Sunday, November 8, 2009

Long Night at Inks Lake

On August 29-30, I ran the longest, slowest race of my life and had a great time. It was a 60K trail run at Inks Lake State Park. I finished in about 8:36.

Now for a bit more detail.

I went to the doctor Thursday for my well child check up. She said my blood pressure was terrific, and she bragged about how I was 20 pounds lighter than when I saw her 2 years ago. My EKG looked great. Its alarm went off because my resting heart rate was so low--47 bpm. It was gratifying to have my improved health, resulting from running, objectively affirmed.

On to the race. I left FW a little before 2 Saturday. I was tired already, and hoping I was not sick. I started getting a sore throat on Thursday, and was congested Thurs and Fri. I never had fever but thought I was getting a cold. I was still congested a little for a time on Sat, but figured I'd be OK. I was tired, but then I'm tired most of the time.

I got to Inks Lake in plenty of time to get registered, changed, warm up, and check out the terrain. The race started at 7.

Lap 1
About 60 runners started the race, which was 6 10K laps. It's a rugged trail, with lots of rocky sections, and some climbing. Not as much elevation change as I expected, though. It may have just been me, but it seems like the nice, smooth sections were uphill, and the downhills were mostly rocky, so there weren't too many places where you could cruise downhill without worrying about rocks and ledges. On this first lap, I did decide to let gravity pull me down the hills while I stepped with my mountain goat-like dexterity, making pretty good time. After a few minutes I fell in with Charlie, a hotel manager from Houston, who is good friends with Dean "The Ultramarathon Man" Karnazes. They used to run together frequently when Charlie lived in California. We kept a good pace together and enjoyed chatting.
This is a beautiful trail with some pretty views of the lakes and surrounding hill country.

Lap 2
For this lap, we had to strap on our head lamps. The downhills became much more tricky to navigate in the dark, slowing me down. Charlie and I stuck together the whole second lap after a break at the start/finish line. We kept up a good pace. I had my one fall on this lap. I tripped but caught myself with my hands, and my knees didn't hit the ground. Lucky. So much for the views. From here on out, the only view is what my headlamp lights up in front of me.

Lap 3
Charlie spent a bit longer at the s/f aid station, so I took off without him. I should have stuck with him, I guess, because this was a hard lap. I did run for a while with a guy with a long ponytail. We kept passing each other up. For some reason I was really tired on this lap. I wondered if I would finish. There was one section of the loop with an out and back (if the course was a circle, at that point in the circle you would run toward the center for a few minutes, go around a yellow stake, and run back to the same point on the circle. There was an aid station at the stake.) I wouldn't do this, but I did wonder what would stop me from only going partway to the stake. . . . I got ahead of ponytail and went on to the s/f aid station.

Lap 4
Shortly after I started this lap, I ate some Jelly Belly Extreme Sport Beans with Caffeine. That gave me a good boost. This felt like my best lap. I ran mostly alone, but stayed on pace. I became much more confident on the rocky downhills, which was encouraging. I stumbled a few times, but didn't fall again.
I finished lap 4 a little under 5:20. So now this is the longest I have ever run, time wise. I finished El Scorcho 50K in 5:19, and the Grasslands trail marathon in 4:50.

Lap 5
This was another good lap. I did start to feel some cramping, so I took some Endurolytes Electrolyte Replenishment Capsules which seemed to help. Still by myself, for the most part, I lapped a couple of people, which felt good!
After this lap, this is now the longest I have ever run at once. (El Scorcho 50K was the longest before now.)

Lap 6
Charlie and another guy came into the s/f aid station a couple minutes behind me; they had been gaining on me late in lap 5. I left just before them, with the determination that I was going to run hard this last lap. I wanted a negative split, where the last lap is faster than the first few. I started out well, lapping a couple more people, then I passed a couple who were also on their last lap. I started getting the big head, thinking, "I'm going to beat Charlie-who-trains-with-Dean-Karnazes." Then here come two people behind me--Charlie and his friend. They passed me, and I tried to pace with them for a couple minutes, but couldn't do it. They clearly saved more for the end than I did! I figured I wouldn't be able to catch them, but that my standing wasn't going to change because I couldn't tell that anyone was anywhere close behind me. I decided I would still finish strong, and at least run on the smoother parts. Well, I started walking more, running out of gas. One more guy passed me, but I did run the last half mile or so to the end.
By the way, one nice thing about a looped course is that you can take note of any trail hazards and avoid them on subsequent loops. So on laps 1-5, I carefully ducked under the low-hanging branch over the trail just after you cross the park road. You'd think by lap 6 I'd have that one figured out. Nope. That scab at my hairline, plus a modest collection of blisters, is the only injury from the night. Oh, one more funny thing--Zippy told me today "Daddy, your feet are all ripped up."

Results, 14th out of 51 starters, 31 finishers. I don't know yet how many dropped out. I know one guy I met dropped out b/c he had eye surgery this week and that was bothering him. There was also a pack of women who dropped out after being freaked out by a howling pack of coyotes.

I was tired, but probably could have/should have pushed more on the final lap. Some of the guys at the end told me this trail is much tougher than the one at Palo Duro Canyon, which is where I am going to run a 50 mile race in October. That was encouraging. Even though it's slower and harder, trail running is definitely more enjoyable than road races. I'm not ready to be completely done with road racing, but trail racing is my favorite.

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