First, I have to say that I was encouraged to hear so many people speak with such respect about this race course as I waited for registration and then at the starting line. There was a number of veteran trail runners who’d volunteered to help, so I asked them why they weren’t participating this year. They simply replied,” It is too tough of a course.” Gulp.
I was pretty confident that I could run this course with over an 8,000 ft. elevation gain, but those pre-race jitters definitely encroached on me. My strategy was to give respect to the elevation gain of this race and start out at a controlled pace. I felt good during the first 8-10 miles. I felt no pressure to exert the race effort to improve my standing in the race. I ran my race and didn’t let my heart rate increase to that point of no return.
It was just after this point in the course that I came upon a couple guys who were enjoying the trail and their conversation. The trail was rather technical and I’d run this section many times. I followed tightly behind them and waited for a side trail where I could pass the runners. But during this time of running with the two fellows, they engaged me in their conversation. They wanted to know if this was my first 50K, where I was from, my age, etc. Typically, runners will size up those running around them so they know where they stand in either keeping up with that runner or passing them by. I didn’t mind answering their questions but I knew my pace was faster. I was so much more familiar with the course and knew where I was going; so when the opportunity presented itself, I confidently darted around the two runners.
I felt good stretching out the distance between myself and the two I overtook. Five to six miles later, I started to hear their voices off in the distance. Within the next two miles the runners that I overtook had caught back up to me. I could feel that I had expended the energy distancing myself from them at the expense of eventually slowing my pace. At this point, they not only caught up but overtook me; and they were on their way to a slow steady pace that left me behind. There was a point later where I caught up to them as I approached a long hill. I made the mistake of thinking I could surpass them on the hill. But, the cost of energy and fatigue that it cost for this short burst to pass them on the hill caused me to drop considerably in my endurance strength, and I severely slowed down in my race pace with no hope of recovering soon enough to catch back up.
One comment I recall hearing on the steep hills was, “It makes more sense to walk the hills. I’m keeping up with your jog pace and I’m walking and conserving my hamstrings.” After a number of days of reflection on this trail running truth, I’ve realized that I could have engaged the strength of my gluteus. With such drastic elevations in a race like Lost Lake, you have to be ready to engage all your muscle groups to sustain you for the long haul.
During the second half of the course, I recovered by focusing on nutrition and proper electrolyte intake. It was in the 28th mile that I tested my marathon pace on a long level trail. I felt good about the ability to run at a fairly strong pace. I did not have the strength or energy to slow jog on the last elevation gain at mile 29 but did make pretty good time downhill to the finish line. I look forward to seeing how this translates into my road races later this year.
My time: 8 hrs 22 mins. Two words: Brutal Course.
What’s the toughest race you’ve ever ran?
Lost Lake 50K Race Elevation Profile