Friday, September 20, 2013

The Rut 50k 2013 race report

Leah and me, all smiles at the finish line.  Photo: Amy Groen

I  had a blast racing in the inaugural Rut 50k race at Big Sky last weekend.  I went in with mixed expectations:

Good training base
The course has a lot of climbing, which suits my style
Good taper, good sleep the night before, and good rest the previous week

I had never run more than about 25 continuous miles
I had never raced more than a flat half marathon
I was testing out new shoes
I am almost guaranteed to get too competitive, go out too hard, and spend the rest of the race just trying to hold things together.

It was raining at the start, but the race organizers let us run the original course, so we all started out in the rain.  I lined up in the second row, which in retrospect saved me from the traffic jam farther back in the pack.  The pace up the initial trail was bright, and I let about 10 runners break ahead and kept it way under control.  At the top of the first descent, I was immediately passed by about 5 people blazing down the steep, loose singletrack.  Resolved not to push it too hard on the downhills, I let them go.  Fortunately, I was able to keep them in sight, and reeled them in through the rolling terrain after the first aid station.  I was able to move well on the long, moderate climb to the tram base, easily passing several people.  I arrived at the tram base in about 10th place, a little worried that I had pushed the first half of the course too fast, but otherwise feeling great.

Climbing to the Tram dock.  Photo: Crystal Images
I stopped to switch socks at the aid, but it took too long, so I only switched one.  A quick run down from the tram base and traverse put me on the Bonecrusher climb to Lone Peak.  Once again, I was able to climb well, and passed 4 people on the climb, including Doug Brinkerhoff.  I arrived at the summit in great spirits, fully energized by the cold, misty wind and beautiful alpine exposure.  Little did I know that the descent would be the toughest part of the race.  My lack of technical descending skills was made plain as I was passed by about 5 runners on the long off trail drop.  In addition, my inner thighs and calves started cramping, so I kept it slow, stretched several times, and tried to ignore all the runners fading into the distance.  I also crashed hard on the descent, bruising my ankle and scraping the tip of my nose.  Oh the shame!

Fortunately things turned around once I got back on the road, and I was able to reel in Tim Hartmuller ever so slowly.  Eventually, he stopped to fuel, we ran within 10 seconds of each other to the base of the Africa climb.  I was feeling strong at the start of the Africa climb, so I pushed hard, dropping Tim, and, much to my surprise, fully reeling in Jesse Langner, who had been about 3 minutes ahead of me at the base of the Lone peak descent.  I moved quickly through the aid, and was out about 30 seconds ahead of Jesse.  Battling cramps, I took the intial steep trail slowly, but was able to push hard as the trail flattened.  By the time I reached the base of the final short climb, Jesse was nowhere to be seen, and both Casey and Mark were at least a minute ahead.  I felt great once again on the final climb, but was unable to reel anyone else before crossing the finish in 6.09.

I had a great remainder of the afternoon, watching friends come in.  Of note, Leah had a great run, coming in just over 8 hours, much faster than her time goal.  I think we are both hooked on this running thing.  I would like to keep running races like this.  With a consistent training base this summer, my body is finally capable of comfortably running longer distances.  For racing performance, I just need to get better at running, especially downhill.  Also, the thrill of racing against fast competitors is absolutely addicting.  A big thanks to Mike Foote, Mike Wolfe, and the Runner’s Edge for organizing the event.
Team Missoula, looking tough at the finish line.  Photo: Amy Groen
One other item:  shoes.  I used Hokas for the race, and aside from delivering a massive instep blister, they worked well.  I attribute my relatively strong showing in the last third of the race in part to reduced pounding from the Hokas.  However, the shoe last is too wide for my foot, they are slippery and unstable on rugged off trail terrain, and they allow for sloppy, heel strike running on the downhills, which is not the direction I want to take my running.  I’m currently of the mindset the Hokas are good for long trail runs, but that conventional shoes are better and more stable for off trail and scrambles.  Similar to powder skis versus skinny mountaineering sticks, or a full suspension bike versus a stripped down hardtail 29er, I have consistently been drawn to gear that is agile in the mountains for both aesthetic and performance reasons.  In any case, I’m excited for some cool fall weather and the opportunity to get out see what works.  I’m sure there will be many crisp mornings, vibrant fall colors, new mountain vistas, and reflective moments along the way.

1 comment:

  1. Nice write-up, Brian. And now that scab on your nose makes a lot more sense.