My time goal for this race was under 5 hours. I ran a strong race and consistently achieved or beat my time goals station after station. For example, my time at the half was 2:21:47 vs. 2:26 aim time. The cool weather and firm ground (it had rained enough to make the soil firm) was helping runners achieve fast times.
<--- 5 hours and 5 minutes later... Sprinting for the finish!
In the last aid station (Snowville Rd), with 6 miles left to go, I met my wife and she handed me a bottle of water. I felt fine so I did not stop to eat or drink anything. In retrospect, that was a big mistake. I should have eaten something. I arrived at this station 5 minutes ahead of time, so my projected finish time was 4:55.
The first miles in this last section went fine. I passed a young kid who was apparently falling apart. A bit later I passed 2nd Female runner Kelly Karen, and Plain Dealer columnist Zachary Lewis. Both of these guys were well ahead of me at the half, and they both appeared to be struggling a bit. I passed them easily.
But, with 3 miles to go, I started to feel tired. My pace slowed. I felt hungry and weak. Clearly, I was hitting the proverbial wall. I was out of water. I started walking. I NEEDED FOOD! I kept walking. I looked back and saw Kelly approaching. I asked if she had anything to give me to EAT. She did not. We are only 2.3 miles from the finish.
I arrived at the pavilion, 2 miles from the finish. I was happy to see Susan and Matt waiting there. I asked for food. They only had water. I gladly took water. Bur right there, two people are setting up a picnic. Their van is full with food: All kinds of snacks, chips, popcorn, and cases of pop. I explain that I am running a race and I desperately need food. They are reluctant. I asked for a single can of pop but they refused! "You are not part of our group" they said.
Disappointed, I continue to walk. Everyone that I passed in the last 10 miles, is now passing me, including the young kid. He is half-running, half-walking, but he appears to have a bit more stength than me. I continue to walk. Finally, I see a young lady, holding a basket. I ask for food. "Sorry, I do not have any food, but I have some Gatorade" she says. "YES, please give me Gatorade". She fills half of my bottle. I drink it at the spot. A rush of energy goes through my body and I am able to run again.
Only1.5 miles left to the end. I am happy to be running again. I pass the kid. But I soon need more water or Gatorade and I have nothing. Last 0.7 miles. I am running, but I also take walking breaks. I hear the Brecksville sirens (always at 12 noon - meaning it is now 5 hours into the race). Kiss 5 hours goodbye.
So, I make it to the final stretch. I see my wife and son ready to take pictures. I smile and try to run fast. As I approach the finish line, I see the clock reading 5:04:50, 51, 52, 53. I sprint. If I cannot beat 5 hours, at least I can beat 5:05!
People are congratulating me (sprinting at the end of a 50K, that must be something) and Vince hands me the medal. I am starving so I go straight for the food. Within a minute I eat 5 slices of pizza, with dripping oil and all that. I then hit the cookies. I have never been able to eat right at the end of a race, so this is new to me.
As I lay in the couch, thinking about the race, I have mixed feelings. Even though I did not meet my time goal, my final time is a PR by 10 minutes. I am pleased that I ran 28 strong miles, beating my time predictions. I learned a good lesson about eating during the race. I should have eaten in the last aid station, carry some energy gels and ask my wife to meet me at the pavilion to make sure I was OK (to cover all bases). I will apply what I learned "next year".
Here are my race time splits for the race historians:
Oak Grove - Snowville: Goal: 55 min. Actual time: 53:06
Snowville - Boston: Goal: 49 minutes. Actual time: 49:30
Boston - Pine Lane: Goal 42 minutes. Actual time: 39:11
Pine Lane - Boston: Goal 42 minutes. Actual time: 39:38
Boston - Snowville: Goal 51 minutes. Actual time: 51:34
Snowville to Oak Grove: Goal 60 minutes. Actual time: 71:41