Monday, November 22, 2010

Chicago Lakefront 50 Mile

The Chicago Lake Front 50 Mile was my first race over 50k since my injury plagued run at Western States in June. However, I was feeling pretty good going into the race as I had a solid 2nd place performance at the Rock Cut Hobo Triple Crown Series and a surprise win at the Chicago Aids Foundation 10k a couple weeks prior. I also found out when I checked into the race that Oz Pearlman, course record holder, was not going to be in the race this year. I had run this race a couple other times and finished 4th with a best performance of 6hrs and 56mins. So, I thought I had a chance to win. I rarely go into a race with the thought of winning. Especially in distances of 50 miles or more it can be dangerous to be racing against your opponents rather than running your own race based on feel. But, I did it anyway and took off right from the start with thoughts on getting the win.

Very quickly from the start it was a two man race, myself and one other person. I believe his name was Scott. Not sure what his last name was but he was from Bloomington Indiana and he was fast. We did the first 12.5 mile loop averaging about 7 minutes a mile, with me coming in slightly ahead at the end of the loop. In the second loop Scott passed me and very slowly began pulling ahead. I tried to stick with him but I felt like anything faster than what I was doing would risk me completely falling apart in the second half of the race.

I came through the halfway point around 2hrs and 53 minutes. It was at that point that it hit me; I was about ready to break my marathon PR of 3hrs and 4mins as part of a 50 mile race! With my competitive juices flowing, I had not even thought about how fast we were going. It was a little nerve racking, I was in uncharted territory and wasn't sure how long I could hold onto this pace.

In the 3rd 12.5 mile loop the pain started to set in. My opponent was pulling ahead and I was quickly feeling like he had the upper hand. However, I didn't want to slow down significantly. For one, we still had a long way to go and anything can happen. Also, I have found that if I let off the gas, the adrenaline falls and the pain and cramping starts to take over. So I just kept the pace up as best I could.

As I finished the 3rd loop, a race volunteer said they had news: the leader had dropped. I was now in first place, at least 30 minutes ahead of the nearest competitor. With 12.5 miles still to go, I knew I had the win in hand as long as I held it together and didn’t completely collapse. My strategy for the 4th lap was now to keep the pace up enough to keep the adrenaline flowing and the cramps at bay, but not to push to hard until the end was in site.

I came into the finish first at 6hrs 13mins, beating my 50 mile PR by 43 minutes. I was completely shocked, I had no idea that I had the capacity to improve that much. It makes me wonder what else is possible.. Then, a few minutes later as soon as the excitement wore off, the cramps set in and I was rolling around on the ground like a man on fire. Ultrarunning makes sure you pay the piper in pain; if it doesn’t happen during, it will get you after.

Next up: A race that I was never ever going to do: Arrowhead 135. This was Hughs big idea. Peer pressure’s a mo fo. Training involves pulling a tire all over town to get used to towing all my own gear in a sled. Now I just need to figure out how to practice for -20F temps. Oh boy.


Ian said...

Way to go Shan. It was good seeing you out there that day Mr Ensure Man!! You had a good race and did the right thing unlike Mr Scott (apparently). Good luck at Arrowhead. That is a toughie. Go sleep in a Jewel store freezer

Fixated on the Trail said...

This has been awhile Shan, but Congrats on your finish! 6:13 is an incredible time. I have yet to find out what I'd do on a surface like that as all my 50s have been on the trail. However, I am a previous pavement pounder in the marathon. Hope you're recovered now. My guess is that Arrowhead will be 2-3 times as hard on the mind/body compared to the lakefront. Good luck up there. -cr