2010 Derby 50K

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The Derby 50K is a wonderful low key Ultra in central NC. It is three 10.5 mile loops on quiet country roads, with two aid stations on the course, plus an additional aid station at the start/finish/end of loop. There is also a nice warm community center to gather in before the race, so you only have to be out in the cold for a couple of minutes before the start.

1 Race Report

The first two loops were at a comfortable and steady pace of 7:00. The second place runner, Dan, kept about 10-20 yards behind me, moving up to run with me at the end of the second loop. At this point I was feeling good, and I knew I could pick up the pace a little if I had to. So on the start of the third loop, I had a brief pit stop, then set of a little faster to catch Dan up. After a few minutes I realized that instead of gaining on Dan, he was pulling ahead. Oops. I had to increase my pace to around 6:45 just to keep the gap from growing further. I went through the marathon mark in 3:03 at a pace I did not think I could sustain. For the last few miles, it was a struggle to give other runners encouragement, as even “Good Job, stay tough" seemed to take more breath than I had. With 1.5 miles to go, the gap remained unchanged, so I decided I needed to dig a little deeper and pick up the pace or crash. With a 6:30 mile I managed to catch Dan up, who responded by picking up the pace with effortless grace. The last half mile was around a 5:10 pace, and I crossed the line 2 seconds behind Dan. Those few seconds do not show the whole story, as I was not really that close to catching him. The last half mile for me were all out, with numb legs and stars in the vision, while Dan appeared to have plenty of reserve, and he was working just hard enough to stay ahead. I’m happy and satisfied with the result, having run far faster than I expected I would be able to, and having dug deep.

2 What went well

  • The Downhill Intervals on Monday paid huge dividends on the race. I manage to find ‘the flow’ on Monday, with an improved stride and efficiency. While the race was at a tough pace for me, it was also smooth and, for want of a better term, 'comfortable'.
  • Taking six gels and some sports drink provided some extra fuel. I think I would have bonked at that pace without the extra carbohydrate. (Yes, I followed my own advice from When to eat Energy Gels in the Marathon.)
  • I think that the Altitude training (AltoLab) made a difference. It’s hard to be sure with something that you use over many days, as the changes are gradual, but I think it’s worth it. At the very least, I’m used to the feeling of stressed breathing and mild hypoxia that you find with hard running.
  • I managed not to overdress at the start of the race. I hate being cold, and being skinny, I get cold quick. Even in the 2-3 minutes before the race started, I was shivering, but I was the right temperature within a mile or so.

3 What went badly

  • My only significant issue was my left calf wanted to cramp. It never actually went into a full cramp, but I had to focus on keeping it relaxed and it was quite painful. I suspect this is a side effect of the improved biomechanics from the downhill, as I am aware of using my calf muscles more. This just goes to prove TANSTAAFL.