Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Pleasant Creek

 I guess I put off this report. Maybe it didn't seem too important to write, but as I sit two days from my first 100 mile ultramarathon, I'm thinking I should rehash my last race.

The Pleasant Creek Trail Run takes place near Cedar Rapids, IA in Palo and offers the options of running a 15k, 30k, or 45k. These distances are based on the length of the horse trail that we run and how many loops we run. I really only signed up for this race because I had registered in the No Coast Trail Series, where I had to complete 3 of the races in Iowa to be in the standing. I had been leading the "Ultra" category all along due to my Hawkeye 50k and Booneville 100k finishes. I was hoping that by finishing the Pleasant Creek 45k, I would solidify myself at the top.

This race was even more exciting for me, as it turns out, because it was my wife's first ultramarathon attempt. After running her first half marathon this summer with our 9 year old son, Katie decided she was up for trying a trail ultra. Though the 45k is only a little further than marathon distance, it counts. Our friend Jolie was taking on the 15k as well and we were excited to see her finish too.

The Pleasant Creek Trail Run turned out to be a blast. Finally I got to run an ultramarathon on a nice day. No rain, no 20 degree temperatures, just sun and 70's. It was great.

As the race was about to begin, I stood near the back of the pack with Katie trying to get her phone and watch to sync up. Those things always work perfectly until you need them. As we fiddle with it all, the race is started and we take off. I had no plans of running with Katie since I was hoping to run this one hard and she was planning on going out conservatively. So I took off into the pack, trying to get past most runners.

I learned in Painful Elimination that getting stuck behind slower runners in a trail race can be a big hindrance, so I decided to go out fast and get past people so I had some room. I blew past a bunch of runners and found my place near some others who were going about my pace.

Though you can't ever compare midwest ultras to the mountain ultras of the west, I found this trail to be challenging due to it feeling all uphill. It wasn't a ton of actual elevation but it felt like we never came down; we just kept going up. And unlike the short steep hills of our local trails, these were long and drawn out. As I ran them on my first loop, I knew I should walk for the long term. But I didn't. Adrenaline.

As I finished the first loop I saw one other runner coming back out from the start wearing the bib number of a 45ker. Everyone else in the front was running either the 15k or 30k. So I knew I needed to catch this guy. About halfway through loop 2 I caught up to the runner ahead of me, and eventually dropped him. I was feeling good and as I came across the 2nd loop finish, they seemed surprised that I was a 45ker already. Was I in first place?

The 3rd loop was tough. I should have walked more uphills earlier, and my body was tired; but I knew that the guy I'd passed before could come up on me at any moment so I had to keep moving. I kept going, ran through aid stations without stopping, and began to entertain the idea that I could win. At one of the aid stations the volunteers told me they thought I was the first of the 45k runners to come through, so I started to believe it. I could win my first race as long as I don't let someone catch me.

Finally, the last stretch. As I came in towards the finish, I saw Kate going out on her 3rd loop. She looked strong and hadn't called it a day after 2 loops. I was proud to see her going back out to finish.

As I ran hard to the finish, I heard a volunteer yell out, "2nd place in the 45k..." Nuts.

Apparently another runner had been way ahead of me from the beginning. He beat me by close to 25 minutes and I'd never seen him. Oh well. For my 4th ultra and a race I hadn't even considered the option of placing, I got 2nd.

And Katie finished her first ultra. She had a horrible 3rd loop as her phone and watch both died and she had no way to gauge her progress, and no music to keep her going. But she didn't quit. She kept on until the finish and is an ultra runner. I'm more proud of her finish than mine. She went from an early summer half marathon to a tough trail 45k. That's toughness.

Gear: I wore my new Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon MR Elite shoes and they were great. They kept out the mud and gunk from getting inside and gave great traction through the race. Otherwise, I counted on my Epson Runsense SF-810 watch for tracking, my Ultimate Direction hydration vest, and my Flipbelt for my phone. I didn't need my Plantronics Backbeat Fit bluetooth headphones this time. I just listened to the woods, my steps, and my breath. I'm finding that I run with headphones less and less.

Nutrition: Tailwind. The aid station volunteers seemed to take it a little personally that I never wanted anything from them, but on this shorter ultra, I just needed my Tailwind and I was good. I did get some water late when I was ready for a lack of flavor in my mouth.

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