"Deckmart" is Clea's invention, combining the two races we both had planned for this weekend - Sunmart on Saturday and the Decker Half Marathon on Sunday.
Day 1 : Sunmart 50 miler
Objective : PR and break 9 hours
Ok, let me get the suspense out of the way. I smashed my PR by 40 minutes and finished in 8:46:28, good enough for 34th place (out of 159 finishers).
Now that the numbers are out of the way, let's talk about the race. We got to Huntsville on Friday night after a hellish drive from Houston where we had enjoyed a fantastic pasta dinner and picked up our excellent race premiums. We spent a comfortable night and got to the park early on Saturday morning. It was freezing cold - upper 20s/lower 30s. I'd just got out of the car and the first person I saw was Ryan Beard - a really fast runner I know from Austin. We went off in search of the HCTR tents and found Joe, Robert and Meredith. We set up our drop bags and visited for a while. Other folks started to show up and I chatted to Jeff and Cheri (note: absolutely no mention of the GF word), and gave Celeste the race packet we'd picked up for her in Houston the night before. As I walked to the start line, I ran into Ryan Valdez (El Scorcho race director and distorted veracity blogger). We are both signed up for the Texas Trilogy and were excited we were actually about to start it off. It was good to see him and we chatted and took a few photos while we waited for the start. Ryan V. would go on to have a solid race and run almost exactly the time he predicted at the start line.
The gun sounded and off we went on the first of four 12.5 mile loops. I made my first mistake of the day here as I dumped off my gloves before the start. My hands quickly became numb and painful - it took a good 45 minutes for them to thaw out. I settled into a column of runners, and Ryan B. slotted in behind me. We gradually inched our way through the line until we found ourselves behind Meredith and Matt Bush at the front of the column. These three are seriously good runners and I wondered how long I would be able to stay with them, but we talked about this and that, fell into a good rhythm and finished out the first loop together in 1:50.
On the second loop, I bumped into Clea and Meghan who were running the 50k and we ran together and chatted for a while. The girls were full of smiles and were obviously having a great day. By the time the 50k/50 mile routes diverged I'd hooked up with Meredith again - she was in one of the money slots and was looking to push on, and Ryan B. was not far behind. The three of us ran together, taking turns to set the pace until we got to the farside aid station where I had to use the porta potty and we parted ways. Luckily the 50k and 50 mile routes converged again here and out popped Clea and Meghan, who had picked up another runner from my wife's hometown of Brownwood. We got to talking and it turns out he lives just down the road from my father-in-law. What are the chances? We finished out the loop together and I came in at 3:55. I was still running at an 8 hour pace which I figured was a bit too aggressive and decided to settle into a more conservative pace.
I started out on the third loop running by myself. Ryan B. was not far behind me and Meredith and Matt were not far in front. We continued to encourage each other as we passed at the out-and-backs, and I finished out the third loop right at 6:20. I was refilling my bottles before heading out again when Clea came over to see if I had everything I needed. The girls had finished their 50k (both taking 3rd place in their age groups) and she told me I was looking strong. She then told me she wasn't going to run Decker the day after. Bugger - I was banking on her being sensible and stopping me going out psycho fast. Oh well, I laid a mild guilt trip on her (sorry Clea), gave her a quick congratulatory hug, picked up my ipod and set off again.
The last loop was passing by much the same as the third. I did the out-and-back on the jeep road and as I was coming down, Joe Prusaitis was heading up. I think we'd synced up our pace after the first loop because I kept seeing him at the same point each go round. I pointed this out as we passed, and he yelled back that I was smoking this race.
Ryan B. caught me just after the 50k/50 mile route diverged and showed why he'd done so well at Cactus Rose because he powered the rest of the course (it also helped that he had to be back in Austin by 7pm for a party). I caught a few runners along the way and was going well until my Garmin quit about 5 miles from the end. From then on I had no idea how I was doing so I just ran. Once I hit the final aid station I knew I had 2.8 miles to go so I sucked it up and kicked on to the finish line. All the HCTR folks cheered me in as I came down the final stretch to the finish line. I was very relieved to see that clock because I honestly had no idea what time I was running.
I had a good day and was pleased with the PR, but what really made my day was when Joe Prusaitis told me several times that I had run a great race and he was impressed. Coming from an ultra runner and coach of his stature, that was very special.
It was a great Sunmart weekend. I had many friends out there, several of them doing their first ultras. Some of them made their goals, others did not. To those that didn't, I offer this: what truly matters is you had the courage to start. As long as you continue to aim, your day will come.
Day 2 : Decker Half Marathon
Objective : survival
I got to the expo center and one of the first people I saw was Clea. I think she was very happy to see me ("oh, thank God") and explained that she had left several "psycho" messages on my phone to say that she had changed her mind and would I run with her. I was very happy too, otherwise I would have been lining up with the 7:30 pace group. As it was, we had a very enjoyable run over the Decker hills - we took it very easy, stopped for bathroom breaks, chatted the miles away and treated it as a fun recovery run. We crossed the finish line at 2:02:11 (9:20 pace). Could I have run it faster? Maybe, but it wouldn't have been anywhere near as much fun. Thanks Clea.
Things I learned from this weekend
My training and conditioning is right where I want it to be - I ran the first half of the 50 miler at a fast clip, and never bonked. My recovery was also very fast - I wasn't sore or stiff afterwards and I felt good running this morning.
The experiment with the brand new trail shoes also worked - I had no problems whatsoever, and I am getting pretty good at taping my feet. The gaiters also worked well - no trail debris or sand got into my shoes. I also ran Decker this morning in new road shoes, and that worked out great.
Gel flasks - always dilute the gel with a bit of water. Makes them much easier to use and cuts down on the weight (which stops them bouncing).
Salty old dog - I could have filled a salt shaker with what I scraped off my forehead on Saturday.
I enjoy running by myself, but running with friends makes the miles disappear so much quicker. Huge thanks to Meredith, Ryan, Matt, Clea, Meghan and "the guy from Brownwood whose name I can't remember" for sharing time on the trail with me.
And finally, this year's Sunmart finisher's jackets are really nice.
The week in review…
1 hour ago