Sunday, September 18, 2016

Boulder Field 50k Race Report 2016

Race Summary - Short Version

What went well

1. More speed than I knew I had.  2nd female overall! That was SO unexpected.      
2. Stomach/nutrition good.  Aid stations and volunteers were excellent.  
3. Amazing weather and an interesting course - perfect day.  Cloudy and temps in low 70s.    
4. Only 2 small blisters / feet did well on a rocky course.  My Hyner Smart wool ankle socks seem to do the trick for me.  I do want to try my Injinji socks again.  
5. Did well on down hills / let go of fear (mostly) and was aggressive.   
6. Did well with 1 headphone in last 14 miles. I haven't used them in trail race before because I'm usually with my friend Michelle. It was a treat and if someone started talking to me I just turned them off. 
7. I met a runner who lives near me who has done a couple 100s and am hoping to stay in touch.

What went not so well

1. Forgot my Tailwind - luckily had Nuun and 33Shake with me. I was very hungry by end of race.  Luckily this was the only thing I forgot since I wasn't well prepared and need to prep father ahead (per coach Ann's instructions).
2. There was allot more running and less hiking than I expected!  Only 2 climbs in 1st loop and then some big ones at end. I'm accustomed  to hiking allot more so was pretty tired in last 6 miles. I learned during this race that I like more mountains.  
3.  I missed my friend Michelle. I think I've gotten so used to running with her that I've become somewhat dependent. At around mile 14 I had some mental bumps, but my headphones helped allot. 
4. My right leg is sore - kinda the usual. I took one stumble early on around mile 5 that was kinda jarred my whole body.  One fall isn't bad though.  
5. I kept thinking - how will I ever do 100?  It got in my head and I think it's because I was running faster than normal for that distance. 
6. I need new shoes.  I like the stability and handling in my Saucony Peregrine, but I have 2 complaints - the laces always untie at some point (regardless of dbl knot) and they are tight by the end of the race.  Maybe I will try Altra or Innov8 again.
7. I'm not sure if this is good or bad, but I definitely didn't follow my race plan to start more conservatively.  I think that for longer distances with more elevation I will need to take pacing more seriously.  

Race Report - Long Version

There were a couple reasons I signed up for the Boulder Field 50k:
  1. I have lived in PA for over 10 years and am constantly talking about the Poconos so I thought this was a great way to see a new park - and it's only a 1.5 hour drive away from Ambler.
  2. I like UberEndurance Sports events - their German themes remind me of my German parents and all their friends I grew up with at our German Club in Troy, NY.
  3. My friend Amanda was also doing it and it's nice to have a familiar face there.   
  4. Coach Ann thought it was a great training race for the Mountain Massochist 50 miler I am signed up for on November 5th.


Not gonna lie - I almost bailed on this race last week.  The kids starting school and me starting a new job had the majority of my attention and energy.  I was logistically and mentally under prepared, but I knew I was in good physical shape.  My new boss and husband Mike encouraged me to go spend some time alone in the woods - I won't read into that too much!  Part of the benefit of having a coach is that Ann sends me a note and asks me for a race plan and goals.  So, at a minimum I had thought the basics through.  Here was my race plan:
Pack tonight - weather forecast looks great.  Packing 33 shakes and Tailwind for my pack.  There are aid stations 5-6 mi apart so i don't feel I need a drop bag.

Depart at 4:45 for race, packet pick up 6:20, Race starts at 7am
Race is 4000 feet of elevation gain total - so not too bad.  
I plan to take the 1st 10 miles on the more conservative side, the 2nd 10 more moderate, and the last 10 all I have left.  I may stay with a friend to start and then will likely break out on my own for the rest.  
Hydrate every 30 mins min and calories every hour is my plan!

A goal - finish in 6 hours (11:35 pace - aggressive)
B goal - finish is 6.5 hours (12:30 pace - possible)
C goal - finish in 7 hours (13:31 PACE - doable)
non time goal - enjoy the day, talk to people, thank volunteers, have fun with my friend on the ride, be grateful for a healthy strong body :)

Race day

Great moon to light up the arrival of the Boulder Field 50k at 6:15am

Amanda and me uncharacteristically cool and collected at the race start

Starting line - no one lined up yet 5 mins before the start - gotta love trail runners

Sunrise at Sand Spring Lake
The race started promptly at 7am after some opening remarks from Stephan the race director.  He let us know the course was a figure 8 where the first loop was 12 miles and the tougher of the 2 loops. The 2nd loop after coming back through the start was 19 miles and we would reach the Boulder Field at mile 20.

There were less than 200 people running so it didn't feel congested at the start.  Amanda and I went off together comfortably down the road before we hit single track and got conga lined for the next mile or so and got separated.  I was trying to remind myself that it was a long race and it was A-OK to be hiking, but admittedly the start and stopping had me antsy and as soon as I could comfortably pass I did.    

The course map and pace/elevation chart from Sunnto.

I ran pretty fast (for me) for miles 2 through 10 and I felt really solid.  Mile 3 was my 2nd fastest mile of the race! I took one spill taking in the view around mile 6.5 and tripping over a rock, which jarred my body.  Luckily I fell to the side since the alternative forward was a decent ledge.  I was nervous standing up to see what was going to happen, but all was good!   

I spent much less time than normal at aid stations, but grabbed water refills, gummi bears, and bacon. The salt was so good!  I talked to a couple guys and only passed one woman, which I found a little odd at this point, but didn't think too much about it.  I was more worried that I was going too fast and I was going to bonk.  But, those thoughts didn't change my effort.....

Around mile 9.5 we re-crossed a small footbridge and then started a 2 mile gradual climb back to the starting line.  There were great views along the way including a cool waterfall.  During this 2 miles I passed the last woman I would see until the finish.   

Back at the starting line I took a little bit longer of a break at the aid station to enjoy some amazing PBJs.  Why does PBJ taste so good during races?  I have a mental block with loops and going through the starting line.  But, I quieted my mind, looked at my watch and noticed I was a little over 2 hours into the race, and got back out there.

The next section of the course was tough for me for me.  I felt like it was the slightest of uphills - not enough to warrant hiking and enough to make running a big effort.  I decided that my "reward" at the 15.5 mile aid station would be use one headphone and listen to some music. My normal running partner Michelle wasn't with me and I didn't have that ray of sunshine that I was accustomed to.  I've never used headphones during a trail race and admittedly kinda turned my nose up at those who did. It worked out great for me- my mood lifted and I found that when I wanted to talk to someone I just turned them off for a bit.  

 The boulder field was created about 20,000 years ago
 during the most recent glacial period
The terrain for the next 2 to 3 miles leading to the Boulder Field was fairly rocky and technical - reminding me of my last race in August at the Escarpment in the Catskills - the highlight of the race for me. The Boulder Field was so unique and the photo doesn't capture the expanse of the field of size of the individual boulders. I totally took my time and enjoyed it.

At the end of the field a woman told me I was the 2nd woman she saw and the 1st woman wasn't too far ahead (turned out she was quite a bit ahead)!  I was so surprised.  That was the boost I needed to keep pushing on hard rather than slowing down to something closer to my comfort zone.

After the Boulder Field aid station I was very focused on moving strong and steady to the final aid station.  After looking at the course data I see I was running downhill which definitely was a big part in why I felt like I was flying!
Cool/creepy tunnel.

The last aid station showed mile marker 24.5 on my watch and the guys said they thought we were at mile 26.  I knew I was tired based on the mental annoyance I had at the discrepancy.  I got over it.  Those last miles were tough.  There was a little bit more down after the aid station, but after that it was climbing for the next 3 plus miles.  There were a couple sections where I would spot a tree and set that as my goal.  I just made manageable chunks of landmarks so that I could have mini mental celebrations.

I caught up with a runner named Tom that I had been leapfrogging with and we chatted a bit about his 100 mile races experiences. Part of why I love trail races is how generous runners are with their advice and encouragement.  I did my best to keep up with Tom the last mile and it was my fastest of the race!

I ended up being the 2nd female overall and finished in 5:27:24.  My watch read 29.5 miles, which is a bit short of 50k, but I wasn't complaining.  It was cool to run faster than I expected, see some new trails, and make new friends - a success for the day!

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