What: Naked Bavarian 40 Miler
When: Sunday March 6, 2016 8am
Where: Leesport, PA
Time: 8:11:57
Place: 55 of 99

Well, Sunday didn’t turn out quite how I had planned it.  I thought I could easily cut 15-20 minutes off last year’s time and I only ended up 1 minute 14 seconds faster due to a strong kick at the very end.  I’ve had two chances at this course and don’t think I’ve run great races either time.  I don’t think it’s possible to ever run a perfect race.  And the longer the race, the greater the likelihood that something will go wrong at some point.  So it’s more a question of how close to a perfect race is reasonable.  Both my attempts were impacted by things largely outside of race day execution.  Last year I was partially hobbled by a weak knee.  This year it was something else entirely.

Stupid Coworkers

Several officemates were coughing and sneezing their way through my office late in the week.  I didn’t really think much of it at the time even when one stayed home from work on Friday.  I don’t normally get sick so never considered taking extra precautions to make sure I didn’t come down with whatever they had.  Hindsight.  . . sigh.  I didn’t feel too bad during the day on Saturday, but looking back I didn’t eat nearly enough.  My lack of appetite went unnoticed until I hit mile 14 on Sunday and I started running low of energy.  This usually doesn’t happen for a couple more miles so caught me a little off guard.  I had a slight headache Saturday (again, never get) that impacted my sleep quality a bit the night before and a little cough during the run on Sunday.  I just ended up feeling a little run down, which normally wouldn’t even warrant mentioning but does in the context of running for 8+ hours.

One of Those Days

If I wasn’t entirely sure how the day was going to progress, I found out shortly after arriving.  I went up to the table to check in and they couldn’t find my name on the registration list.  The poor guy kept looking through all his sheets, but couldn’t find my name.  I never bring a hard copy of my registration because they never ask for it.  I tried looking up my registration via email, but my Yahoo app only goes back 100 emails.  I finally logged in via the internet only to realize that I never registered for the race!  I went back up, paid my extra $5 ($40 total), got a bib, and away I went.

Additional Contributing Factors

Nothing is easier or more fun than blaming poor results on outside factors.  I had a poor race because a coworker got me sick.  Bad coworker!  And while I’m sure that had a decent impact on my performance on Sunday (maybe even half or more), it wasn’t the only thing that went less than perfect.

Probably the biggest thing was getting off my nutrition schedule at mile 10.  I had planned to drink a bottle of Ensure Plus then, but I missed my watch beep the mile so took it a mile late.  Normally, I don’t think this would have thrown me off too much, however this probably had me burn through whatever reserves I had when combined with the lack of food the prior day.

Another factor was that I didn’t have enough sleep the 5 days before the race.  I cut back my runs a little, but I didn’t increase my sack time.  I didn’t even average 8 hours a night when normally I would shoot for 9 to 10 hours.  I mean, the easiest thing you can do to get prepared for a race is to get some extra sleep and I didn’t even do that well.

The final issue was my pacing.  The problem wasn’t running below my heart rate target, which has vexed me in the past.  I was able to stay at or below the 157bpm level without too much hassle.  The problem was that it wasn’t a frustratingly slow pace.  When I used 155bpm, I was forced to walk more often than I would have liked.  I never got that frustrated feeling Sunday.  Hopefully at some point in my ultra career I’ll be able to nail a good early pace without going by heart rate, but as of now this is the best method I know to keep myself from running like a wild man right from the gun.

The Heart Don’t Lie

Speaking of heart rate.  Since the second half of last year’s race was adversely impacted by a wobbly knee and the second 10 miles of this year by flu/fueling/etc., the first 10 miles are really the only good comparison I have between where I am now and where I was a year ago.  Last year I ran the first 10 miles in 1:48:36 and this year a minute slower in 1:49:53.  Faster is faster, but it took me an average HR of 167bpm (yes, I was an idiot) to achieve that 77 second advantage vs. only 154bpm this year.  I don’t have any data to back this up, but I’ve got to believe I would have been much faster this year over the first 10 miles if I went out that hard.

Um, Didn’t You PR?

I know, I know.  If you’ve made it this far without a nap, you’ve probably got the impression I’m not happy with my result.  That’s not the case at all.  One of the reasons why I don’t like running the same race over and over again is because I’ll naturally tend to focus on time to the exclusion of all other factors.  I don’t want a given time to be the determinate of whether I had a good run or not.  It’s far to easy to take 2 times and think they’re comparable even if run on the same course.  There are lots of other factors that come into play (i.e. weather) that are outside your control.  Sometimes life just happens.

So I am trying to focus on answering “Yes” to these 3 questions to determine whether a given ultra was successful or not:

  • Did I finish what I started?
  • Did I give my best effort?
  • Did I learn anything?

Based on these criteria, the race was a smashing success.  I not only finished, but finished relatively strongly.  I battled through the inevitable adversity that comes with running long distances and had a solid second lap.  I ran evenly from the beginning to the end, only walking those hills that required walking.  And while my early pacing error may have contributed to a slower than expected pace, the changes I made to my nutrition plan ended up working better than expected.

Coming into this race I’ve typically only had a gel every 5 miles.  I had experimented with taking one every 4 miles or so once before, but never more frequent than that.  Sunday I was sucking down a gel every 3 miles from 14 onwards and that led to very even energy levels the rest of race.  And even energy levels leads to happy thoughts.  I only ever get mentally down when I get low on calories.  As long as I can keep the calories flowing into my body, good things usually happen.  My legs were getting tired (my quads would have given me problems if the race was any longer) and while I may have walked a bit more than absolutely necessary, I was feeling good.  So my experiment with more frequent gels definitely works for me.  Well, it works in a 40 mile race in 40 degree temperatures.  I’ll attempt this at C&O in April and see how long they work for me.  Something tells me I might not be able to stomach 33 of them (ha!).  If that’s the case, then I’ll just have to go with Plan B (or C or D or . . . ).

Recovery

It shouldn’t come as much surprise that my recovery from the race has been slower than normal.  Your body has a finite ability to heal itself and mine has been spending most of it’s capacity on this cold/flu/whatever.  The legs are still sore 5 days after the fact when I’m usually good to go after only 2.  No biggy.  I’m taking the extra time needed to get my body back to 100%.  I have 3 more key long runs left in this training cycle, but they are less important to how I do in late April than getting to the starting line 100% healthy. So that is my focus right now.

Am I being too hard on myself?

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