Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Blues Cruise 50K

Happy before the race
tech hat in swag bag
Finisher Sweatshirt

 This past Sunday Emir and I ran the Blues Cruise 50K which took place around the Blue Marsh Lake in Reading, PA.  Emir found this race online.  We decided to sign up since we had been longing for another 50k ever since we ran our first at Bear Mountain.  Also this race was only an hour drive from our house, inexpensive and according to the description on the website, much more runnable than Bear Mountain.  After our experience at Bear Mountain I really just wanted to try a 50k where I got to run the majority of it.  There's nothing wrong with the super technical, super elevated course but I feel like that's not my cup of tea.  I like trails but I like the kind that I can run not have to hike most of it.  I know that there are people that can run the majority of a tough, technical course, but I'm not one of them!  Anyway the description of the Blues Cruise course was some rolling hills with one longer, steep hill with the terrain being very runnable.  It was true about the terrain.  It was a little technical here and there but overall could be run by most.  Elevations however well I think they were describing what the course is like if you are a good ultra runner not for us average mortals.  While there was no 8000 feet of elevation as in Bear Mountain there was over 3000 feet which in my mind is worth mentioning on the course description ;-) so while I'm sure the runners in the front of the field had no trouble running the whole course, Emir and I struggled with certain sections that seemed extra hilly to us.  Could this have been due to the fact that a few of these sections were after we were out there for 3, 4, 5 hours and our legs were tired?  maybe.  Could it have been that our last few weekend long runs leading up to this race were 18, 20, 20 &10 (yes last weekend we ran 30 miles)? umm most likely.  And could it have been that it was a high of 80 something and it was "we-were-soaking-wet-after-1-mile-humid"? definitely!  It's not that Emir and I don't enjoy lots of tough hills and a challenging course, obviously see Blue Ridge Marathon, Bear Mountain and Plitvice.  But maybe we would have trained on more hills in preparation and maybe mentally we would have been more ready for a physical beat down. 

So Sunday morning rolled around and we got up around 5:30-5:45.  My parents had taken the kids the day before after we finished watching my dad bat at Citizen's Bank Park which by the way, was AWESOME!!! 
With the Phillies World Series Trophies at Citizen's Bank Park

Anyway we had made the decision to not make breakfast and coffee at home but grab it on the road.  So we suited up (Emir sort of literally),

 donned our tats courtesy of Tailwind and Trail Runner Nation and were out the door by 6:15. 

We arrived at the start area just before 7:30.  Everything was well organized and we were able to get our bibs and goodie bags very quickly despite everyone (350 runners) having to pick up their stuff morning of race.  Our swag included a t-shirt, water bottle and tech hat all bearing the cool new Blues Cruise logo, not bad for a $60 race!  We glided up, saddled up our hydration packs (full of Tailwind, what else?!?!), toileted and before we knew it, it was 8:30 and race time. 

The beginning had lots of tiny ups and downs and some people were already walking those ups.  A lot of the race takes part on single track so at times especially in the beginning when people are clumped together passing could be a bit tricky.  It also can be more tricky when it's two of you that you want to get past someone or what you can tell is a group running together.  Emir was in front of me and he was taking it easy and not really passing.  I kept thinking in my head "go! go!"  It was driving me nuts walking so many tiny inclines.  But I knew he didn't want to go out too fast and based on how we felt by the end, maybe he was right (I said MAYBE ;-) ).  After the first aide station I ended up in front of Emir.  Immediately as soon as I got stuck behind someone I gunned it past them.  After a while I realized Emir wasn't right behind me any more and actually I couldn't see him.  I kept going at what I felt was a good clip despite thinking "I ditched him already, he's going to be upset!" And "This is going to be a long, lonely race"  The second aide station was on the side of the road so we came out of the trail and had to run a minute or two down the road to it and as I was approaching I saw Emir emerge from the woods.  Phew!  He wasn't that far behind. 

We regrouped at the station, got what we needed and set off.  The next section felt almost easy.  I felt like we were flying and according to my watch apparently we were compared to the rest of our splits.  I felt good though so I kept with it. 

I think it was in this section at some point that Emir tripped and fell.  I made sure he was ok and did NOT laugh as I figured karma would bite me in the ass later.  Of course Emir had to say, "Well I guess this race was my turn to fall."  Referencing my fall in the Bear Mountain 50K and I knew as soon as he said it I would not finish without a fall.  And yes I was right.  I don't remember exactly when it happened but I must have caught my foot on a tree root and totally wiped out!  Luckily I landed in a huge, soft pile of dirt.  I was filthy but nothing hurt not even pride.  I wore that trail dirt like a champ the rest of the way, receiving many compliments and "way to go's!"  I wouldn't fall on purpose but getting down and dirty can be pretty fun. 

We hit the 3rd aide station together.  The next section included the long, steep climb that was referenced on the website around mile 10-11.  This was the first time we were really reduced to walking.  I felt like this was definitely a turning point in our race especially for Emir.  It took us at least several minutes to surmount this steep hill and it felt like an abrupt stop to our cruising along.  He kept saying he felt fine after this point until later on when he finally started admitting he was not good. But I could just tell the way he reacted to that hill and the way he would lag behind me, it was not characteristic of "good feeling Emir."  I however still felt pretty good after this hill and actually until about mile 20 or so I remember thinking "ok legs still feel good, this is good"  I also know that I felt way better than I did at Bear Mountain. 

The sections leading up to and after the last two aide stations, I could tell Emir really started struggling.  He would walk every incline.  For a while I would do this with him too until I realized that my legs actually felt worse every time I stopped running.  I came in several minutes before him at each of the last two aide stations.  I could have grabbed what I needed and taken off without him but we are in this together and obviously it's not like I was going to win!  After the final aide station I started pulling away again but I was lagging a bit because I really wanted to finish together.  Emir told me to just go ahead as he knows sometimes it's more work to lag behind than to just go.  So that's what I did.  The last two miles were what I call Bastards!!  There were plenty of other parts that were hilly but these last two miles really had several steep, tough hills especially when your legs are jelly. In the end I only finished about 4 minutes before Emir. 

Even though my legs were completely dead, I have to say that once again Tailwind did an excellent job keeping me fueled the whole race.  I definitely felt I had all the nutrients and nutrition needed the whole time to keep my energy going.  Now if they could just enhance it so there was no pain or fatigue in my legs that would be awesome! ;-)

If I were to analyze how we did reasonably, then I would say we did really well.  We finished over an hour and a half faster than our first 50K, we ran way more of this course and we WERE finishers.

I even was able to place 36 out of the 100 women that ran so still better than more than half.  There were no injuries aside from my normal chafage on various parts of my body and a rockin' toe blister on my right foot (I forgot that my mizuno waveriders did the same thing at Philly but not painful either time)

All this in the midst of the hardest section of our marathon training program and on an unseasonably hot, humid day.  However as we know I am not always reasonable in my analysis and felt a bit disappointed.  It also doesn't help that Emir and I went into this race thinking like we are some kind of elite runners that can just breeze through a 50K no problem.  When we read the description of the race, we got it in our heads that it was a more flat course and thought that even though we were not tapering at all we would be able to run this somewhat easily especially compared to Bear Mountain. For some reason we expected to be able to finish in 5:30 instead of the 6:28 I ended up with.  But alas we are mere mortals whose legs were probably exhausted from the last 4 weeks of 40-50 miles each and we did not train as much on hills as would have been needed to be more successful.  But then again I purposely have not been doing too much intense hill work this training cycle as my main goal is to PR in one of my two upcoming marathons.  I don't want to kill my legs especially when these races are mainly flat.  So even though I have some mixed feelings, like maybe I should have done better, overall at the end of the day I am happy.  I have to realize what my main goal is for this training cycle.  It wasn't setting some kind of amazing record in this race.  The objective was to finish respectfully and now turn focus towards the upcoming marathons. Most importantly it's another ultra completed with more experience and knowledge gained.  And I had a great time doing it!

I really enjoyed the Blues Cruise 50K.  Everything was well organized with super friendly organizers and volunteers.  I thought it was a great course.  It winded all around the Blue Marsh Lake, a nice giant loop.  It was an interesting mix of forest, open fields, corns fields and of course lake scenery. The aide stations were beyond PHENOMENAL!

 Not only did they have anything you could want/need during an ultra but they were in costume and super energetic.  There also was a perfect number of them and perfect spacing.  My personal favorite was the Oktoberfest station ;-)  For the most part, I only required regular water at the aide stations due to my Tailwind in my hydration pack.  I did need to refill my pack at one point.  The volunteers were so great, they tore that pack off my back, opened it up, filled it with water, helped me pour my extra baggie of Tailwind in that I brought and slapped my pack back on.  It was so awesome.  I did partake in a piece of PB&J and a piece of grilled cheese at two of the stations.  All the stations were offering towels soaked with cold water.  I even saw one station had sliders!  At the end of the race not only was there amazing food such as bratwurst, potato pancakes and grilled cheese but every finisher got an awesome Blues Cruise sweatshirt, way better than another medal to hang on the candle holder in our bedroom for no one to see.  Another thing that I thought was super cool was that all the pictures taken of the runners on the course were posted online for us all to download and share for free, how great is that?!  Now I really can't wait until next year so I can train specifically for this race including TAPER! and see what I can do!

Next on our agenda is Runner's World Half and Festival Oct 19th-20th.  We ran the hat trick last year (the first year ever for this event) and had a great time.  Once again we are running the hat trick so stay tuned for that in a couple weeks!

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