Best 50…ever! …Still hurt.

I don’t really know where to start this one. I wish I could say that heading to Wisconsin was all in the plan and that everything was planned out so that I’d done everything right in training both physically and mentally to set myself up for the race I eventually had. Nope. Not true at all. Truth is, I’ve been having a bad attitude, well, as bad an attitude as a Care Bear maybe, about having to run another 50 miles to try to get into Western States. Not even sure that I want to run 100 miles and with just about zero confidence that I can run 100 miles I had about as much motivation to fly back to Ice Age 50 as a monkey without a banana. So yeah, not much.

The Start

I guess I can do a pretty good job of convincing myself of just about anything though and did decide that another attempt to get into Western States was worth another 50 miles and a lot of pain, potentially a lot of it mental anguish when I closed out another poor 50 mile performance. I think that was more frightening than actually now having a 100 mile race looming in about 6 weeks. A bad 50 mile performance (or 100 miler I suppose) is pretty disheartening. You don’t get too many chances to redeem your confidence, and with several in a row with Lake Sonoma last year, TNF50, then Lake Sonoma this year I was starting to think I just couldn’t run a good one. I am pretty convinced that I can’t run a mountainous long race well but that remains to be seen. I continue to do races with big elevation gain for a few reasons but the motivation is waning and it’s tough to keep getting your butt kicked if I know I’m stronger on different terrain. The training for that however, is beneficial for every distance and every type of race, I’m convinced of that, so I’ll continue to challenge myself through training and racing those types of races until I succeed.
I’m finding that a lot of success at 50 miles is just not running like a sissy. Hanging back at Lake Sonoma was a huge mistake for me. I was 7 min slower through half this year than I was last year because I listened to myself and everyone else saying I’d gone out too fast. I didn’t go out too fast last year, I just bonked because my nutrition plan was bad. This year I ran like a sissy and got stuck in a rhythm and pace I wasn’t used to and it backfired. (yes, I do realize that I’ll have to run slower for 100 miles so I’ve got some work to do)

50 Miles of Beautiful Singletrack

At Ice Age I didn’t have any expectations or maybe they were just really low. I was going in with an almost bad attitude about it then I talked myself into just running it how I like to run. We were out fast, well relatively anyway, and I would say a normal pace through 9 miles of very rolling terrain in about 60min. The one thing I learned at LS was just to not run like a sissy, so I didn’t. I like to run scared. I ran easy but pushed up the hills a bit more than I did last time. I ran smooth and relaxed and let Brian Condon set a good honest pace through almost half. It was nice to have other guys around that were keeping it honest and set a very reasonable pace.

The Front Pack

Through 9 Miles

Matt and I put a small gap on Brian between 21 to 26 and he and I ran a good pace around 7min to about 32mi. Those miles were by far the easiest miles I’ve ever run in a 50 miler. I couldn’t tell you why or how but it came together right there. I could tell Matt was just starting to crack on the hills at that point and I was running so easy that with every passing mile my confidence grew. I had to keep reminding myself that we still had a long way to go and that is one of the hardest things to do in an ultra for me. I’m still too used to go, go, go, push, push, push when I’m racing and I don’t think that will ever change, so when I feel good it takes all my restraint to hold back. I passed Matt at 32 but was careful not to do just that and take off. Just keeping everything smooth, the 8 mile out and back to mile 40 would be the only chance I would have to learn the course before I had to head back over the final 10 miles to the finish. I soaked up as much terrain info as I could so I would know how far out I was. I knew it was going to hurt. I just didn’t know how much. I continued through 40 still on a record pace we had set up early. It was nice to learn that I’d been holding pace the last 10 and not relinquishing time like I thought I had been. Turns out GPS just isn’t a reliable guage on trails like that. I knew at 30 that we were just about 10-13min up on the record. I figured that would begin to shrink for me after about 35 miles and I’d start to give up time, it would just be a matter of how much I would give up. About 44 miles I started to hurt and looking at my watch I was starting to hemorage seconds/minutes to the time. I started seeing 7:45, 8:15, 8:25 and thinking Matt was only 2-3min back and probably gaining pushed me harder. My legs started to go flat on the uphills, flats and downhills were still good, my vision was starting to narrow and get a little foggy, and HR was starting to drop, usually a sign that I’m slowing down. Hang on, hang on. Hitting the ski trail with 1.5 to go I knew I had it. I pushed it in with all I had to what I would consider the most successful 50 miler I’ve ever run. I learned later that I’d held on to run 69min over the last 9.7 miles so really hadn’t lost much time at all. I was surprised. To sum it up, things just clicked. Wish I knew why but I’ll take it.

Sequence 1

Sequence 2

My Pacer

Maybe my encounter with my pacer the previous day was a sign(although it doesn’t seem like an obvious sign) or just that I didn’t have the expectations on myself, or maybe it was the full moon on the trail (check the lunar charts and you’ll realize it wasn’t of the heavenly variety). Yes, it’s quite possible that 20 years of specific training has made me much stronger on this type of course and it will be another 20 years before I can master a technical mountain course.
Well, to say the least, I’m glad I came. Everything about it turned out to be a great race. Dinner with Matt, Matt’s Dad, and Gina the night before, great people like RD Jeff Mallach, a beautiful spring day in the Kettle Moraine Forest, and a great after party with the whole trail community just relaxing after a day on the trails, oh, and a win and course record too helps sweeten the day.

And it seals my fate for the next couple of months as well. Barring anything unexpected I’ll toe the line for the second time at Western States with the intention of actually dropping off the back side of Squaw and stopping only when I arrive at Auburn High School 20 (or so) hrs later. Yeah, I said 20hrs, I’m sorry but if you thought I was going to say 15 then you’ve put some pressure on me that I’m not sure I’m willing to take on just yet. I may be keeping something to myself but lets just say I’m trying to get through 100 miles this go round. I’m not going to shoot myself in the foot and run like a sissy but that almost guarantees that I’ll be blowing up somewhere between Forest Hill and Rucky Chucky, I’ll take a leisurely swim in the American River and death march it in the final 20. It’s a long ways in case you didn’t realize. It’s hard enough to drive 100 miles as some would say.

Two CRs

Congrats to Kaci Licktieg who broke the women’s course record an to Matt who also broke the men’s course record. And thanks to Jeff for putting together a great day of racing and the sponsors that continue to work with me to refine the gear, nutrition, and shoes that get me through these races. Montrail, Mountain Hardwear, GU Energy, Polar, Swiftwick, and Rudy Project.


Raced With:

MHW Way2Cool Singlet
MHW Ultra Shorts
Montrail FluidFlex II
Ultraspire MBS Waist Belt
Swiftwick Aspire One Socks and Sleeves
Rudy Project Rydon Shades
Polar RCX-5 HR/GPS Monitor/Computer

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7 Responses to Best 50…ever! …Still hurt.

  1. Scott M says:

    Fantastic. Congrats on the huge CR.

  2. Ian Sharman says:

    Great summary, Max. Glad you get your chance at WS again and I’m sure you’ll surprise yourself (but not anyone else) when you arrive in Auburn and it’s still light.

  3. Pingback: Max Gets His WS Ticket and More | Running Bend

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  7. Jane Moser Cox says:

    Awesome, honest read — so inspirational to know that even the immortals sometimes get frustrated! Congrats Max on a great race!

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