Yesterday I ran part of the Bel Monte Endurance Run, wearing a black bib number that indicated I was in the 50 mile event. And I was, for probably the first 18 miles or so. I think at that point I was in the top 10. Over the course of the next 4 miles I spent more time walking (looking for some coverage for a pit stop, but also just trying to conserve energy on hills) than running. Within another mile or two out from the aid station at mile 22ish I started walking and never started running again. For the few little parts I did run in there, my legs actually still felt ok. But my brain had decided it had no interest in telling my legs to go, and, sadly, I let it get away with that.
While I'm certainly biased toward the CRCRunning team, I'd recommend this event to anybody looking for a run at any of the distances offered (50 mile, 50k, 25k). The trails are some of my favorite (admittedly, I don't get out much), and the volunteers are awesome (thanks, all!). There's a similar event in the fall, the Great Eastern Endurance Run / Ultra Race of Champions (anybody can enter, so do!), that I'm looking forward to.
The course started off with only a little free space before narrowing down to singletrack, and I was behind people who were setting what felt like a really reasonable pace (I was also behind, for a bit, a sorta creepy anesthesiologist, but perhaps I'll give him the benefit of the doubt). I skipped the first aid station, since I was running with my own over-stocked pack and still had plenty of water (and, admittedly, felt like passing some folks). I stopped briefly at the second aid station, and was feeling great, and still felt great at the third aid station. I think I was eating better than during my last race. I was being fairly good about taking gu and salt capsules on a regularish schedule. And though I ran with some 50k guys hoping to crack 5 hours (I hope they did) for a little bit, I think I was being fairly good about my pace/exertion.
After that third aid station (mile 13), we ran along a dirt road with some minor rolling hills. The sun was starting to peek out, and it was really looking like a pretty decent day (despite some pretty uninspiring weather forecasts from earlier in the week). I noticed some sluggishness on some of the hills, which caught me a little off guard, but it wasn't that bad and I kept chugging along. The course turned off the dirt road onto a jeep road and then there was about a mile to the next aid station. In there I started feeling generally sluggish. When I showed up the aid station, the RD, whom I know and am friends with, told me I looked low on energy, and I was sorta feeling that. But I wasn't feeling too bad.
From that aid station we were supposed to do an out-and-back and use a hole punch at the turn-around to punch our bib numbers to indicate we'd done it. The bib numbers came with holes already in them, and I made a joke about it, and how I was just gonna skip that section. I'm pleased that I was close enough to the front that I was the first to make that joke (I asked). I hope the aid station crew laughed for everybody who made it.
Anyway, I took off for the little out and back, but my gut was telling me that it could really use a pit stop. Unfortunately, the trees and bushes were all pretty bare, and it took several miles for me to find a place I was comfortable with. In that time I walked a fair amount (probably best, since I was looking away from the trail a lot). Eventually I found a place, but my gut was letting me know it still wasn't particularly happy with me.
So here I was, 22ish miles into the 50, and not particularly happy about it. As I took off, Alyssa, working the aid station, told me to enjoy. I told her I wouldn't, but at least with a smile on my face. I was expecting to be able to run most of this section, up until the switch-backs that take you straight up to Camp Marty. When I did run, it felt reasonably ok. But my mental game was faltering, and the physical game wasn't there to fill the void (or, if it was, my mind wasn't into letting it try). I knew I was not going to enjoy parts of this run. But I was really optimistic I could make it at least to mile 32, and hopefully 37, before I really hated running. I figured if I could do that, I could slog my way up the last main climb, and then totter down the remaining 7 or 8 miles of mostly downhill. But after mile 22, I was walking more than running, and probably before mile 24 I had stopped running entirely. (Thanks, though, to the awesome CRC crew and whatever volunteers made it possible to cross the creeks without getting my feet wet - something I was fairly worried about after that last wet run)
I walked all the way up to Camp Marty, told Marty I wanted to go home, ate a little, got my water refilled, and then continued walking as straight back to the parking lot as the trails permitted (which was not particularly straight). I think I was at mile 22 around 4 hours, and I made it back to my car, maybe 30 miles total, probably a little under 8 hours. I guess I just missed seeing the top one or two 50 milers finish (they passed me somewhere in my walking).
I wish I knew better what went wrong, in the hopes of avoiding it next time. I really think I did a much better job keeping my pace in check early than I usually do (though perhaps being in the top 10 for a bit belies this notion). And I also think I was doing better with the nutrition/eating aspect. On the day, anyway - the last few weeks/months are probably a different story. Perhaps I got my training wrong (not enough? not enough in the mountains? too slow?) or my taper (took it too easy? not easy enough? didn't adjust my diet appropriately?). Perhaps it's as simple as my gut being slightly unhappy, and kicking off the unhappiness chain reaction earlier than I hoped I was prepared for.
I know I've got a week mental game - I'm a quitter, no doubt about it. I almost never do anything hard, or that I want to not do. I really thought I could do the physical game long enough to compensate, but apparently I was wrong. Alas.
I'm ready to get back to training (might go out for a few easy miles this afternoon (I should have gone out earlier when it was snowing!)). The last two weeks, forcing myself to take it easier than I wanted, were not my favorite. Hopefully I can bring up my endurance, both physically and mentally. Time will tell.