Be realists, demand the impossible.
One of the things on my Bucket List this year in the running department was to attack my 50K PR from when I won the Chicago Lakefront 50K in April of 08. I felt my 4:15 was pretty weak sauce although I was dealing with the Sinus Infection From Hell at the time that I had picked up 2 weeks before flying to the US for the race. I had never had a sinus infection in my life before that and I chalk it up to the pollutants and crap in the air that got clogged in my sinuses after a cold that did me in. So, when Andris, the manager for the Latvian 100k and 24 hour teams told me he got the OK from the IAU to put on a World Cup 50K in Daugavpils this yr, the race was immediately added to my plans. First off, I needed it as good speedwork for my 100K prep. Secondly, I wanted to attack my PR.
On Thursday, I took the overnight train to Rezekne(first stop past the border) and from there it's about a 90 min ride on the bus to Daugavpils. I got to Daugavpils just after 9am and Andris met me and we walked to the dorm he had reserved for the runners. Now, I thought dorm- ok it's probably going to be a dive but as long as I have my own room and access to a kitchen I don't care. Dive it was not- the rooms were nice and clean and had their own bathrooms! Each floor had a BIG kitchen with dishes and everything you need! Most important, it was QUIET and I slept like a rock! SCORE- I can cook for myself before the race- best option. Seriously, the place was super nice and at only 10 lats (about 20 bucks) a day, it was a super deal. It was only about 500m from the start/finish too boot and 500m to the grocery store. So I did a grocery run, made some lunch and crashed for 3+ hours in the afternoon. I don't get to sleep much on the train when I get off at Rezekne( it's a 13 hr ride from Moscow-Riga is 16) because we hit the border out of Russia at 5AM, cross into Latvia about 20 min later, and once we clear the Latvian side, I have 50 min left til I have to get off the train at 7AM-I'm always flippin' tired when I have to get off here whereas it's still another 3 hours the rest of the way up to Riga and I usually go back to sleep right after said border crossing and sleep much better when I go all the way to Riga. It was still 30+C on Friday and I did not want to go out during the heat of the day and drain my energy. I got up and went for a walk early evening.
By Saturday, it had cooled down:) Andris was hanging out in the dorm most of the day Saturday and after I came in and made myself dinner- heaping pile of cheese tortellini and pasta, I went downstairs to get my number from him. 8PM -he informed me I will likely have company tomorrow- last minute entry from a Lithuanian woman-2:48 marathoner. DRAT that's the kind of company I doubt I can keep up with. I knew the women's side would be close between me and Sada Buksniene. Sada recently won the 100K in Nida(Lithuania) at the end of May which was also their NCs. She cut 45 min from her time from last year in the process. She also kicked everyone's butt and won in Nida last yr too. Sada also used to be a world class race walker on the Lithuanian Team and competed in several World championships finishing as high as 9th. She was definitely one to be respected. So, as Andris said-top3 were going to be close in the 50k.
Race morning I was up at 6 for breakfast. I go for oatmeal and Vitargo Professional w/ caff to get me moving. I eat a good 3.5-4 hours pre race to have plenty of time to address any tummy and potty issues. Race was at 10. I also downed a bottle of Vitargo Carboloader for extra calories. I use it to help load a few days before and use it after the race as part of my Arsenal for Recovery. Calories are your friend if you run ultras-you need them before, during, and after the race. 500ml of Sponser lactate buffer 90 min pre race and my l- arginine lactate buffer caps and I was ready:)
I delivered my bottles to Inara Fedorova who would be crewing for us today and manning our table. She was our 3rd woman last yr on the 100k team and a really nice person. We roomed together in Gibraltar. She did a great job crewing. It was so nice to see her again. Course was 1 2k lap then 12x4k laps-same as the marathon course from last year +2more laps. Each lap has a nice hill you get treated to every time in order to get onto the loop. There was also water at the far aid station 2kup the road at the turnaround. This race was well organized!
My tried and tested feeding plan was simple but it works:
-From 6k on-250-300ml of Vitargo as needed on each loop(12 bottles so every 4k) I usually drink every 4-5k as needed.
-Starting at 45 min then every 45 min thereafter a GU Roctane gel
-1 Endurolyte capsule pre race then 1-2 every hour as needed starting after 60 minutes into the race
-Last hour of the race-switch from Vitargo Electrolyte to Vitargo Professional with caffeine
My legs never really got nasty lactic buildup thanks to proper nutrition on the course.I firmly believe as does my coach that nurtition during the race is just as important as the training and preparation itself. This is exactly why it's impossible to put down respectable marathon performances at Russian marathons-crew can't cover you every 5 k along the course and aid stations are far and few and at best have itty bitty cups of water and maybe a few breadcrumbs, and sometimes the occasional banana. Only in Solnechnogorsk was the organizer nice enough to deliver bottles to the tables at aid stations for runners who wanted to do this -thank you Leonid Burikin for understanding this is a necessity not a luxury.
So, back to the 50k. Just before the start, the announcer called us all out to the starting line one by one introducing us and listing our top running accomplishments. This was the first time an IAU World Cup 50 was held in E.Europe. My plan was to go out at 4 hour pace in the first 25k and gradually pick it up from there. Modesta- the 2:48 marathoner went out at 4.20km pace-hell. I let her go there is no way I'm going out at marathon pace -that's suicide. A 50k is run just below marathon pace.
I prefer to be tactical and knowing Sada would be an even pacer, went out with her right at 4.50/km pace (4.48 is 4 hour pace). 4.50 was really really slow for me but I'd rather be in control early on and save energy since the first half of any ultra is just a formality and the race begins somewhere in the last 10-20k or so. 4.50 was just too damn easy though (like 7.45 mile pace)and I decided to settle in at 4.45ish /km(about 7.40miles) for a while. I was comfortable. Sada dropped back a little and I was going to be alone...well no I just caught up to a guy who also wanted to try for a sub 4 so we decided to help each other out. I would run with him until about 45k. It was breezy too and he was taller than me so at times I tucked in behind him:).15k-1:11 and change(I feel like I'm out on a Sunday jog but slow is the key here early on) First half marathon-just under 1:40. 25k just under 1:59-oh dear I am really going to have to stick to plan and work the 2nd half for a sub 4. This pace really was easy and I was still hardly working yet. 30k-2:19 as we both gradually began to go to work. Modesta was a good 4+min yes a good km ahead of me but between 25 and 30 I noticed the gap was down to 2 min. Still too early to move so I just sat. Nice thing about ultras is that you have lots of time to pick people off along the way which is exactly what started happening from 30K on. My pacer and I were down to 4.30/km now and it became a game for me to count how many guys I could chick along the way.
35k- Modesta is in plain view- gap less than a minute now. It's like the carrot in front of me at this point.Naaaah still early to bust ass and move. 40k -She's now less than 200m ahead and I had 2 options-stick with my pacer -that would mean we will pass her or simply catch up and sit on her rear til closer to the finish then go like a bat out of hell. Either way I'd have a windblock;) I took the passing option. This would lead to a dogfight all the way to the finish. My mistake was not going with the second option and saving the last of my ass busting reserve for the last 3-5k. Marathon- 3:14 (remember I run my 50s slower than marathon pace) -at this point my pacer and I are hauling ass into Negative Split Land.I really wanted to save the 4.30km and faster pace (sub 7.20 miles) til after the marathon and closer to the finish but this is whatwe were running. My legs were still holding up but Modesta and I were now pushing each other pretty much the rest of the way. I ended up finishing second in a dogfight in the final lap-drat! I was first in the Latvian National Championship but honestly can't complain because I cut TWENTY ONE MINUTES from my 50K PR!! OK, I can check that one off the Bucket List this yr.
Honestly, I'm 36 and have been running competitively since high school and seriously since college. Given my age and experience, I did not even know it was still physically possible to improve like that. This was only EIGHT days after running a half maraton at 4.15 pace as my final workout. I had serious doubts I was going to be fresh enough for this 50 because I sat on 100+ mile weeks until the week of the half and only dropped down to 8-10km a day ez runs after the half to rest my legs. I can't afford to ditch the volume too long because I need it for the 100k. Surprisingly, my legs felt good- no nasty lactic buildup in the 50k and I could work effectively in the 2nd half closing in on about a 4 min neg split. The weather gods blessed us though- it was 15-17C at the start 88%humidity/sunny/muggy in the first hour then, thankfully the clouds rolled in. As I got closer to the end, I just felt I had to do this - now or never. How often do I get a decent weather day for a long race where it's not hotass hell? I'm not getting any younger, tomorrow is promised to no one and If I wanted to try for a 3:50 I needed to just dig in and get the job done.
Irina Stula- our top 100k runner from last yr sat out the 50 because she is directing a half marathon next weekend. Inita Bistrova finished 5th in the 50k and will be our 3rd woman this yr. If Irina and I have good races and Inita does well too, we could have a pretty good women's team this yr.
Important side note- I would really like to send a BIG THANKS to the folks at Vitargo Russia for coming through for me in the 11th hour. I have known since January that they were planning to hit the market and kept checking their site for updates. I had contacted them a few times, but they were still setting up for the retail market. TWO WEEKS BEFORE THE 50, I'm getting desperate. I do not have enough left to get through this race nor do I have enough for the 100k Worlds in 2 months as I could not haul enough from the US last time I was there plus, they were sold out everywhere I went and I was only able to find a little and haul it back in October of last yr. I have tried lots of different stuff over the years but this drink WORKS. It hits my system fast and does not upset my tummy. It's really the best option for long endurance events when you need calories fast and continuously. So I called the distributor and so far they were just selling product to the hockey team, basketball team, etc in bulk. Then they emailed me back after the call and asked me to fill out an athlete profile application and asked what I needed. So, I sent the app and a list back and made arrangements to pick up the goods 3 days before I was to leave for the 50k. These guys met me with the goods and came through for me when I really needed it-major great job here :-)
I'm doing easy running this week and may do the Belochka (squirrel) trail marathon on the 16th strictly as a long training run. I have not done Belochka in 5 years -have won it 3 times and 2wice been 3rd each time just doing it as a fun training run. Coach then said we may throw in a 60k slow ez -work on the slow twitch muscles training run at the end of the month about 6 weeks out from the 100k. We will play this by ear because being on high volume training is a delicate balance between pushing the envelope and recovering properly. The former is needed to get a good 100k but the latter is needed just as much as part of the process.