The best laid plans of mice and ultrarunners . . .
I’ve been struggling with the motivation to write this race report. Part of it has to do with my performance (not my best). Part of it is that I’ve already written two reports on this race so don’t have a lot of original things to say about it. And part is that I’m a little burned out on my typical narrative report style. So I’m going to mix it up a bit and start at the end.
My finish time of 8hr9min ended up being 12 minutes slower than last year. Everything was going perfectly for me until I took a header somewhere around mile 10-12. I bounced up fairly quickly, but had scraped up my left knee pretty good. I don’t think this slowed me too much, however I went down again at mile 18 and this time I did a bit more damage only to my right knee instead. My initial reaction was that I may have to drop at the halfway point when I got back to the start/finish area. I walked for a bit and decided I would just take it easy from there on out. A lot of times, dialing back the effort level will help me work through any physical issues that I have as muscles will loosen up. I was able to keep running over the final 23 miles so while I’m sure the falls slowed me down, it’s impossible for me to quantify whether it ended up being 5 minutes or 25 minutes. I know it definitely had some impact as completely different muscle groups were sore the next day (quads vs. hamstrings).
Even though I didn’t end up having the type of performance I was hoping for, I did end up having the type of race I was hoping for. You see I don’t do these races for the time. Sure I want to do well, but I’ll never win one of these things and twelve minutes over 8 hours (or 10 places among 91 finishers) really doesn’t mean a whole lot. I’m drawn to ultras because I never know exactly what’s going to happen. My normal 5 mile mid-week run is always going to be the same (although sometimes the dog at mile 1 doesn’t bark). I’ve run this race four times now and each one has been a little different depending on whether I was nursing an injury or under trained or unable to keep from tripping over my own two feet. You never what fresh challenge awaits.
Challenges like wondering why I keep signing up for these darn races. When I got to the halfway point, I found my drop back and got my Ensure Plus shakes out that I was using for most of my calories. I chugged one there and put one in my waist pack. I sat downas I did this, but was back up and out onto the course within a minute or so. Luckily, I didn’t take more time because I immediately started wondering what I was doing. I must have been a little low on calories because mentally I was struggling pretty good. I started counting down the miles not too soon after hitting the trail, which is never a good sign. My thoughts soon shifted to wondering how I was going to run 100 miles next month when it seemed like I was barely going to be able to finish 40. Dark thoughts for me being so far from the finish line.
I started to look forward to seeing my wife who was running the 20 miler. That race started 30 minutes after mine and I expected to see her at some point before the second aid station. The course is set up in 3-3.5 mile sections between bridges. The first section is rolling hills. The second section is a little flatter. You then do a loop with aid station 3 in the middle before doing the first 2 sections in reverse back to the start/finish. I was mildly disappointed every time I saw a new runner coming towards me who ended up not being my wife. Eventually, I found her and my spirits were immediately lifted. I tried to put on a good face because I didn’t want her worrying about me though I did tell her I was moving a bit slower than expected so would likely be finishing after 8 hours.
As I moved along the second loop, I seemed to gain strength. I didn’t all of a sudden start running faster, but I stopped slowing down. Sure I was walking anything that resembled an incline and stopping for anything that could possibly be considered photogenic, but I was still running everything else. At the end of any ultra, strength is better measured in attitude than physical capability. I believe it’s better to finish feeling strong than to actually be running fast. Sometimes this is the same thing, but most times it’s not. This won’t go down as my best race, but it’ll go down as an enjoyable one. If you ever have the opportunity of running Naked Bavarian, you should avail yourself. It’s a very well organized event and one of the best values around (under $1 per mile!). I have no doubt I will be back next year for another run around the lake.