Monday, April 10, 2017

2017 Yamacraw 50+K Recap (April 8th, 2017)

Well the experiment is over.   In 8 weeks I have run three Ultras with the Yamacraw  50K being the 50K time trial with 2550’ of climbing in California on a loop course I set up in a time of 5:02.  This was followed 4 weeks later on March 11th at the Land Between the Lakes 50 Miler in 8:44:51 with 4500+’ of climbing getting 10th overall and 1st in the 50-59 division, see race report here.  The string of Ultras finished this past Saturday (April 8th) with the Yamacraw 50K, well it is said to be actually around 33 or 34 miles, and its 3540’ of climbing.   What I learned from this is that while I could indeed run this many long runs I need more miles in my legs to do so effectively as I felt the previous two runs in this past Saturday’s race and my heart rate also indicated it as well.
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Here is a Recap of the race

Considering the weeks preceding the race had been quite wet race day came with no rain and little wind.  The temperature was in the low to mid 30’s at the start but with no wind was not bad at all and the forecast was for upper 50’s by noon, race stated at 7:30AM.  Due to this I figured to wear a singlet and arm warmers and it was a good choice as it did indeed warm up and while I am not sure the actual temp it sure felt like it was in the high 60’s to low 70’s and sunny.  It was a beautiful day and while for me it could have been a little cooler, and for racing I like it to be overcast, it was all in all great weather.  With all the rocks on the course and stream crossings if it was raining I could see this course being much tougher and treacherous, well at least for me.

Trail Condition
As I have already alluded to the trail conditions were great with the creek crossings not too deep and mud at a minimum, but when it was encountered it was mucky.  One thing about this course is that it has many sections with rocks and roots hidden by leaves but also other areas that were just leaves.  Not sure I would label this course as fast with its more technical terrain in various areas it is still a runnable course.

The Course
The course is advertised as 33 miles, with one map saying 34, and my watch saying 32.3, others were getting 33+.  The mileage is made up of dirt roads, double track, single track and a very few paved sections.  The single track ranged from clean fast trails to areas with many rocks and roots often covered in leaves.  As seems to be the norm for the Daniel Boone National Forrest many of the descents, and climbs, were made up of rocks and in some areas even stairs.  Concerning the stairs in the last 5 miles there was a set of stairs that were very steep and the steps small, well small for my size 12 feet.  Many talked about the stairs and I must have looked funny going down as slow as I went.  There are also numerous creek crossing and even one with a line to hold on to that was about thigh deep this year in spots.  While I am sure many seasoned trail racers may not see this as a technical course I would say for most people it is and thus what you lose on the climbs is hard to make up on many of the descents.   That said all in all it is a great course and while not what I excel at now a-days it is still one that is enjoyable and very scenic.

As far as how the course is run it starts slightly up hill then drops down till about mile 4.5, or so, then things go up for a few miles. At about mile 7.5 there is a steep descent for a mile and a half then a series of rollers to mile 17.8 where things go up again followed by more rollers.  Then came the road that while only showing to be a mile, from mile 23-24,  on my watch sure seemed to go on forever followed by more rolling road and then the final aid station at about 26 miles.  From there to the finish includes a couple good descents with a combination of fast single track, rocky sections and even stairs along with a couple ascents.  You then finish on a descent till you get to the bridge to the finish, which is pretty cool.

Here is a map of the course.

The Race
I came into this race having never run the course or having even run in the area so was not sure what to expect.  Thus estimating what time to aim for was difficult and since I started off thinking it was a 50K (31 miles) and as things went on I started to hear it was closer to 33 or 34 my time goals moved out.  While I would have liked to have gone under 5:30 I was hoping to at least break 6 hours.  Again, not knowing the course makes estimating times difficult as terrain, not just vertical, can dictate time as much as anything. In looking at the topography it did appear there were some good climbs but as with most maps they do not always tell the entire story.  What I was not as ready for were the more technical descents although I should have been ready since this is in the Daniel Boone National Forest, as is the Rugged Red Half marathon, held at the north end of the forest that I ran in a couple years ago and it had the same type of terrain.

Still feeling a little tired from the Land Between the Lakes 50 (LBL50) miler 4 weeks ago I was a little unsure how the race would go so decided to just run and see how I felt.  As with the LBL50 I wanted to go out slower for the first couple miles but still stay up a little farther forward to avoid having to pass people on narrow trails.  From the start my heart rate was in the 140’s even though it did not fee that hard.  Comparing that to LBL50 where it was in the 130’s I knew things were not quote right.  That being said I just tried to stay relaxed.  Not sure what place I was in but based on my finish I was probably in the top 30, or so, thus was good as far as not having a crowded trail and it was stringing out anyway.

There were a number of river crossing and navigated them pretty well till about 10 miles where on crossing one of the  smaller crossing I stepped on a rock that was slippy and took a tumble backwards.  In falling I hit my hip, cut a couple knuckles, bruised a finger which was pretty sore and got nice and wet.  Maybe worse is my hand help water bottle strap broke and the thought of having to carry it by holding to it for 23 miles did not seem all that fun.  Fortunately the bottle had a neoprene wrap so at the next aid station I chucked the strap and just fit my hand in the neoprene and this worked for the rest of the way.  It took a few miles to get things going again and work out the kinks and in that time a number of people passed me but not as many as expected and I was able to catch up, by the end of the race, to all but about 3-4 of them.

The next bit of fun was that at about 15 miles I realized I had a blister on my left heel so stopped to adjust my sock and loosen my shoe a little.  Man I like using the Lock Laces as they adjust very easy without messing around with tying the laces.  By loosening them it seemed to help quite a bit but was still sore.  Not sure if it was how I ran or some other factor but the pain subsided some, did come back at each stream crossing but in general was able to keep going and not feel too bad.  When the blister broke at 15 miles I was not sure how the next 18 miles would go so I am thankful that it went well.

Basically from 15 miles on I just figured to keep moving along and try and keep the best pace possible and look at pushing it in the last 7-10 miles.  The problem was my watch seemed to be short on the mileage so I thought I had more to do than I did which was a little depressing with how things were going.  Once I hit the last aid station at about 26 miles I decided to start pushing on to the finish.  I then saw a trail sign that said 5 miles to the area where the race finished and looking at my watch I figured there was still a chance of a sub 6 hour race.  The problem with my calculations, which led me to think I could finish by 5:50, was I did not realize how difficult some of the descent sections were, including the infamous stairs.  Thus the closer I got to what should be the finish, hard to tell where it was, the more difficult sub 6 hours seemed.

Finally, I got to what I figured was a mile from the finish and started to push it a little more.  Then I got to where I could see the bridge to the finish but did not know how long the bridge was and my watch said 5:59 thus I started sprinting.  I mean running as fast I could and according to Strava even hit as fast as 5:15 per mile, last 0.2 miles came out to 6:13/mile, all the time trying to see the clock and all I could make out was 5:59 then something as I could tell it had not gone over to 6 hours yet so I pushed on.  I realized my clock time was a little off from the chip time as I had not crossed the start line right away but wanted to still beat the clock time to 6 hours.  I did not let up till I crossed the line to see 5:59:42, or so, which ended up being a chip time of 5:59:37.  I ended up getting 21st Overall, 18th Overall Male, and 1st in the 50-59 age division.  While not the time I had wanted all things considered it was good for the day and all the miles in the last 2 months.

Having run a 50 miler 4 weeks earlier I pretty much was going to use the same fueling plan, but for 50K (Approx 6 hrs). So here was my fueling:
  • Before the race, about 4:15 AM as race started at 7:30 but had to be there by 6:15 and had a 40 minute drive there, I had a Modified Bullet Proof Coffee – See recipe here
  • About 1 hour before the race I had three scoops of UCAN in 20oz of water, to preload some slow release carbs.
  • About 20 minutes before the race I took one Vespa CV-25
  • I carried a hand help water bottle with Tailwind’s Green Tea flavor, best flavor to me as it is not very sweet, but did not drink from it until after 2 hours
  • At 2 hours I took another Vespa CV-25
  • Then started sipping on Tailwind at about 2:15 in
  • At an aid station, about 2.5 hours, I took a 33Shake Chia Gel
  • With a long climb coming I took a Roctane Sea Slat Chocolate Gel, probably at about 3 hours
  • During the rest of run I topped of water at aide stations and a couple times added a half packet (100G) of Tailwind
  • After 4 hours I took another Vespa CV-25
  • At last aid station with 6+ miles to go I topped up water and Tailwind and had a cup of coke
  • Took last Roctane at about 5 miles to go 
  • Also took one S!Cap during race, at about 3 but probably needed to take more as it did get warm and I did get some cramping.
I think the fueling worked well as I did not feel hungry during the run or after.  Optimized Fat Metabolism (OFM) and the use of Vespa has seemed to make a great difference in the Ultras over the last two months.  I will say I was thirsty but it was getting hotter so that makes sense.  As I mentioned above I probably needed to take a couple more S!Caps since even though Tailwind has some electrolytes it was not enough.

Every race I run I hope to learn something, even after 44 years of running and this race was no different.  What I learned was that even when things do not go as planned keep moving forward as things can change.  Also, I have realized I need to temper my expectations on more technical courses and while working to descend better I might also work on going quicker on the less technical sections so as to minimize lost time on more technical ones.  Another area I know I need to work on is walking hills as for me if I walk I slow down way too much so for now I run most everything unless it is super steep.  Due to my not being able to walk hills in an efficient manner I just keep plugging along on climbs as it works best for me.

This is definitely a race I will do again, whether it is next year I am not sure as it depends on other races I may want to do but I will run it again.  In most races it is nice to know the course and Yamacraw is for sure one of those races so I think a trip back would make the race all that much better.

While I have heard that this race is good for ones first 50K I have to say – maybe.  It is for sure a beautiful course and a well-run race.   Add on to that the vertical gain is not extreme it does seem to fit into the first time race category.  But I give the “maybe” because of the technical nature of some descents.  If you are there to just experience your first 50K then this may be for you but if you are looking to race it you do need to be ready for the terrain that will be before you.  I say all this not to dissuade you but to make sure you know that this will not be a cake walk as saying a race is good for first-timers may convey.  There are for sure flatter and easier races that to me make for good first time Ultras but if you are up to a challenge, want to run a beautiful course and are not averse to work then this race may be for you. Also, if 50K is not for you they also offer a 20K and 10K.

If you think that maybe 50K is not challenging enough there is going to be another race in the area called the No Business 100.  Here is the description from the race website:

“The No Business Hundred is a 103.4 mile loop course with 11,383 feet of ascent that traverses through the heart of the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area across the state line into Tennessee and back on some of the most scenic & picturesque trails in the southeast.”

Yamacraw 50K
Race Results

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