Saturday, January 22, 2011
My First 50 Miler by Jeff Rush
Mesa runners Jeff Rush and Ben LeSueur recently completed the Running From An Angel 50 Mile Race outside of Las Vegas. Here is Jeff's take on the day....
I've never run a race where blisters form, they pop, and new ones appear before race end.
The scene at the start line was pretty casual. When Joyce, race owner/director, asked if we could start 5 minutes late to accommodate stragglers no one made a peep. At 37 degrees though, I was cold and wanted
to get going. It seemed that most of the 38 runners knew each other.
Throughout the course of the day that this was one of the most unusually hearty and unique groups ever. We met a five-time Badwater gal, "just out for a stroll to break 8 hours today". The only time we saw her was mid-race and she had her Badwater face protector on and looked like a desert fighter going to battle -- tough!! She beat us by a sizable margin. There was the gal that ran 57 fifty milers at age 50. And then there was the eventual
race winner, a 52-year-old man with fast crazy legs. The first time we saw him after the start line he was coming down a hill at mile 27 (our mile 23). The faster and crazier his legs got, the crazier his upper body had to adjust in the other direction just to maintain balance.
There was also Scott, newly married out of South Jordan. Scott had done 95 marathon+
distance races in 7 years. He's only 28 yrs old. Who does that?? He was like the new pet you almost smothered if you're not careful. We hit him with one open ended question after another, mostly because we had more than used up all our own stories on training runs. Before we knew it we had 20 miles behind us and still in decent spirits.
We started the day by pacing ourselves toward at 4:05 first half. We figured that if we survived the front side hills and still felt good at the turn, we could go negative on the return and somehow challenge 8 hours. Miles 15-20 were all uphill -- although not steep. Miles 20-25 were a series of nasty one-mile rollers. When we got to mile 20 we decided to focus on our competition just to take our minds off the hills. After Crazy Legs came by, there were 4-5 more runners that looked pretty fresh. The next 4-5 behind them were only 10+/- minutes ahead, and we felt like they were catch able, this gave us something to work for as we hit the
turn-around. There was one guy in purple who wasn't too friendly and actually left us hangin' on some high fives as we passed. He instantly became our target. We arrived at the turn at about 3:56, still feeling pretty good but also having just come through some difficult hills, which we had to turn around and immediately battle again for the next five.
This course was an out/back through the desert so we could see the runners ahead pretty well. We were in 12th, 13th positions (as I recall) at the turn-around and one of our goals was to finish Top 10. As the race wore on and time slipped, finishing top 10 became our main focus. As we moved back in the hills through miles 25-30 and before the continuous five mile
streak downhill, it became apparent that the blasted hills were starting to take a toll. You all have experienced trying to run steady late in a race while on fumes. Miles 30-40 brought this challenge, with the added bonus of running 'extra' hills on mega tired legs.
To make the situation worse, Scott's stories had dried up by now, and I had already heard Ben's stories 4-5 times. This was really the hardest portion of race as we still had 20 miles to go and our splits were starting to fall as were our spirits. Where we'd been averaging 8:30-9:00 minute miles going out, we were now struggling to maintain 9:00-9:30 coming back through this dog section. As it turned out we ended up averaging 9:42/miles when you factor
refueling, my slow pace, the power walks up the hills, and Ben's 13 potty stops.
Between miles 25-40 we only managed to catch/pass one or two runners and we were passed by one, But now as mile 40 approached we had two more runners in our sights, one of them being Purple Shirt Guy. Along with him ran a guy in Red who had been in #2 position at the turn, but was now in position to be passed. They weren't actually running together but it looked like they were jockeying for race position as we sneaked up behind them.
We decided we'd better make a solid attempt at passing and then we'd try to put some quick distance between us or we'd have to race these guys for a Top 10 finish all the way to the bitter end. We attacked/passed them midway up a 1/2 mile hill. We made the pass running and then pushed going up and over the top of the hill and down the backside and Purple Shirt Guy started to fade, but Red Shirt hung tough only 200+/- yards off our heels for several miles. By this time we started to get reports by our support team (Emily, Charlotte, and Savanna) that the runners in 6th and 7th positions were starting to come back to us, although we still couldn't
see them as we maneuvered through the hills.
This game of cat/mouse became a welcomed distraction to the pain of the day, and help motivate us to keep on pressing. At about mile 47 we finally caught number six and seven, but they were spent and put up very little fight. We were able to push to the end and finished in spots six and seven, with Scott at number eight. Tough, but worthwhile experience.
I will run another 50+ mile race.
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