps, 5 gels, one horrid little Oreo, lots of Coke, lots of water. Managed the heat pretty well, and (except for one section) no long periods without running. No blisters & only mild soreness in the legs and hips. Overall, not bad.

Finally, kudos to Ryan, Jason, and their compadres for putting on a meticulously-organized race. Great volunteers (and lots of them!), super-easy logistics (ample parking, plenty of spots to stow a drop bag or kick back), excellent swag, and Coke with ice for the 50K-ers. Couldn't ask for anything else. However, I will remember Ryan's mocking offers of beer late in the race. This will not go unpunished...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Return to Racing

This weekend's El Scorcho 50K will mark my first ultra-distance race since February's Rocky Raccoon 60 (some people chose to run the full 100 miles; I chose not to). Meant to run the Rocky Hill Ranch 50K back in April, but then it got rained (rain. n. water condensed from atmospheric vapor and falling in drops) out & my stupid shin wouldn't allow me to run the June "make-up" version. But all the parts and pieces are feeling pretty decent now, and I'm toying with the idea of actually "racing" El Scorcho, rather than simply using it as a long training run. With a forecast low temperature of 67 during the race (practically frigid), and the excitement of running with 500 other idiots, the temptation will be strong push the pace early. We'll see. In any case, it's just nice to feel excited to run an organized race again. Report to follow.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Heat Index"

Honestly, is there any measure more patently absurd than the "heat index" (or "Real Feel" or whatever)? This morning I get up and, as I do every morning before I run, check the weather conditions. Gotta psych up (out) for those weekday morning runs. So this morning the actual ambient temperature at 5:20 a.m. was 82 degrees. Relative humidity was 86 percent. According the WeatherChannel.com, that made for a Heat Index of 88 degrees. How absurd is that? Ask yourself this: would I rather go out and run 7 miles when the actual temperature is 88 degrees (and the humidity is, say, 30 percent, and there's a nice breeze out of the northwest at 10-12 m.p.h.) or would I rather run when the Heat Index is 88 degrees and the humidity is 86 percent and the wind is "blowing" at 3 m.p.h. from the southwest? According to the weather geniuses, the latter "feels" the same as the former, right? What I'd like to see is the creator of the "heat index" get his or her ass outside one July morning and put in 6 or 7 miles and then contemplate the inanity of their creation. Until then, I'm going to create my own index - the Suffering Index. 1-10 scale. A "1" is a crisp, dry January morning. A "10" is, well, today.