Sunday, June 25, 2006

Race Report:: 80K Fidelitas Night Run

The general response from most of my family and friends when I said I am participating in the Karlsruhe 80K Fidelitas Night Run was that I was totally off my rocker this time – 50 miles, how can anyone do that?

I slept really well on Friday night, almost 10 hours. After a good breakfast I made sure I had everything laid out for the race, rechecked everything about a zillion times, then tried to relax until it was time to go.

The race started at 5 p.m., so we tried to get there about an hour before to pick up my race number – no. 46 which is the same as my age – a good sign? I waited around until about 10 minutes before, did a few calisthenics to warm the muscles up, then found a shady spot near the start – it was 33C/92F and hot!

A couple minutes before the start of the race the race director announced that we should line up, so I made my way to the back of the pack. A lot of people where talking about how hot it was and that they were just going to take their time today. Being my first 80K race this was my plan anyway, so I figured I would have a lot of company.

So promptly at 5 p.m. we were off, but unlike a marathon there was no sudden rush, participants broke into a gentle trot around the track field – I actually walked the first 50 meters with the back of the pack. We circled around the stadium then exited out into the surrounding forest. The first 8K/5M were at least through the shady forest. After exciting the forest we ran about 4K/2.5M through the larger town of Durlach. I crossed the 10K point in about 1:06:00, a pretty good pace despite the heat.

After leaving Durlach we headed over the hottest portion of the race, an approximately 8K/5M stretch that was entirely over open fields in the blazing sun. I passed several people during this part of the race, they obviously hadn’t done any heat training – they were totally wiped out – I hoped they were only doing the 4-person relay.

There were aid stations setup approx. every 5K/3M along the race course. I made it a point to drink at least 2-3 cups of fluid from the beginning. I also was snacking on some salted pretzels – I think this combination helped me get through the first 20K, that and having done a lot of runs in the heat. In any case I had no problem running this part of the course, there was a slight breeze and it was a very scenic part of the run.

So at the 20K point we started climbing the first hill, I immediately started walking, better to save my energy for later in the race. Everyone else around me was walking too, except for one young lady who had just taken over for her teammate in the relay race (4 x 20K) – she was obviously fresh and ready to make some time.

So over the hill, then run some more, down the hill, aid station, through the town of Johlingen, aid station, then walk up the next hill. The second hill was actually in two stages with some rolling hills on top. I walked all the uphills, as did most around me. It was nearing 8 p.m., but was still hot and humid out. I passed the 30K/18.6M point in about 3:25:00 – 20 minutes ahead of my projected 12-hour finish time.

The rolling hills on top of the plateau we had reached where at least forested and in the shade. As I left the forest and made my way down a long downhill section into the town of Singen most of the sun was blocked by the hill behind me – it cooled things down quite a bit.

I ran through Singen and stopped to eat a little at the aid station at the end of town (36K/24M point) – watermelon, a little banana, some wheat cake (slightly sweet) and lots of sports drink. My legs were starting to hurt a little – so I took 2 aspirin.

From the aid station it was uphill, e.g. walking – one of the steeper climbs of the day. It was shortly before sunset and it had cooled down significantly, making it quite pleasant to trek through the forest up the hill. I took my time and just enjoyed the moment, trying not to think that I wasn’t even halfway’s yet!

After reaching the crest of the hill I ran down into the town of Mutschulbach. There was an aid station just as I entered town and it was well manned with helpers, townspeople and a giant screen TV – World Cup of course! I lingered a few minutes and ate some more wheat cake, reapplied some Vaseline on my toes and continued on.

I knew from my training runs along this route that the next couple miles was a gradual uphill climb to the next town. I did my best to try to run this, taking just one short walk break to climb up the side of a water dam that we crossed. This was also approx. the 26-mile marathon point, and what many veterans of the race called the real halfway point - my time around 5:10:00.

I continued on to the next town, Langensteinbach, running down into the town, then walking most of the hill out of the town. It was dark by this time and I was glad to have the streetlights to show the way. At the end of the town was an aid station at the firehouse where my drop bag was waiting. At this aid station I changed from tank top to short-sleeve running shirt and tied my running jacket around my waist for later – it was still too warm (almost 11 p.m.) for a jacket. I collected my flashlight and continued on.

After a short, but steep, climb out of town the trail leveled off and I was alone in the forest (seemingly). It was kind of spooky running with my headlamp, I was acquainted with this from my winter running and knew I had to keep the pace down and just remain alert so I don’t trip over a stone or something.

I wound my way through the forest coming out the other side and started climbing the hill into Ittersbach. Halfway up the hill was an aid station and I drank some sports drink and finished eating the pretzels that I had with me. The sports drink was a different one from the other aid stations and it was not long before my stomach was revolting. By the time I reached the crest of the hill and made my way down the steep hill into Ittersbach I was loosing air at both ends.

I tried to ignore my discomfort as I ran through town but by the time I climbed out of Ittersbach and made my way to the aid station on top of the hill I felt like I was going to lose everything in the stomach. I chatted with the medic at the aid station and he suggested I drink some coke. I drank two cups then trudged on up the rest of the hill, burping the whole way. After awhile my stomach did settle down and I made it a point to drink more coke during the night.

At the top of the hill the path turned right and I ran down into Langenalb where I promptly got lost. I was trotting along having a grand old time, then all of a sudden realized that I hadn’t seen any course marking or runners lately. So after backtracking for 4-5 minutes I found where I missed a turn and made my way over the little little hill and started the long downhill stretch into Maxzell in the valley below.

This long downhill stretch was through a very dark, thick forest and I didn’t see or hear another runner the whole time. Luckily the dirt trail was well marked, otherwise I would have wondered if I was on the right path. I remember passing the 60K/37M as I snaked my way down the mountain, but I was too busy watching the trail to check my watch. My legs were tired, but so far I had avoided any cramps – 20K to go!

After what seemed like an eternity I arrived at the edge of Marxzell, passing by a coworker’s house – I was tempted to ring his doorbell, but the lights were off. On the other side of town was an aid station where I promptly sat down for the first time all night. After a couple pieces of dry cake and a coke I continued on my way – all downhill or flat from hereon.

I again found myself in the forest following a dirt path. With only light from a headlamp it feels like you are running in a tunnel. It wasn’t too long before I caught up with a man and a woman who were running together. By this time I was running for 10-15 minutes and taking a walk break for 2-3 minutes. They basically were doing the same, but we ended up playing cat and mouse for at least 45 minutes as we kept passing each other.

At the 65K/40M point was an aid station where I again plopped myself on a stool and ate and drank. My legs had been really aching so I took another couple aspirin – this seemed to help control the pain without having any other noticeable side effects.

I continued on with my running and walking until I reached the edge of the town of Ettlingen. Here was another aid station, but this time they only offered water – a sign that the finish is near? I didn’t stay long this time, with around 11K to go I was ready to get this over with. By this time I knew beyond a doubt that I would finish – actually I never allowed myself to think otherwise!

I ran down the same street that Ettlingen uses for their annual 10K race (coming up in a few weeks). It was nice to see a familiar street. After reaching the swimming pool the route wove it’s way through the sleeping town coming out in front of the old Kaserne (military base) where I was stationed for 3 years in the army. Most of the rest of the race was on home ground, I had run this stretch hundreds of times in the military.

With 8K to go I trotted on down the asphalt paths that would lead to the finish line, energized by old memories and accompanied by ghosts of a former lifetime. With 3K to go I passed the last aid station, stopping only to get a glass of water, I could taste that victory beer at the finish line.

I did my best to run most of the last few kilometers to the stadium. After a ¾ loop around the track I finally reached the finish line and the applause of those sitting around the restaurant terrace celebrating their finish. I finished, in 10:19:09, a most satisfying time, Whoohoo!

After collecting my finisher medal I walked my victory round around the track, then sat down and drank my hard-earned beer. I had my cellphone with me so called and woke up my wife so she could come and get me. She was surprised to hear from me so soon.

I finished my beer and walked down (8 stairs – ouch) to collect my certificate. My wife showed up about the same time so we went home.

After returning home and showering (very necessary) I had some leftover pasta and watched TV for awhile. I eventually tried to sleep, but this didn’t work at all. Finally about 8 a.m. I had breakfast and decided to stay up. I end up dozing off on the couch for a few hours around 10 a.m., and feel a little better.

Other than two blisters on my longer toes and some chaffing under my arms I ended up in pretty good shape. My quads, of course, are totally shot – I am trying to avoid stairs like the plague today. But I know this will pass and in a couple days I will start getting restless for the next race. My wife’s comment this morning: “I hope you are satisfied for awhile and can settle down”! If she only knew...

Congratulations Jack!

You were (are) as always - amazing, awesome and inspiring.

You made 50 miles sound easy...which can only mean that you have more miles in those legs.

I look forward to your next adventure!
Jack, that is an incredible time for your first 50-miler!!! Way to go. I enjoyed reading the race report. Running in the dark with just a headlamp is like running in a tunnel - very strange.

Can't wait to see what you do next!
Congratulations JAck, I would be tires only to count until 80!!!! You are a very good athlete.
Great report Jack and great job completing your first 50 miler. You made it sound way too easy though. Enjoy the sense of accomplishment, but I am willing to bet that you might already be searching for the next one.
So you're saying you completed the distance AND had to backtrack 4-5 miles?
Incredible! Excellent race. Don't know if I have that distance in me.
My oh my Jack. You DID make it sound so easy. But you've put in the work for sure, and that's why you were so successful. Excellent race.
"If she only knew..." he he
Excellent race!!! And with your backtracking, I'm sure you made the 50 miles!
Congratulations on a most well run race--it sounds like you did great!! I have to love the line when with your wife "She was surprised to hear from me so soon." LOL!

Yes, you have the bug. Worry about springing races on her later this week..or next month!

Congratulations Jack, I am very happy for your results!!!
See what I miss when I take a break from my computer. OMG Jack, you are incredible. Reading what you have accomplished is amazing. There's just no stopping you.

As for the coke. I always have a few sips in the am before a race. I've read elsewhere it works.

I can almost picture your wife making her
amazing report, jack! it was great reading about how you were feeling mentally and physically at different points in the race. what an incredible time, too! i am certain this is the first of many long before you consider 160K? :)
Jack, this is so awesome! Great finish, and fantastic time, for the heat and night especially! I can really appreciate what you had done, and you did an awesome job!
Awesome, Jack, Just Awesome!! I'm real happy for you. I enjoyed reading the report, and, yes, like all have said, you made it sound sooooo damn easy!!!

Onward and upward UltraJack!! You're a wonderful inspiration!

Wow, you sure pulled through great. I'm sure that 10 hr of sleep really helped too.

Enjoy your recovery..."settle down" for a bit. :)
Jack, you have surpassed yourself this time! What an achievment, congratulations! You can be truly proud of yourself. It will take a lot of time until I might even consider running 50 miles, never mind actually signing up and running one.
Way to go Jack! What a phenomenal time for your first 50-miler. I'll be doing a 50-mile stage in my upcoming Chile race, and it was heartening to read about your success. Enjoy a couple of days off - you deserve them! :)
Congratulations! What a great report. That's funny about settling down- it's usually quite the opposite with most of the people I know- gotta go further or faster!
Fantastic!!!! You are really on a roll!! Great race and great race report!! I'm sure you are so proud! Keep up the great running, and take a couple of days off!
good stuff jack! i knew diet coke was good for something!! ha ha.
good race report and very inspiring. good time too.
What a great accomplishment Jack! We runners appreciate how difficult this is to do. I'm waiting anxiously to find out what your next challenge is going to be ... and your wife must surely know you're not done yet!
Gosh Jack, you made the race sound like a walk in the park! YOU DID IT! Although of course, I never doubted you. :) I thoroughly enjoyed reading this entry and felt like I was right there along with you.

The forest part of the run kinda creeped me out. I immediately thought of "The Blair Witch Project". haha

I am in total awe of your accomplishment. Way to go, Jack!!
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