This is a little late, and since it is a night race I didn’t take many pictures…so least thrilling race report ever. (Also, I just finished reading Timothy Olsen’s Hardrock 100 race report so if you feel underwhelmed by my race report, go read his right after and feel reinvigorated by the magical spirit of ultrarunning)
I’m going to preface this race report with a couple of things. First, this race is the second in a series of local night 10/30/60k trail races called the Capt’n Karl’s series. Second, I ran the first race in this series last month (Pedernales Falls) and it did not go particularly well for me (this is on par with my previous post about being in a funky-funk). I was a bit hesitant coming into this race considering I was trying to use the first two races to gauge whether or not to do the 30k or 60k for the third and I seemed to be failing the 60k pre-test so far.
That said, I decided beforehand to put all thoughts of 60k races and previous race fail shenanigans out of my mind and just run a consistent race. First goal is always to not die. (This might mean don’t bonk. But it also might mean to not die.) Second for this race was just to be as consistent as possible with the pacing and nutrition.
I decided to try a bit of a new strategy this time for hydration/nutrition – I wore my Ultimate Direction Vesta with the front bottles full of slightly extra concentrated Tailwind (http://www.tailwindnutrition.com) with a bladder in the back with about 35oz of water and a considerable amount of ice. I had such a huge issue with the heat last time around, so by loading up on ice I was hoping to keep as cool as humanly possible. The ice on my back was a serious improvement, since the heat was probably the biggest detriment to my race last time.
I caught up with a friend of mine in the first part of the race after blowing through the first aid station and stuck with her for the rest of the first loop. It was fun to run with someone for a while as normally I’m solo for the majority of my races – Elizabeth is way more aware of her pacing than I am, so even though I felt she was going a bit faster than I could handle, I still stuck with her for the duration of the first loop. Turned out the pacing was perfect (I always underestimate how fast I can handle – I have a crappy fear of bonking) and I felt good pretty much the whole loop despite going out thinking my pace was too fast.
I was mentally prepared for the conditions of the race beforehand, as the race director explained to me beforehand that Muleshoe was 90% covered compared to the scarce tree cover at Pedernales (a serious issue for me early in the race when the sun was still up). The drawback to this is that the cover makes everything a bit like a sweltering sauna, so you end up trading just a few degrees of heat for a stifling humidity. I felt pretty good when I left Elizabeth at the start/finish aid station and went charging back into the woods, but I could feel the weather once again doing a number on me. I resolved to keep the pace slow and steady, ice as much as possible, and keep hydrating. I was feeling pretty hungry at this point but at the same time didn’t feel like eating pretty much anything I could think of was available to me.
Side note here – around mile thirteen I ate a cherry jolly rancher and it was like wonderful nectar of the gods for my mouth. Around this point is where I started to crave sugary/sweet stuff a lot, and the thought of drinking Coke at the aid station reduced me to a mindless junkie chasing each aid station for my next sugary fix. I think it was around this time that, lured into complacency by my better than expected performance so far, I got a little behind on nutrition. I can’t really recall filling up any more of my bottles with Tailwind after I took care of the first two, which is something that I have a serious issue with at races. It’s not terribly time consuming, but it does entail stopping, taking off my vest to grab the bags out of the back (switch some stuff around to put them in the front in the future?), then carefully pouring them into the bottles, blahblah. In the heat of the moment it always sounds like an ordeal, but maybe one day I’ll realize that slogging through the miles after not getting enough calories is way more of an ordeal than stopping for a minute to mix up some Tailwind.
Honestly, I won’t blather on about all the minutiae of this race – it really was pretty uneventful in terms of fun and exciting things. There’s a different kind of feeling associated with doing a long night race, I think; it feels a little crazier somehow than doing a long race during the day. I remember when I was at the Ragnar trail summit, and Tanner (one of the founders of Ragnar Relays) spoke to us about how important the overnight aspect of running was for Ragnar – that somehow being out there in the dark under all the stars was something that was very special to the runner experience. There’s something unique about a night race. It’s quieter, perhaps a bit scarier, definitely tougher. At this point I think it’s safe to say that many runners and especially ultrarunners kind of thrive on that unique aspect of toughness. It was definitely a special experience for me to come out of the woods and sprint to the finish in the dark, where the race director Brad was there to hand me my medal (and buff! bonus!) with a bluegrass band playing at the aid station (double bonus).
It didn’t hurt that I finished the race almost twenty minutes faster than I finished Pedernales, despite the fact that Muleshoe is widely regarded as being the tougher course. I’m going to attribute this to jolly ranchers, Coke, and I guess getting my mind right before the race. I told myself to prepare to be out there for as long as I need to be, and whatever happened after that would happen. No being discouraged about being off pace, no suffering bullcrap. Just a good time, really.