Well, I successfully finished the Land Between the Lakes 50 this weekend. I was reminded how ultrarunning often forces us to be honest with ourselves. I was only marginally trained for the run and definitely not ready for the hills or the 60+ degree weather. That being said, I finished in 10 hours and 35 minutes and met my primary goal of qualifying for the next Western States lottery. Perhaps most importantly I still had a great time.
I headed south on Thursday and spent the night at my parents' place in Ohio where they were kind enough to treat me to a delicious Thai dinner. The drive was long, but it was nice to see everything get greener as I went south. It's been many years since I've been to Kentucky and I was reminded how much I like the rolling hills and forests in the area. The race starts and finishes in a very small, tourist-oriented, town between two large lakes. The race would involve four loops on single-track trail between the two lakes (er, hence the name of the region).
Despite memories of the snow that I had driven through on the way from Michigan, I decided to start the race in shorts and a t-shirt with only a handheld bottle. My plan was to do a 15 minute run-5 minute walk combination. The 10-5 combination I did at the Fall 50 in October went so well it seemed like a good plan. Unfortunately, the unexpected number of hills (nothing high or steep, just relatively unrelenting in a way similar to the area around Pinkney, MI) and the congestion of the first loop made this difficult and I quickly settled into a constant run.
By the second loop, I began to notice the hills and the heat. I even flirted with a little nausea, but it never got particularly bad and I think may have been the result of too many electrolyte tablets early on (I felt better after I stopped taking them). By the third loop many of the shorter distance runners were done so I was able to start the 15-5 combination. However, the hills (and my lack of hill conditioning) required more walking than I hoped and I quickly saw my vague goal of running it in 9 hours slip away. I didn't let the slower pace bother me and focused on enjoying the pleasant scenery and beautiful weather. After being informed that I needed to complete a short 1.2 mile out-and-back (um, I thought I was almost done), I made a final turn towards the final 1+ mile stretch to the finish line.
I'd recommend the race. It was very well managed with well-stocked and frequent aid stations. We received good swag, including a running hat, running shirt, and light gear bag (I'm a sucker for stuff.) We even got a very nice buckle at the finish, although I always feel a bit like these should be reserved for 100 milers. Actually, the buckle is nicer than the one I got at Burning River in 2009. The start/finish was conveniently located near some cheap hotels. I do recommend stocking up on supplies before heading to Grand Rivers as the grocery store in the town is only marginal. As a mini-personal vacation to wrap up my spring break, it was perfect. Thanks to all the race volunteers!
Next big run: Relay for Life