2011 Wild Hare 50 mile Race Report

The Wild Hare 50 miler was 3 weeks after Cactus Rose.  Running a 50 again this soon after Cactus probably wasn’t a smart idea, but what is really smart about running 50 miles anyway?  I wanted a new challenge, and I have tossed the idea around of trying to complete Joe’s 50 mile grand slam, which I thought would be a nice challenge, just to merely complete all the races.  Cactus had aggravated my ITB where I had to walk the last 20+ miles, so I wasn’t too confident my body would be able to hold up again for 50 miles.  But I think the motivational quote “If your life is free of failures, you aren’t taking enough risks” helped light a fire under me to at least give it a shot.  At the very least, it would be a nice training run.   I’ve run this course twice before, and knew it was pretty easy, as long as it wasn’t pouring down rain and muddy.  For 50 miles, it was one 5 mile loop, then 6 more 7.5 mile loops for a total of 7 loops—way too many but it is what it is.  The first half is a bunch of winding single-track switchbacks for 3.5 miles, and then the remaining 4 miles you have stretches of open fields, a descent, a small hill, and then a bigger carpeted hill near the end along with some other single-track dirt trails.  The starting temperature was around 65, which was pleasant, but even this early you could tell the humidity was thick in the air, with a forecast high of about 80 degrees.

The first loop was pretty unremarkable; I was running a good pace but not trying to go too fast.  You could already tell it was really humid, and this was a sign I should have read to increase my electrolyte intake.  The second loop began and soon enough I was tagging along with a couple other guys who were running their first 50 miler.  It was nice conversation but soon I think I passed them after the 3.5 mile aid station.  This time we were running the big loop, and you run down the first downhill at the Gas Pass.  I loved running this down part, especially since it wasn’t muddy like the last few times I’ve run down this little hill!  Joe modified the course this year, and one addition was an extra small hill.  Well it’s not much of a hill compared to Cactus Rose, but it’s big enough.  I think some of the other parts of the course were modified in this back section too.

I don’t remember too much about the 2nd loop, I still felt pretty good and thankfully my ITB wasn’t bothering me, which I had aggravated at Cactus Rose (and didn’t bother me the whole race, which I was happy with).  The third loop continued on and I think I was mostly by myself on this loop.  Other than a few minor aches and pains I felt OK but could start feel the effects of the heat on my body.  At this point I should have tried to get back on track with my electrolytes but at the time I didn’t feel that bad, just some minor cramping and calf soreness.  After about 16 miles (1/3 the way) I was on pace for a 10-11 hour finish, which was going much too fast for me to sustain given the heat of the day.  By the 3rd loop, all the runners for the other races had started (400+ total) and looking around the course you could see the toll the heat and humidity were taking, everyone seemed to be walking.  The fourth loop is where I started to slow down due to some cramping on my left side (was my left leg sweating more than my right leg??) and I was getting passed by what seemed like everyone (including by a couple armadillos).  By the end of this loop, my legs were cramping even though I had been downing a lot of salt the entire loop trying to catch up, and the only thing thought I had was to get back to the start/finish (mile 27.5) so I could get my soup.  Just give me my soup and life will better.

I got back and got my wish, but I ate the whole thing from my thermos, another big mistake.  Felt like such a rookie.  At first, it didn’t bother me, but after about a mile I couldn’t really run much, my stomach felt too bloated and I barely felt like moving in what turned out to be a “Loop of Doom” for me.  My head felt awful and I even sat down a couple times in this 3.5 mile stretch since I felt nauseated and barely felt like moving.  Around this time I heard some other runner screaming in pain ahead of me, he was having some bad calf issues, just auditory confirmation of the toll the humidity was taking (as if I need any extra confirmation of it).  Eventually I made it the aid station and sat down with the full intention of dropping, although I don’t think I told the AS volunteers that.  About the only thought I had for the previous 20 minutes was that I felt awful, wasn’t improving, and just wanted to curl up on the ground.  I sat at the aid station and the volunteers waited on me while I ate some chips and bananas.  There must have been a hundred or so bees swarming the aid station, going after anything sugary.  I guess I looked pretty bad and non-threatening to them since they also landed on me and buzzed around.  Thankfully no stinging but I probably wouldn’t have put up much of a fight at the time anyway.  I ate a few more banana slices, started to feel a little more human.  After at least 20 minutes or so I decided, as much as I liked sitting there, I needed to move and give it a shot.  Another runner was there, and we tagged up for what turned out to be a very enjoyable 11 mile stretch (he was a lap ahead of me in the 50 mi and had 1.5 loops left).  He was doing his first 50 miler, and wasn’t carrying anything, not even water.  Here I am, practically a travelling drug store with pills, food, toiletries, and water and he isn’t carrying anything.  Well, everyone has their own style.  We walked a few minutes out of the aid station, and soon I found renewed strength and felt reborn with energy.  And I’ll just say there’s no feeling like rebounding back from the dead; it’s pretty hard to describe the changes or even explain how your body can go from feeling that bad to that good in such a short amount of time.  I guess it goes to show, just like in life, things don’t always get worse and you just have to wait it out and be patient.  I guess maybe I should have been taking more bananas/potassium, maybe one day I’ll figure these things out!  Well, he and I ran pretty well, talking about all sorts of things, running, work, nutrition, politics and we both were keeping a pretty strong pace considering.  I told him of my job predicament:

“Well have you considered going into the oil and gas industry?”

“Yeah”
“Oh well my uncle back there works for XYZ Company, he’s the COO”

“Funny you mention that, I just had an interview with them”

What are the odds?  Who knows if it will help or not, but it’s a small world.  Tagging along with him was great running company and soon we came back to the aid station, he had one more lap to go and I had two, which now seemed very attainable for me.  The RD Joe P asked me how I was doing too, and assured me I had enough time to finish.  Kind of nice to be able to BS with the RD before/during/after a race, try that at the Houston marathon.  Loop 6 began and my running friend was starting to slow a bit, but I didn’t mind that much since we were moving good and I enjoyed the company.  It was his first 50 miler, which while this was an easy course, the weather conditions made it pretty challenging since no one (well, not me at least) is acclimated to the heat anymore at this point of the year.  I think it was near the end of loop 6 (or maybe it was 5) but I took a nice dive and fell.  Thankfully it was soft dirt (no rocks) and the only thing bruised was my ego and a dustier appearance.  I felt pretty OK at this point considering it was about 40 miles in.   Earlier I thought the top of my left calf was cramping, but after 4 or 5 hours, I finally realized it wasn’t a cramp but I must have tweaked it somehow early on.  It hadn’t been that bad to run on but it was getting more uncomfortable as the miles rolled on.  And now finally, it was starting to cool off outside and felt quite pleasant—it had only taken a good 9-10 hours!

My running buddy finished and now I just had to finish off the last 7.5 miles, as it was now turning to dusk and what was once a bustling race with over 400 runners, cars, and many volunteers, was down to just the hardcore 50 milers finishing it off.  The trail was empty, quiet, and peaceful with only the crickets making noise.  And now the people were gone, the animals were coming out: I saw a grass snake and a deer probably in the span of 5 minutes.  My running (or my laughable impersonation of it) was getting more sparse as my calf was getting more sore, and my legs were kind of trashed—go figure this would happen after traveling 43+ miles on foot.  I came back to the middle aid station and thanked the volunteers who had helped me again to come back from the dead–if it wasn’t for one guy’s help in particular, I probably would have dropped earlier.  Another one said “You look a lot better—I was a little worried about you” “I was worried about me too” (He also told me after the race, as everyone was trading stories over burgers and beers, that watching me rebound and finish gave him hope he could finish a tough trail race, kinda cool huh?).   But I couldn’t hang out too long, so I grabbed my flashlight and set out on the last 4 miles.  These 4 miles were pretty tough, I could run the flat open fields OK but the other sections I was “walking”.  Even my walking was a bad impersonation of walking, more like a hobbling stumble, and one woman who I ended up finishing with was passing me walking.  I was around a couple other runners/walkers when we ascended the final hill.  It really isn’t that bad, but at this point in the race it is big enough.  Once that was over we were about 1 mile or so away from the finish.  My garmin was slightly off, but I figured we had about a mile left and I had been at it for 12 hours and 40 minutes.  We can complete one mile in 20 minutes, right?  Not today!  At this point I just wanted to sit down and have a burger (I ended up having two), very simple pleasures but that’s about all I wanted in life.  Found the strength to run up and through the barn to finish in 13:03 which isn’t a great time but satisfying considering the heat, humidity, and where I was in the middle of race, I was more than happy with it.  If it wasn’t for suffering/learning through the Capt’n Karl’s scorcher 60ks this summer, don’t know if I could have finished this one.  Thank God I don’t have another 50 in three weeks, I can finally recover some.  So 2 of the 5 50’s down… Rocky Raccoon should be easier right?  Running 50 miles ain’t easy.