This past weekend, the boys from Corvallis and I headed out for our 2nd running adventure of 2013. We piled into the minivan and took a little trip up to Olympia, WA to run the Capitol Peak Ultras. Frank, Sander, and Dennis were running the 50 mile race, while I chose to run the JV version of 55K. It was a fun filled weekend with great conversation by the campfire, beautiful views on spectacular trails, and lots of PRs to boot!
I had a lot to think about coming in to this race. Capitol Peak was to be my first attempt at 55K, so a PR was a given. But, it’s the hilliest course I’ve ever run so I worried about how hard to race it early. Couple that with my nutritional disaster from The Grand Canyon and there were a lot of variables that could easily derail my day. Then I asked Pam if she thought I could break 6 hours and she bluntly told me, “no” in the most compassionate voice she could muster.
I spent a lot of time prepping for this race. I studied the course and made a race plan—setting up a “perfect day” goal of 6 hours, a “good day” goal of 6:30 and a “shit hit the fan day” goal of 7 hours. But more importantly, I came up with a totally new nutritional strategy:
- 1 270 calorie/20oz bottle of Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem per hour
- 1 S cap per water bottle
- Eat whatever looks good at aid stations
- Switch to 1 gel every 30 minutes if Perpetuem stops working
I started out easy, like I always do. In fact, I started out so slow that I was running with more of the 50 mile racers than the 55K racers for the first hour or so. Looking back, I probably started out too easy but I’m so afraid of blowing up at the end of a race that I never have the balls to push it early. I’m going to have to take a risk some day, just to see what kind of adversity I can overcome during the final stages of a race.
The first 20 miles of the race were pretty uneventful. I spent the majority of the time plugging away at the course—running the flats pretty easily and power hiking the hills with a pretty good effort. I was working, but not pushing super hard. I had some pretty nice conversations with my fellow runners, some of whom I knew and some who were new to me.
Miles 15-20 were my favorite on the course. They started out with some sweet single track down hill mountain bike trails with really nice S-curves and some really soft and runnable terrain. This section ended with the hardest climb of the day as well. According to the race description, “the grunt” climbs about 1000 feet in just under a mile. I was dreading this climb from the day I entered the race. But as it turned out, I actually enjoyed the climb as you can see by the picture taken from the top!
After mile 20, all that was left was to retrace my steps back to the start. All of the major climbs of the day were finished and now was the time to push for home. By this time, I knew that I wasn’t going to make my 6 hour “perfect day” goal, and I was also behind my 6:30 “good day” goal. I was a little worried that during the last 14 miles, I would slip below my 7:00 goal as well. Since there was nothing I could do about it, I just headed for home to see what the day would bring me.
I really wanted to hammer home during the last 14 miles, but for some reason I just couldn’t get moving as fast as I wanted to. My hips, right knee, and right pinkie toe were hurting me and my energy levels were starting to fade. Also, I was mostly alone for the rest of the race and didn’t have anyone to chase down. In fact, I only saw one person on the way back to the start/finish line so I popped in my headphones and tried to make good time.
Some where around mile 25, I started to get a side ache and decided that I was drinking too much Perpetuem. So I switched to nutrition plan “B” (1 gel every half hour). Gels didn’t want to go down either so I just did the best I could at the aid stations and eating whenever I could.
The final 2 mile climb of the day really took a lot out of me. It wasn’t a huge climb, but it seemed like it took forever. With only 600 feet of vertical gain, I should have been running it but I ended up walking a lot of it and it cost me a lot of time, I’m sure. I spent a lot of time looking for someone to catch me from behind, but I never saw anyone.
The race finished with 4 miles of gentle downhill running. Lots of time could have been made up here, but I just didn’t have much left in me. I shuffled those last 4 miles much slower than I wanted to and crossed the line in 6:15:47. I was pleasantly surprised when I crossed the line because I made up a lot of time on that 6:30 time goal that I was behind at mile 20.
If I had to grade myself on my day, I’d give me a “B.” I finished with a decent time. I executed my race plan well. And I pieced together more of my race nutrition puzzle . But I didn’t close as hard as I would have liked to and my body didn’t ever really feel great during the day as I had to deal with a lot of aches and pains that were kind of annoying.
In the end, the day was a success. Capitol Peak is an amazing race course. The race director, John Pearch, really does put on a great event. The course was marked better than any race I’ve ever participated in. The home made soups and the blue grass band at the finish line were really awesome. And the rain held off until I finished the race. It was a good day.
Pam may have been right when she said I couldn’t break 6 hours, but at least I beat her Capitol Peak 55K time of 6:25! In all fairness, though, I guess I should tell you that she got lost and ran an extra 2 miles. I’ve still got a lot to learn about running ultras. But I’m enjoying the process and having a good time running with my friends. What could be better than that?