Leading with the biggest news from this event; The GreekGrl won first overall female! I am a very proud husband and coach. She is really looking good for Javelina.
The Do-Wacka-Do 50K takes place at Sandy Sanders Wildlife Management Area just outside Erick Oklahoma. Erick is to be found in the south west part of the state and is where Roger Miller grew up. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t have a clue who Roger Miller was prior to this race, which benefits his museum, but you should check him out as he has written a few songs that are instantly recognizable American classics that I suspect 99% of people would not attribute to him.
So, the wildlife that appears to be managed at Sandy Sanders includes tarantulas, millipedes, black snakes of some sort, numerous of large black beetles, grasshoppers as thick as rice at a wedding and three white tail deer. I’m sure there is more, for example the GeekGrl said she saw a variety of giant black beetle with huge orange wings that they were apparently flying around one particular part of the course.
I’ve lived all over Texas, even parts very close to the Oklahoma boarder and generally in the west and southwest most of my life and this is rough country. The wildlife tends not to be fuzzy and snuggly and there is little about the land that is gentle or forgiving.
I was expecting this race to be somewhat difficult if only because of the anticipated heat and humidity. I always do poorly in the heat and I really haven’t ever run anywhere that was humid, at least nothing longer than a 5K. The high temperature for the day was 87 degrees and when the race began it was 90% humidity. For most of the race it remained humid, 82% by 11:00, 74% at noon and still 56% when I finished. For me this was like breathing water. I was soaked within the first couple miles and by the end of the first of two loops my shoes were as wet as if I had been doing stream crossings. The humidity pretty much prevented me from cooling off because, of course, the sweat didn’t evaporate. The only thing that kept me somewhat cool were the lower temperatures that mercifully extended fairly late into the morning because of some early cloud cover.
This was an interesting race for me because I was really only doing it for three reasons, the GeekGrl needed one last tune-up race before Javelina, she also happened to still need an Oklahoma marathon and I really liked the name of the race.
Any name, race information or quirky sounding organization causes me to really want to do the race because I imagine the race director has a laid-back personality and good sense of humor, two qualities that I really love in a race director. This race had it all, the name, a "primitive shower" that ended up being a garden hose and a tarp, and a load of super friendly volinteers all in a small town with home-made food and good conversation after the race. This will end up being one of my more memorible events.
However, beyond these non-reasons for actually doing "a race" I didn’t have any personal goals so I just made two up, one that I could control and one that I couldn’t but was at least related to the first. I decided that I would (1) start by running this race hard (for an ultra) to see how far I could get and (2) try and earn a 50K PR.
The 50K PR was going to be a ridiculous goal to begin with because my 50K PR is on a perfectly flat, non-technical course, that is run at night when it was relatively cool and I was in pretty good shape when I ran it. I’m in better shape now but that course, El Scorcho in Fort Worth Texas, is the easiest course in existence.
The going out hard goal was silly but completely in the spirit of experimentation. I remember one year I hired a triathlon coach just to see if it was worth it and he set up some workouts for me that had me going harder than I had previously thought I could. I was pretty amazed because every time I felt like backing off a bit I could almost feel him standing behind me pushing me to speed up rather than slow down so speed up is what I did and I survived.
I got to wondering, “how hard is too hard for me and how would I know without personal experimentation?” Normally in these things I would go out at a heart rate of 140 and keep it in the low to mid 140s for the entire first half of the race. The next quarter I would let it get into the low to mid 150s and the final quarter I would run in the low to mid 160s with occasional spikes into the low 170s if I’m doing something short lived like a steep climb. This race, I decided to start at a HR in the low to mid 160s and just run that until I finished of blew apart.
The strategy worked for about 21 miles and then…KA-BOOM! It was a glorious explosion the likes of which I have never experienced in a race as short as a 50K. As a matter of fact the only similar experience I have had with such exhaustion was through the heat of the day when I ran the Javelina Jundred though my "run" at Rio Del Lago was a close second. It took me about 2:42 to finish the first loop and then about 4 hours to finish the second. Through about mile 21 I was the first place male and then in a matter of seconds I was in fourth place; there were three guys running side by side the whole race. I passed them in the first mile and as I did I heard one tell the others, "We are going to run just like this for about the next five hours. I thought, "Smart" and then forged ahead into the great unknown.
Anyway, it was fairly miserable for the last 12 miles because I had become badly dehydrated, behind on my nutrition and my stomach wasn’t emptying. The sun came out, the temperature soared but the humidity kept hanging around. Somehow I was able to hold on to 4th overall and won my age group, pretty impressive considering there were 15 people in the 50K and me and one other guy in my age group don’t you think?
So what did I learn? In a 50K or marathon I can probably go out harder than I had previously given myself credit for and if I approach a race fresh and tapered this may result in much faster times. I continue to seem to do disproportionately poorly in the heat. I used to mostly blame that on my size and while I am still, and probably always be a “big” runner, my size has been decreasing more than I think my hot weather running ability has increased. I also learned that, probably also because of the heat, I don’t do well in really humid weather. I know I can do cool and humid I just stay really wet. Hot and dry is bad but hot and humid is the worst.
So, what’s up next? I will be crewing for the GeekGrl and probably JT for the Javelina Jundred and I might try to pick up the state of Louisiana during November in my 50-states quest but other than that the only thing I have planned for this season is three marathons in ten days, December 4th – Death Valley, December 5th – Las Vegas, December 12th – Tucson. Three Marathons, ten days, three states earns me the “Ruthenium” level in the Marathon Maniacs, five stars!