On Saturday I finished my first race of the year, a 50K race in Rodgau, Germany, not far from Frankfurt. I believe this race is the first ultra of the year that takes place in Germany, so tends to be a meeting place for the Ultra scene as they begin a new year. As my wife and I arrived at the sport hall to collect my start number I passed several familiar faces. As I waited in line, Monica from the running club in Karlsruhe stopped for a quick chat, we run several of the same races each year, she ran her first 100-Miler last year, the same on that I ran the year before.
After I collected my start number, my wife left to meet an old school classmate that lives in the area, and I headed into the big gym to wait for an hour or so for the start of the race. I chatted with a couple people I knew, then found an empty chair on one wall and relaxed for a while. About 15 minutes before the race I walked the 850 meters to the start, arriving a couple minutes before the start, good timing, I didn’t have to wait too long in the near freezing temperature. I was surprised to see a light dusting of snow on the ground, and hoped the trail wasn’t icy.
My thoughts were interrupted by the last count down and the starting pistol. I was positioned near the back of the roughly 1000 runners, so patiently waited for the wave to move forward. After a minute or two I was able to walk, then run forward, we wore embedded chips in our start numbers, so our race started when we ran over the timing mat.
I flowed slowly forward with the crowd, it would take a few minutes before we had elbow room. The course consisted of a relatively flat 5K loop, starting in a forested section, with an aid station at 0.8K, roughly a 1 kilometer stretch of field, 1K of forest, another kilometer of field, then back in the forest to the start – 10 rounds for 50 kilometers. The weather was not bad, a slight wind, around 0°C at the start, warming up to around 3°C as the day progressed. The light dusting of snow was quickly beat away by the runners, and ground into mud in the forested sections, but still firm enough to run well.
I started out conservatively, running each of the first 6 rounds in a very consistent 31-32 minutes. I felt good, despite limited training, but on the 7th round I started to feel the mileage, I lost about 2 minutes. As I came to the aid station again I got a small snack to eat and sat down for about a minute to rest the legs, before running on. After a kilometer or so I felt better and was able to run through the round, but this would be my slowest round with 36:28 minutes. I repeated my little break as I swung by the aid station, again eating a little snack, but tried not to linger as long. I was again able to run the loop without pause, shaving off a minute from the round before.
As I passed the start again I drew strength from the fact it was my last round, stopped only briefly at the aid station and did my best to keep moving forward. The kilometers clicked slowly away, 46, 47, 48 – I wanted so much to stop and walk, 49, I could hear the crowd at the finish line. I dug in as I headed around the last curve and made my way over a straight-a-way that would carry me to the finish line. My steps grew lighter as I saw the red LED’s that displayed the time at the finish line and somehow found the strength to sprint ahead passing two runners in the last few meters, much to the approval of those supporting us at the finish line. Out of breath and happy I walked it out and did a damage assessment, I felt surprisingly good! I collected a coke to drink and sat for a couple minutes to regroup, then walked over to the sport hall to meet my wife. My 5:31:56 finish time was just about a minute slower than my personal best for this distance, not bad considering I wasn’t even sure if I would finish the race under the 6-hour time limit!
So time to rest up for a few days, then get back to training, in 6-7 weeks is my next race, a 6 hour Benefit Run for Down Syndrome, I look forward to breaking my 51.29 km record!