Monday, November 5, 2012

Palo Duro Canyon 50K 2012 Race Report

It's been 2 weeks since Palo Duro Trail Run 50K, but I thought I should put a few thoughts down for future reference. I was excited to go on this trip with friends, but I was not terribly excited about the race. My body had felt a little out of sorts since my 50K race in Memphis 3 weeks before coupled with the physical reactions I was having to race directing The Showdown Half Marathon. This was a 50K training run, no more, no less, before my goal race, the Rocky Raccoon 50k two weeks later.

It's a long drive. 6 1/2 to 7 hours-ish, and there's NOTHING along the way. Traveling with Monica (@thepurplerunner) and Lesley (@racingitoff), we played exciting games like "Name That Crop" (note: we need to learn to identify more than just cotton).

Road Trip!
A super sweet surprise at the hotel. A "Welcome to Canyon" bag with West Texas A&M University goodies  from friend Sarah who I had met when she did the New Years Double!

Pasta dinner was good standard spaghetti and garlic bread. I avoided the tiramisu since I don't do dairy the night before a race, but it looked good! Enjoyed seeing friends like Becka, Tony, Suann, Martin, Mark, Corina, and Hari. The race briefing was a little long-winded, but better too much info than not enough.
Martin and Suann look a little bored!
It's a 20 minute or so drive to the canyon in the morning, and we were there on the early side so parking was easy with great volunteers directing. Annoying that the start location was down a rocky eroded hill so my little rolling, heavy (since filled with ice) cooler had an awful time, so this is a warning for anyone reading this report! A cooler with a handler you can carry!

We started the race in the dark. Maybe 200 or so of us between the 50K and 50M. 38 degrees, and I'm in a race singlet. I knew it could get a little hot in the canyon so I dressed for later in the day. But we're huddling together for warmth and wishing we had gloves. I saw my friends Tim and Mark in the start corral. Luckily, it was only about 3 1/2 miles before dawn so not much headlamp time. The road runners out there made me feel like a super veteran trailrunner next to some of them, which is funny since I think of myself as still such a newbie.
Before the race start

Girl behind me in the first quarter mile to her boyfriend: "Why are we stopping?" "What's the hold up?" "Why's everyone walking?"
Welcome to the early bottleneck of a trail race.

Her to boyfriend: "If you need to just go, pass everyone. You just open it up and go!" Um, we're a quarter mile in. Really the time to be telling him to just "open it up". It's not a 200 meter dash.

Me: "First trail race?"
Her: "Second but this is my longest one."
Me: "Just take it slow. We have a long day ahead of us."
I'm sure she gave me a whatever eye roll.

1 mile in, a wider section and I go to pass the girl in front of me. And just as I'm passing her, she faceplants. Sigh. 3 people behind her stop immediately to help her up. My heart rate zooms up into the high Zone 3. No falls today, please!
Sunrise late in the mini-loop of 6 miles
I was able to run with my friends Gates and Becka for a couple miles on this 6 mile first mini-loop we did.

Next is a 12.5 mile loop. Doing well, feeling fine, I'm holding PR pace. I don't even realize it and end up running with friend Kevin for a mile or so at mile 10 - can't recognize anyone when they are wearing sunglasses, darn it! Thank goodness he told me the next day. I finish the loop, and I'm pacing okay, but I'm getting HOT at this point. I am happy though the aid stations had salted potatoes and coca-cola! And super nice volunteers!

Last 12.5 mile loop time. I get about 2 miles into it, and the heat suddenly hits me hard. I knew it was getting hot, but all of a sudden, it's like the heat is radiating off of every rock, grain of sand, and bush. And there is NO shade on this course. I am overheating and fast. My friend Matt is doing the 50M and passes me at mile 21. I say hi and almost burst into tears. He walks with me for a second. I vent, then backtrack as he has a much longer day ahead and self-deprecatingly talk about how unprepared for this heat *I* am.

I come into the aid station at mile 22 and have run out of water in my handheld a long 1/2 mile before that. They refill my water with ice cold water and sit me on a bench in the shade of a little bush and tell me not to sit too long. I tell them I'm thinking of DNFing. I have a bigger goal race in 2 weeks and heat exhaustion and recovery from that is NOT in my plan. We put ice all down the front of my sports bra, up my compression shorts all around the bottom, and inside my wristband (which worked really well to cool me down). The volunteer said, "What else do you need?" I said, "A pep talk." And he did a perfect job - I was already 22 miles in, I'd come all this way to just not finish?!?

So I decided to JUST FINISH. No more than that. No time goals. No cares. Just safety first. Move from aid station to aid station. In full sun. We were 5 hours in and the big thermometer at that aid station already showed 90 degrees, and the volunteers said the one across the parking lot was showing 95 degrees.
So hot but still smiling.
2.5 miles to Aid Station 2. I meet Julio at the early side who is a super nice guy and we chit chat through a mile or so of this section before he moves on. I'm seriously overheating again and drink all 20 ozs of water a few minutes out from the aid station. They put a ziploc bag of ice down the back of my sports bra. One of the nice aid station ladies takes a wet paper towel and completely cleans off my salt-crusted face. Another girl doing the 50K, a big time trail veteran you can tell, takes ice and wraps it in paper towels and tells me to rub it along my exposed skin as I go. It's the hardest 3 miles next and completely exposed in the blazing sun.
No shade to be found anywhere!
Bike medics come up to me a half-mile into this 3 mile section and follow me for a half-mile. I finally convince them I'm not doing anything stupid today, and I'm just walking it into the finish and they go ahead to find more overheated suckers like me.

Next aid station: more ice. And my gosh, the flies that have plagued the canyon all day (and yes, they are BITING flies) are all over this aid staiton. 1 more mile to the last aid station. A slightly shaded area, that's refreshing.

Last aid station I breeze through quickly, grabbing some ice for my bra again. Let's just get this done.

8:37:53, and my 5th 50K DONE. I'm relieved. It's now 105 degrees in the canyon. It was just miserable out there.
Photo from Monica
I will say the canyon was beautiful, but the temperature swing of 70 degrees over the day was exhausting. Big congrats to my friends Lesley and Tony who were out there to do the 50M and completed 37.5 miles in that grueling heat. And to my friend Suann who, even with a 35 minute slower time due to heat, cemented 3rd place overall female.

Interestingly enough, I ended up 8th female under age 40 of the 15 who started. Midpack with an 8:38?!? That's how you KNOW it was a hard day.

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