Monday, April 9, 2012

Hell's Hills 50K

(h/t Henry Hobbs)

6:23:55. 51 out of 134 finishers. Given my lack of consistent training and the warm conditions, I'll take it. The lead up to race morning was uneventful. Had a nice dinner with friends Arlene and Freya (who both had nice 25K runs) in Bastrop, followed by a typically bad hotel-room night's sleep. Got to the race site in plenty of time. Parking was a breeze and I soon found a spot with the TREX-ers along the start/finish chute & we chilled until 6:00.

Joe lined us up, said "go", and we were off. Normal, no-nonsense Joe start. The morning was mild, a little humid, but really very pleasant. While it was dark for the first 30-45 mins, the moon was nearly full and bright. The course pinches pretty quickly onto singletrack, so the early miles were a conga line affair. But the pace wasn't bad and it felt good just to go with the flow and not think about much. Once the sun came up, the crowd had spread out and I fell into a good groove, running near Mariela for much of this loop. The first aid station (5.7 miles in) came and went quickly with an elapsed time of 1:05. Not bad considering the crowded start and a couple of early miles in the dark. Felt solid through the next section and was delighted to see the riotous show of wild flowers in the open meadow right before the next aid station - Tunnel o' Pines. Again, in and out quickly, and on to one of my favorite sections, a mile-long, straight section of soft trail and fun rollers. Maybe 2 miles from the end of the loop, I take my only fall of the day on a slight downhill, and I go down hard. So hard that the top of my water bottle (which braced my fall) is blown off. Mariela, who is running right in front of me, turns around, notes that the fall sounded "hard" and continues on. Tough love. The end of the loop arrives in 2:57 or so, and after grabbing a couple extra Gu's and filling the bottle, I'm out for loop two.

Chatted with Kim on my way out (who was running the 50 mile, of course - no wimp runs for her), and then started plugging away. The legs were feeling okay, although the hip flexors were tightening up pretty good (possibly an after-effect of my spill). Still, I managed to make the 5.7 miles to the first aid station a full minute faster than loop 1, and I headed out toward Tunnel o' Pines feeling alright. Alas, that was not to last. Somewhere around the 23 mile mark, the engine began to overheat, and continuous running became difficult. It wasn't a full-on bonk only because I didn't let it get to that point. I knew I still had a considerable distance to cover and the last thing I wanted was to death-march it all the way in. So I mixed in more walking. It was around this time that Mariela passed me and attempted to get me moving again. And I did for a couple of minutes, but the "check engine" light came on and I had to let her go. So it went - some walking, some running. Hydration was good. Electrolytes were good. Stomach was fine. Legs . . . they still worked but were quite tired. The heat was the issue, and there wasn't much to be done about it other than manage the best I could. Tunnel o' Pines was a most welcome sight/site, what with Henry Hobbs manning a cold-water mister - oh my, hard to explain how good that felt. Left TOP seconds after Mariela, but I had no intention of trying to stick with her. It was all about survival from here on in. Hung out with a group of folks moving about the same pace (slow). We'd walk the rollers up and shuffle down. The flats were a mix of shuffling and walking, as we passed one another in a game of musical chairs. Finally hit the fence line that tells you the end is near and I was happy. Had been trudging along with a guy from Waco named Mark - nice guy - and as we neared the final 1/4 mile, we walked a bit solely to have enough energy to "run" when we turned the final corner. Yes, it was that sort of day. Crossed the line, grabbed my medal (pretty cool one, btw) and shortly thereafter settled down for a rest, small talk, and a beer. All in all, a good day. Next up: Hog's Hunt. Or not. We'll see....

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