|Race start (in the center dressed like a ninja)|
Long-winded rambling: Ok, so there I was. Standing at the start line of the Crystal Springs 50K at Huddart Park in Woodside, California getting ready to do my first 50K (make that my first race of any kind) in 2011. I was nervous. 2010 had been a pretty crappy year for me running wise. I had struggled with a slew of random injuries last year, including a torn calf (during a heated town-line sprint at a noon-time bike ride), a mysterious hamstring injury (I think from sleeping in the cramped trunk of my Mustang GT -- don't ask), and another calf injury (torn muscle from the world's most intense and painful calf cramp). As a result, I only logged 1,500 miles all year long -- down from 2,300 the previous year, and I brought home a nice collection of DNS's (did not start) and DNF's (did not finish).
So there I was, standing at the starting line in Woodside wondering if this is going to be the year that I get back on track with my running. November and December had actually gone quite well and I'd managed to log 40 to 50 miles a week. I'd had a couple of good race results including a 2nd place finish at the Summit Rock half marathon at Sanborn Park (wearing my Vibrams) as well as a respectable finish at the Rodeo Beach 50K (despite a little off trail upheaval of the Ensure protein drink I slammed moments earlier). I was feeling confident in my recent training, but I knew I would need to avoid going out too hard with the race leaders and then later dying (a mistake I seem to repeat compulsively, almost professionally). So I came up with a plan. Go out easy, jog the early hills, stay disciplined on the rollers, take it easy on the downhill to the turnaround point. Then, and only then, start to pick it up if you feel good. Push it on the uphill. Attack the rollers. Hammer the descent.
So, I had a plan. And I was fairly well trained. But I still felt I needed some edge. Hmm, why not try this Vespa stuff that I got in my Christmas stocking? So what if I never tried it before in training? Worst case scenario I will feel nauseous, stop and puke, and only lose a couple of minutes. (But I needn't have worried; the Vespa worked like a charm and I never felt tired the entire race.) Also, I figured if I wore my Vibrams instead of my trusty Salomon Speed Cross, I could save a few grams and run the uphills faster than normal. Another risky bet, considering that the longest distance I had previously run in my Vibrams was only 13 - 15 miles. (But again, I needn't have worried; a little heel bruising and sore calves were a small price to pay for the giant can of "awesomesauce" they provided).
In the end, I managed to stay disciplined and to execute my plan perfectly. I resisted my normal bad tendency of getting lured into going out hard with the race leaders. I stayed on top of my calories, fluids, and salts the entire time. At no time did I never need to sneak off to the side of the trail in order to regurgitate anything. My finishing time of 4:22:08 (8:31 minute/mile pace) was by far the fatest trail 50K I have ever run. My previous fastest trail 50Ks had been 4:42:12 (Quicksilver) 4:46:24 (Dances with Dirt, MI), and 4:48:22 (Pacifica). For a guy who is accustomed to running in the 4:40's, it was dream to finish in the low 4:20's.
All in all, it was a perfect day! And it didn't hurt that we were running on some of the most beautiful, scenic trails in all of the San Francisco Bay Area. If you haven't run Huddart Park and Wunderlich Park before, you really need to treat yourself!
Here's a link to the official results. And here's a link to Scott Dunlap's excellent race report.