I have extensive experience with the 50K here. Besides the H&H, miles 9-26 have the worst hills and by that time, most runners are so fatigued that climbing hill after hill brings in thoughts of diving head first off the nearest cliff. But hill training is what I do now, and the more I thought about it, the more I was leaning to "up" to the 50K. So as I stood in line to pick up my packet, I rehearsed my plea to pay the difference and do the real mans race. But--I was told a flat no. and was jabbed with the snarky "If you want to do it, you'll have to come back next year." Maybe I misinterpreted the packet officer's remark, but it seemed snide. I didn't argue though. 25k would be just fine.
This race has really grown. The last time I was here, there were probably less than 100 entrants, and it was a fat ass run. Now, a paid entry gets you a nice tech singlet and first class fun aid stations. The 50Kers were served first, getting their packets and race start an hour earlier than the 25K. This seemed to streamline the flow of runners at the start line and through the aid stops. Good planning. At 7:00 pm sharp, the army of eager 50Kers were sent off. I had an hour to kill before my race, so I did the usual pre-race things--nibbling, hydrating, bathrooming, and making sure I had everything I needed.
At 8:00, we were sent off. I started at the end of the pack and shuffled along at a lower than walking ace it seemed. I just didn't seem comfortable running at all, but I knew that would come around. a mile of asphalt to some nice smooth gravel roads and the beginning of a 4.2-mile climb. A lot of people moaned and groaned about this hill, but the initial climb of 659 feet give an average climb of 157 foot per mille. That pales in comparison to some of the other hills ahead. I did my usual run 100 steps, walk 100 steps, run 200, walk 200, kind of going with what felt doable at the time.
I was one of the last 5-6 runners when I started the climb, and I passed a few peeps every now and then on the way up. At the first aid station, the road leveled out and we actually had a downhill or two. I had caught up with Misty, and we ran together for a mile or so. She charged the last hill coming up to our turnaround aid station, and I actually struggled on this ascent. I ate a few pieces of watermelon, a PBJ, and drank some coke, and a small cup of beer, and felt properly fueled. But starting back down the hill I'd just climbed, it felt like I had a bowling ball in my belly. I just could not get into a rhythm running. On a hill I should have been able to BOMB, I slowly picked my way back down. Misty took off like a rocket, and I didn't catch her until about a mile from the end of the race.
After a while, I had passed all of the runners coming the other way on their "out", and stopped to water the dusty road. WHEW! I needed that. That made running easier, and I was able to relax and stretch my stride out and increase my foot turnover. On a pitch black moonless night, on a lonely dusty road, I ran seeing only an occasional reflection of a runner's headlamp. Copperhead snakes are a common sight on this course, and I am sure a few people saw them, but my snake tally was zero. I did see several small scorpions and a lot of spiders.
I began to catch a few runners. I'd pull up beside them, chat a bit, and then shuffle on. Once I reached the final aid station, which was a little over 4 miles out, it was downhill for almost all of the rest of the way. I kicked it up to about a 95% effort, and all plugs were firing well. I passed 20-25 more people from there to the finish line. I do kind get energy from passing folks near the end of a race. Some people might call this rude, but hey--it's a race. And airing it out is what I need from time to time in my training. The final hill near the end of the race is a deal breaker. It's just 70' in .3 of a mile, but it's a walker for most. If I ran at least some of it, I could pass two more runners. Or walk it in and maybe I could be that jerk that edges by someone right by the finish mat. I sucked it up and passed them on the hill. Turing the corner and charging down a steep paved downhill to the line, I finished in 4:07. With a bit more focus, that could have been a sub 4:00--which is still a slow time. The winning 50Ker finished in 4:12.
Here's the elevation of the 25K. But do not be wowed--the 50K course is a beast.
For me, it was another long run in the books. It had some intervals of climbing, running bits and pieces of hills, some fast downhill work, and some working through a couple of bad spots--all good things on a training run. This was a rare run in the woods where I had NO TICKS. I had no chafing, no blisters, and so nausea. I took electrolytes and sea salt every hour and drank enough that I needed to pee twice. I managed a negative split, which is quite doable in the 25K.
At the grave risk of sounding braggadocios, I finished in the top 100 of males 99 and under. Apparently there were two males over 100 and they both beat me. Oh well.