Monday, May 2, 2016

The North Face Dirty Feet 50k (or "What the hell happened out there?!")

Was it just a bad race or is it time to accept that my days of "fast" running are behind me? That's what I'm asking myself today after a horrendous 5 hour and 40 minute sufferfest at the Dirty Feet 50km in Vernon yesterday.

Let me be very clear that my bad day is in no way a reflection on the event, which is extremely well organized by a couple of race directing pros (and my friends) Grace and Phil Hiom, who go out of their way to create fun races in beautiful places with lots of local support, and this race is no exception. (My 2013 race report sums up the highlights nicely.)

The fact that it's probably one of my all-time favourite 50km races is one of the reasons I gutted it out to finish when all I really wanted to do was drop out after the first 25km lap.

I knew from the word go that my body didn't feel quite right but I blamed it on a chilly start and the fact that the first 4k or so were all uphill. I figured once the day and I warmed up, my body would loosen up but that never happened. Instead, my back and hips went from feeling tight to seizing right up making running both uncomfortable and awkward.

I'm still not entirely sure why this happened. My training has been consistent and I've had some solid workouts with lots of good quality miles - but not so many that I should be over-trained. I have 2, or possibly 3, theories to explain my implosion...

#1. I'd been fighting a bug for several days leading up to the race so had been doing a lot of lying on the couch and not much else. A couple of midweek runs were aborted due to intense feelings of crappiness. Being an occasional optimist, my hope was that this enhanced taper would leave me well-rested and ready to go hard by the weekend. Perhaps, that was unrealistic.

#2. I had a hard fall last weekend. Not running, but doing trail maintenance. True story. I was lunging uphill with my pruners towards a wayward branch, tripped over a root and fell on a large jagged rock bruising my right thigh and forearm. Also possibly jarring my hips/back and precipitating my lower torso stiffening on race day??

#3. Sh*t happens. Just like everyone has good days and bad days, runners have good races and bad races. I guess I've been lucky in the past that when I've felt lousy before a race, I've still generally been able to pull out at least a decent effort on the day. So maybe my luck has run out; think what I'll save on lotto tickets knowing this.

On the upside, I'm glad I made myself finish even though I was fairly miserable. I'm quite certain that if I had quit the blow to my confidence for future races would have been shattered to the extent that there may not have been future races. That sounds melodramatic, I know, but I'm not exaggerating.

I also think I did a pretty good job of masking my mental and physical struggles out on the course. I made an effort to smile and say hello when I passed other park users and tried to be cheerful when I came through the aid stations. It might not sound like much but I think it helped offset the inner negativity I was experiencing. In short: No one likes a self-pitying ass so don't be one! ;)

Okay, moving on to the technical details of this "report"...

With longer races coming up, I thought this would be a good opportunity to try out some gear and fuelling options. I chose to wear The North Face Ultra Endurance shoes even though I had only done one 2 hour run in them previously. Fortunately, they were great - comfortable, grippy and supportive. I stuck with my standard race kit of a short sleeve technical tee and The North Face Better Than Naked split shorts. My Ultimate Direction Jenny race vest was a good choice since I knew it would be a warm day and I didn't want to be low on fluids.

I'd give myself a solid B+ in the hydration department. I maintained a consistent intake of water (in the bladder) and electrolytes (in my small flasks which I refilled at aid stations along the way) supplemented with a few salt tabs as needed.

Unfortunately, I earned a big fat F for food so I'm definitely going to have to focus on that before my next race. I knew I was going to be fighting my stomach when I could barely choke down my pre race breakfast of oatmeal and a banana. During the race, all I was able to take in was: 8 dates, 2 gels and a small handful of chips. About 500 calories total when I should have been consuming 200 or more an hour. Ugh - I must do better!

Well, that about sums it up. I'm going to take a few recovery days now and then I've got a 100km race coming up in a few weeks. Hopefully, this back problem settles down with some rest and massage. 

Congrats to everyone who participated in the 8/25/50km races - there were so many amazing runners on the trails this weekend (including my husband who placed 3rd in the 25km!). And it was nice to see lots of familiar faces from the local running scene as well as reconnect with old friends from the Canadian Mountain Running team and TransRockies, and even my home town. Huge thanks to Phil and Grace at Dirty Feet Trail Racing and their super volunteers for a memorable day! ;)

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Going through my emails a few days after the race, I came across one from Competitor.com that seemed quite timely "Pro Tips for Bouncing Back from a Disappointing Race." Coincidence? Yeah, probably.