Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sunmart 50k

I ran my first ultra marathon this weekend - the Sunmart 50k (31 miles), a trail run through the piney woods of East Texas (Huntsville State park). What a blast!!! The race was tough, but the whole experience made for a great weekend.

Nancy, Gavin and myself drove to Houston on Friday for packet pickup at the Sheraton hotel on Friday night. Without a doubt, this race has the best race packet I've ever seen. First up was a huge sports bag and we moved down the table filling it up. Items that dropped in included a long sleeved technical race shirt, polo shirt (choice of colors), baseball hat (choice of colors), sunglasses (choice of style), disposable camera, gloves, bandana and a teddy bear(???). With that out of the way, it was time for the pasta dinner (included in the entry price). Salad, several pastas, lasagne, potato, bread rolls, suitably carb loaded thank you very much. We all slept very well that night.

We stayed in a hotel in Huntsville and drove out to the State park early the next morning. What a beautiful place, and all decked out with Christmas lights. But already very warm (upper 70s) and extremely humid - not good (it would soon heat up into the 80s). Enjoyed ourselves for a while touring the inflatable santas and snowmen, then got some (also included in entry fee) breakfast. Several people advised me to get a good heavy breakfast, so I loaded up - kolaches, bacon, sausage patties, egg, biscuits, pancake roll, and a token banana. They weren't shy about dishing it out either.

The 50k started at 7:30, half an hour after the 50 miler. First up was a 6 mile out and back, followed by two 12.5 mile loops. The 6 miler was a single file run on a narrow trail through the forest, doubling back out to the start line checkpoint. Stopped me going out too fast, but I also lost a lot of time in traffic here. Fortunately the 20k loops had a lot more room to move and I was able to kick it up a bit. Trail running is very different to road running as you have to constantly be aware of tree roots, logs and uneven ground. I nearly turned my ankle a few times on hidden rocks. Despite that, I found it to be a lot of fun. Felt pretty strong throughout this loop and was able to blast by a lot of people on the hills until for a time I was alone on the trail. This was my favorite part of the race - it was so peaceful and felt like running through some mystic forest.

By the last loop, the rough terrain, heat and humidity started to take their toll. I didn't care about a "mystic forest" any more and started slowing down (as one wit shouted out at the beginning, "start slow and taper"). Spent a lot more time at the aid stations replenishing fluids (they were stocked with all kinds of food and drink - fruit, candy, sandwiches, pretzels) and refilling my water belt. Started to feel better and better for the last few miles and dropped the hammer at mile 30, finishing with a 7:45 last mile and a time of 5:22:18. I placed 6th in my age group and 60th overall (there were around 800 starters and 520 finishers). Pretty pleased with that for my first ultra.

Yet more bling for a finisher's premium - a finisher's medal and a choice of a jacket or afghan blanket (I chose the jacket - maybe I'll run it again next year to get the blanket). Then, with the race out of the way it was time to get back to the eating. Yet another slap up meal, this time a bbq for competitors and guests - grilled chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, all the fixings, mac and cheese, egg rolls. Stop - I can't eat any more!!!

All in all, a great weekend. Don't feel too sore, and had a reasonable recovery run this morning. That may all change by tomorrow though!!!

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