roots rock run – 50k of fun

I ran my first 50k this morning.  At least the first one I’ve run on purpose.  I joined a nice group of folks in running two 25k loops around a large tree farm in Port Gamble Washington

The run was called the Roots Rock 50k, and was organized by the fine folks of Poulsbo Running.  I ran across across this event while sifting through the offerings noted on the race calendar offered on the Marathon Maniacs site.  I’d wanted to build on my experience from last month, and notch an official 50k for the first time.  Sooner rather than later, or I’d need to train more for it.  There were two held on Labor Day Weekend : Roots Rock and the interesting-looking Campbell River 50km Trail Challenge (held at the north end of Vancouver Island).  My worry about Campbell River was in securing accommodations up there on a holiday weekend.  It seemed far more straightforward to stick closer to home.  So I headed over to Kitsap County on Saturday afternoon, in time to pay for my registration, get something to eat, and relax.

I got up a bit early for the race, and spent so much time relaxing that I added some time pressure to my drive up to the start.  There were no precise driving directions, but I figured Port Gamble wasn’t so big that they’d be able to hide too many runners there.  I was correct about this.  I spotted the steady queue of runners heading over to the bathroom, and just followed them to their source.  Promptly at 8:30, race director Chris hailed us over and gave us the simple directions : two 25k loops, three aide stations including the start (roughly at 5 mile intervals), turns marked with chalk and ribbons.  Then we were off.

My mind was fidgety for the first five miles.  My legs felt tired, andI had some trouble focusing myself on the task at hand.  And I was having pretty bad Morton’s Neuroma pain in my left foot.  All of this tempted me to call things good after a single 25k loop, but the longer I ran the more determined I became to do the whole thing.  I had a number of reasons, most of them out of vanity, but it illustrated how important it is not to take yourself "out of the game" unless something’s really wrong.

My pace was a bit too fast for the first stretch.  I noticed that my breathing was a bit hard, and gave myself permission to throttle back a bit.  About 3 miles in, we had an adventure with a bunch of yellowjackets.  Apparently someone in front of us must have stirred them up nicely, because they were mad.  One guy received about a dozen stings.  The two folks directly in front of me were both stung-  one of them about five times.  For some reason, they left me alone.

I reached the first aide station in about an hour, just about what I’d expected given the technicality of the trails, and the steady up and down.  By the time I reached the second station, I was alone (the folks I’d been running sped up).  This was just a table full of water jugs – self-service aide.  The final stretch heading in seemed pretty fast.  We spent a bit of it doing some good downhill.  Then we found ourselves on the road, for a three minute run back to the start.

I spent about seven minutes refactoring what I was carrying.  I’d erred by taking a two-bottle belt – it felt like it weighed a ton and kept sloshing around.  I’ve worn this same belt in a number of races and not felt like this before.  So I pared down to a single bottle of Cytomax, and carried gel packs and Endurolyte tablets.  I’d wanted to pick up some pouches of Cytomax, but didn’t take care of that at home, and REI was out of them.  I figured that I’d refill at five miles with the Accelerade they had, and then make due for the final stretch with water, gel, and the Endurolytes.

Paring this stuff down really helped.  I should have done this to begin with.  The single-bottle belt was snugger and much lighter.  My legs were definitely fatigued, but I knew I’d be able to push through it – albeit more slowly.

By the time I got to the five mile aide station again, I’d passed the yellowjacket area without a bite.  Ten miles to go, and I was feeling pretty good.  Heading off into the woods, the rain started again.  This time hard.  At times, I had trouble seeing more than ten feet in front of me.  And the woods were dense enough that it got pretty dark.  Wild – it usually doesn’t rain like this in the northwest – it’s usually a steady sprinkle.  Footing became an adventure too.  Much of the way I found myself plowing through ankle-deep streams of water flowing downhill as I climbed.  I fell a couple of times, once ending up rolling over onto my shoulder and getting mud plastered all over.  Lightning too – close enough to seize my attention.  This sort of weather is extreme for us here – especially in early September.

By the time I hit the final aide station, I was ready to be done.  My legs were very tired.  My shoulders were a bit sore from one of the spills I took.  And I was definitely cold and very wet.  I quickly topped off my bottle with water, and pressed on.  Along the way, I couldn’t help but feel that there was quite a bit more uphill than I remembered.  After about five hours and forty-two minutes, I crossed the finish line.  Word has it that I was either fourth or fifth overall, although the 50k field was fairly small.  I hung around with a couple of fellow Marathon Maniacs for a few minutes before changing quickly into some dry clothes and heading for the ferry.

I’ve only had a few hours to reflect on this, but am feeling very good about my effort today.  I didn’t have a hard time goal (mostly because I didn’t know much about the course), but came in faster than my six hour guess.  I could grow to like this 50k thing.  It’s definitely challenging, but a bit easier on your body (trails verses roads).  Although the event was small, the energy around it was great.  Always a lot of fun discovering new trails too.

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