Friday, March 25, 2016

HAT 50K 3/19/16: Spoiler alert! I quit!

I really enjoyed the HAT run last year.  I had a great time and really wanted to come back this year to exact some revenge on the course and go sub-6 hours.  Goal like this are usually accompanied by some kind of dedicated training plan in order to execute a run that has a chance of meeting said goal.

My race-specific plan was never really developed; I continued to input a few short runs per week and one "long" run on the weekend.  I knew I had a decent base of training going into 2016 with the "opportunity" of being between jobs to train like a pro.  I'll just say that you can a lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink but I did at least have a lot more running and riding in before January.

I averaged 10.5 miles/week for 2016.  No one prepares to run 31 miles this way.  With a light running load and some cross training, I was a little nervous about even finishing the race but took the approach that I am feeling good, healthy, and dammit, I'm just going to race nice and easy with a goal to just finish. My overall fitness will dictate the speed but I'm not going to lose my mind and outpace my ability.

First of all was to establish a rule: Do NOT exceed 12 minutes/mile early in the race.  Don't spike my heart rate early and destroy my chances of enduring 50 km.
Pre race BBQ dinner.  I'm not praying in this picture but maybe I should have.
Conditions were awesome.  mid-40's at the start.  It appeared rain would hold off until late afternoon and unlike last year, the trail was dry and extremely runnable.  I would carry my handheld, a few gels, a protein bar and refill at aid stations.  I wore 2 hip flasks with water but never needed the extra water.

Feeling pretty good about the race despite knowing I wasn't in the best shape for it, I started off nice and easy with Adam.  I called an audible pretty quickly into it as the rules of physics made it totally impossible to keep the first miles under 12 minutes.

As goes with many other races, I felt too good to not run comfortably without feeling like I was pushing the pace too fast & too early.  I did manage to focus on the one other variable I wanted to control, heart rate.  I wanted to target 150 or under in the early stages of the race.  Let's see how that worked out:
the black line is about 150bpm, my arbitrary "upper limit"
As good as one can hope when hilly trails are involved, I suppose. I put on the brakes when hitting mid 150's but found it all to hard to control. By appearances, the chart above looks like a failed plan, but from my point of view during the race, I felt awesome.  I think I did manage to rein in my heart rate far better than other long races.  Looking at my 2015 race, it was drastically better in terms of self-preservation.  Looking at last year's HR numbers, I think I maintained a steadier pace far more easily.
2015's race- reflective of heart rate AND happiness during an ultra.
What I did gain from this year is that while I breached my made-up upper HR limit often, never much more than a few bpm, I cruised to 17 miles at 11:48 min/mile.  Which would have put me close to my race goal of 6 hours or faster.  Compared to 2015, I finished 17 miles only one minute behind.  If I kept going, I'm sure I would have improved on last year's 

My first 12 miles felt amazing.  I was optimistic about finishing until I went through the lower aid station, right about at 12 miles.  I rolled in feeling good, fueled up, filled up and ran back out, eager to keep moving.  Not 100 steps from the aid station I felt myself hitting a wall.  I paused for a moment and resolved to keep moving forward, even slowly, hopeful this would pass quickly and I'd be back in it.  It's not unusual for that to happen once or twice or a dozen times over long races.

I had 5 miles to the next aid station and the completion of the loop.  Mechanically I felt not too bad, typical soreness with discomfort in my right ankle but not worthy of dropping out.  I just could not overcome the wall I'd hit.  I battled the next 5 miles and threw in the towel upon arriving at the aid station.  The last 14 miles would have been miserable.  Any for these races, many miles are supposed to be miserable, that's how long races work.  I was unwilling to force my way through another loop.  I made up my mind to stop and be able to jump back into training rather than go on and risk injury and hate life for another 3+ hours.
Textbook perfect form.  Take note.

Beer.  Not just for breakfast anymore.
Kristen and her cousin Tina.  The best volunteers there.
What was fun about dropping out was watching runners begin to finish.  This year's winner decimated the course in 3:54:36.  Not a course record but he killed it.  The first female did set the women's course record at 4:19:19.  The race saw a high percentage of finishers compared to other years.  It's a really fun race and I'm disappointed in my performance.  

The attitude I carried in training for this race made me realize I didn't deserve to finish this race.  I am not going to knock out a 50K just because I've raced a few and was in OK shape.  There has to be a better commitment to spending time on the trails.  Awesome race, great setup and volunteers.  Back in 2017!!