Another ultra race banked for 2017 and my first official 50K done and dusted. In the end I missed my 5 hour goal by less than 10 minutes on a course that saw me running too hard too early, in too much heat, and mostly dehydrated. I managed a top ten result all the same, but it won’t go down as one of my best ultra runs ever – here’s the report.
I hadn’t prepared for this race like I had other races in my season. It only got added to the schedule in May and I didn’t intend for it to be anything more than a long run on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of a training block. That it turned out to come after a month of very little training following the Ultra Boucle de la Sarra was unexpected, but I didn’t feel all that unfit. Indeed, in the weeks leading up to the race I had turned in a pretty blistering – well, blistering for me – half marathon time at the Challenge Contre la Faim and, where I had run, I had felt good. Hence, even if this was a race I was doing on the back of less-than-normal training mileage, I still had the base fitness to enjoy the run.
I was up early to get prepared for the trip up to Paris. My train would leave at 7:21am but I was awake by 5:00am and out of bed at about 5:30am. I got showered, put on the lube for my feet and, well, other areas, and then settled in to watch the news, catch up on email, read a little, and watch Ryan Sandes cross the line at Western States. Shortly afterwards I double checked I had all my gear, zipped up the bags, and made my way to Perrache for the train to Paris. Another cup of coffee from the vending machine at the station, a comfortable seat on the TGV, and then settling in to watch Baywatch on the MacBook as I steamed towards the capital and the next leg of my journey to the 50K start line.
Getting to the start line itself was pretty straightforward. A metro ride from the Gare de Lyon, a short walk from the metro to the Bois de Vincennes, and then follow some arrows to the course. Kudos to the organizers for making things easy to find because there were an awful lot of people in the park and some pretty confusing pathways – I would have had issues finding the start/finish if it hadn’t have been for the clear instructions and the marked route from the metro stop to the event.
I checked in, got my number, and got settled in. It was already hot and I drank some water, probably a good liter before the race got underway. I thought that this would be enough to see me through the first couple of kilometers but, as it turned out, I was going to have issues with hydration throughout the day.
But on to the race…
We gathered at the starting line which, because the race was on a certified 1 mile course, was actually about 100 meters back from the finish line. If we ran 31 circuits of the course and added on this little starting section, things should come out perfectly at 50K – nice planning and good to see someone was all over the details. The countdown was on – strangely it started at 7 and not 10, but this made no real difference – and then we were off.
Now I knew I should take things easy in the first couple of hours but, as sometimes happens, I went out a little hot. I ran in second or third place for the first hour or ninety minutes and was turning in sub-5:00 kilometers. Yep, not the smartest thing to do, especially in the heat.
Talking of the heat, I picked up my handheld bottle after two laps of the course (about 3.3km in) and started drinking from that point forward. I was getting through a bottle of about 600mL in about 30 minutes which is pretty good but, as it turned out, not quite good enough. Though I regularly refilled the bottle and took the odd cup of water from the aid station, too, I never stopped to urinate during the entire race. This is a sign of dehydration so, even taking on all that water, I was still not taking on enough. What’s more (and while it might be too much information) I didn’t urinate until I got back to the hotel and then it was the sort of color that is a clear sign that you didn’t drink enough.
So, yes, the speed at the start, the hydration, and the heat were all going to play a big role in my performance today.
Through the first 30 kilometers I didn’t feel all that bad but the heat and the early speed started to bite a little around that point. I took a short walking break and then another a lap later – I wasn’t feeling great and I knew this was going to be a long day out in the sun.
I had been aiming for a sub-5 hour finish and I could see at the four hour mark that this was going to be impossible. Cécile, who worries if I don’t call when I finish races, got a call about the four hour mark where I filled her in on the race, the speedy start, the heat, and the lack of urination on my part. She told me to be careful and wondered if I should finish at all but I told her I would finish, just probably 20 minutes later than I had hoped.
As it turned out, in that last hour I managed to pick it up a little bit and ended up coming over the line just under the 5:10 mark. This was outside of my goal of 5 hours but I’m gonna take it: the combination of a fast start (yes, this was stupid on my part) and the heat combined to have me cross the line about 10 minutes after I had planned. That’s not a goal achieved, but it’s not too bad. I finished in the top ten for the race – I think I was either 6th or 7th, I’ll have to confirm when the final results are out – but I was outgunned, outclassed, and outrun by the first placed finisher who managed a time just two minutes slower than my PB in the heat – impressive stuff.
I drank some more water before leaving the race and didn’t feel all that bad. When I got back into Paris and arrived at the hotel I finally managed to go to the bathroom and, yes, it sure suggested I had put myself into a dehydrated state today. Though I must have got through 6 or 7 liters of water, it just wasn’t enough in the heat of the day.
I jumped in the shower, washed off the dirt of the day, and then hit the streets nearby hunting for some cold Coke Zero to celebrate knowing another ultra off. I’ll fall asleep easily tonight, I think, and then hopefully my legs will allow me to run a short recovery session tomorrow morning in the cool pre-dawn Parisian air.