It's become apparent I might be backing myself into a corner. My first 50K is about 11 weeks away at the Rocky Raccoon 50K on November 5th. It has an 8 hour cutoff. For a lot of people who run a road marathon in sub-4 hours, I'm sure this concern seems unwarranted, but let's break down my anxiety, shall we?
The race starts at 6 am, so I'm trying to go with the plan that I'll fast hike, not run, that first hour or so in the dark, especially since I'm pretty night blind, it's my first 50k, and I've never been on this trail before. Better to take it as a warmup at the beginning, than to take a nasty fall and either DNF or have to lug my injured carcass another 30 miles.
So with fast hike for 3 miles, that leaves me a 15 min/mi pace for the next 28 miles if I ran a consistent pace. Yes, my road marathon pace is a 12:45 min/mi, but that's on road. So put me on trail, add some roots and loose rocks, and I'm easily a 15-16 min/mi pace. And that's not adding in the highly probably gradual slowdown through the day as it heats up and I get tired.
I'd like to think when the weather cools down that I have sped up some naturally through all this marathon training. But have I? And do I really have to wait until mid-September to see any of that?
Then, there's some improvement that may be gained in just running more trails. You get a better sense for where to place your feet, so you can traverse the terrain more easily and not lose time to picking footing. But there's a limit to how much time I can reasonably spend on trail when they are all at least 25 minutes away.
And then there's the fact that I have several other races on my calendar before November 5, including the Chicago Marathon on October 9. It makes that the 50K will be here before I know it!
So what to do? For now, try to calm down and see where my pace is in another few weeks. I think another calming element is knowing there are always other races. If Rocky Raccoon 50K just isn't working, scrap it or run the 25K and then 2 weeks later, there is the Wild Hare 50M/50K/25K in Warda, TX. With a longer distance like a 50-miler available, they have a time limit that would be much more doable. It's a 15 hour course limit!