Monday, February 18, 2013

Black Warrior 50k

The 8th Annual Black Warrior-Phillip Parker Memorial Trail 50k Race Report
February 16th, 2013 
Moulton, Alabama
Temp: 38-41F with ~9mph winds, Sunny to overcast 
Race Link

Last minute cramming!

Race morning started at 1:35am for me. Usually I'm quite anxious before long runs and barely get any rest. This morning, I managed to eek out 5.5hrs of solid sleep. I propped up on a pillow and resumed reading "Relentless Forward Progress" until it was time to set the day into motion. I found one last nap from 3:30-4:29am waking up just before the alarm.

The party started as I drank my second and third caffeinated cup of coffee this year mixed 3:1 with  Butter Pecan Ensure Plus (accidental flavor purchase, surprisingly tasty!) We milled about killing time until the 6:15am commute.

Breakfast time!


2x Ensure Plus with 700 calories
2-300mg caffeine

Arriving at the race, packet pickup was quick, simple, and concise. The BW50k RD nailed it.  Sign the waiver, grab a shirt, a bib and scram!   Very nice, I appreciate the lack of fuss.

Mom is just about to do her first trail race too!
There was a short walk to the starting line where the runners were assembling on a bridge at the bottom of an assertive ~2 mile gravel road climb leading into the trails. A few knuckle bumps, dropped my hoodie off with Daddie-oh, a final sugar for the wifey, and I was making my way to the front. There were two runners on the roster that I thought would finish 1-2. Being my first trail race, and first >26.2, I figured I needed to not pass these guys for a long time.  Moments later and a lack-luster 1, 2, 3 GO! and we're off.

My Accelerate3 race instructions were:  be smart early, run with your brain the first 40k then crush them the last 10k!  With Ironman Los Cabos in just 5 weeks, I was leashed into "do no harm" pacing.

Within 800m, I went from in the front line to mid-pack and my 1-2 guys were getting out of sight. I couldn't believe how ambitious some of these guys set out; it really blew my mind. I settled into a nice, comfortable, conversational pace up the initial climb as guys were swarming around me. One guy came around and muttered about "some runners" just being in the way, and his buddy chimed in that I must think I'm "hot" since I was shirtless. Midway into the second mile, guys were dropping anchor all around.  After the climb, it's a smooth half mile descent to the trail.

I went into the trail in 11-12th and made a few passes early, but then I didn't find another runner ahead of me for an hour. Fortunately, I had developed a train to keep me company. I felt as if I were a stumble from being trampled into the Bankhead muck. After 10-15 minutes, I'd shed all but two tag-a-longs. The guy behind me said he was content to let me set the pace, so I settled into my aerobic effort.  Consistent with my typical race strategy, I monitored my breathing and kept it locked into my cruising 4-4 (four steps inhaling, four steps exhaling) pattern. Anytime I found my respiratory rate increasing, I slowed down to the point of hiking to stay aerobic.

Lovin the BEAR chest!
As I approached the end of the first hour, I'd hiked a few sections, shed my company, and managed to find another runner just before the 2nd aid station. As we approached, I was asking for water and Gu. A volunteer snagged my water bottle and quickly filled it. Interestingly, at trail race aid stations, there must not be any  imperativeness to hand runners supplies; there is just stuff on tables. From what I could tell, the aid stations were well stocked with lots of goodies. But the advertised "limited Gu" was really expired PowerBar gels. My plan was to grab one Gu at AS 2&4 to supplement my calorie flask. I elected not to try a new brand of gel just yet. I left that runner at AS2, and as I descended, one of the aid volunteers yelled that I was in 6th or 7th. My immediate thought was "who gets to decide?"

Having just a handful of runners ahead of me for the next 23 miles meant a lot of quiet time. For the most part, the run was uneventful. There are a few mid-shin-deep creek crossings, several areas I chose to hike, but the course is largely completely runnable. My goal is to cross the line as quickly as possible. For me, that means walking a lot. I just stuck with my plan and "did no harm". The precious few interesting encounters happened as I moved forward in the field.

THAT! is not Gu!
Thanks for the help Tony and Todd!!!
I trailed 5th place for a solid hour only getting occasional peeks at him. When I finally caught him, we struck up conversation for a few minutes; he seemed happy to let me go ahead.  When we rolled through AS3, I was just within earshot to hear the volunteer tell him he was in 4th place.  Sure enough, the podium possibility put him on my heels, but content to let me dictate the pace.  In my mind, we still had more miles ahead of us than behind us, and if he had the fitness to be ahead of me, I wouldn't have caught him this early. As the trail turned up, I told him I couldn't run and drink or I'd drown. So I kept to my plan and started hiking as I watched him prance up the climb ahead, I was surprised how confident I was in my race execution to simply watch 3rd place check out on me. The dude got clean out of site too. He must've put in a hard effort to deter me, but within 20 minutes, we'd began yo-yoing descent and climbs until he finally quit running every hill. It was an entertaining distraction.

Happy and content with a podium spot, I rolled into AS4 to get reports that I was only in 4th place. Demoralized, I grabbed my second bottle refill and my second PowerBar gel and head out. Before long, I was getting glimpses of a runner steadily coming back to me.  When I caught him, he made no effort to pursue me.  He simply said that I was running smart, well paced race and to not slow down. We shook hands, and as I trotted off he said "just a 10k left!"  Sure enough, I was at 3.5hrs and it was time to wick it up a bit. I half heartedly rallied him to charge with me, but in my heart I didn't want anyone challenging me.

Removing the lid on approach to keep hustling!
Joining back into the 25k loop, I started seeing the walkers at the tail end of the 25k field. I asked "how long has it been since a runner has passed." The reply, "oh, a long time.  15 minutes or more." Believing I had secured a podium spot, I was tickled to enjoy my new pace without pushing too hard and cruise in. As I continued to get reports, my splits were getting closer. At a long descent, I ran upon the next guy so quickly he spit out a few swear words and asked how I could be running so hard still.  Hoping he wouldn't engage me further, I spent a sin. Maybe I'm a punk, but I said "Dude, I showed up late and just wanted to burn through the 25k!"  He let out a sigh of relief and let me go. Shortly there after, ultrarun-karma sent me off course for a mini detour.  I couldn't help but think it was a well earned time penalty.

At this point, I believe I'm in 2nd or 3rd place, and I'm getting splits that the next guy is another 15 minutes ahead. When I arrived at the final aid station, I'd closed the gap to ten minutes for the final 2.8 mile gravel road run in. As I passed 25k-ers, my splits were getting shorter until I could see him, (Robert Harem). He managed to pull it back together enough that I trailed off the last quarter and jogged in with a friend while soaking up the finish.

I was met by volunteers with a sweet finishers' insulated mug and promptly awarded my trophy. No dallying around for an award ceremony, thank you very much. Post race grub was burgers, dogs, rice&beans, cookies and hot cocoa. They had a warming tent setup and Dr. Hill from North Alabama Bone and Joint set up a mini triage for running ailment aid. The showers were free, but hot water wasn't available.  I bummed a chair from a pal and stuck around to cheer/heckle in some friends.

Race Loot!
The mug is the finisher's award

Official Race Results: 3rd Overall, 4:17:08

Strava Data
Garmin Data

Run Nutrition 

Total: 820C/450mg caffeine
100C/50mg caffeine Gu double Espresso
300C/200mg caffeine Hammer Gel Espresso
200mg caffeine supplement
220C on course from 2x PowerBar Gel
~35oz water managed in 2 refills of a 13oz Simple Bottle

3,668ft according to my 910xt Garmin
click for a larger view
Overall, I'm very happy with my risk/reward for this race. For my first trail race and first >26.2, I really enjoyed the day, but trail running just isn't what I'd imagined. I'm accustom to predicting and executing a relatively consistent pace. There is something immensely satisfying about ticking off quick mile splits repeatedly throughout a long day. Trail running is very subjective.  There is too much joo-joo "feel" voodoo crappola. The watch will LiE to you! I won't abandon trails, but there purpose may lie in easy recovery runs for me. I'm just not sure my "count what counts" mentality can tolerate going with the flow.

Chuck Terry did a great job on some video highlights of the race.  I hate the Panda hat didn't make the starting line!

Gear review

DeSoto Solana shorts
Love these suckers.  They are pricey, but they are amazing. 2 side mesh pockets just right to stash the gloves I didn't need and my 500C Flask. The drawstring supported my bottle too.
Salomon S-Lab Sense
These bad boys look pimp, stick lick glue, and have a phenomenal lacing system. The shoe is narrow, and I was a bit worried about how my feet would love them as the day went on. I did end up with a bloody great toe. The big fella just banged into the end of the shoe for one too many hours. I'm not sure it's the shoes fault, but I've never had a bloody toe.
Injinji socks
These things are amazing. I've bought 4 pairs.  3 came in a pack as the thin versions. Each of these three has survived exactly one run. The fourth is a hardier sock and has seen a handful of trail miles. At the cost, I'll need a better alternative.
Simple Bottle
This thing rocked. It's made to tuck into the back of a waist band. One huge design flaw is putting a plastic weld right there. It wouldn't matter if I had a shirt on and tucked. I've placed a piece of duct tape along the seam and remedy the problem, but not before a training run left me with a nice pink tramp stamp.

Training log link:

I had a single 2hr long run and a 2.25hr long run leading up to this race. I felt extremely unprepared, but Accelerate3 had me covered. Somehow, Brian worked his magic and got more out of me again.

The Dirt Divas on their first trail race!
Left to right:
Emily Borden, Libby Edwards, April Allen

Emily had a great day on her first trail race and first 50k.  She is threatening to finally write a race report herself!

Making friends.  Did you talk these nice folks into submission?
There are no friends at the finish line!

Big congrats to Mom and my cousin Aaron for joining in and surviving the 5 miler!

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