TNF 50K Race Report: The Nitty Gritty

Since I got the gush-fest out of my system earlier this week, I figured it was time to get down to brass tax. The majority of this race report will be pretty detailed because I want to record what worked and what didn’t for myself to help plan for future races, so feel free to stop reading whenever you get bored.

My body feels good and I plan to take this week super easy to rest up for a whole new training cycle starting next week! I did some Strava and internet stalking and discovered that the women who beat me be 20+ minutes also happened to win the Mountain Running World Championship this year, beating out Megan Roche by 16 seconds. So yeah, I feel pretty ok about not catching her.

Major Takeaways

  1. Apparently fueling is important. Surprisingly by following an actual fueling plan, you can avoid bonking. Who knew?
  2. When they say nothing new on race day, it is for a reason. Chafing can last wayyyy longer than any muscle soreness.
  3. Mental preparedness is just as, if not more, important than physical preparedness.
  4. Coke really is as good as people say it is during an ultra, just make sure you get the burp out before going down a super bumpy descent!
  5. Make sure you have all of the food you want to eat the day after the race at home! I did not and clearly wasn’t moving so had to order bagels and bacon from Instacart. The struggle is real!

Race Stats

31.2 miles, 6,300 feet of elevation gain in 4:44:56, good for 2nd women, 13th overall. Roughly 1000 calories consumed and 3,500 burned.  1 terrible chaffing incident and the most epic finish line welcome a girl could ask for.

Strava results: https://www.strava.com/activities/445040433

Race Goals

Going into this race I had a series of A and B goals. A goals were to podium and to finish in 4:30. Both of these were definitely reach goals but I wanted to have something ambitious to strive for. B goals were to get top ten and finish in under 5 hours. The goal at platform 9 3/4 was to finish in 4:45. In preparation I ran just about every part of the course at least once so I knew what was coming and how long each of the climbs was. The only climb I did not do more than once was the Lost Trail climb out of Muir Woods. I also  got a strict fueling plan from my new coach, David Roche and was determined to stick to it. Fueling had been an issue in my long training runs the Mt. Tam 30K tune up race. Taper week was good. I ran a little bit less than David wanted, but I rolled and stretched a lot and felt fresh and ready going into Saturday. My Left hamstring and glute were acting up a little bit the week prior, but the limited running time and extra rolling seemed to help. I made sure to be smart about carb loading and hydrating and managed to feel squishy but not bloated which is quite the accomplishment!

Race Strategy

Like the excel nerd I am, I made a spreadsheet to track the times I should arrive at each aid station if I wanted to reach my A goal. I used my previous paces on the big climbs recorded on Strava to estimate race day paces. I came up with the following:

Tennessee Valley (mile 3.8): 40 Min

Muir Beach (mile 7.7): 1 Hr

Cardiac (mile 13): 1:45

Old Inn (mile 18.9): 2:40

Muir Beach (mile 22.5): 3:05

Tennessee Valley (mile 25.5): 3:35

Alta (mile 28.4): 4:10

Finish: 4:30

Fueling strategy was a honey stinger gel at the following intervals: 40, 30, 30, 30, 25, 25, 25, 25 and 20 oz of fluid / hour (preferably with electrolytes and calories in it).

Most importantly, I was just really looking forward to this race! I felt prepared, I knew the course and I was pumped for all the local support.

Race Reality

Tennessee Valley (mile 3.8): 28 Min Oopsies, that was probably a little too fast, and in fact those basically the 12 minutes between my race time and my goal time. I felt controlled and steady up Miwok and tried to let my legs go and just fly down the hill to the TV stables. I didn’t stop at this aid station as we got there early and I hadn’t get had a honey stinger

Muir Beach (mile 7.7): 1:02 hmm, so despite getting to the previous aid station way ahead of schedule, I got to this one a couple minutes behind schedule.. meaning I was wayyy slower on this segment than planned. Well shit. I definitely took my time on the Pirate’s Cove decent: the stairs were slippery and I didn’t want to fall and bust myself so early in the race. In hind site, I should have pushed a little harder and the rollers.  I threw away my stinger packet and topped up my concentrated tailwind with some more water.

Cardiac (mile 13): 1:51 only a few minutes behind schedule here which means I made up some time on the longest climb in the world. Ok, so Heather Cut-off and coastal to Cardiac are definitely not the longest climb, but it is almost 4 miles and steady climbing. The climb totally kicked my ass at the Mt. Tam 30K because I had no idea it was coming or that it was as long as it is. This time, I was prepared. I came out here last weekend and did the climb from Heather to Cardiac in order to mentally prepare for that part of the climb. It worked! I felt totally in control of this climb and you can see it in my heart rate data and cadence data on Strava (the segment PRs tell the story too!). Getting to Cardiac was such an amazing feeling because I knew I had dominated the biggest climb of the race. Seeing some friendly faces volunteering and cheering gave me such a  big lift too! My old co-worker was volunteering and filled up my water for me as well as told me the leader was like 10 minutes ahead of me. Based on how fast she went out, I could tell she knew what she was doing and that I had very little chance of catching her. Honestly, this was kind of a relief, because now I could just run y race and focus on my goals. I traded in my empty honey stinger packets and filled up my 13 oz butt bottle with water and headed down the Dipsea Trail.

Old Inn (mile 18.9): 2:40 I haven’t run this area enough to feel comfortable bombing down the steep, narrow, root-filled, switchbacks that is the decent into Muir Woods. Its a shame really because its such a beautiful and well earned decent, but my legs were feeling a little shaky at this point and I really didn’t want to fall. Technical descents are definitely something to work on! For some reason, I also told myself the climb out of Muir woods on the other side was not bad. I clearly forgot that this was the same route I had run a few weeks ago for the Mt. Tam 30k and was rather unpleasantly surprised by the Lost Trail Climb. It was around this time that my left glute started protesting. I started on the caffeinated honey stingers too and I was so thankful for having saved the caffeine until I really needed it (thanks Dylan for the tip). I also started getting passed by some of the 50 mile leaders. I don;t know them all well enough to know any names but there were several Nike guys and a Salomon guy. I also caught up to an NP friend who had been ahead of my since we got to coastal. I hadn’t expected to see Matt again until the finish, but he took a wrong turn somewhere and so I caught him. We ran together for a bit with him just in front of me until he missed another turn. Luckily this time I was right behind him and was able to yell to him that he was supposed to go down, not up (I mean come on… always chose down!). Maybe it was the caffeine, or maybe the runner’s high started to kick in but from when we turned on Redwood Trail I started to feel kind of amazing. I picked up the pace and flew into the aid station.

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Power pumping the arms to climb out of Muir Beach

Muir Beach (mile 22.5): 3:05 The miles between Old Inn and Muir Beach are lovely, relatively flat and actually kind of downhill for a lot of it. I felt great and dared check my pace on my Garmin while running. I was clocking a steady 7:10 min/mile which was encouraging. At TRT when I felt like I was flying, I was actually running around 9 min miles, so it was god to see that perception of pace aligned with reality. The very minor uphill sections into Muir beach felt difficult and that concerned me a little because there were still 2 big climbs left, but I sucked another caffeinated gel and downed some water and pushed on.

Tennessee Valley (mile 25.5): 3:55 By the time I got to TV, I was 20 minutes behind A goal time, but still ahead of B goal time. I was also comfortably in 2nd place. Somehow The ridiculous climb from Muir Beach to Fox trail has energized me. I passed two 50K dudes who had passed me on the Heather Cut-off climb and power hiked like a boss. My heart rate felt totally controlled and my legs protested a bit, but were totally fine power hiking. I totally let go on the descent down Fox and tried to store some kinetic energy to get me up Marincello. I got a really exciting high five from another Baybird who was heading down TV road for mile 12 of the marathon. I filled up on water at TV and got some cheers from a couple SFRC bros and some Baybirds and headed out for the final big climb up Marincello.

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Feeling good in the eucalyptus Neighborhood just before Alta aid Station

Alta (mile 28.4): 4:25 I have never had a problem with Marincello for some reason. Maybe its because ti sounds like a gelato flavor or a delicious alcoholic beverage, but I find the steady climb to be kind of comforting. I caught up to another 50K dude I had seen at the start and without speaking, we put our heads down and powered up the hill side by side together. I got ahead a bit on the descent after peaking where Marincello meets Miwok, but he caught me again just in time for the final “fuck you climb” up Alta. He found me after and told me that I broke him when i power hiked part of the final climb. He followed suit apparently and immediately started cramping. I feel bad cause we were working together well, but I needed that last power hike. I blazed through Alta aid station still behind goal time, but I was actually 5 minutes faster on this segment than I had anticipated in my race planning.. wahhoo! I knew it was all downhill from here, and I love downhill so I let go and tried t enjoy it. I clocked a 6:40 mile on the descent down Rodeo Valley, and while this is almost a minute slower than when I raced one loop of the marathon relay last year, I felt pretty good about it considering it was at mile 29.

finish
Thanks for the High-five Rob!

Finish: 4:44 When I joined up with Bobcat I knew I would start seeing some of the marathon relay runners. My husband was running legs 2 and 4 and so I took the chance to ask a relay runner what leg he was on. when he said he was leg 2 I got excited. This guy was clearly slower than my hubbie, but not by a ton, so just maybe I could catch him and we could finish together. I never did catch him but as I got to Bunker Road I started passing several friends heading out in the opposite direction. The best reaction was from my former NU team mate and friend Laura who was bombing down Simmonds Road just as I was heading up the final little hill. As I peaked and turned the corner I saw a good sized crowd up ahead near the finish chute. There was general din of cheering and yelling but as I got closer there was an explosion of noise. I had imagined this moment several times over the past weeks, even more so during the tough parts of the course, but the reception was so much more than I had expected. I couldn’t feel my legs at this point because I was totally 100% high. I had achieved one of the A goals (second place) and hit my Platform 9 3/4 Goal (finish under 4:45) and I was welcomed home by most of my favorite people. I was totally overwhelmed.

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I’m a bird!

Post-Race It took me several minutes to collect myself, but I eventually made it through the finisher’s chute (btw, to the amazing lady at the start yelling about how there would be no chips left later, you were wrong. there were tons left. But we all loved your enthusiasm at 6 in the morning regardless!) and out into the festival area. I had all of the hugs, got a massage from a wonderful student whose name I forget (sorry!) and ate a giant plate of pasta. I changed out of my wet sports bra only to find the worst chafing ever experienced by a human from my new heart rate monitor. I went to cheer on my husband and some of the other relay runners, 50 mile, 50k and marathon finishers and after peeing made my way to the beer tent. I had  giant burger, made it to 2 after parties and stayed out later than I have in ages.

On Sunday I stayed in my pajamas all day and followed many inspiring performances at CIM from the comfort of my couch.

Congratulations to all the runners this weekend! There were so many inspiring performances and I only scratched the surface with my gush fest. I truly am lucky to have such an extensive running community to inspire me daily. I will be running in the Christmas Relays to close out the 2015 racing year and turning my sites to Boston 2016.

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