With the World 100k Championships only a month away, coach Ian Torrence suggested I might benefit from the Dizzy Daze 50k around Green Lake in Seattle. A 3.2 mile course, times 10, gave a great opportunity to practice nutrition, hydration, pace, effort, without taking too much out of the tank. A drive up to Seattle to stay with ultra friend Dana made the prospect even more enticing.
Practicing nutrition started the day before – bananas, peanut butter, oatmeal. For dinner – white rice and scrambled eggs, and no alcohol. A bit of a fitful night of sleep, but at 4:45 I was ready to get up and get the day started. More white rice, with bananas and peanut butter, cup of coffee – we were ready to go. We got to the course by 6:20, picked up our race packets (a nice Whole Foods grocery bag with a great race beanie which came in handy in the cold morning air), and fidgeted about trying to determine what level of clothing would be needed, unnecessary, or just plain too hot. It was dry and clear, so I went with shorts, short sleeves, Moeben arm warmers, gloves, but no hat. With a loop course of such a short distance I decided to carry a gel flask, but no fluids with the plan to stop to drink from the aid station table each time around.
Promptly at 7:00 am, RD Matt sent us off to join the 100k runners who had been out since 6:00. I quickly fell into first female, following the first male – Adam Hewey – who took off at a pretty quick clip. The surface was something of a mix between road and trail – hard packed gravel, some dirt with roots, and the occasional stretch of pavement. My effort felt strong and brisk and controlled. I had done a little bit of time-goal-effort-pace mumbo jumbo in my head and with the help of a pace predictor. First I had thought that running a 50k in 3:40 would be pretty cool, then I realized that the course was 32 miles. So then I did a calculation and saw that I would need to run 6:50 pace to achieve that time. Well, that just sounded a bit rich, so I used a pace predictor to see what I could run “in theory” based on my best marathon time (2:45:xx) and the darn thing said I could average 6:30 pace for 31 miles. Yeah, I wasn’t too keen on that idea, but it made 6:50 much more palatable.
And now that I was actually running I felt myself resisting the urge to keep close tabs on my pace. I felt so good that I didn’t want to look and see that I was running 7:30-8:00, thus the feeling good part. But I wanted to keep tabs on my heart rate (HR), so when I looked at that I could see 6:xx and thought – wow, I don’t feel that fast, but I just left it alone and ran by feel, since I wasn’t sweating yet and my HR was not being picked up. Periodic checks, that HR finally appeared, at 177 – a typical spike at the beginning of a race or workout for me, so I just focused on staying relaxed, and it gradually came down into the 150s. Meanwhile, I could see Adam about 30s ahead, and pretty much staying that distance ahead as we wound our way around the outer loop of the Greenlake path.
I knew that to run 3:40 I would need to run each loop in about 22 minutes, but I was feeling as if what I was running was manageable, so I wanted to just stay with it, whatever it was. I finished the first loop, stopped to gulp some fluids, hit my lap button, and headed out for the second loop. I had no idea what the loop took. I could still see Adam ahead, and just kept on keepin’ on. Gravel, packed dirt with roots, pavement, gravel gravel gravel, dirt. Repeat. Repeat. On the 3rd or 4th loop (they all sort of run together in my memory…) I caught up to Adam, where we properly introduced ourselves. I asked him who I was supposed to chase if he wasn’t ahead of me, and he said he would just have to chase me for awhile, but he only picked up the pace and soon left me in his tracks.
The path and park surrounding the lake was becoming populated by winter-weary Seattle-ites coming out to enjoy the sunny, albeit cool, day. There were 130 registered entrants in the 4 distances, and we were definitely spread all over the loop, plus the many local runners out for their daily routine. As I felt better and better, I checked my pace a little more often, and most of the time it was under 7:00 which pleased me. My HR was 155-160, and I kept taking hits off of the gel flask, and drinking at the aid station. Before the end of the 5th lap I decided to ‘man-up’ and see how long I had been running, and it looked as if I might get through the first half in 1:50 – right on 3:40 pace. Nice. Ahead of me I spotted Dana and yelled “Marco!” to which she responded “Polo!” our trademark greeting.
I grabbed my drink, thanked the volunteers, and began the second half. Looking at my watch, I was happy to see it was indeed 1:50 into the race. As long as I didn’t fall apart, it was looking pretty good! I was once again running with Adam as he stopped to shed a jacket, and we discussed our pace, and also what races we had in line for the rest of the year. About half way around the lakae he pulled ahead again, and I finally had to succumb to the next available toilet. It was all of 30 yards off the path, and I was back running the trail in less than one minute. Adam was quite far ahead now, and he finally was out of view for the remainder of the race.
There was a slight suggestion of a side ache coming on, so as I cruised into the aid station I took two S!Caps with some water and headed out for number seven. I was getting excited as I was counting down the number of times I had to start another loop was down to three. The side ache never came to fruition. I kept the effort going, and it was getting tougher. Somewhere after lap seven, my Garmin started beeping. Not unusual for me, I had forgotten to clear the data from a couple of days before, and I had filled it up. I pushed buttons in several sequences and had no luck in stopping the beeping until I hit “stop”. Whatever. Just run hard.
At the end of lap eight I took my last drink from the aid station and left my flask on the table. I figured I could run 6.4 miles on the food/fluid in me at this point. Ahead of me was the purple shirt of Dana, and as if expecting me, she turned to look. “Marco!” “Polo!” I asked how she was doing – not great, but still moving forward. “I only have a lap and a half” I yelled. I actually had more like five miles to go, but once I start a lap it feels like a significant accomplishment worth at least half a lap.
Now I had run this loop over eight times, yet still didn’t feel as if I had it nailed in my mind, so I imagined myself at a five mile point from my house, and willed myself to run those last five miles harder. When I made it to the end of lap nine, I ran right through yelling “one more lap to go!” which was confirmed by the lap counters. I put the hammer down, and wished my watch was working as I was curious about how fast I was going. I was starting to grunt with every exhale, but realized I was breathing too shallowly when I did, so I focused on much deeper breather.
Running a loop course that short allows for many repeat sightings of the runners, and it was a very supportive group cheering me on when I passed. I kept surging more as I was certain that the finish was just ahead. Eventually, it was, and when I finished in 3:41 I was stoked. Sub-7:00 pace for 32 miles, no serious issues, no energy lapses, and minimal mental anguish. Betsy and Matt did a great job putting this race on – a nice event with so many options and purposes! Many thanks to them and the volunteers for enduring the cool, breezy day for all of us! Thanks as well to Sunsweet Dried Fruit, Garmin, and SCOTT-Sports for their generous sponsorships!