Monday, March 12, 2007

Waco 5-0 50k

Start LineYou think anybody wants a roundhouse kick to the face while I'm wearing these bad boys?

The Waco 5-0 50k has tormented me for the last year. I ran it severely undertrained and underhydrated in its inaugural year, and I am most likely the reason the time limit was extended from 9 hours to 10 - Waco, Texas is not as flat as you'd think. After a strong fall season finishing my first 50 mile in Palo Duro and a couple good finishes in some 50ks I knew I was ready to come back and redeem myself.

Lap 1

As I mentioned to Bill Rumbaugh and a woman running near us named Rebekah, the second loop of a race always seems completely new to me because I run the first loop staring at my feet trying to wake up. I've been told that Cameron Park is not a safe place to be after dark, but it is absolutely beautiful during the day. The dead fish smell of the first mile along the river bank I could live without, but once you hit the first hill you don't feel like you are in Texas anymore. The hill is on a trail named Highlander, and is one of the steepest hills I've climbed outside the rockies. I started walking as soon as I reached it, remembering how I went out too fast last year. I grinned as I watched a few people run past me only to give out halfway up (heh heh heh). Highlander switchbacks up and down and over a few bridges until finally topping out at a clearing with a baseball diamond and the first aid station.

The next section of the trail is easier with rolling hills through the woods. The course was very well marked with arrows and ribbons, but there are many trail crossings and if you're staring at the ground its easy to miss a turn. That had never happened to me in an ultra until now. As I was flying down a hill, I came to an intersection with tape marking the trail to the right, but an arrow on a tree pointing straight ahead on the trail I was on. A yelled to a group of runners ahead of me that had gone straight and we decided they were going the correct way. As we reached the 6 mile marker however, we knew we went the wrong way - we must have missed about an 1/8th of a mile. By then it was too late, so I let the volunteers at the second aid station at mile 7 1/2 know and hoped I could make up the missed mileage on the next loop.

The last section of the course is my favorite. After climbing a few short hills, you run right up to a point on top of lovers leap - a 60 foot cliff overlooking the river. This course would be pretty dangerous at night. A mile or so later and the scenery changes from cedar, juniper and mesquite to bamboo of all things. After an exciting downhill through the enchanted bamboo forest, you cross a road and hit the final hill and my nemesis: Root Canal. It's not very long but it really hurts (duh) and then its an easy quarter mile downhill on the road back to the start finish area. I finished my first lap in 1:50 which is a really good time for me even considering the 5 minutes or so I was short on the course by.

Lap 2

I pulled into the aid station and didn't waste any time getting my bottle refilled. Right as the aid station attendant handed it back to me, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a very fit, very fast, very scantily clad female runner go by on the road. This must have triggered some deep, dark caveman part of my brain and I gave chase. Wow, she was moving! She must have been a track runner, because we covered the flat first mile of the course in under 7 minutes before I lost sight.

Starting Lap 2Do not accept checks from this man

After a mile like that, I knew I had really put some ground between me and the handfull of runners behind me. I settled in to a strong power-hike up the switchbacks and started to zone out when I saw a flash of black behind me on the trail. No, It had to be a bird or something. The next turn, same thing. This time I knew it was human, but no way any 50k runner could keep up with me after my sprint! Maybe the whole Baylor cross-country team is out here today? The third time I saw her, I knew the game was up, I recognized the pig-tails of barbara(?).

Around the first aid station, she flew past me and I knew I wouldn't see her again until the finish line. I still managed a strong pace through the next section. Appearantly the race director Tim found the spot on the trail where we got mixed up before and put a few extra arrows on the trees. I'm glad he did, because I discovered that I had missed on of the best downhills on the course. After a short climb, the trail dumps into a long, snaking ravine shaped like a half-pipe. The trail banks back and forth up the sides and I couldn't help sporting a big, stupid grin as I swooped down it ahead of some bikers.

The rest of my second loop kept that same momentum and I came in at 3:50 slowing only 10 minutes from my first loop. The best part was having my girlfriend and pit crew Lindsay waiting for me after she finished her first trail run ever, the 10 miler, in just over 2 hours (way to go)! I filled my bottle, changed socks and grabbed a PB&J sandwich as I started my last lap.

Lap 3

I knew something was wrong as soon as I left the aid station. I was taking a Succeed salt cap ever hour, and drinking my entire 24oz bottle of water between every aid station, but as the temperature started to push toward the 80s I knew it wasn't enough. Unlike all my previous races, the onset of dehydration hit me fast and hard. Suddenly my head was spinning, my legs were overly tired and heavy, my stomach was sloshing and the air around me felt hot and stale. It took every ounce of energy to push up the steeper hills now, and I had to stop and catch my breath a few times as though I were hiking at altitude. It was a little disappointing to be reduced to a walk as a few people I had passed earlier now caught up to me.

I could tell that my stomach had stopped processing. I was still downing water as fast as I could, and I was now taking a salt cap every half hour but I had completely stopped sweating and was growing more and more nauseous. Everything came to a head right before the last aid station, and I pulled over and tossed my cookies - or gummy bears in this case. Immediately aftwerward my stomach felt much better, and in the aid station the volunteer Melissa, who saved my race the year before, took great care of me again and got me rehydrated.

FinishedI may look like a demented belly dancer but I feel like a blue-ribbon hog

I was able to make up the missed mileage from my first loop here as I got off course again, this time to the confusion of the runners ahead of me as I passed them going the wrong way. The dehydration had taken its toll, and I was not able to speed up by much, but it was enough. As I was running through the bamboo forest and about to start up Root Canal - I caught up to the two runners ahead of me. My competetive spirit from earlier was back and I chased them up the hill. I passed a gentleman in black halfway up, but the other guy saw me and sped up. He turned on to the road, and we both raced at top speed down the final stretch and under the finish line banner. I wasn't able to pass him, but I finished in 6:29 - a new PR by 1 minute! It was a great finish to a tough race, and afterward I was treated to grilled hamburger goodness and stories from the NTTR veterans in the pavillion. This is one race I can't wait to come back to, thank you Tim and all the volunteers for making it happen!

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