|Finishing Strong! Photo Courtesy of Joe Swenson|
My previous best time at Ruth Anderson 50K, which was coincidentally also my 50K PR, was a sub 4 hour effort (3:59:37) that I ran in 2009 together with Quicksilver teammate Andy Benkert.
This year I wasn't sure what to expect. My training and fitness were both better than in 2009, but unfortunately I was just coming off of three weeks of inactivity due to a bad bout with type A influenza and a secondary sinus infection. My coach Caitlin Smith had given my the OK to run, but with the caveat that I should take it easy for the first 25 miles and then hammer the last 10K.
As we lined up for the start of the race I was feeling somewhat lackluster and apprehensive. My coach had given me a pep talk recently, reminding me that much of running is mental and ensuring me that I probably hadn't lost much fitness during my illness; and that if anything the time off was probably good for my body. I wanted to believe her, of course! Though I was still a little worried. I guess it must have showed on my face because fellow runner Charles Blakeney turned around and said, "John, wake up!".
|Toshi and John Working Together. Photo courtesy of Joe Swenson|
I knew from talking to the runners before the race that Victor and Toshi were aiming to run the 100K and Jean was targeting the 50M. So while I found myself trading back and forth with Toshi for third place in the early miles, in the back of my head I realized that I was potentially in 1st place for the 50K (assuming that Jean and Victor, who were ahead of me, would continue on past the 50K finish).
To be honest, I was a bit intimidated to be running so far up in the front of the pack. And it didn't help when I looked down at my watch I saw that I was cranking off 7:15 miles (while I had averaged 7:45 pace in my 3:59:37 PR in 2009). On the otherhand, I was feeling great. If anything I felt that I was perhaps holding back too much. So I made a snap decision to turn off the pace/mileage/time function on my watch and only look at my current and average heart rate. My new goal was to keep my heart rate under 150, which is a pace I can comfortably hold during long training runs.
The miles quickly clicked by and found myself running past the 26.2 mile mark in 3:09 (3 minutes faster than my marathon PR of 3:12). Here I was jogging a new marathon PR! I remembered my coach's orders about trying to hammer the last 10K if I was feeling good, so I picked up the pace a bit. But due to the heat (it was warming up each hour as the day progressed) I was feeling the slightest twinges of cramping in my legs. So I decided not to drop the hammer completely and to just maintain a nice tempo pace for the last few miles.
|Finish Line Celebration! Photo courtesy of Joe Swenson|
Here's a link to the Garmin stats: