Saturday, January 10, 2009

2009 Frosty 50K - Winston-Salem, NC

Frosty 50 collage by Shannon Johnstone
A cold 33 deg at start

Ultra running has always been a mystery to me. Running 50 miles in a week leaves me broken and lifeless. How can someone run 50 or 100 or more in day?
My current theory is that the mileage doesn't kill you, it is pushing yourself too hard that does it. I am not saying that I could run 100 miles in day, but I could run 50 miles a week a little bit slower and feel a whole lot better.

The Frosty 50K (31 miles) would be the first (and maybe only) Ultra
Humiliation: realizing you
and your girlfriend
are wearing matching shirts
Marathon for Shannon and I, and it is probably one of the easiest Ultras out there. "Ultra Marathon" usually means running 100 miles over mountains, but this is pretty flat and only 5 miles longer than a marathon.

With my "bonk" at the City of Oaks marathon, I had not successfully run farther than 18 miles since the great "Chicago salt crisis" back in October. So my plan for the Frosty 50k was to go very slow and be able to finish. My goal was to not push myself too hard.

In past races, I have run faster than Shannon, so I thought I would take it easy by running with her. This plan was not only overconfident and condescending, but quite painfully stupid.

START: We started out at a comfortable 9 minute pace while talking with local Ultra runner celebrity Laura MacLean, who did a 50k the weekend before, and was trying to talk us into the Falls Lake 50k in two weeks.

Laura MacLean and I, at about mile 5

MILE 7: we had to step through an ice cold stream up to our ankles, and on the other side was a patch of ice that caught Shannon like a trap. She was paralyzed there on the embankment, her hands on the ground and her butt stuck straight up into the air, unable to move for fear of sliding back into the water. I managed not to laugh too much, and gave her rear end a little assist up the slope.
MILE 13: my hamstrings started to get tight and sore, which always happens on long runs but never so early. I said to Shannon, "you go ahead, I'll catch back up you", and I stopped to pee and stretch a little bit. This is where things got hard.
MILE 15.5: I saw her again at the turn around, where she discovered she was the 6th place female. They only give out awards to the top 3 finishers, so this sparked her little competitive streak and she started to pick up the pace.
MILE 18: I finally caught back up to her, but it took an enormous amount of effort, my legs felt like lead. She had passed another woman, which made her run even faster, "Sorry, I want to stay in fifth place", and she took off. I let her go, thinking "she can't keep that up".
MILE 23: Wrong. At the last turn around, I saw her coming back, smiling, and going faster still. My plan to take it easy went out the window, and I had to catch her again. After all, she was one of my rivals on Athlinks and I loved to tease her about my perfect 39-0 record against her.
The Duchess of Frost
MILE 27: It took every thing I had, but I finally caught up just past the marathon mark. This was the farthest either of us had ever run, so we celebrated with a "yeaaa". I was in a world of hurt at this point, breathing really hard, and when we stopped at the aid station, I was afraid my wooden legs wouldn't start moving again. This is where Shannon saw the 3rd place female only few hundred yards ahead, and took off like a rabbit. I let out a very loud groan, "oh, come on!"

MILE 28: We passed the woman, who was very gracious, congratulating Shannon, "great job, your the 3rd female now!".
MILE 30: All energy now was diverted to my legs and I could no longer suppress moans of pain. "Uggghh". Shannon asked if I was OK, but I couldn't answer. I just leaned forward and focused on putting one foot in front of the other so I wouldn't fall over.
We got through the finish line just under 4:30. After we changed into some warm clothes, Shannon collected her trophy which entitled her "The Duchess of Frost".

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