Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cremator 50 Race Report

"The best pace is suicide pace, and today looks like a good day to die." - Steve Prefontaine

On Saturday, July 20 I ran in the Cremator 50 in Beaufort, SC.  This race is part of a race series that Tim Waz puts on called LowCountry Ultras.  The week leading up to the race I tried to determine what my strategy would be come race day - I had two options.  Option 1: Start off conservative and sustain that pace longer, most likely leading to a faster finish time.  Option 2: Go out fast, hold it for as long as possible and know there would most likely be a lot of  suffering in the final miles.  So naturally I chose Option 2. Here's how it went down.

Start Line
My wife and I made the 2 hour trek from Charleston to Beaufort the morning of the race.  We arrived just before 5 a.m. and checked in.  Tim Waz gave a few race instructions to the racers and then we lined up on the start line.  At 6 a.m. 50 runners took off down the road, heading for what would turn out to be a long, hot day of racing.  Ryan Thompson and I had done several training runs together so I knew what he was capable of doing.  Ryan, myself and Jason Flassing took the race out at what felt like an easy sub 7:30 per mile pace.  I decided at that point that I would just hold onto that pace for as long as possible knowing there would be some carnage in the late miles.  Before I knew it, we had arrived at the first aid station and we were now 6 miles into the race.  Ryan was having some GI issues so he stopped to use the bathroom, and Jason continued running about a minute behind me.  I quickly exchanged my water bottle and my wife gave me 3 medjool dates.  This would be the game plan until I could no longer stomach dates. 

The next 6.5 miles went down without any issues, and I pulled into the 12.5 mile aid station around 1:33 into the race.  Still feeling good, I quickly switched water bottles, grabbed some dates and turned to start my journey back down the road.

12.5 mile turn-around
With this being an out and back course, I could see exactly how far behind 2nd and 3rd place were.  At this point, Ryan and Jason were only a few minutes behind me. The two of them were close enough to catch me if I faltered in any way.  At one point I was contemplating waiting on Ryan just to have someone to talk to but ultimately decided against it.  Around mile 19 I was able to see my wife again, and she gave me more dates and another water bottle of cold water.  With the temperatures starting to rise, she poured some water on my back to cool me off. It was one of the highlights of the day!  I gave her a kiss and headed towards the midway check point.  

Coming into the 25 mile aid station, I decided to drop the pace down to 7:40 per mile.  I knew the 25 mile aid station was just around the corner, so I looked down at my watch and saw that it read a little over 25 miles. Apparently, not only was this race run in the middle of the summer in South Carolina with no shade but Tim also made the course long (thanks Tim!) When I arrived at the aid station, I ate some watermelon and oranges.  I put on my music, switched water bottles and headed back out for the last lap.

My legs started to hurt but I was not ready to throw in the towel just yet. I decided to maintain a sub 7:45 pace.  On the way out I noticed that Ryan was only a couple of minutes behind me. Realizing that there were still 25 miles left to run, I knew the race was far from over and I needed to run smart.  After climbing the one and only hill on the course, which was a bridge over the Beaufort River, I decided to slow my pace.  The clouds started to break and the sun came out which made the temperature rise quickly.  I came into the 31 mile aid station right at 4 hrs into the race.  I switched water bottles, grabbed some dates and had my wife pour more cold water on me.

I left the aid station in fairly good spirits, and  I was running right at a 8:00 minute pace.  Then I experienced a first - I could no longer stomach food. I tried to eat my dates but had to spit them out because I started to feel ill.  I knew I needed calories so I tried a gel.  That didn't sit well with my stomach either.  At this point, my goal was to make it to the next aid station so I could try other foods before things got too bad.  I was about 3 miles from the aid station when all of a sudden IT hit me - kind of like how Alan got hit by Mike Tyson in "The Hangover."  I was down for the count.  I was no longer able to take in calories, and I ran out of water.  As if that wasn't bad enough, I stopped to pee for the second time and the color was neon orange.  Things looked grim.  I kept telling myself to get to the next aid station where I could spend a few minutes and recover.  I came into the aid station where I tried to eat several different things, including salt tabs, hoping that would help.  I was finally able to stomach a couple of potatoes and a little bit of coke.  I decided to spend 5 minutes at this aid station so I could prepare for the last 12.5 miles

Forcing myself to eat calories
At last I was able to jog out of the aid station with two bottles in my hand.  The sun was in full force at this point, and I knew I needed to drink a lot of water.  As I passed Ryan, who was only about a mile behind me, he told me he was dropping due to GI issues. I tried to persuade him to continue running, but certainly understood his reason for dropping. I started to feel my energy levels come back to me but the damage had already been done.  About 2 miles after I left the aid station, I passed Sara Maltby who was now in 2nd place.  She was running well and looked like she was still fresh.  I knew I had a good lead and needed to keep moving forward to secure the win.  I continued running until I started having painful cramps which forced me to start walking.  At this point in the race, I felt like my feet were rubbed raw from running on the hot pavement.  I could feel blisters starting to form on the bottom of my feet, and I knew there was nothing I could do about it.  So I told myself to run for as long as I could. 

Photo-op with Race Director Tim Waz
I finally made it back to the last aid station where my wife was waiting for me.  I spent a couple of minutes there refilling water bottles and taking in whatever calories I could stomach.  Mark Knowling volunteered to run the last 6 miles with me, and I gladly accepted.  Mark and I left the aid station and started to make our way to the finish line.  Given how I felt at the time, I was running a fairly decent pace.  I allowed myself to walk a little bit as long as it wasn't for too long.  It was nice having Mark there to keep me company in the final few miles.  We made one last trip over the bridge, and then we had a little over 2 miles left.  In my final mile I wanted to walk a little bit but Mark convinced me to run the rest of the way.  We turned the final corner, and I could see the finish.  I came up to the finish as quickly as I could where my wife, Ryan, Tim and volunteers were waiting for me.  I finished the Cremator 51 Miler in 7:23:47.  It felt good to be done.  Tim put a medal around my neck and congratulated me.  We took a couple of pictures and then it was time to jump into the pool where I spent the next few minutes cooling off.

Post-win swim
I love ultra running because it's unpredictable. You can train but you're never really sure how you're going to feel mentally and physically come race day.  I read in a race report once that had the perfect statement to sum up my race, "You won't know, unless you go."  I have no regrets about my decision to take the race out that fast.  Even though I know I could have taken it out slower and finished with a faster time, I am satisfied with how my race went. 

Congrats to everyone who made it to the start line and finished!  A special thanks to Tim for putting on this great event!  I am looking forward to participating in some of your other races. 

So many people think that running is an individual sport but it definitely is not.  I could not have finished this race without the help of all of the volunteers.  Thanks to Mark who had no plans to pace me but ended up doing so which helped me get to the finish line. Finally the biggest thanks to my wife.  She had come down with a bad cold just 2 days before the race and still went down and stood outside in the heat for over 7 hours while I ran down the searing hot road in the middle of summer like an idiot. 

Here are a couple of other pictures from the race:

Can you see me?

Feeling good - now bring on the heat!

Not feeling so good!

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