Well those on facebook have probably heard the news but of course I need a proper race report.
Saturday was a VERY early start. Up before 4am to arrive at the start line just after 5. I've never run at this park before even in the day light and this race starts with 3 laps in the dark. Once I got my number we sat back in the car to stay warm but it wasn't long before the race briefing and we were off.
The course starts at the low point of the park so you don't run very far before you hit the first up hill. 80+ steps and more than 200 ft of gain all in one go right to the top of the park. It seems that everyone is sensible and walks this at varying speeds. Its very cool to look behind and see the train of headlights. The next mile or so is mostly downhill with some uphills and several smaller flights of stairs to bridges and then you start going up again. There was about 3 places on the course that I decided were walk only. The last one was up to the top of the park again and then it was a steep downhill back to the start line. 1st lap 28 minutes for slightly under 2 miles... wow that took longer than I expected. But I walked 1/4 of it maybe and it was dark so you have to take your footing carefully.
Went to find the ladies for 1st lap supplies - they were chatting and not napping like they were supposed to. They looked so tired ;-) After a few minutes chat and eat I was off again. 2nd lap everyone was already getting spread out and I ran most of that and the 3rd lap on my own. I actually enjoyed it - its pitch black other than your headlamp and a few glowsticks marking the course. All my laps are about the same - just under 30 minutes with a few minutes of refuel/break at the end. Everything is feeling pretty good. The 1st hill is rough but its not killing me and the rest of the loop is long enough that you forgot about it till next time round.
Lap 4. M is running with me in the light - its nice to actually see the course and try to remember features from the headlight. The sun is coming up and its looking like a beautiful day and nothing like the 80% chance of rain we had been promised.
Lap 5. Another runner shows up to run with me - lets call her M2 ;-) - so I have 2 pacers for this lap and the sun is now fully up. Chatting all the way round takes your mind off things. People are passing us which means I'm being lapped already. No matter how crazy you are there are others more crazy.
Lap 6/7. M goes back to the car with J and M2 and I head out for another go around. Legs are still feeling pretty darn good considering all the hills. We spot a runner going the wrong way and call them back. Good job I was paying attention to the turns on the earlier laps.
Lap 8. I was supposed to have walked one by now so M2 and I walk this one. My costume (its Halloween) isn't running friendly because I have a fake cat attached to my head so I wear it on this lap. You have to wear the costume for a whole lap to count for the competition. Lots of people pass and everyone loves the costume. M has a jelly donut ready for me and the girls are finally awake and have a little camp site set up. The weather is nice so they don't need the canopy or the heater we bought as a contingency. At the end of the lap its time for a new dry shirt. I started in 'will run for chocolate' and now I choose 'will run for beer'.
Lap 9. Back on my own so I start naming bits of the course "Spikey tree", "Tree with arrow" etc. I fully expect to be naming the leaves on the floor by late afternoon. Time to start doing the math. 21 laps is one every 34 minutes and I'm doing quite well on that. I'm very sure I can do over 50k now and that's a nice thought. 40 miles might actually happen as my legs are still feeling fine. The aid station people see my shirt and someone finds me a can of beer.... excellent! J has started with her crafts and so I have a 'Go Andy lap 10' banner on my return. Doesn't look like we will need the 4 changes of clothes but one of my socks is rubbing so I stop and switch them.
Lap 10. Almost half way to 40 miles and well past half way for a 50k and I notice the stairs are a bit harder. I'm very impressed with the people who are passing me for the 3rd and 4th time. This lap takes me over 30 minutes so I figure the slowing process is beginning. Also my right foot feels a little odd. Like my shoe is too tight. I mention this to J at the end of the lap and retie the shoe. Maybe next lap I will change to some different ones. It doesn't seem too bad though and I'm going to get a 2nd walk lap in to help it. J has chilli ready for me on the camp stove and makes me eat some bagel too. Fuelling is going very well.
Lap 11. Officially half way to the 40miles on this lap and as I go up the stairs the foot pain gets worse - much worse. I start adjusting my walk when I get to the top and there's a short steep bit that I jog down and I realise the foot isn't good at all. I stop and take the shoe off to make sure its not that or a twisted sock or anything. Still hurts so I try to keep weight off it and I think maybe I will be ok. But every downhill puts more weight on it and I can feel it getting worse. By the time I'm 3/4 of the way round I am pretty sure this is it for me. If I knew the park any better I would have found a shorter way home but I limp through the last 1/4 mile which is mostly downhill and head back to 'camp'. Its taken me almost 50 minutes to get round. I got credit for the lap though. I take off my shoe and sock - no hint of swelling or anything. I ice the foot for 15 minutes and then try to walk/jog on it and there's no change at all... Game Over!
I might have been able to struggle home if this had been a longer trail run but at this point I was 6.5 hours in with 5.5 left to go. Carrying on wasn't going to prove anything other than I wanted to make my foot worse. I covered just under 22 very hilly miles and I was really only just starting to feel fatigued which I think was a good result on that course. I have other races coming up and I can always try again next year!
So we called it a day early. Called other friends who were coming to watch/run with me to let them know and headed home to cold bath and a beer....
Overall a little disappointing, but one of those days where you have to go with the flow and listen to your body which clearly was saying stop.
I wasn't too stiff after the race but Sunday and today I am suffering a little with my quads and glutes. The stairs and downhills are rough on the legs and I did them 11 times. I think I would be suffering more if I'd gone further. As long as I keep moving I am ok. Apparently my costume didn't win any prizes which was a little disappointing but hopefully it will get my picture in the maniac newsletter next month!
Many thanks to J&M who got up very very early to be the support crew, M & M2 for running and J&P who showed up to cheer just as I stopped... What are you all doing October 30th 2010?