Monday, November 7, 2011

Whistler 50 mile Race Report!

haha, I sit here and laugh because it has been forever since I have done a race longer than 50km. In fact, Western States 100 in June of 2010 was my last long race. This year has been a bit interesting as far as my running is concerned and I have had to DNF, due to ankle injuries, more than I would like. It's felt as though I had DNF'd more races this year than completed so I was more than excited crossing the finish line at the Whistler 50 miler this past Saturday!

The decision to race was very last minute (weekend before). I tapered for a week and felt pretty well rested overall. I knew going into it that it would challenge me mentally due to the course being 4 x 20km loops but also challenge me physically because it's a relatively flat course, with the majority on pavement. I like to run. I like to get into a flow. Flatter courses let me do that!

I woke up at 3:45, got ready, ate breaky, and left my hotel at 5:40am for the 6am start. My hotel was literally a 2 minute walk to the conference center where the race debriefing was. However, I had a mini panic attack because I was a bit lost. I was told to take 2 rights from outside the hotel lobby doors, but that found me at the Hilton, not the conference center. With a little surge of adrenaline, I ran into some guys who were working the race and they steered me in the right direction. Within minutes we were lined up outside and away we went!

It was pitch black and we ran the entire first loop in the dark. I was roughly 7 minutes behind Jen Segger after the first loop. She set out at an obviously faster pace at which I was not willing to match. Having not run an ultra in quite some time, I was more focused on starting out comfortable, as my main goal was to FINISH this one! However, I was willing to let the competetive spark come alive if that's what it felt like doing. I only had a couple little navigation hiccups in that first loop but overall it was pretty well marked with glowsticks and cones. My only complaint is that the aid stations were not set up with food yet. I actually did not have any food on me as I had planned to feed off the aid stations and after 90 minutes of no food, I started to get worried...and hungry! The temperature was below zero and I didn't find myself feeling all that thirsty and drank way less water than normal.

The second loop was awesome because it was now light out and it was as though I was running a whole new loop! The frost on the ground was stunning and the snow on the mountains took my breath away. Snow covered a few trails in lost lake portion but it was not slick and the footing was great. There were so many volunteers who stood out in the cold for hours and I tried to thank each and every one. The relay teams started at 8am and at this point there were tons of them waiting at the exchange stations. They always cheered us solo ultra runners on everytime we came past and I have to admit, it was pretty cool!

The 3rd loop: THE TRAIN! A few miles into the 3rd loop, I noticed Jen and a few others waiting with a volunteer Marshal. My first thought was, did she drop out (not something Jen is known for)? But then I quickly noticed the train that had come to a complete stop, blocking our running path. She had already been there for 10 minutes and was starting to get really cold. I offered her some of my water as she said she was getting thirsty. A bunch of people caught up at this point. I took this opportunity to stretch out and tried to keep moving. After 12 minutes of waiting there, they finally got the train going. Jen had been there a total of 22 minutes! On a cold day, stopping for that long is not ideal.

I managed to keep warm that entire time and quickly passed Jen shortly after crossing the tracks. I wasn't really into racing today and tried to maintain a steady comfortably fast pace, however, I think I was running the fastest I had been all day and I am sure it was just a rush from now being up front. I can't say I enjoyed being up front all that much. When I was behind, I was so content just doing my thing and listening to my tunes. Now, all I could focus on was Jen and where she was and if she'd catch me. My IT-Band started to flare up, something I had been worried about coming into this race but after I stopped for a minute to stretch it, it seemed to be fine. Muscle discomfort came and went on this lap. At one point my ankle was tight but then my left hamstring got tight and I forgot all about my ankle. This pattern changed around all day. It's interesting how this happens. All I kept thinking to myself was, 'Ellie Greenwood gets tight hamstrings and quads in races, but she still rocks on, you can get through this'.

Loop 4 was by far the most challenging. I just could not maintain the speed I had for the first 3 loops and everything just got tight. My stomach turned off and I couldn't eat gels like I had been in the beginning. Everything else I had been consuming (Cliff shot blocks) were too hard to eat because it was so cold out. I turned to coke and just survived on that for the last 10-15km. My calves started to cramp up pretty bad as well, bringing me to a screeching hault on many occasions. Thank goodness I had packed salt pills in my drop bag as they saved my butt a few times in that last loop. I know part of my problem was that I didn't take in many electrolytes in the first 4 hours. I was filling my water bottle up with water that had Elete (liquid sodium) in it but due to my lack of taking in fluids, I wasn't getting that much.

I managed to keep it together, plugging away the miles, even though I felt like I was moving at a snails pace. It took energy to smile, whereas before it was just written all over my face. In the end, I crossed the line in a time of 6:48 (actual time is 6:36 because of the 12 min at the train). Although I was the first female to cross the line, Jen won the event because she was waiting at the train for 10 extra minutes than myself. I had only made up about 4 minutes on her in those last 1.5 loops. I have to laugh though because I went up to her after she crossed the line stating how sorry I was that she was stopped for so long at the train. I told her she probably would have won if it weren't for that. I was so clueless!!! Of course they would deduct the time spent waiting...why didn't I think of that? The whole time I was running I thought I was winning. makes me laugh.

In the end, winning was not the prize I was searching for that day, so I was still overjoyed with my accomplishment. I am happy I entered. I am happy I finished. I am happy I pushed myself to a 2nd place finish. My aunt and uncle even came out to see me (thanks guys). Thank goodness for them because they helped me hobble back to my hotel room!

I just want to thank the RD and everyone else who helped make this event a success. The after party was awesome and I somehow managed to dance the night away in my less than functional state.

Next up: Deception pass 25 or 50km...TBD.

See you in the trails...which will hopefully be covered in a beautiful pillowy smooth layer of snow soon!


Sara Montgomery said...

Great race, Nicola! You and Jen are both amazing. (And fast!!) Congrats, and recover well.

Derrick said...

Congrats on a great race!

kristinop said...

Congrats on the run Nicola! In my mind you keep the win; being the first to cross the finish regardless of what obstacles you and other runners met along the way.

Bruce Grant said...

Congrats, Nicola! That's a pretty awesome way to come back from a couple of other frustrating events, I'm glad your injuries are all behind you. Jen has been absolutely on fire this year, so you're obviously in fantastic shape to be racing her to the line.

I'll be heading down for the Deception Pass 50k, so hope to see you there :-)


Great comeback race ! You're fast! Great to see your smiling face at the start. One day if either one of us isn't running last min to the start, or running a race, or running home to shower after.. we might actually get a visit in! ha ha !