Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Dirty German 50k Race Report - Run-Suffer-Repeat

Memorial Day Weekend, a time for cookouts, parades and opening swimming pools. Our holiday
weekend in the Harrisburg area was kicked off by a windy chilly Friday. Undeterred by the
inclement weather, Janice and I went to watch The Harrisburg Senators beat The Reading Fightins.
The stadium thermometer read 49°F and there was a towering wind blowing straight out to left field
where we were sitting. The Senators took advantage and hit three homeruns to the "cheap seats" we
call home at the local minor league ballpark. The cold windy weather persisted into Saturday (my
52nd birthday) so we postponed any cookout/party-like festivities. We took the dogs for a walk on
the mountain and that's when I noticed the ugly feeling in my lower gut. (perhaps the hotdog I had at the ball game) Like any malady, my first approach is to simply ignore it so we went to some friends' house so Janice could decorate for a bridal shower. I acted like it didn't feel like I had a bowling ball in my stomach and ate all I saw and I knew the nasty sick sensation would just go away. Of course step 2 after ignoring it is over eating, because everybody knows eating a bunch of good food will push out the bad. Ok, that didn't work either and now it was time to try to sleep, actually past that time.

I guess I've gotten this far without mentioning that Sunday I was entered to run a 50k at 8am in
Philadelphia. Yep, the grand plan was to get in one last long run on Memeorial Day Weekend in
preparation for the Laurel Highlands Ultra in 2 weeks. So here it was 3:30 Sunday morning, I
haven't really slept and there's no way I can maintain my race day ritual of eating an actual
breakfast a few hours before start time. The sick feeling in my lower abdomen was there to stay
and 127 overnight visits to the bathroom did nothing to relieve the discomfort. I started to
question everything at that point. Coffee tasted bad, Luna Bars were the only thing that seemed
palatable. I was also able to eat a banana and Gatorade was ok too. Why was I up for a race I
didn't care about, if this was March I would be back in bed. This was a training race in May and
I just couldn't scratch it. The dogs looked at me like I was insane.

With Janice at the wheel and me feeling feverish, we hit the road and I napped away a good bit of
the ride down the PA Turnpike to Penny Pack Park in Philadelphia. We arrived at The Dirty German
Endurance Festival and the air was all abuzz with the typical pre-race energy, but all I wanted
to know was if there was a line for the porta-johns. I picked up my number, visited my buddy john
a couple times and got busy prepping a couple handhelds with gels, chews and tabs. Nuun Tri-Berry
and Lemon+Lime would be the hydration mainstays of my day; however long it may last. No, nothing had improved in my upset belly; so on little sleep and with very little calories in my system I
stood waiting for the race director to get us on the way. I waited and wondered if I'd make it to
the first aid station (3miles).

I always get a kick out of the roadies who are so amused by the informal start of a trail
race. The race director simply yelled "Go" and I followed all the shiney Asics "Gel-something or others" across the park lawn to the trail head. There were three events on the day: 25k, 50k and 50 mile. Considering I was using this as training run for a 70.5 mile race in 2 weeks; I thought 50k would be a smarter distance than 50 miles for me today. The 25k and 50k runners ran together for the
first lap while the 50 mile folks had an extra little loop to do before they joined us on the trail.
I started a little fast trying to get warmed up and a feel for if I'd make it past the first
mile. I was feeling surprisingly ok, but I was going faster than I wanted. The course was so flat
and the trail so non-technical, it lent itself to speed so I had to keep telling myself it wasn't
a 5k. After the second aid station around mile seven I decided that the speedsters in the Boston
shirts and cute matching Reebok outfits were just going to have to go on without me tagging
along. Janice was there and I'm not sure, but she looked a little surprised that I was continuing and
not asking where the car was and how long till we'd be home. I fell in behind two women who were
maintaining a pace that worked for me so I forced myself to stay behind and not pass. I had
finally found something that made the upset stomach go away, running. I was pretty pleased with
myself, I just might finish this thing. I looked at my watch, saw I was just passing 9 miles and promptly rolled my left ankle. It was a bad one. [I broke that ankle a few years ago and it didn't heal correctly. There's a chunk off the end of the Tibia which makes it unstable and perfect for rolling at will.] While I'm used to twisting it and walking/hobbling a few hundred yards till the pain subsides, this one had an odd twinge in the front of the ankle on top of my foot. It was a false alarm and in about a quarter mile I was able to run again. The wheels had indeed come off though. When I rolled it, I felt immediately like I was going to empty my stomach in both directions. That didn't happen
thankfully and yes I was running again, but I had a sharp pain with every footfall and my mile
time slowed considerably. Oh well, I reminded myself I was here as a shake down cruise and I just
needed the training run. Janice intercepted me a couple more times, I told her the ankle news as
she got great photos of me walk/running.

I reached the start fnish area and now I was in for another test. Mentally I can't stand running
laps to begin with and now here I was feeling like complete crap with another lap staring me in the face. Easy, all I'd have to do was go over to the timing table and tell them it was all a mistake and I really only meant to run the 25k. That's when I heard Janice yell, "one down, one to go". Damn! Back to my original plan, another 25k lap, but not until I visited my buddy John again. (no, no stomach improvement) The second lap didn't start so well. I tried to kiss Janice and missed and then I made an
immediate wrong turn onto an incorrect trail. Thankfully another runner saw me and yelled. That
was to become a theme. At this point I was really feeling the lack of sleep and calories. I was
really slowing down. All day I had been gobbling Gu Gels on the hour and Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes tabs on the half hour, washing it all down with Nuun. I was able to eat a piece of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and orange slices without fowl effect. I dumped Coca-Cola and Mountain Dew in on top of it all. Cokes a comfort food for me and I've convinced myself that I benefit from the sugar in the Dew.

The trail runs along the Pennypack Creek. It's a pretty place and all pretty easy running.
Heck, a couple of stretches were paved. The only hills were easy ones towards the end of the lap.
The course was marked by pink construction ribbon and white powder arrows on the ground. The
first lap was a synch surrounded by all the 25k runners, but much of the second lap I was running alone and ribbons were disappearing. After that first bone head  wrong turn to start the lap, I made three more and one was pretty bad. I followed another runner up a hill and around a bend until
we dead ended on a busy suburban Philadelphia street. We had missed a turn, ribbons were gone and
a family of four out enjoying the nice weather with their bicycles had been standing on the
right-turn arrow.


My best 50k time to date was a 5:50 and this course was so easy, there was no reason why I
shouldn't have buried that time. So here are my excuses: I felt like that dung beetle who had
rolled the dung ball all day, my left ankle felt like it had a nail driven through it and that
last wrong turn had added just enough time that I missed by 1:45. Oh well, refocus, I was there
for the training run. The silver lining was that I was able to run nearly 6 hours feeling sick
and in pain. I've always believed that much of ultra running is being able to suffer and continue
and The Dirty German 50k presented an opportunity to practice that.



The day ended fabulously, I sat down on an old rickity bench and Janice handed me a Nathan
bottle, but this one wasn't full of Nuun; it was an ice cold Lager disguised to not upset the
park rangers. I didn't go near the yummy looking post race German food and we hit the road so
Janice could make it to the bridal shower.

I went for an easy road run today, my ankle's still just a bit swollen with some lovely purple
coloring. All in all I think I'm right on schedule to go have fun at the laurel Highlands 70.5
Mile Ultra. It's gonna be a hoot - stay tuned!

Posted By Blogger to Perry's Trails at 5/29/2013 08:41:00 PM