Friday, October 12, 2012

Team Refuel Hits The Trail - Blues Cruise 50k Race Report

October 7, 2012

Nothing seemed to be going right leading up to this race. I felt as though my training was lacking, I caught a cold 2 days before the race and the weather took a turn for the worse. I didn’t get enough sleep the night before the race and for some reason I couldn’t finish my breakfast on race day. Earlier in the year I had two disappointing ultra finishes and I was hoping for a little redemption here and that idea looked in jeopardy before I even put on my shoes. (So that’s the negative part of this post.)


The Blues Cruise 50k is put on by The Pagoda Pacers at Blue Marsh Lake near Reading, PA. Considering the high for the day was to be 52° with rain, the Jeep was packed with various combinations of clothing. The race advertised 7 well stocked aid stations, but I came prepared with hand-helds and a hydration vest. At the last minute the race directors also emailed that they would not provide gels at the aid stations due to racers pickiness for specific gels in the past. It made sense to me, but I think they still could have provided gels by some generous sponsor. (That’s just my opinion & it didn’t really matter to me, I typically carry my own gels) Running caps for those registered & a cool jacket for finishers!  Janice had an area map and planned to make it to most of the aid stations so I was all set for support. I planned to start carrying a bottle and then depending on conditions I would switch to a hydration vest later.

Pagoda Pacers Volunteers Were Everywhere

It was a damp 50° before the start and all the talk in the Porto-john lines was about what to wear. The chilly air felt perfect for running; but that feeling could go south in a hurry if the forecasted rains came. I wore my Team REFUEL t-shirt with a sleeveless lycra layer underneath with arm warmers and shorts. (Luckily the rains never came and my combination of layers worked out perfectly)

The race started down a short park road before hitting the trail. In the first half mile I felt awful. My body temperature felt like 120° and my lungs felt like cement. Maybe this little cold I had was worse than I thought. I looked down at my watch and my current mile time just over 7 minutes and I thought well I can fix that, just slow the heck down. That became my mantra on the day, “slow the heck down”. My goal was to finish in under 6 hours and I was determined to run the smartest race I’ve ever run to achieve that. Averaging faster than an 11:30 mile wasn’t necessary and I knew I’d blow up if I tried to maintain that for 50k. With all that said, every time I checked my watch, I was still going too fast. It felt great, but I knew I would implode eventually. It’s very easy for me to get caught up in the excitement of a race and run outside my ability and ruin my day. I kept telling myself to just let it happen, ignore the other runners, stop forcing the pace, think more about refueling and the next aid station and the things I needed to do to keep going. Even in the early miles, I was forcing myself to power walk the short steep hills, even if I could run them. If I felt like my walk would be as fast as my run, I walked it. I ran only the hills that I could actually run. I was certain to conserve energy for the finish. I would go back to real running on the flats and down hills making up for the slow climbs.  

Well Stocked Aid Station


Everything about the aid stations was perfect. The aid stations were no more than 5 miles apart, so there were 7 for a 50k which may be more than you’d expect, but it pays off for that runner who may be experiencing a bad patch and needs something quickly. I was carrying Gatorade and they had that. I like Coca-cola for energy and they had it. They seemed to have everything a runner could need (except gels). They also had incredible volunteers who would take your bottle as they were asking what it was you needed and it was refilled and back in your hand in seconds. Near the end of the race, my bottle had become an extension of my left hand and this nice guy at an aid station tried to take it from my hand and I guess I wasn’t paying attention. I heard someone say, “you’re gonna havta’ let go” and then I heard (directed at me) “let go!” ~with a laugh. I figured it out eventually and let go and my bottle was refilled and back in my hand in no time. I survived the day on Gatorade, PowerBar Gels (Berry Blast) and Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes tablets, all of which Janice had a supply of in the Jeep. I really only used the aid stations for guzzling Coca-Cola and Mountain Dew. With the temperatures being so cool and the aid stations being so nicely spaced apart, I never did change to the hydration vest. (That’s a big deal to me, that hydration vest is like a security blanket on longer runs.)

The course was like that old wooden roller coaster we’ve all ridden. It had plenty of rolling small hills, with some nasty steep ones thrown in and one big climb that used to be a ski slope. This year the course was run in the clockwise direction which meant we climbed the ski slope from the back and descended the steep face. The treacherous downhill may have been tougher than the climb. My watch recorded 6700’ of elevation gain(unofficial). The trail is rustic and rocky in places and smooth dirt in others, or it was deteriorating old abandoned roads. Running through forest, farm land or along the lake bank itself made for quite an enjoyable 50k loop around the lake.

What a beautiful place! Blue Marsh Lake was created in 1979 by the Army Corps of Engineers when they dammed the Tulpehocken Creek to create the reservoir. With 6100 acres surrounding the 1150 acre lake, it's a perfect place to host a 50k trail race in a single loop. Of course through eminent domain, property was taken so now remains of homesteads and abandoned roads are evident throughout the park. There was a fox hunt the same day as the race so in the first 10 miles of the course we heard baying hounds on the chase. I saw a few dogs on the trail, but other runners said they saw the actual pack of fox hounds. At one aid station there were parked Amish Buggies and Amish girls in their traditional clothing chasing others, out enjoying the nice weather.  

As usual, Janice appeared everywhere, even some places where I didn't even see her. We crossed over some old dirt road early in the race and there was the Jeep with Janice waving to me as I passed. Crews weren't allowed at the first 2 aid stations, but I think she was at each, just not with the Jeep and she didn't go where she was told not to (now I'll probablty be DQ'd). Other runners and supporters came to associate Janice in the yellow Jeep with my position on the course. Two men knew there wives were keeping pace near me so if the yellow Jeep was near so were their wives. One guy said, "your maintaining a good pace, your driver's having trouble keeping up". I knew better.

When I reached the aid station after the ski slope, I saw Janice and I told her that the climb “wasn’t nothin’” which means a lot coming from me, I’m the worst hill runner I know. Maybe was it that my strategy of conserving energy was working. I had given her a paper with splits on it and she told me I was 10 minutes ahead of my goal and I now had about 10 miles to go. By my estimations, my pacing was working and with a 10 minute cushion, I even had time if something went wrong. Then I hit mile 26.2. I like to check my watch at the marathon point and when I did it I was faced with mountain bikers coming down an extremely steep hill while I climbed it. Two got by me safely and the third lost control and bailed hard. I saw bike parts skidding by me and when I took a weird step to avoid the carnage, my left thigh cramped.  Oddly having some dude body surfing downhill on his chest helped me to ignore my pain. I was able to walk through it quickly and considering the steepness, I was already walking. I lost minimal time because of the cramp. Was that it? Was that all that was going to go wrong? I hit the aid station at mile 27ish (the one I forgot that Janice had to remind me of), refilled my bottle one last time, climbed some short steep gnarly climbs in those last miles and got to the finish line in 5:50:31. I would have been happy with a 5:59:59 so I was elated to know I beat 6 hours by 10 minutes! I didn’t do stupid stuff and get myself into trouble. I raced within myself and just let it happen instead of forcing it or chasing it and it all worked out in the end.

Another fun day running while flying the Team Refuel colors. By the end of the day, I was answering to "hey Chocolate Milk Guy”. Countless runners asked me about refueling with low fat chocolate milk or they had stories to tell of how that’s their refuel drink of choice now. A woman asked me about my Team Refuel jacket and told me she was a finalist for this month to win sponsorship with Team Refuel. I wished her luck and encouraged her to get all of her family, friends and co-workers to vote for her every day. One runner had to point out his quart cartoon he was drinking from and told me it’s been his refuel drink for many years. Others stopped by the Jeep while I was changing and refueling with Rockin’ Refuel to talk refueling. I’ve been getting the choclate milk word out, one mile at a time.


Other stuff I used on race day:

Asics Running Shorts - so old they're no longer sold

Garmin Forerunner 205 Watch - trusty & simple - also no longer sold

Headsweats Running Cap - got it from the nice people at Gu Energy Labs

Injinji Socks - love 'em! Janice got 'em for me at the Philly Rock 'N' Roll Half Expo

Nathan Performance Quick Draw Plus Handheld Bottle - got it from the nice people at Nathan

Nike Pro Combat Compression Shorts - support for quads & exhausted stabilizer muscles

Salomon XR Mission Trail Shoes - simple shoe with great fit

Zensah Calf Sleeves - keep those calf muscles firing properly to the finish line


Zensah, Injinji & Salomom - Great Combination

Posted By Blogger to Perry's Trails at 10/12/2012 07:39:00 AM