Monday, April 21, 2008

Rocky Hill Ranch 50k

We got to Rocky Hill Ranch at 11:30 p.m. Friday night. The band was jammin at the saloon but we were prepared for that to be the case. We parked near the start/finish and Jason, Jakeb and I stretched our sleeping bags under a canopy we had set-up, put ear plugs in our ears and tried to get some sleep. The band played until about midnight and all was silent so that was good.

The moon was full and bright enough to where I woke up a couple of times wondering who had left the lights on. The temperature sank to the mid-forties and I woke up a couple of times wondering who forgot to turn on the heater. Then at 4 am I heard a loud voice screaming for people to line up. It was the race director giving last minute race instructions to the fifty-mile runners who opted for the four o-clock start time.

I was tired and sore from lying on the ground. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep but around five I couldn’t lay there anymore. I got up and sat with Jason and Jakeb in the car until it was time for Jason to start.

Jason lined up for the fifty-miler at 6am and Joe, the race director, gave last minute instructions. This time I was awake enough to listen. He talked about how insane the first mile was with the up-hill climbs up Fat Chuck’s Demise. The runners took off and I started getting ready for the 50k/25k start at 7am.

Jason came back a little more than 30 minutes later from the 3.5 mile out-and-back that the 50 mile course took. He said “You’re gonna love it. It is crazy fun up and downs.” I found out later that Jason is a masochist.

I lined up with the runners that were left and listened to the pre-race instructions for the third time and Joe screamed go and we went. Slowly. Climbing and walking. Staring at my feet and climbing. After a mile things flattened out a bit and I got to the meat of the course. Rocky Hill is by far the most challenging course I have ever run. My mentality was to run slow, take walk breaks and be patient. Towards the end of the first loop I was questioning my decision to run 50k and trying to figure out how to motivate myself to keep running once I hit the start/finish.

About a half a mile from the end of the first loop I saw Jakeb on his mountain bike. He asked how I was doing and said that Jason was only 5 minutes ahead. I left Jakeb and about a quarter of a mile from the turnaround saw Jason as he started out on his next loop. There was my motivation - to catch Jason and run some with him.

Jason is a much faster runner than I will ever be. He qualified for Boston by breaking 3:10 a couple of years ago at Houston but I knew he was conserving energy to run the whole 50. It was energy I didn’t need so I picked it up a bit and really pushed myself back up Fat Chuck’s for my last loop. I would pay for it at the end of the race.

I caught Jason about four miles into my second loop. It was mile 19.5 for me, mile 24 for Jason. We ran together until the next aid station and I was scared that I would either slow him down or push him to where it would mess up his race so at the next aid station I ate some tortillas stuffed with ham and cheese and took off alone.

This section was the most difficult for me because I was alone and I walked more than I had hoped for. The last aid station came and went and all I could think of was “forward motion”. The lack of training and sleep were catching up and I felt like I was plodding, not racing.

I finally hit the finish in 6:18:09 by my watch. Rock Hill is a tough course and I only ran 15.5 miles at Hog’s Hunt for my longest training run. Normally I would have run a couple of 24 milers followed by some 10’s the next day. So I am happy to have finished.

Jason came in just a couple of minutes behind me and took off for his last loop. I was amazed to watch him come in and have the strength to take off for another loop starting with the steep pain from Fat Chuck. Jason finished in 11:35 just a couple of minutes slower than his Sunmart 50 mile finish. To me that was better than a PR.