I ran the Woodside 50k last weekend. It has taken me almost 2 months to come back from that nasty ankle issue I had back in February. While still a little sore after the 20th or so mile, I feel now it is as good as it is going to get. I can manage all the issues it presents me at this point. Since that injury I have made health the #1 priority over any fitness gains. I think I've turned the corner on that and really am starting to see the benefits of being healthy for an extended period of time. I'm now at almost 14 months of health and I have no intent on ending that anytime soon.
This 50k had a lot more climbing than I expected. I was shooting for a 6:30 race which would have been an hour faster than any trail 50k I've run to date. I left Reno Friday night and we got to Woodside around 8:30pm. A quick trip to Denny's for some fuel and back to the hotel and in bed by 10. My stress level has come down slightly since February and my sleeping habits have improved a bit. I actually got to sleep before midnight!
First off this race was 100% first rate. Completely marked, well stocked aid, tough as nails to run and a great vibe at the finish. A huge thanks to Inside Trail Racing (ITR) for the their efforts and giving the Reno runners a discount on the race.
As you can see there is really nothing flat on this course, long ups and downs were the name of the game this day. We started out climbing and within 25 minutes I realized I was in new territory. I was trying to take it easy but I kept finding myself starting to jog going up hill. I was not cursing the hills while I ran like I have so often, in fact I was actually catching people and passing them. I figured this was just early race jitters and my normal slow and steady would come back towards the middle parts of the race.
We got to the first aid station and I had just finally figured out the people I was running with were doing the 35k, this immediately sent up a red flag. I was running uphill with them.....no way I could keep up that pace so I better slow down. For the next 5-8 miles I settled into a very comfortable pace and tried to concentrate on eating and drinking. When we got to the next aid station I knew my time to shine was ahead of me. We had this massive 3-4 mile 1500 foot descent. I LOVE going downhill! I've been working on getting a fast tempo that allows me to recover and I set out down the hill. I passed about 15 people and at one point saw a 6:55 pace. I averaged between 7:45 to 8:15 on those miles and I new at this point nearly half way that I was having a good day. I also knew that what goes down must come back up on a loop course. I had a 4 mile slog back to the top so I reached down to grab a gel. Oh SNAP! I forgot to zip the pocket and I lost all my gels. I had not had one since the last aid station and would not get another till the next, so I'd be going almost 9 miles with no fuel. DAMN IT. I got a new waist pack 2 weeks ago and had not used it in a race, no other pack I have uses zippers and I just forgot this one did. Dumb move.
Starting back up the hill I see this woman running back at me waving her hands yelling we are going the wrong way. I asked if she was sure and she assured me she had just been over a half mile with no markings. I could not comprehend this as I had just seen one. Turns out she missed a marker and was mistaken but it took about 5 minutes of backtracking to figure it all out. Once back in the right direction and heading up the hill I got that feeling again. "I can jog some of this" I thought to myself. "OK to that tree then walk", I said. I repeated this over and over, it resulted in me running probably 75% of that hill and passing many people. I got to the top elated. I hit the aid station inquired about where I was in the race and they said top 25 or so.
That news got me all jacked up and I took off from that aid stop well fed but starting to feel the effects of the lost Gels an hour earlier. I knew I had about 30 minutes before a huge crash which would last about another 30 minutes. I tried to eat but I got to the point where I had more in my gut than I could digest, so I knew at that point all I could do was ride out the low point. I got passed shortly after by two older gentlemen who clearly had been holding back the first 25 miles.
I passed the last aid station and finally started doing the numbers. If I really hustled and pushed I could break 5:35 I figured. I set off like a bat out of hell down that trail. At this point the best I could muster was low 8 minute pace but it felt like 6. Then about 2 miles from the finish it happened, I'd finally pushed my legs too far and they stopped working. I had to walk some of the downs and all of the hills, my watch was telling me 5:40 was now out of the question but sub 6 was still in order. The last mile sucked, all uphill and I was wrecked with no energy to spend. I trotted into the finish in a lifetime best of 5:49 on the clock almost 2 hours better than my previous best. I was amazed. The training and extended health is really starting to pay off. I ended up 20th place and 6th in my age group.
About 20 minutes after the finish I got this huge blast of energy from everything I ate an hour earlier. My running mates from Reno started coming in and we all celebrated great days. We brought down 4 people all of whom placed in the top 40, with 3 50k PR's and the other non PR was a huge success as she came across the finish line stating she could "run another 20 no problem", which was her goal for the race.
I know now making health my most important goal has been and will continue to be the best bet for me. While I still regret choosing not to start that race 2 months ago, I am certain the result wold have been tragic to my goals for running this year.
My next race is Silver State 50 mile in May, I'm looking forward to us since I last ran that race in 2011. It was to this date the worst race I've ever run. I look forward to taking revenge on that course and running a lot of the hills! I think I have a shot at sub 11 hours if everything goes right.