Overall, I'm very happy I chose the Labor of Love 50M as my first 50 mile race. It was a perfect initial exposure to endurance running. I couldn't have hoped for more with regard to the atmosphere of the race, the volunteers, other participants and the location of the race. I will definitely consider running this event again in 2011 as well as other events by CalicoRacing.
Since this is my first official race report and my first 50 mile race, it's rather long and drawn out!
I planned my trip out to Vegas to exclusively encompass the race and nothing else. I wanted to focus on why I was there, accomplish my goal and return successful. Based on this I took a noon flight out to Vegas on Friday, April 9 and arrived close to 2PM in Vegas. It was a direct flight which made the trip very low key and relaxing. To occupy some of the 4 hour flight, I read some Runners World magazines, which luckily had some articles on ultrarunning, and dozed off and on listening to some of my favorite tunes. Goal to reach Vegas relaxed and stress-free - accomplished!. Once I arrived in Vegas, I picked up my rental car at the airport and drove to my hotel to check-in. I wanted to unpack and set out my gear for the race the following morning. This was a sort of double-check to make sure I had everything I needed. After laying everything out on my bed, I quickly realized several things I needed: sunscreen, smaller backpack, and bottled water for before and after the race. I ran to a local running store and picked up a Camelbak backpack for carrying my gear and also picked up two Camelbak sports bottles that are insulated to help keep your water cool. After that, I made a quick stop at CVS to pickup bottled water and sunscreen. Next on the agenda was a trip out to the race site. I wanted to make sure I knew how to get there, how long it was going to take to get there and what it was actually like at the higher elevation. I'm really glad I took the time to make the pre-race trip to the race site. It helped me to visualize what the next day would be like instead of jumping into an unknown scenario. After taking a few pictures, I headed back into town and grabbed some pasta for dinner. I ate at 3 Tomatoes and a Mozzarella, which was right across the street from my hotel - how convenient! After a quick dinner, I went back to my hotel, re-inventoried my gear for the morning, and then got to bed by 7PM.
Race Day - Getting to the Start
Alarm went off at 4AM and I was up and getting ready without hesitation. I had an awesome 9 hours of sleep and was totally rested. I mean, how often do you get up at 4AM with 9 hours of sleep! Very cool! My outfit for the race was a Brooks sleeveless running shirt worn under my Brooks ID t-shirt. I had Skins compression shorts on underneath my Brooks running shorts. Brooks socks and Brooks Ghost 2 running shoes completed my initial outfit. In my backpack I had my Brooks running hat for when the sun came out, sunglasses, sunscreen, iPhone, Garmin watch, 5 hour energy, some Clif Shotbloks and Clif Protein Bars just in case I didn't like what they were offering at the aid stations. I used my bottled water and made some Muscle Milk Light for breakfast. I was out the door by 4:45AM. Plenty of time to get to the race by 6AM for packet pick-up. On the way to the race, I stopped at Walmart to pickup some safety pins in case they didn't provide them at the race. That was a hassle! I had to ask 3 people where to find safety pins and traveled 3/4 of the entire Walmart store to finally find them. Time wasted! By the time I was out of there it was past 5AM. I needed to grab some real food and coffee on my way out to the race, because I cannot run on an empty stomach, and I need my morning coffee! So, I stopped at McDonalds since they seemed to be the only restaurant open at this time and picked up a McGriddle Sandwich and coffee to eat on my drive. Finally, I made out to the parking area for the race. Luckily, I made my pre-race drive out because it would have been difficult to find where to park and catch the shuttle in the dark. I actually parked and got on the shuttle by 6AM. I was on schedule. Good thing! Once I got to the actual race area, I picked up my race packet. First thought was, what do I do with the stuff in my race packet? I thought about just leaving it near the start and picking it up afterwards. As I walked around, I noticed someone getting their Garmin watch ready. Wait, my watch. I left it in my car! I hurried back to the shuttle and went back to my car to pick up my watch. I really needed it to help pace me. This actually worked out well, because I got to drop off my race packet in my car and head back to the race ready to go. By the time I finally got back to the start, it was 6:50, race started at 7:00. I met up with a veteran ultra runner, Michael Miller, who gave me a few last minute tips before the race started.
Race Day - The Race
After a few quick announcements as the starting clock counted down from 1 minute, we were off. My first 50 mile race had begun. I confidently walked to the starting line and eased into my starting pace for the first 11 miles. For the next 10 and a half hours, it was just me, my thoughts, and nature. Awesome!
The race course was an 11 mile out and back course with a total elevation gain of 4,500 ft and elevation loss of 4,500ft. In the first 11 miles, I tried to keep an easy 10 minute or so pace, walk large hills, and watch other runners to pick up any tips I could along the way. I used all of the aid stations setup for the marathon and half marathon to get small cups of Heed Endurance drink and kept hydrating with my own water throughout. I can't recall my thoughts through most of the miles. I remember watching some people struggle, some people pass by me, concentrating on running my own race, trying to take time to enjoy the scenery and take in the experience. Below are some photos of the race course:
First 2-3 miles
High Desert Nature
The Big Hill overlooking the final 6 miles of the 11 mile out.
You can see the road in the middle of the picture off in the distance.
I felt really good through the first 22 miles with my slow pace and minimal walking of the larger hills. This picture was taken just before I reached the 22 mile point:
Over the 10 hours and 34 minutes it took me to complete the race, I actually remember very little about my thoughts and what happened around me. I do remember taking time to chat with some of the aid station volunteers. They were very helpful and encouraging. Since it was an out and back course, I would pass runners going out or back, so we offered words of encouragement as we passed each other. A lot of the time, I could look both in front of me and behind me and not see another individual. I enjoyed being out on my own. I paid a lot of attention to how my body was feeling, making sure I wasn't pushing too hard or feeling any adverse symptoms. I ate periodically at the ultra aid stations, mostly oranges and bananas and 1 peanut butter sandwich. Other than that, it was just me running. By the time I finished the race, there were finishers crossing the line every 10 or 15 minutes. A lone cow bell and a few volunteers clapping greeted me at the finish line. I felt pride in my accomplishment and a huge boost in confidence that I could now continue my quest to a 100 mile race. I sipped on some lemonade and sat by myself at an empty table and just took in all that had happened throughout the day. I was content with everything at that point in time.
After the race, I rested up just a bit, I texted and called friends and family to talk about the race and let them know I finished, and then grabbed a ride from a volunteer back to the lot where my car was parked. I drove back into town, stopped by dairy queen for a post race blizzard and hamburger, and then went straight back to my hotel. I finished off the day with some Evopro to help with recovery, a shower, and was in bed by 8PM to rest up for my 6AM flight back to Columbus.
What I learned from this race:
1. Better plan what I'm going to eat the morning of the race
2. Double and triple check everything I need for race day the night before the race
3. Be less conservative with my pace in the early miles and walk less. I think I over did the the slowness of my pace in the beginning and probably did a little too much walking on hills that I could have at least jogged on.
4. Do hill training to prepare for race conditions
5. Plan drop bags instead of carrying my stuff with me. I wasn't sure how drop bags really worked, so I opted to carry my stuff with me. The biggest mistake was carrying an extra full water bottle on a hydration belt for the first 11 miles. This added extra weight on my lower back and waist that I was not used to. Luckily, I opted to get rid of this at the first turn-around point
6. Finish strong. By the time you've run for so many hours, you have the thought that what difference does it make if I finish in 10 hours and 20 minutes or 10 hours and 30 minutes. The difference in this race is that I would have finished first in my age division (30-39) if I had finished strong. Lesson learned.