In terms of distance it was identical to my last 50k almost 2 years ago. In terms of time it was longer. I was running for 6 hours 29 minutes which is the longest I've probably been on my feet ever including hiking.
But the really different thing about this 50k was that it was just a training run. Yes ladies and gentlemen there was almost no taper down before the race and I got no time off after the race. I ran 50k on Sunday and then I did my normal training runs Tue/Wed/Thu. I did get to miss out of some speed work on Thu and my weekend run the week after was only 90 minutes but essentially there was no break. It was rough. On Tuesday my legs had a clear maximum pace that they were not going to go over and my legs felt tired whenever I would start to run. It is obvious that the last few years of marathons have increased my tolerance and decreased my recovery time. The evening after the 50k I went to a party and played ping pong (playing was fine, bending over to pick up the ball was NOT) and when it comes to general walking around you really couldn't tell I'd run 31 miles. I remember hurting more after 5ks.
Since this 50k was just part of my training for the 50 miler the goal was to finish and feel comfortable. No injuries, no hitting the wall just a nice even run. The course was a 9.6 mile loop so I had to run 3 laps and then add in a short out and back to make up the distance.
The first lap had plenty of folk to run with as there were 9.6 and 19.2 mile runners but that meant the pack disappeared quickly. I had some trouble with my camelback tube and had to stop and 'rewire' it. One of my running group caught up and so I ran with her for the rest of the lap. It was slowly raining - so everything was getting damp but on the positive side it wasn't hot. The course is a bit hillier than I expected so I timed my walk breaks to align with the hills. I finished the 1st lap in 1:51 which is just under 12 minute pace. No point in rushing, I changed some damp clothes, grabbed a bacon sandwich and some cookies and picked up my running mate for the 2nd lap. I suspect I was hanging around for over 5 minutes.
We could choose which way to run the loops after lap 1 so we headed off in the other direction - we got to see the other runners from my running group who were out on the course going in the normal direction. Going in reverse was easier for most of the lap but all the hills were at the end which meant you had to think about it all the way round. M had kindly offered to keep me company for this lap - its great having people to talk to to keep your mind off things so I got to hear all about her wedding in Hawaii. The rain stopped by half way so I was able to run without a hat on finally. My head gets so hot with it on. The final hill up to the start/finish is evil. Probably only 100m but totally unrunnable by mere mortals but we come in for a 2:00 lap. With that 5 minute break thats actually 1:55 running so I'm pretty happy about pace. My legs are feeling great still. Back to the car and I change socks and shirts for dry ones and leave my jacket and hat behind. This time I eat pasta salad, almonds and more cookies. My partner for lap 3 is a different M so after another 5 minute layover we head out. While I wait for her in the most disgusting porta pottie ever I see the 2nd and 3rd place 50k runners come in. Yes they are done and I have 11.8miles left to run. The winner has been in for half an hour. He ran 50k in 3:32 - thats 6:50pace. I can run that fast for about 800m. [Edit: Oh and I just looked at the results and he's the same age as me so I can't even claim its some young kid.... I did see him though and he weighs about half of what I did so I suspect that has something to do with it too]
Final lap I run the normal way to get the hills out of the way at the start. This time round there appears to about 3 more hills than I remember so there's more walking happening. But in general my legs are feeling pretty good. We hit the marathon mark just before 5h 30m so I'm over 12 minute pace but my pace is still good so its not a concern. It started to rain again... no fun but I'm very warm now so I don't really mind and I know its not far now. I round the corner to the switch over with a 2:05 lap. I've slowed as expected but I'm at 28.8 miles and still running just fine.
I don't bother stopping other than to grab some Cadbury's and a kiss from J (who was going to run the last out and back with me but is now changed into warm non running clothes) and head out for the final 2.2 miles. Remember that really short but steep hill I mentioned? Well that was the 1st thing I went down which means...... drum roll...... I have to run back up it at mile 30.9. Its cruel, very cruel. I run the mile out to the turnaround and there's few people still out on the course. Even fewer seem to think I'm funny when I ask them if someone moved the white line. Eventually there is it, I pause for some water and turn around. I can see the hill in the distance and in less than 12 minutes I stop to walk up it and then I'm done.
As I said - final time was 6:29 but best of all I was able to keep going for the whole time. I walked the steeper hills and stopped for food breaks but by the end I know I could have kept going. I'm sure I could have lasted for one more lap which would have taken me over the 40 mile mark. I'm less sure if I could have done a 5th lap to hit the 50mile but thats OK because I still have 10 more weeks of training to get me there.
Since it went so well I finally signed up for the 50 miler on April. There's no way out other than injury now. This is serious stuff - the 50k seems doable after a marathon. "Its just an extra 5 miles". The 50 miles is an extra 19 on top of that, or an extra 24 after you finish the marathon. The further you run the less 'amateurs' like me there are too. I was 72nd out of 80 on the 50k and I expect to be even closer to the back on the 50 miler.
Its been 10 days now and last nights run felt almost back to normal. I was able to hold a good pace even though it was only 40 minutes. My weekend runs are now doubled up - Saturday AND Sunday - and my week runs are going to get longer.
Yes me an official Ultramarathoner... hard to imagine isn't it!