A little over a week ago, I started seeing all the posts regarding the upcoming Pumpkin Holler ultra race, while at the same time licking fresh wounds from the Whispering Pines 50K. I started thinking, what better way to redeem my poor performance than to run a non-technical, fairly easy course?
First thing first, I need to get the wife’s permission. I’m slowly using up all my ‘running cards’. This trip needed to be as inexpensive as possible with limited time away from home.
- Wake up at 3:00AM Saturday morning
- Meet Nancy at 3:45AM and follow one another to Tahlequah
- Pick-up race packet
- Run a solid race in 5hrs-5.5hrs
- Recover and catch Nancy on her 1st loop in the 100k
- Drive home in time for Sooner game at 7pm
Seriously? How hard can this be? One minor hiccup was the fact I was still recovering from a rough race in Tyler, and still resembled a penguin when walking Tuesday before the race. I was concerned about an overuse injury, but felt there was time to recover with limited running leading up to the race.
I didn’t run all week until Thursday (4M) and Friday (3M). On Wednesday, I spent 45 minutes on an elliptical and resumed my normal weekly weight workout. Friday afternoon I felt good and refreshed. No lingering pain existed. I was ready to run .
The morning plan went well. Nancy and I arrived in Eagle Bluff along the Illinois River at about 6:30AM. A cool front had arrived and it was about 38º. The temp was perfect for racing and the forecasted high was supposed to be in the 60s (when I left it was 85º).
We picked up our packets and prepped for the race in our warm cars. The gun went off at 8 and we were on our way. My plan was to average about a 10:00/mile pace, finishing the race around the 5:15 mark.
I was very careful to start slow, just relax, and let the race come to me. The first couple of miles I ran with some members of the LandRunners and chatted about the race. The trees were just starting to turn and it was an absolutely gorgeous morning. I felt good with no pain and pretty much knew right there it was going to be a good day. Not an easy day, but a good day compared to the previous week.
The course was on dirt roads with gravel strewn throughout the road. I ended up wearing NB 1010s, which turned out to be somewhat of a mistake. My feet weren’t killing me at race end, but the 1010s allowed small pieces of gravel to penetrate the rock plate on the sole of the shoe. The gravel dinged the bottom of my feet constantly throughout the race.
The Kinvara(s) would have been perfect for this race. Once again, I’m continually reminded of the ongoing learning process associated with each race. Welcome to running and especially ultra-running.
On the learning note, I also tried a different source of calories throughout the race. I whipped up some ‘energy balls‘ from a recipe given to me by Julie Dolph -Thanks Julie!-. They worked great. I ate one ball every 30 minutes until mile 26. I never felt as if I lacked energy due to my food intake. The balls will be a staple in upcoming ultras.
I continued to feel well through the first 15 miles and averaged about a 9:45/mile pace.
I ended up on my own chasing a fellow runner in front of me. In retrospect, I should have let her go, but for whatever reason I kept her within my sight until about mile 20.
Quick note on the course, I think the elevation gain was around 1600 feet. I didn’t concern myself with the hills too much pre-race, and they weren’t too bad, but they were surprisingly steep in some areas. They piled up on you as the miles passed by.
At mile 20, I could feel the previous week’s 50k in my legs. I was still doing fine, but the downhills were getting less fluid. I wasn’t making up as much time downhill (especially if there was hiking on the uphill portion). However, I settled into about a 10:30-:45 pace and continued the grind to the finish.
At 25, I was pretty tired of running on a dirt road.
The landscapes and vistas were beautiful. There were both cows and horses looking as if this was the most exciting day of the year, but I would much rather be on a single track trail. It sucked (literally) when a large truck went by and kicked up a bunch of dust you had to run through.
I don’t mean to belittle the race at all because it was very well-organized event. The aid stations were awesome, the organization of the race as a whole was solid, and the post race area supplied plenty of necessary nutrition. I would recommend it for first time ultra runners, but this race is vastly different than being on a winding single track trail.
The last 3-4 miles went by rather quickly. My legs were pretty much done, no cramps, and no pain that concerned me at all. I just had to push through extremely tired legs and get to the finish before the clock hit 5:30. I made it to the finish at the 5:22 mark.
My previous PR for a 50K was 6:23, so I was pleased with this result and a new PR. Granted, the PR needed some perspective given this was a fairly easy 50K and just a tad more technical than pavement. The 6:23 was run in Angle Fire which included a mountain in the middle of the run. I feel fairly confident had I run the holler on the same legs as Angel Fire I would have come in under the 5 hour mark.
Overall, I am pumped to be able to churn out two 50K(s) within a week sans injury. I was also able to absolve my prior week’s performance in Tyler. I have three weeks until the Vegas Ragnar. I plan on taking it easy the next couple weeks and prepping myself to crush 40 miles in 24 hours!
Last but not certainly least – I really do appreciate the patience and accommodation my wife shows with regard to my running. On a whim, I just up and decided to go run this event with no notice right after we had returned from a trip to Texas. It’s appreciated to say the least and I am a lucky runner to have such an understanding wife.