Thursday, May 22, 2014

Silver State 50 Miler Race Report

My first 50-miler, my first "traditional" race report. Check out my Garmin data here.

It was nice to be nervous about a race again. I wasn't super nervous, but I certainly wasn't over confident. Up to this race, the furthest I had ran was 31 miles. So, this was going to be 20 miles further than that. I knew it was going to be a challenge and didn't really know what was in store.

Beat the Blerch!
I'm going to break the race down by the drop-bag locations simply because that's how I had mentally broken up the course for planning purposes.


The race started at 6:00am and our hotel was less than 10 minutes from the race start. So, I got to sleep in and got up at about 4:45. The joys of a running race vs. a triathlon, no need to be there super early! Pre-race was pretty uneventful. Angie put on some sunscreen and I talked with some other folks about the course. The most important thing I learned was that going to the bathroom on a tree was acceptable and expected. Before I knew it, it was time to line up.

Peavine Summit 1 (mile 12.5)

The beginning of an ultra feels so much different than anything shorter than a marathon. You can just feel everyone holding back. I don't really know how to describe it, it's just a different energy of the group. The first 8 miles were really just getting a feel for the trail and filing in line with similar pace folks. People started walking the hills immediately; I was glad they did this because it really highlighted how this race was going to go. I mimicked them and started walking even though I didn't feel the need to. The downhills at this point were tiny, but I started to hate them because I knew I was going to have to go right back up that same distance.

Good view of the type of terrain for the course

I actually started getting pretty worried during this part of the race. I was getting a headache, wasn't really feeling my stride, and started having difficulty breathing. I was a worried that the altitude (only about 5,000 feet at this point) might be affecting me more than I thought it would. But, the only thing to do was to keep on going.

At about mile 8, I started to learn the difference between the hills on this course and the hills I run in Omaha. At this point there is about 3-4 miles of uphill. Thankfully, I was able to run with a couple of guys that made the time go by faster. At this point, I also started to find my stride and my earlier worries about elevation were gone.

There was a lot of walking but I made it to Peavine Summit feeling really strong. I was about 30 minutes ahead of where I had planned to be and didn't feel like I had pushed it too hard.

Ranch Creek (mile 27)

This section of the course is where things started to get hard. This was especially bad because it was downhill so I thought I was going to gain a bunch of time.

I had planned on the uphills being pretty hard and attacking them accordingly. However, I hadn't really given much thought to the downhills. Going downhill is easy, right? Just don't fall. Well, after Peavine summit, you come to essentially 7 miles of downhill, the first 2 being especially steep and rocky. I still don't know how I could have descended this section better. If you go slower, then you use more muscles to slow down. If you go faster, you pound the ground harder and risk tripping and killing yourself. Those first 2 miles I went at about an 8:30 min/mile pace, nothing crazy, using gravity to help. I could feel at about mile 17 that the downhill took a decent toll on my body.

From about mile 8 to 20, I was running with a couple people off and on. At 20 I decided that I was getting too tired to keep up with them and had to back off. This essentially was the last time I ran with anyone the whole race and just pounded the trails on my own for 30 more miles. This section also had the most confusing aid station. I walked in and there's a guy in overalls with no shirt on underneath, a woman with curlers in her hair, booze, and some other weird hillbilly stuff. As someone who isn't familiar with Reno, I wasn't sure if these were real hillbillies or if it was an act, so I just kind of ignored it. After I left the aid station, they had a couple signs that solidified that it was an act, thankfully.

Mile 20ish was probably the prettiest part of the race. It was running through forest, which was unexpected because I thought the whole thing was uncovered desert. It was also the time where the race started to get "real". The hurting started to mount and I began to understand the magnitude of 50 miles. On one hand, I was happy because in my previous longest runs, this same feeling came at about mile 15, so I was 5 miles further this time. On the other, I had another 30 miles to go. It was going to be a long day.

Some sightseeing around the park Angie did while I was out
The rest of this section was essentially me just trying to convince myself that even if it's a slow run, it's a run and would keep me moving forward. I also made a point to pee, more as a "dip stick" test to see if I'm hydrated enough. Thankfully I was doing well on that front.

River Bend (mile 33)

This 6 mile section of the course was simply cruel. It was all downhill and much of it technical single-track. I was already pretty fatigued by this point and the downhills were hurting a lot. This is where I regretted my effort on the downhill at mile 12. The cruelest part is that at the bottom of the hill you keep going down, you know that you had to turn around and head back up.

Cold sponges, yeahhhh buddy
The thing that made this part bearable was knowing that the only spectator access was at River Bend and Angie was waiting for me there with some cold Blue Monkey coconut water. Dag nabbit I love that stuff (and my wife too). I took a little longer at this aid station than most, just to get some rest before the next terrible section of the course. I sat down, ate a bit, and dumped a bunch of cold water on myself. I was getting a little worried because I had completely lost my appetite. Oranges and Oreos were about the only things that were palatable.

On to phase "Ain't nothin to it but to do it".

Headed out of the aid station

Peavine Summit 2 - The Revenge (mile 39)

Put simply, this was the slowest 7.8 miles I've ever done. 7.8 miles with 3,000+ feet of elevation gain.  It took my about 2:45 to cover the distance. That's slower than 20 min/mile. Just kept putting one foot in front of the other.

Before the race started, someone told me his nickname for this part of the course was "pigfucker hill". Boy howdy he was right. I swore numerous times simply because it seemed like it would never end. I kept looking to the top and when I finally saw the top, I was in a little disbelief that I had to keep climbing that far. I kept looking around for a different hill that might be more palatable. But alas, it was the hill right in front of me. Eventually I got towards the top. I was so so happy when I got close enough and realized I didn't have to go up another 200ish feet that I thought I did.

Angie was unexpectedly waiting for me at the aid station which was a welcome surprise. I got some water, drank a smoothie (got a brain freeze), and took a seat again. The next 11 miles were essentially all downhill, but I had done enough downhill to know that I was not looking forward to the next section.

Headed out from the top

Finish (mile 50)

Mentally, it was all about time at this point. I just kept calculating over and over how much longer until I was done. Thankfully, even the conservative estimates put me in before the 14 hour cutoff so I was fairly certain I was going to finish. This was all downhill and once again a lot of single-track. All I really wanted at this point was to not get last. I had been passed by a lot of people and could rarely see people behind me, so I kept thinking I was the last place person.

I got to mile 50 (according to my watch) and I wasn't at the finish. I knew this was going to happen given the nature of these types of races, but I was still pissed. Nothing to do at this point but to slug through it.

As I got to the park, I could hear people cheering for the person who finished a little ahead of me. When I heard that sound, I almost broke down crying because that sound meant I was essentially done. These sorts of races just rub your nerves raw, and any sort of emotion can almost push you over the edge.

I crossed the finish line and was never happier to be done with a race. Angie was there to take care of me. I took a seat and just kind of zoned out for awhile. At the end of it, it took 12 hours 24 minutes to finish. I came in 56th place (out of 66 people), not a stellar finish, but a finish.

Just crossed the finish

Summary (Tl;DR Version)

Overall, I'm glad I did this race, but wouldn't recommend the course for anyone's first 50 or if you're not used to mountains. The aid stations were amazing with both the food and the volunteers, the course was well marked, and the course itself was beautiful and challenging. Will I do another 50 miler again? Probably. Will I do a 100 miler? Never say never.
I guess the toe box doesn't block much dirt...

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