Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Promise Land 50k: Race PR

The last time I ran David Horton's Promise Land 50k in Bedford, VA was in 2008.  I remember enjoying that race and figured I would run it again since this summer -- like the summer of 2008 -- will feature a slow ramp-up to a 100 mile race.  What I didn't remember, at least not in detail, was that the advertised distance -- 50k (31.1 miles) -- is about three miles shorter than the actual distance (~34.35 miles).  Dr. Horton -- a professor at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA -- is an ambassador for ultra running but also, I suspect, a person who enjoys dishing out his unique version of sadism.   

The race this year was held on Saturday, April 25th.  Lisa and I drove down to Bedford on Friday afternoon and didn't arrive to the hotel until after 9pm.  I didn't have to prep much for this race so I was in bed by 10pm or so -- good thing since the race started at 5:30am and I had to pick up my race number about an hour before and I needed ~45 minutes to eat, drink coffee, and use the restroom...3:30am arrives pretty early!  

The temperature was brisk at the start line so I considered wearing a long-sleeve tech tee over my short sleeve but I changed my mind at the last minute since I would rather begin a bit chilled and warm up rather than begin comfortable then have to shed, and carry, layers later.  As soon as we set off we were climbing -- some of it runnable, most of it not so much -- but I felt good.  I thought I would be dealing with some low-level hamstring tightness but whatever issue I was having the days prior no longer existed.  

I wasn't too anxious about this race although I wanted to beat my previous time (7:00:42) so I set out at what I considered a respectable pace and hoped for the best.  About half-way into the race I started a conversation with a guy who looked like Mike Wardian and when I told him as much, he replied with, "If I am then I'm having a terrible day" to which I responded, "Or I'm having the best running day of my life."  We chatted for a while and it turns out the Mike Wardian doppelganger is a helluva runner:  he'd run a 50 mile race the weekend before and had a pretty aggressive summer on tap (Leadville for one).  He had also run UTMB last summer and did so after fracturing one of his ribs less than half-way into the race.  He managed to finish the race with less than one hour before the cutoff.  An amazing feat of mental and physical determination.  At any rate, he asked me how fast I hoped to finish Promise Land and I told him sub-7 hour was the goal.  He was running for mid-6 hours (alright!) so I figured all I had to do was, more or less, keep him in my sights.  I felt good about my progress and my prospect of finishing sub-7.  

The Mike Wardian doppelganger eventually pulled away from me and for a short time I was worried I wouldn't break 7 hours but as I approached the last climb featuring several stairs amid a scenic creek I was pretty confident I'd beat my previous time, although still pushing it just in case.  When I rolled into the last aid station -- Lisa was waiting for me -- I remember asking how many miles to the finish ("5sh" was the answer from the AS volunteer but I had to clarify, actual miles or Horton miles?!?), downed some Coke, kissed Lisa, and took off.  The last five miles of Promise Land are mostly downhill with three-ish of those miles on the same fire road we set out on at the beginning of the race.  I wanted to finish aggressively so I hauled ass -- by my standards -- and pummeled the descent.  I finished in 6:45:16, averaging 11:55 per minute, 102nd among 311 finishers. 

I was quite pleased with my run.  I beat my previous time by 15(!) minutes and my body held up well during the race.  I didn't experience any nausea (maybe it was the unseasonable chilliness?) and my hips didn't seize up.  My quads, the left one in particular, were pretty sore for a few days afterward but I think that was just from running the descents (especially the last one) so aggressively.  Nothing more downhill training won't remedy.  

All in all, a great race and one I'll most certainly run again.  

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