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The HUFF 50K Trail Run - Run

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Albion, Indiana
United States
Veep Races LLC
35F / 2C
Total Time = 5h 31m 47s
Overall Rank = 42/172
Age Group = 50 - 59
Age Group Rank = 7/30
Pre-race routine:

Training leading up to this event was very light, not really training for it at all. I'd had the race on my calendar as a place holder but really didn't pursue any sort of training regimen. I stretched some of my longer-ish runs from 90 minutes to 105 minutes and had my longest run at 2:02 the week before this race.
Other run training leading up to this trail run was more of an attempt to regain some of the high end speed I've lost. While this wasn't in direct support of an ultra marathon, it did support increasing my fitness to help me get through this race more quickly. I had also gotten some trail running shoes and taken to some trails to see how my knee would take the uneven terrain of some trails.
The trail training runs worked pretty well and gave me some confidence that I was likely to be able to adapt to the terrain changes and stay injury free. There were varying conditions during the training runs with the first one being very wet. No issues other than wet feet came from that run but it was also an easy recovery run so I was able to focus on developing confidence on the trail.

Race Day:
This race being a long, slow slog made for a change in breakfast for me. I wanted something that was going to hang around for a while. On the way to the race LIs and I stopped at Starbucks. I got something different for a change to add more calories but the same caffeine, roughly, as normal. Food was dramatically different as I had a pretty large wrap with bacon, sausage and egg. I think this helped hold my stomach for most of the morning and contributed to keeping me moving well, initially.

With all of the COVID restrictions and changes for all of the races that were being held this year, this one felt a little different. For the most part people stayed in their vehicles until several minutes before the race was set to start. Once headed to the start line, it seemed like there were a lot more people there than I had noticed.
The start was little low key and no one was packed up like might be expected if this were a normal year or racing. Everyone seemed willing to remain apart until the start. Once the race was underway, people didn't care and ran next to each other, passed each other and seemed as if they didn't need to socially distance any longer. This was fine by me, but I won't get into my personal feelings about this virus in this report.
Event warmup:

This being a long, slow race, I didn't even consider doing any sort of warm up. I was running slower from the outset of this race than I do for any other training run.
  • 5h 31m 47s
  • 31.06 miles
  • 10m 41s  min/mile

I decided to start near the front of this race pack, not at the front, near the front. I knew I wasn't going to be running with the front of the group, by a long shot, but I also didn't want to have to run through a lot of people early. If I were to guess, I imagine I was in the top 20-30 people going through that start chute.
The start of the race was much different then the typical running race since most people were staging themselves so far apart. This was helpful to allow people to set their pace more easily and quickly without having to worry about tripping over someone else. It made for less stressful start.
The first mile was pretty low key. There were very few people passing each other as everyone seemed to be settling into their paces. My first thoughts were to control my effort as early as possible. The goal for the first loop of the race (15.6 miles) was to hold my HR at 142 BPM, so I was trying to keep myself from setting too hard a pace as early as possible.

This being the first ultramarathon I was ever attempting, I was nervous. The nerves came from a few things, but mostly my lack of training. As mentioned above, having only run 2 hours for my longest run since September 12, when I did my solo 140.6, I was worried that my fitness would be blown early if I didn't pace well. I felt confident I could make it through 20 miles fine, after that I felt like all bets were off.
My base fitness is pretty big. After being involved in endurance athletics for about 12 years, with 6 years being full or half distance triathlon training, I felt coming into this 31 mile footrace would allow me to finish. However, I had no idea what kind of condition I'd be in if I made it through to the finish. I had a strong opinion that I wouldn't have to deal with the asthmatic issues I deal with when racing triathlon and trying to be competitive, but it was still an unknown.

By the time I hit the second mile I was running with Shannon, who had come up behind me. I didn't recall him telling me that he was doing this race, so it was good to see him on the course. Him showing up also helped me remain in control these first several miles, and almost all of the first loop.
I was also running two watches, or so I thought. I had gotten a Coros Apex for an early Christmas gift from Lis and this was going to be one of the first few workouts using it. However, not being too familiar with it, I wanted to use the Garmin Fenix 3 I'd been using for the past several years. Apparently at the start I didn't actually start my Garmin. I recall hitting the start button, but I didn't check to see if it was actually started. I think the reason it didn't start is because I was wearing it on the opposite wrist and wasn't used to the feel of using it with my left hand.
Using both watches would allow me to collect comparative data for review later. Garmin has been a staple, but some of the route data after a run seems to be a little sketchy and I'd herd Coros has a better result. Today was test day.
Now, at mile marker 2, I looked at my garmin to see if it was tracking the same as Coros and I noted the timer was not running. Perfect! There went my full evaluation! I did, however, start my Garmin just after 2 miles and will look at the data in a different way for comparison.

I ran with Shannon for while, until he took his first nutrition, which he was timing at every 35 minutes. I was timing mine at 30 minutes, taking about 100 cals using EFS Liquid Shot to supplement the bottles of EFS Pro. Shannon walks while taking his nutrition but I keep running. I dropped him during his first supplementation telling him that I wanted to make sure I was close to the time I'd told Lis I'd be at the end of the first loop, but he caught up to me before the next mile again.
Running with someone really broke up the first loop, a lot. It allowed me to remain distracted from the overall distance and kept me honest with my effort. Maintaining a talking pace made me stay slow without having to have a lot of focus on HR and how I felt.
The talks were about me trying this ultramarathon thing, the bike I need to sell and, of course, triathlon. No talk during an running event is going to go without me talking about this aspect of racing. I've been doing triathlon too long for me to remove it from a discussion point.
The miles seemed to roll by. There was little thought other than the next sentence, topic, nutrition source, race or whether I'd finish this event in a decent time. Before I knew it, Shannon and I were at the 70 minute mark, his turn to take on more nutrition. At this point were at mile 7-ish (+/-) and I drooped him again, having already taken my second shot of EFS LS. We talked about how he would likely catch me on the second loop because I knew I would slow down. He started walking and I tried to keep my running pace where it was.
Mile 8 quickly became my favorite section of the race. It began on the north side of the park entrance road, E 75S, and passed the entrance shack. After crossing the road just east of the shack the trail leads into some evergreen trees. The smell of pine sap and needles was refreshing. The trail narrow from being cleared by people walking, hiking or running this section of trail. I wanted to stop and take a picture but I already knew I was running behind the pace that Lis was expecting to see me at the second loop start line, so I didn't want to slow any further. However, I promised myself that I'd stop during the second loop and take a picture. I knew this was a risky promise to make to myself because I have such a difficult time taking time for myself during an event. It seems I can never remove myself from the racing mindset. Even after making the promise to myself, I felt like I wouldn't actually do it.
Next was the aid station the rally aid station and about 8.5 miles into the race. This was the first aid station I would stop at. I had been fighting the coffee for a couple of miles and it was time to hit the porta and get some more fluids. I grabbed a bottle of gatorade and was trying to decide if I should ditch the bottle or carry it with me. I struggled because I didn't want to waste half a bottle of gatorade, but I also didn't want to carry the bottle for 5 miles. Finally, I decided to to carry the bottle with me and headed out of the station.
Immediately after leaving the aid station the trail turned south. As I made this turn I lost any confidence that I was on the right trail, despite seeing the flags at the insertion point from the road. I stopped for 30-40 seconds trying to decide if I should go back and ask, or keep going, confident that I'd seen the cals marking the course. Within a few minutes I could finally see another athlete and I knew I was on the right trail.
It is this point on the trails where I found the course to begin to get the most challenging. Through mile 9, there were hills but they hadn't been something I felt I needed to slow down tremendously. I had walked some but really would not have needed to, yet. Now I was hitting some of the steepest hills and they were definitely walkers, at least if I wanted to finish without blowing up.
Miles 9 - 13 were the toughest, at least for me as a first time ultra runner. I wouldn't describe the hills as unrelenting, but they were enough to cause me to believe I would be in trouble for the second loop. I wondered how the course would treat me on some significantly tired legs.
As I entered this part of the course my legs were in good shape. I really wasn't feeling any significant fatigue that was related to my lack of training. I was still in the safe zone based on my perception that I was trained well enough for 20 miles.
The last couple of miles in the first loop had a couple of challenging hills but there was a portion that held "flat" long enough to allow me to catch my breath a little.
But it was the aid station at Dock Lake (14.3 miles) that got my attention the most. As I was running into the aid station I saw a very familiar face. I wasn't feeling like I needed a boost for any reason, but the boost came, for sure! In front of me encouraging other runners was Brenda. I saw her first, this time, and held my arms out in surprise. I can't say I was surprised to see her, at least not entirely, but I didn't know she was going to be here. One of the favorite parts of my day was being able to get a hug from her! It had been so long since I'd seen her since she's taken on ultras and particularly the Super Slam.
Brenda ran along side me for s short time, checking on my condition, physical and mental. Just being able to share a couple of minutes inspired me to keep on chugging along.
I was not far from the end of the first loop and being able to see Lis. I knew she'd be waiting for me, like she has for almost every one of my events since 2008, but I was running behind, and I didn't want to lag any further. I've caused her to worry during a few of my races because I've crashed or had other issues, so being any later than I was going to be now didn't sit well with me.
Lis said she saw me coming from across the lake. My high visibility vest allowed her to see me through the leafless trees for a half mile. I met her at the top of the hill where she caught me on video. I keep running and asked her to meet me at the start line.
Rather than run through the start line to start the second loop, I ran around it and up to the tent holding my bag with my second loop nutrition. I ran all the way up there, grabbed the bag and ran back, dropping it near the aid station tables. I reloaded some items and left pretty quickly.
The beginning of the second loop felt lonely. I was the only one on the course that I could see ahed or behind. I began to get a little nervous because I was the only person around. I wondered if I'd be able to remain on course. for the first loop I had no issues because there was almost always someone ahead of me that I could see. Now I couldn't' see anyone and I didn't know when I might.
I think it was the end of mile 17 or the beginning of mile 18 when someone finally came up behind me. He and I ran together for several miles, me holding him up. He mentioned he didn't mind and it was good to have someone to converse with. It really broke the time up and kept me distracted.
It was through these miles that fatigue began to set into my legs. I knew the downhills were going to crush my quads and I didn't know how I'd last for those last few miles going down hill. The soreness that was already developing was causing me to slow down significantly on the downhills on this section of the course where they weren't all that steep. What lied ahead could be misery!
Mile 20 brought me back onto a paved road. On the first loop, the short paved sections of the course allowed me to increase speed. It's where I've "made my living" for the past 12 years of running, but trail running is a different animal. I did pick up the pace some on the pavement but it didn't last long because there is an uphill that slowed my pace.
The Stanley School aid station brought another Brenda sighting and a stop for a turtle. I had been feeling little bit of a hunger pang even though I've been staying up on my nutrition so I grabbed one. I had one of the volunteers unwrap it for me so I didn't have to take my gloves off. It was mighty tasty and cured the hunger pangs for the rest of the race. Well, that and the EFS LS I took throughout the day.
The next several miles I continued to run with Steve and talk about what ever topic came up. One of the topics that seemed to be most interesting to Steve was my bike crash and the severe concussion that resulted. He was interested in the details and seemed grateful I'd shared many of them with him. That time was a significant struggle for me, once I had the cognition to realize it. I think Steve seemed intrigued having heard this from someone who'd experienced it first hand. Since I became aware of the depth of the effects of a concussion, I have tried to share it with people to help them be aware of the side effects. In short, for those that have no idea about what happens to someone dealing with a concussion, it's simple, expect the utterly unexpected. Concussion can cause a complete loss of control at times. 'Nuff said.
The course was along the North boundary of the park for the next few miles. I was able to break this whole section down wondering how I would be feeling late in the race. I had talked about my expectations of running 20 miles and being able to handle that just fine, but I was now at mile 22 and 23 and feeling alright. I was certainly feeling the fatigue in my legs. That was an easily answer YES!!, if I were to have been asked. However, with each passing mile the fatigued increased, my HR increased but, more importantly, my willingness to press on held firm.
I felt mentally strong, almost surprising me. I had really felt there was going to be a huge mental struggle that I would have to contend with after mile 20. In marathoning I had hit the wall at mile 20, +/- a mile or so, and with Ironman I think you hit the wall coming off the bike, but I wasn't feeling the wall. To this point I seemed to be able to evade the wall and I was 23 miles into the race. Still, I waited on it to come.
The beginning of mile 24 had be running by the park entrance again. I was still running close to Steve but I was letting him begin to pull ahead. My HR was increasing the average as I was watching my current HR drift up into the upper 140's to low 150's, placing me in very high Zone 3 and occasionally into Zn4. I didn't think this would be sustainable so I began to let go of the effort and, hopefully, be smart about the rest of the race.
I also knew I would be running into the evergreens I had promised myself to stop and smell the roses, 'er uh, the pine needles. I kept telling myself it'll cost time and I want to stay competitive. As I entered the narrow corridor the urgency of the race was strong, but I remained myself to stop. I took it seriously, this stop to take it in. I have never stopped for personal reasons during any race, I'm always too focused on the finish line, but today was going to be different. I stopped, paused, took a couple of pictures and smiled. I loved this place for some reason. It was peaceful and serene and I could have hung out there for a while, especially on the fatigued legs I was dealing with. However, I shoved my phone in my bag and got moving again. One thing I know for sure, once you stop, it can become horribly hard to get moving again, especially if you stop for very long at all.
Now approaching 25 miles and the Rally aid station, I could hear those familiar bells. I'd heard them at some of the other aid stations and now I was hearing them again. It was Brenda, again. She was encouraging everyone that came through, but I'd like to think she rang them just a little harder for me. Seeing the huge smile that is ALWAYS on her face inspires people, and it was hitting me again, just before heading into the hardest part of the course.
I paused for minute and refilled one of my empty EFS Pro bottles with Gatorade and headed off. Down the hill and toward the edge of Rivir Lake, another favorite section of the course. Ok, admittedly, there were a lot of favorite sections, most on the hardest part of the course. As I ran by this lake I was alone again, with only my thoughts and questions. This race had been so different for some reason. The questions of, "Why am I doing this?" seemed never to come, at least to this point, and I wondered when they would come. Steve and I talked about those doubt filled moments as we ran together, but still I waited for them.
Now, approaching those miserable hills, "This must be where I'll hit the wall!", but I didn't. My legs were hurting from the downhills and my quads were burning from the strain and keeping them moving on the uphills I thought would be something out of a horror movie. However, it didn't happen, at least not at mile 25 or 26. But what about what was coming?
The hills were becoming kind of brutal, but it was not the uphills! Sure, I was walking the uphills and, sort of, hating it because I don't like walking, at least on a road course. I suppose that feeling comes from feeling gifted. I am NOT, in any way, a gifted runner, but I do feel God has given me something in my mindset, to never quit. If I stop running during a road course it makes me feel as if I am giving up, and giving away the gift He gave me. However, the hills on this course and my fitness would not allow me to run or jog up them at this point.
Yet it was the downhills that were the test! I was hurting badly coming down them. With every step coming down hill the force would cause waves of pain from my quads. I had to use a lot of physical control to get down the hills and using that control became harder and harder each time. The control would be in the form of allowing myself to slow down, which in turn would cause more steps, more burning, more pain. However, if, like the first loop, I allowed myself to run faster down the hills it was more likely that I would lose control and slip and fall. For someone with 3 previous knee surgeries, this isn't something I am going to feel like risking. Besides, I was also losing the ability to require my muscles to respond quickly, so missteps were already happening but allowing it to happen on a hard downhill would be quite foolish.
The slower paces of this second loop were a good thing. I am sure it was a good thing, and possibly unavoidable physically, but it was the views that made this second trip around more easily acceptable. Whether it was running along a shoreline or higher above the lakes on the ridge lines, it was gorgeous. I tried to take in as much as possible and, now, thinking about the sights causes a deeper reflection in the wonders of creation.
As I was nearing the finish line, each step seemed heavy and burdensome, but still light and nimble. There was all sorts of fatigue! My legs were definitely going to hurt, badly, after this, but there was something about being here that kept me pressing on. I was controlling HR better on the uphills which in turn allowed me to lower my AHR for the final miles because I was struggling less going uphill and then going slower downhill. The final miles saw me lower my HR back into a solid Zn2 effort, but I am also confident the fatigue was causing some of this slow down as well.
The final aid station was now in front of me. I had been running with a 26 year old from Detroit now. As we were running alongside each other I needed to step on a more uneven portion of the trail to allow him to remain on the trail at all. It was a particularly narrow section, and very short, and if I hadn't given way he would have had to step downhill making it more treacherous. During the few steps up this uneven pice of ground a huge dizzy spell hit me. It cause me to stutter step as my head spun for just a second. It was really odd and disconcerting! As I started to slow my gait to recover the feeling left me. Since it had come and gone so quickly I didn't let it control my thoughts, I just picked the pace back up to watch my new run buddy and rolled on.
He and I were now very close to the aid station. He asked if I was stopping, to which I replied I would so I could grab some gatorade. Once there he kept running and I stopped, opened a bottle, filled it with fluids and was almost ready to go. That's when I was offered a shot of Fireball, to which I promptly declined. I thought a dizzy spell on the trail minute or so ago might become a little out of control if I had chosen to take a shot. Seemed like a bad idea at the time, or anytime I'm racing for that matter.
As I left the aid station I knew I had about a mile and a half to go. I decided I would try to pick up the pace little bit and see if I could catch the last person I talked to. I certainly didn't sprint toward him and I did hold back some. I knew there was at least one large hill coming into the finish line to navigate and I didn't want to be totally blown up for that one. It turned into the fastest mile I'd had for 11 miles and matched the highest HR average for a single mile for the day. For as tired as my legs were feeling, I was pretty happy with myself. I felt crisp and light, like I was running well, although I am pretty sure I looked pretty horrible in running form.
Now I could see the finish. I was across Sand Lake and the energy was lively. Well, it was for me. I was too far away to hear anything coming from the start/finish area, but I could see it and feel it. I knew I'd see Lisa and be able to celebrate with her with a smile on my face, something that is pretty rare when I finish a race. Usually I'm gasping for air and struggling with my asthma, but today the effort was much more moderated and I felt no risk of being in medical.
As I topped the final hill, I saw her, my bride. Lis was Stalin atop the hill, video rolling to capture me coming in. As soon as I could, I began looking for her. I wanted to be able to let her see me smile so she could relax her nurse brain and know I wasn't in a poor state physically. I actually don't know if I smiled at her or not. AS I was nearing her, she began telling me to be careful because others had been sliding on some of the mud at the turn toward the finish. After hearing her say that I think I went full focus and didn't even look at her. I began looking for where to step. It would have been a bad day to end my race 100 yards from the finish line with another knee injury.
I made it around the slippery spot easily and turned to the finish line. I was there! I could hear those familiar bells ringing again! Brenda was running me into the finish line with another huge smile.
I was done, but with a great big smile on my face! I loved it!
What would you do differently?:

NOTHING!! I might have been able to pace better, but for someone who's ever done an ultra, and who had trained for a longest run of 2 hours, this was pretty good. Like I mentioned to Steve, and others, I was hoping my cycling fitness would carry me through the end of this run.
All of the cardio work I do held strong and allowed me to finish today. Having such a strong endurance base kept me from faltering. While there is a lot to learn about ultra running, I feel this gives me a solid foundation for what might be ahead in a couple of years. And there are also some great friends that can help me along the way, whether in triathlon or in ultra running should I choose to pick something like that up.
Post race
Warm down:

None. I was ready to get off my feet.

I did hang around to make sure I saw Shannon come through the finish. He'd help set my mindset properly during those first 6-7 miles and I wanted to make sure I saw him through.
On a huge note for him, he CRUSHED his previous Huff 50k time, by 1 hour and 23 minutes!!! That's outstanding!!!!

Event comments:

This was a good race. Since COVID caused some logistical issues it wasn't what I've heard it has been in the past. Hopefully this crap will become more sensical and we can resume life soon.

Last updated: 2020-12-21 12:00 AM
05:31:47 | 31.06 miles | 10m 41s  min/mile
Age Group: 7/30
Overall: 42/172
Performance: Good
Course: Trail run through the Chain O Lakes State Park, routing around the perimeter of the park, for the most part, with looping routes inside the park.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? No
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 4

2020-12-22 8:30 PM

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Fort Wayne
Subject: The HUFF 50K Trail Run

2020-12-26 2:50 PM
in reply to: #5273922

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Extreme Veteran
, Queensland
Gold member
Subject: RE: The HUFF 50K Trail Run

Great report! Congrats on your first Ultra

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