Five minutes into the North Fork 50K this Saturday I thought to myself: If this doesn’t start getting hard soon it’s gonna be a rough day...
Technical, rocky and steep trails are hard but so are the runnables ones because, well, they are runnable. They push you relentlessly and they don’t give you any excuses to hold back. The North Fork 50K course was 100% runnable. Try as I did to look for any reason to slow down or switch to a power hike pace for even just a little bit I couldn’t find one. The uphills weren’t steep enough. The rocky sections weren’t rough enough. The descents weren’t terrifying enough.
Wait, let me back up a minute to clarify: Nothing about this race was flat or easy. It had a respectable 4,500′ of elevation gain including a couple of solid 1000′ climbs. It was 31.5 miles long – nothing about that kind of distance is easy. The problem was that I wasn’t trained for the course. I’ve been focusing on high elevation, technical running. The steeper, the rockier, the less oxygen, the better. A course like this one intimidated me. I knew I was going to be in a world of pain.
But, I also knew that I could have a blast in the process. So I threw my camera at Ryan at mile 10 and let my legs and my mind embrace the gentle trails and really run every inch of them. I felt like I was flying (yes, for you road runners out there a 10 min/mile pace on trails can be described as “flying”!). I got to each aid station sooner than I anticipated and the only variable that forced me to slow me down in the latter part of the race was the open blazing sun.
Based on the previous years’ finishing times I had given myself a 5:30 goal time. The women’s course record was 5:18. I assumed that I probably couldn’t beat that but I could get relatively close to it. My current 50K best of 5:14 had been on a relatively non-technical and net downhill course at sea level (Seneca Creek 50K in 2010) so I didn’t think anything faster than that would be realistic anyways. Based on the little I knew about this race I determined that, at the very least, I wanted to get to the 3rd aid station in under 2:45. I looked at my watch as I left it: 2 hours 30 minutes. I immediately adjusted my goal time to 5:15 and wondered if I could bust out a sub 5:14. I kept one foot on the accelerator and the other one busy kicking every thought that crept into my mind that included the words “slow”, “less”, or “walk”.
I crossed the finish line in 5:10:41.
Just like at the end of Golden Gate Dirty Thirty and the Mount Evans Ascent, the dark clouds rolled in suddenly and dumped rain just moments after I crossed the finish line. How I would have welcomed the rain when I was baking at mile 25! But with it came some thunder and lightning which, ever since we’ve been getting all these crazy fires, kinda terrifies me.
Anyways, it was an awesome day and I was surprised and happy to have had such a great day on a course that could have easily been a real struggle for me. Best of all, there was a stream at the finish in which to soak my legs, a tasty bbq and cold beers! The finisher award was a hand made pottery bowl which is BEAUTIFUL!
Here are my stats based on my non-sophisticated stopwatch:
|AS |||MILE |||ELAPSED TIME |||MILES BETWEEN AS |||TIME BETWEEN AS |||MIN/MILE PACE|
|MY FINISH STATS|
|Official finishing time
My thanks go out to Ryan who dumped cold water on my head at mile 20 and to Kea who paced me for a very enthusiastic 100 meters at mile 9.9.
I would also like to thank Kelly (2nd overall woman) for being a team player when we hit the hills together in the beginning but also a competitor (who out-kicked me) in the final 2.8 miles.
Of course, thank you to the volunteers and race director. It was a hot day out there. Your tireless cheers and pitchers of cold water at the aid stations and coolers of beer at the finish worked like magic.
And finally, to all the women who ran: You make me love this sport. The fact that 4 out of the top 10 finishers were women (2nd, 5th, 8th, 10th) makes me so happy.