|A hand crafted and very unique RFH50K finisher's award.|
Having torn the pereneal tendon in my right ankle at Dizzy Fifties and subsequently having rolled it during my last training run just 2 days prior to RFH50K, I decided I needed to something else beside the ankle brace I had been wearing. I started looking at YouTube for some clips on how to tape your ankle. After a brief search, I decided to follow along with a clip posted by an athletic trainer at Bellevue University. Having checked out different clips, they all seemed to follow along the same techniques, unless they used KT tape instead of athletic tape. I opted for athletic tape, even though every one seems to feel that KT tape is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Why, you ask? Well, I tried to use KT tape and only managed to tape my fingers together while trying to tape my ankle. I basically suck at taping anything. The tape just keeps getting all tangled up and wrinkled. Since athletic tape is cheaper and apparently easier to manage, I chose that method. I still screwed it up, but I managed to stabilize my ankle. I followed my tape job with Injinji socks. I also put the ankle brace over the tape and the sock to get even more support. I'm happy to report it worked!
I headed to the Cross Country course at Huntsville Running Park off of Airport Road at 7:30AM. The race started at 8AM, but I live just 10 minutes from the park. I arrived just in time to pick up my bib, sort out my gear and have a quick chat with Richard and a bunch of other local runners. The weather was perfect. This event has grown significantly in the last few years and this year, almost 150 runners registered. While RD Eric Charette has billed this race as a "no frills" event, he has certainly run it like any other full-blown ultra I've participated in. In fact, he has the most original finisher's award I have received and at any ultra. Agreed, I've only being running ultras for two years, but come on, look at the picture. These handcrafted "medals" are cool.
I decided before the race that I would try to hold back my pace as much as possible. Due to my ankle injury, I have just not been getting in my long runs and I wanted to avoid another blowup like the one I had at the Rocket City Marathon just a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, Richard was feeling good as he usually does on race day, and no matter how much I reminded him to slow down to avoid a blowup later on (by the way, he had trained even less than me;-) he just wouldn't back off, not really anyway. Thanks Rich, really. If he hadn't continued to push until mile 20, I would have never been able to do as well as I did. We weren't really flying, but we were steady. Steady enough to keep me within reach of a 50K PR. However, I continued to doubt that it would be possible and while Rich continued to dream of a sub 5 hour finish, I just wanted to finish in under 5:30. My PR was 5:18 and I just knew I would falter late in the race. I just didn't have the legs. I know, I know, lots of negativity. I just wanted to be realistic with my goal.
If I remember correctly, Richard backed off the pace right around mile 19 or 20 and I was feeling okay, so I continued on at our previous pace. Until mile 24, I was still okay, but that changed very quickly when I exited the aid station at the start & finish area. As soon as the trail changed from flat to slight grade, I was pooped. I started walking for the first time on a section other than the hill on the backend of the course. Just two tens of a mile before the turnaround point of this out & back course, there is an extremely steep hill that I use for a "walk break" allowing me to take a gel, some salt and liquids. I only walked through the aid stations to grab a gel and refill my bottles. I did not linger one time, always moving through without stopping other than to refill my bottle. This strategy worked very well all day, but when I started to walk on other sections of the course starting during the 8th of 10 out & back loops, I figured I had lost any chance to PR. But I forced myself to run as soon as the climbs ended and I was able to maintain some pace, if not my target pace.
The weather stayed perfect throughout the day and when I entered my final lap, I was tired but committed to dig deep, if needed...or so I thought. I was barely hanging on, huffing and puffing with each and every step, but when I saw Richard coming out for his last lap half a mile before I reached the finish, shouting at me to finish this thing strong and get it done, I actually started to push. I had been slightly nauseated for the last 6 miles or so and I thought that this might get ugly if I completely exhaust myself. Oh well, I did not want to come up short by mere seconds, so I put the pedal down. I ended up running an 8 minute mile which at this point of the day was pretty amazing. I kept thinking, how can I still be running, in the last two months I didn't get in half the training that I needed, or even any long runs. I kept pushing and as I ran the final loop around the field just before the start/finish area, I started looking for the race clock. With about a tenth of a mile to go, I realized that I could PR, maybe just by a few seconds, but I could PR. I pushed some more. I crossed the finish line in 5 hours 17 minutes and 45 seconds, beating last year's time and PR my one minute. I know it isn't much, but a PR is a PR. I'll take it. What a great way to finish out the year.
Because I was undertrained and because I was hurting pretty good after the Rocket City Marathon a few weeks ago, I figured I'd actually try to take an ice bath once I got home. I would drink low fat chocolate milk as well to assist with the muscle recovery. In addition, Ibuprofen have become a regular part of my routine as well since I messed up my ankle. My doc suggested to use it to assist with the inflammation. The ten minutes in the ice bath were absolutely miserable. I had never been so cold in my life, but I think it actually helped with my recovery. I think I will do this after every ultra moving forward.
Thanks to RD Eric Charette and his crew of volunteers for putting on a great season ending ultra event. Hopefully, I can continue my PR streak at this race next year;-)