Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sage Burner 50K: Mental Illusion

Duncan’s car was outside my front kitchen window. It must be time to leave. He and Annie had stopped by to pick me up prior to the race. We drove the 5 minute drive over to the start discussing how much harder it is to mentally get up and prepare for a home race. The anticipation that arises with travelling to the race often just never fully materializes. The day was overcast, and cool: perfect weather for a 50k. We pulled into the Hartman Rock base area. It was filled, and soon would be overflowing with race participant cars. The Sage Burner 25 and 50k races www.western.edu/sageburner were soon underway. Brian Smith took it out from the gun leading the 25k race. GEP director, Sage Burner race director, and personal coach Scott Drum, held a solid 2nd place, while Mike Ingham of Broomfield and I settled in right behind, leading the 50k race. Just behind us were Duncan and Dan Vega from Colorado Springs.

Mike and I settled into a solid pace switching leads on the rolling terrain. Mike would take the down hills and I would take the up hills. At 5½ miles into the race the 25K and 50k split with Brian Smith and Scott Drum continuing there leads followed closely by Jesse Rickert. They finished the race in the same order: Brian Smith in 1:57:?, Scott Drum in 2:00:20, and Jesse Rickert following a close 3d in 2:00:34.

The next 3 miles I felt the worst that I would for the entire race; which is to say I was feeling decent but not quite fluid. Near mile 8 we ran down Elevator. At this point Mike was 40 meters up on me with Duncan trailing 30 meters back. Off of elevator, we ran the next ½ mile on the only paved portion of the race. Bambi’s uphill single track was next. I knew the next 4 miles where mostly uphill and it was time to switch gears and start an upscale tempo of a pace. I passed Mike on Bambi’s with the intention of just taking the lead and maintaining, yet intentions changed as I quickly gained 60 meters on him. I hit the technical Saw Tooth and set an unrelenting roll. Mentally I was now fully occupied with the race. I felt smooth and fluid. The brain had taken over completely. It controlled my body, set the pace, regulated temperature, and ignored distractions.

I ran up the road towards the top of 9-0 (mile 12) convincing myself that I was out on an evening night stroll. I could see I had about a minute lead over Mike who was a good 30 second up on Duncan. I knew mentally I still was not running as smooth as I wanted to be. I know this idea may seem to contradict my previous statement about the mind taking over yet I knew I could run smoother. I knew I was strong enough to maintain the pace… that should be enough, but mentally the mind can play tricks. I told myself I was not running up to Parr and therefore periodically would increase the pace. This idea of continuously pushing myself faster in a race has been a developing skill for ultra running.

Then it hit me, I was somewhere near mile 17 and 2 hours in (I’m unsure because I ran without a watch) Mentally: I now just ran. Sure I kept pushing myself, yet I felt solely out on an easy training run. The terrain fell at my feet: My mind loving the challenge, yet not feeling the stain. Sure it was strenuous yet I was not thinking about pain, I was reveling in it while simultaneously oblivious to it. This mental illusion dominated, as my actions reciprocated.

The finish fast approached. I had eaten and hydrated well during the race as the cool temperatures gave way to a humid warm day. I crossed the finish feeling strong, ready for more… The 31.42 mile course with 5200 feet of elevation climb was covered in 3:46? (Course record of about 7:13 pace) Mike came in around 4:00 hours even while Duncan was about 4:15. You can read about his race here: http://www.duncancallahanrunning.com/ Well written Duncan, good info. GEP Teammate Keri Nelson won the women’s race in 4:35 and set the course record while still taking 5th overall. Well done Keri!

Overall: I’m a little surprised by my current shape. God has blessed me and kept me healthy ready to glorify him through running. I’m feeling strong and ready for the 50 mile race in Washington in 2 weeks. I’ll be hitch hiking to get there so more updates to follow...

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