Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Just call me Mr. July: A Ghost Town 38.5 Race Report

The Ghost Town 38.5 is the first ultra I ever ran and I ran it in its inaugural year in 2006 when it was all on road. At that time I was the only person I knew who had run an ultra and my triathlon friends unanimously agreed that I was crazy. Now the Ghost Town is about 2/3 on dirt road or jeep trail, I know several people who run ultras and several of my triathlon friends are now also running ultras so any accusation that I may be crazy is either qualified, “Running 50 miles/100 miles is crazy” or has simply fallen away and replaced by statements like “I doubt I'll ever run 50/100 miles but who knows” or better yet “I'm running the Leadville 100 this year.”

This year it just so happens that my history with the race has been commemorated in print. When the GeekGrl and I arrived at packet pickup the Race Director, Susan, said I needed to look through the swag bag before leaving. We dug in and came across a 2010 Ghost Town 38.5 calender and there I was in the month of July pictured running down New Mexico State Highway 157, a registered Scenic Byway. The calender was funded in part by a grant from the National Scenic Byway Foundation so part of the deal was that a picture would be included that included New Mexico State Highway 157. I was surprised to say the least and now I just think it is hilarious that I am in an ultrarunning calender, a calender which ultrarunning titans Andy Jones-Wilkins and Jamie Donaldson both now have (we'll say hanging prominently on their wall at home). Another runner featured in the calender is my annual Ghost Town friend and competition Marcus proudly holding his finishers certificate from that very first Ghost Town race.

I just had to report on that calender because it was just such an unusual occurrence but of course the real event of significance was the fact that this was the first race of my year long running alongside the GeekGrl. One thing that I learned quickly was that the year of running together will not only be something great to do together but it will held me considerably with respect to my pacing. The one significant problem that I continue to have trouble with is starting out too fast. I know that you are always supposed to start out slow in an ultra but I really don't seem to have an appreciation of just how slow so I usually start off around a 10:30 mile, which feels slow by the time I'm all trained up, but after a while I start slowing to a crawl and wind up with average paces that have put me in at 27 hours 30 minutes and 29 hours 45 minutes for the two 100s I have finished.

What I found after this one race was that if I start out at a slower pace, say 14:30, I don't really experience any reduction in average pace over long distances and maintaining an average pace of about 14:25 per mile would bring me in at 24 hours for 100 miles. Now I'm not saying that I can expect to finish a 50 or 100 at the same pace that I start but I do know that I can certainly limit my overall reduction in pace. I think of this one ultrarunner that I have been in races with named Raj Patel who is very good at starting out slowly and finishing strong. At both Lean Horse and Javelina I left him behind right away not to see him again until about 25 hours later when he goes blowing past me to end up finishing an hour or more before me and he at least looks good when he finishes while I look like a 200 year old man with scoliosis.

So as far as the race went it was great, we had great weather and both the GeekGrl and I did a good job at taking care of our nutrition. We finished up in 11 hours and 16 minutes, we were not last and we did not suffer the most. I have to report on this one guy who for some reason decided to do this race, his first ultra, in Vibram Five Fingers and, get this, his longest run in the history of his life was 10 miles! He was a really nice guy, I spent some time running with him when the GeekGrl passed him just to keep him company a bit and to see how he was doing because he was looking pretty rough. He told me that the only reason he was still making forward progress was because he kept sticking his feet out in front of him to try and break his fall. Also during the course of the race a new course record was set for both men and women and for the fastest time run by someone who live at 1000 feet above sea level or lower. Additionally, for the first time ever there was a 100% finish rate, pretty cool.

Our next race that is definitely on the schedule is the Old Pueblo 50-mile Endurance Run on March 6th but we may stick something else between now and then. In the mean time it is training, training, training for both of us...we had a bit too much holiday cheer.


  1. DUDE! How do you do it?! How do you go from 2 months off injured to 38.5 hilly, rocky miles in less than a month and a half?

    I am so glad to hear you are feeling better. An off season was certainly in order and obviously did great things for you without compromising your fitness.

    Still so tickled by the anniversary race year. You two are the coolest!

  2. I read her race report and it is obvious you were a key in her ability to finish. Great job on your race and especially in supporting her through the miles!

  3. First,


    Second, it's really cool that you are running with Geekgrl this year. I ran Disney Marathon with my husband (until a brief interlude at EPCOT when he was getting beer, wine and subsequently espresso to sober up, while I got all sorts of tasty sweet treats).

    Running with friends and family makes ultra's and other events so much more fun and special.

    Good luck in your future races!

  4. You guys are inspirational. Congrats on a race well ran and enjoy preparation for many more finish lines!

  5. COngrats to you both!

    I was going to say that it is incredible to run 38+ after only running 10, but when you think about the Ultra training plans, the do seem to leave you with a big jump up. I recall that some plans have your biggest run as 32 leaving 18 miles to do untested. This is the same thing that he did (albeit in a very condensed mode).

    How do you like the shoes? I hear either awesome things or totally hate things.

    How many miles does the 100 training plan get to? I am thinking it doesn't get too high, like 40 mile? It is amazing to think that you run 60 miles for the first time untested!

  6. Where's the OP 50 RR? Inquiring minds want to know!