August 17, 2010

STORMY race report - part 1

It's been nine days since STORMY so it is time for a race report. The main reason I have been postponing writing one is that I feel I could write so much about the fantastic 50-miler, my first, where do I start and how much time can I take? I've been writing several days and ended up somewhere totally different than the STORMY trails on race day, as it all begun far before 6am on the Sunday morning of the race.

And that's the case for every competitor. We all have our stories, and there's nothing like a good long run to share them. It's harder to convey them on screen or on paper but here we go.

From all accounts the key to having a good experience in your first 50-miler is by starting slow. I'd been told so in the weeks before the race by very experienced local ultrarunners I ran with.

Ultrarunning legends Ann Trason says in Running Through the Wall: Personal Encounters With the Ultramarathon by Neal Jamison (referring specifically to the Western States 100 mile race she has won numerous times):

"Every year I start out very, very conservatively. I don't really plan it that way, it just happens.If you look at the splits, I'll have the 30th or even the 50th fastest split for the first 16 miles. Then after that I kind of get rolling."

Tim Noakes' advice in Lore of Running also was etched in my mind: "Correct pacing is essential for any race. But the consequences of poor pacing in an ultramarathon are always devastating. ... Bad pacing in a standard marathon may leave the athlete with, at worst, 12 to14km of discomfort. By making the same mistake in the short ultramarathon, you could end up having to struggle 30km or more until the end.

"The solution, then is to start all races conservatively, aiming to run the first half easily according to the body and using what is left in the second half."

With that in mind, I had decided that I would put myself at the back at the start and to stay there for the first few miles, and then take it from there. I had expected a few leaders and most of the relay runners to start fast but I was surprised to see pretty much everyone did - fast in the sense of faster than I expected a 50-miler early pace to be.

I enjoyed seeing the first few kilometres of the course as those were among the few I had not run before. The runner I'd met by chance in late May on a Sunday run and told me she was training for STORMY had not only inspired me to sign for STORMY, she had also shown me around nearly the entire route of STORMY in several runs since then. (Unfortunately she wasn't able to make the race this year.)

We had shared some great long runs together, having run the trails before the race was great so I knew what to expect. As a relatively new resident of Squamish, and mostly a road runner, I had explored only a very limited part of the local trails until signing up for STORMY. Only three months later I have run at least 40 miles of trails I hadn't seen before.

After we ran the first few flat kilometres from the Brennan Park start north, it was time to hit the trails. I'd exchanged a few words but not many. I soon settled into a routine with another female runner I'd met for the first time for a final three-hour training run two weeks earlier and a guy I didn't know.

We started chatting as we took the Walk the Uphills advice early on for nearly every incline. A couple of relay runners ran close to us, as did two more 50 milers. We soon hit the first aid station and ran straight past it. I was surprised to see this a few spectators there too, cheering. It was just before 7am.

I was glad that I decided to carry only a 750ml water bottle, in my hand. In the two back pockets of my race shirt I carried four vanilla Powerbars and three double latte Power gels. My plan was to first work my way through the bars, in the first three hours, and then get going on the gels.

Tim would meet me at aid station 4 (about 30km) with six more gels and  four Lava salt tablets. Chatting with my fellow runners and enjoying the trails, we soon were at Alice Lake which was quiet and beautiful at 8am.


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