So, Sunday (Oct 1 2017) was my next attempt at an Ultra. The Blues Cruise 50 K Ultra. Firstly, what a beautiful course in / around Blue Marsh National Recreation Area in the northwest of the city of Reading, Pennsylvania, USA. Very well organized, very well run, 7 themed aid stations and the attendance this year was the largest ever at 450 runners.
So how did I do? Well a couple items to set the stage, I came in with an injury, something with a bone in my heel, walking had even been painful for a few days leading up to the race, but I was determined to at least start the race. We also opted to drive first thing in the morning on race day (for over 2 hours) but ended up not getting to the race until 20 minutes before the start, I had to pick up my race kit, use a bathroom and pack my running vest with fuel and hydration. So needless to say, I didn’t warm up, stretch or even tie my shoes the way I like to for a run (double knot).
I may or may not have fueled correctly either. Started my moring with a Bullet Proof coffee, then half a paleo bagel with almond cream “cheese”, thats it. Don’t get me wrong that’s probably 450 calories but I was fueling to run for maybe 7 hours. During the race I did not eat at all what I brought with me. I brought dried fruit, nuts, paleo cookies and Phat Fudge and I only ate one cooking, a handle ful of dried fruit and 2 Phat Fudges. In total during the run, maybe 600 calories if I’m lucky. I will say, I did not cramp and was not hungry during the run, so I did something right, and it worked for me, but I really think I could have fueled better, at least during.
First 5-10 miles nice and mild from a hill perspective all singleitrack trail, not too technical. The next 15 miles are technical (IMO), again single track, and the hills really start to go up and down. That takes us to where I finished, at the ~26.5 M mark, Aid station 7 (the final aid station) before the last 4.5 miles of the race.
The first 10 or 11 miles went very well, miles 12 and 13 were painful. The heel was starting to really drive a pain up through my heel and started forcing me to change my gate on the downhills and no longer land on my heel but instead my toes, which was driving my toes in to my shoes. At Aid station 4, mile 13.5 my wife was there and we talked for a few minutes while I fueled a bit and we refilled my water and coconut water bottles. I decided to keep going, and asked Susan to drive to the next aid station (she wasn’t scheduled to go to that one for me) because I thought that would be the last one I could run to.
At aid station 5 (mile 18) I was ready to drop again, but my mental was still so good and after the little break at aid station 4, and rolling out my legs that last 4.5 miles had not been as bad. So, we talked and I realized she couldn’t go to aid 6, so the internal argument was could I make it from Aid station 5 to 7, which was 8.5 more miles before I had the ability to drop out and have her pick me up… So, we refilled water / coconut water, I had my second Phat Fudge (basically the only fuel I used for the race), rolled out my legs again, and decided to go for it.
Made it to aid station 6, and just rolled on through, still feeling somewhat ok and then through miles 22 – 26.5 the pain started to get intense. The downhills were the issue, not being able to heel strike on these short, steep, rocky hills was becoming a problem of its own, my toes started feeling it and the uphills were my reprieve. In the ultra world, unless you are a true elite you tend to walk the uphills and run everything else. So go up, was great, and I tend to even pass people while walking go uphill and my heel would hurt a lot less going up. Sadly, to say, when I got to aid station 7 (26.5 M), I opted to leave the race. I could have, possibly, walked the last 4.5 miles but I know myself and I would have tried to run it, and would have probably done more harm than good to my heel.
Having wanted to drop at 13.5 and going an additional 13 miles of trail, 3K elevation gain and 3K of loss, I’m good with that! No regrets, and almost certainly will do this race again next year. Great runners, great organizers, excellent volunteers and themed aid stations!
Now to go get this heel issue diagnosed and start down the road to recovery!