The course is a double loop. Every loop is 25K or 15.6 miles. Most runners had signed up for the 25K. Those (like myself) who sign for the 50K have the option to stop after 25K, but they do not get any awards.
The double loop course is a problem for me. The Buckeye 50K is an out and back course, so you have to run back to get to your car. The Regis Winter 50K has two loops of 8 and 5 miles. It is easy to talk yourself into doing another loop and another loop, and another loop, until the distance is covered. But with the double loop course, after 25K you are back by your car and you have to decide whether to stop or do the entire loop again. It is tempting to stop after 25K, and that's what I did.
I feel guilty because I was not injured and was not excessively tired. I just did not feel like running another 25K loop. Plus, I must admit that I was not well trained for the distance.
The temperature this morning was 40F with a high possibility of rain/drizzling. I was not sure what to wear, so I took a variety of clothes with me. At the start I saw that most people had shorts on, and I decided to wear shorts, long sleeve T-shirt, a light jacket, cap, and light gloves. As it turns out, I felt a bit warm at the top and cold at the bottom.
The trails were muddier than expected (just look at Mel's legs in the picture above). The course is not as challenging as the Buckeye trail, with fewer and less steep uphills and wider paths. I started conservatively (first mile 9:37) but then got faster (9:17, 8:32, 9:25) and then settled at a 9:30 pace. For a while I was running with Mel and Bob Clarke and another guy, until Mel decided to blow one aid station and move ahead. I cleared the aid stations quickly too, so I ended up following Mel.
While I had 3 miles left to finish the first 25K loop, I called my wife to meet me with some supplies. So my intention was to run the full 50K. But in these last 3 miles I started thinking about stopping. My legs were a bit cold, it was starting to rain, and the thought of repeating the 25K felt hard to swallow. I was afraid that attempting the second loop I might get excessively tired, or even injured, derailing my training up this point.
So I made the decision to stop at 25K, while still feeling strong. I even picked up the pace towards the end. I reached the 25K mark at about 2:32 and told them that I was done. And I was not alone. I saw other 50K runners stopping after 25K. If the weather was better and the trails less muddy, maybe things would have been different.
I kissed my wife and sent her back home. Enjoyed the potato soup, took a few pictures, and headed home.
Overall, this is a nice race and very well organized. The trail is definitely scenic, the course was well-marked and the aid stations plentiful, well-stocked and stuffed with helpful volunteers. But it comes at a difficult time of the year when most runners are not properly trained for long trail runs. In the two official training runs, the trails were full of snow. Now that the snow has melted, the trails are muddy.
Next year I might go for the full 50K, even though I am afraid that I have now given myself a reason to think it is OK to stop at 25K.
Damn double loop! :)