Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Rosaryville Veterans Day 50K - November 15, 2015

I Think I Can, I Think I Can, I Think I Can
- Rev. Charles S. Wing, The Little Engine That Could
RD Tom gives the pre-race brief  ("follow the white ribbons")

I spend the week prior to the Rosaryville Veterans Day 50K lurking about the list of registrants trying to see how many are in my age group and what their expected times are.  Besides me there are three other registrants.  One I know and am confident that I can beat.  The other two are unfamiliar to me but based on their times in other races I feel pretty confident that I can best them.  The great unknown is whether someone shows up and registers on race day.

As I did in 2012, I develop a plan for running the race. It's a simple plan for the three-loop race: run each loop only about five to ten minutes slower than the previous loop. Ideally, my plan is 2:00, 2:05, and 2:10 loops for a 6:15 finish. With an aid station about midway of the loop it is easy to keep track of progress - an hour between aid stations is the rough measuring stick.

Jeanne performs the National Anthem.
( Photo by Jon Valentine)
Let's Go!
Gayatri, me and Barry stay warm at the start.
The forecast promises near perfect running weather - sunny, upper 30s to near 40 at the start, rising to 50 or low 50s' midway, but with a bit of wind. I leave the house at 0630, pick up Gayatri from her house a minute later and gather up Barry by 0645. By 0730 we are at Rosaryville State Park, pick up our bibs, hand over our drop bags, chat with people we know and move the start line with the total of 134 starters.

Barry leads early.
Fresh from performing before a Friday night sold-out house in The Music Man, Jeanne sings the National Anthem and we are off.  It's about a mile on the asphalt park road before turning into the woods onto the mostly single track of gently rolling terrain,  I follow Barry for a couple of miles while I warm up, but after shedding the outer of my two shirts and removing my gloves, I go past him and a number of other runners.  I settle into a pace that feels a bit quick but not too strenuous.

Army Strong, or, An Army of One I
During the first loop I run awhile with Chris, a U.S. Army infantryman.  He is running the race at the urging of his mother, who is also running.

He tells me he is used to 12 mile hikes carrying his 40-50 pound rucksack but that he has never run an ultra before.  In fact, he has not run a marathon, or a half marathon, or a 10-miler, 10K, 5K or any race at all.  He does admit to running two miles as part of his Army physical qualifications.  And, he adds, he hasn't done any training for today's race. Also, He is a pack and a half a day smoker.

Running with pace on loop 1
( Photo by Jon Valentine)
He is wearing a pair of Adidas that he bought the night before.  His mother got them for him when she found out that he had planned to run in a pair of $15 plastic-soled shoes from Walmart.

He is, I think to myself, the perfect specimen to test my "Training is Bunk" motto.

I tell him that I'm running a fly-and-die pace, but that if he can execute my plan without suffering fly-and-die he will finish in about 6:15. But, I warn, running fly-and-die means that the last part of the race can get ugly.  He understands and takes off.

Man Down - Hard!
About a half mile from the midway aid station during the second loop I trip and fall on my right side. Usually I manage to tuck and roll on my trail falls, but this time I go down hard on ground that is hard packed and unyielding.  I lay there and assess the damage. My right wrist is sore but I have full, if painful motion. A small spot of blood oozes through my tights over my right knee.  My right hip has a small sore spot, probably from landing on a small pill box I carry in my right pocket.  But most painful are my right ribs.  They are quite sore.  I recall that a couple of years ago Sam fell out here and cracked a rib.  Tentatively I take a deep breath and there is no sharp pain, just soreness.

Getting to my feet I start walking. The thought of dropping at the aid station enters my mind. I try running.  The wrist and ribs are sore but I can run. I determine that I can go on, but try to stay extra vigilant for rocks, roots and other things that might trip me up.  I spend a lot of time contemplating how close I came to a serious injury.  Maybe spreading the pain was just enough to dissipate the force away from the critical energy necessary to have done serious damage to wrist or rib.

(Rosaryville claims two runners with significant injuries, both ankle injuries, including an alvusion fracture. Eight other runners also DNF.)

The Zen of Running Alone, or, Where Am I?
The 10- and 20-mile aid station at the start of the loop.
With only 134 runners spread out over a ten-mile loop one often spends time running alone, or at best, in the company of one or two other runners.  If one clears one's mind of the past and the future than one can consider that he is leading all other runners, or is trailing all other runners.  With no awareness of others, one can be first, or last, or both.

Once the field thins out during a trail race, usually during the first three to five miles, there is not a lot of passing. People get running to their pace, with the faster runners ahead and the field stretched out behind them based on their pace.  Run 15 seconds a mile faster than someone for ten miles and you have a two and a half minute lead.  If they then can run 10 seconds a mile faster than you - a huge 25 second per mile swing in relative pace -  it will still take them another 15 miles to catch you.

The midway aid station
(Photo by Jon Valentine)
Both of these threads come together and stay with me throughout the day.  Somewhere on the course are the others in my age group, but with the exception of Barry, I don't know whether they are ahead of me or behind me.  If they are ahead it is unlikely that I will catch them and if they are behind, it is equally unlikely that they will catch me. I am where I am, running at the pace I'm running. The mantra: Relentless Forward Progress. Thru the first loop in 1:59. Then the second in 2:11. Two loop: 4:10. Right on plan with one loop to go.

Fueling with Liquid Complex Carbohydrates - A Fictional Tale
[Rosaryville State Park does not allow alcoholic beverages without a permit. Legal disclaimer: This section is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.]
About a mile into the third loop I once again come upon one of the course marshals sitting in the canvas chair she has been using at this location throughout the day.  In her chair's cupholder is a familiarly shaped bottle wrapped in a Maryland-themed cozy.

Fictional course marshal holding
a fictional bottle at a fictional race 
at a fictional location.
"Is that a [four letter word for an adult beverage]?," I inquire.

"Yes," she replies, "Would you like one?"

I resist the urge to say something about bears in the woods. "Yes, thank you," I reply.

She hands me a bottle of carbonated liquid complex carbohydrates.  The cold amber liquid is refreshing. I stand by the side of the trail hydrating while another runner passes.  About two-thirds of the way through the 12 ounces of  golden aid I decide that prudence calls for not carrying the entire contents in my stomach the last nine miles, no matter how "Light" it may be.  Regretfully I empty the rest of the bottle on the ground.  The next few miles are pain-free. And if there is any weaving, well, that is because the trail meanders, not I.

Epilogue: After the race the course marshal give me a ride to my car from the finish area.  She introduces me to another of her "Bud-dies," who accompanies me back to the finish area to await Barry and Gayatri. This time nothing gets poured on the ground.

Share the Trail
Sharing the trail with equestrians.
The Rosaryville trail had been built by mountain bikers and as the day goes on, there are a number of them to be seen.  The bikers are invariably polite, pulling to the side for runners and offering encouragement. Some are going counterclockwise as are the runners, but some are going clockwise, so it is an opportunity to see them again a little later.

The trail is also used by equestrians. In his pre-race brief RD Tom alerts us that there are horse groups out today and they have flagged parts of the course, as well as other park trails, with other color ribbons than the white ribbons we are to follow. Sure enough we came upon a pretty fair number of riders, including a group of five from the Melwood Equestrian Program. As bikers yield to runners, runners yield to horses, and I'd stand quietly by the side while the horses went by.

Army Strong, or, An Army of One II
Is this an old aid station?
Before the midway aid station on the final loop (about mile 25) I catch up with Chris.  He's moving along OK, but his knees are starting to ache, his thighs are getting a bit sore, and he admits to hot spots on both feet.

We fall in, with him allowing me to set the pace.  I mostly run the downhills and flats and walk the uphills of the rolling course.  Even though I tell him, maybe even urge him, to go on, he insists that the pace is fine and he stays with me. And maybe that is right because when I stop to take a picture, I am able to hurry along to catch up to him.  He says that he may speed up as we get closer to the finish.

We get to the midway aid station in 1:09 since I entered the final loop, elapsed time of 5:19 from the start.

Another abandoned aid station?
We chat as we go along, and he tells me about his career and family plans.  He has just reenlisted for his second tour of duty and he lays out for me what he plans to do for the rest of his life. Since what's said on the trail stays on the trail the only thing I'll say is that at some point his plans and dreams involve a 67-foot sailboat.

This last stretch seems to go on forever. While the course makes more turns than the small intestine, the turns seem further apart and turns that I mistakenly remember as being closer to the end of the loop are not.

Five fingers for five Rosaryville finishes
( Photo by Jon Valentine)
With a couple of miles to go we come upon a runner who is walking and experiencing some cramping.  Chris goes on. After supplying the runner with an electrolyte capsule I look ahead for Chris and he is out of sight. Gone. Vanished.  He has put the hammer down and finishes 8 minutes ahead of me.

But that is yet to come.  Glances at my watch tell me that my time isn't going to be anywhere near 6:30. Out of the loop and onto the park road for the last mile back to the start finish, I glance behind me to see if anyone is coming.  No one is, so I walk. And walk. With a couple of hundred yards to go, and most of it downhill, I finally run and cross the finish in 6:41:59.  It take me a leisurely 1:22 to run from the last aid station to the finish.

I Thought I Could
And now to find the answer to the Zen question. I approach RD Richard who is working away on his tablet.  He shoos me away for a few minutes so he can concentrate on what he is doing. I wander away, change clothes and return.  He tells me that no one in my age group has yet finished - that's another Zen moment, or maybe I'm Schrodinger's cat. He checks with the timers, since he only gets results in batches and hadn't received the batch with my finish, and confirms that I am the age group winner. I'm awarded the winner's seat cover towel and proudly pose for my photo.

First in age group (60-69) of three runners and one DNS. Of males 57 of 67. Overall, 79 of 124.  My fifth, and slowest (by 31 seconds) Rosaryville Veterans Day 50K. But the second time I've won my AG.

Barry and Gaytri both finish after a bit.  We head off to Bojangles for nourishment before the drive home.
Happy with Medal and Age Group Auto Seat Towel Premium
( Photo by Jon Valentine)
Swag: hat, medal, bib and AG car seat towel.

1 comment:

  1. Yet another fine R50K finish and blog post. Good running with you at the first 1/6th. Sorry to have provided erroneous pacing info.