Last Saturday was the Cheyenne Mountain 50K run. Since I have been struggling with an ITB injury for nearly 2 months now, I didn't really do much training or thought-preparation work for this race. Nonetheless, I managed to put in 2-3 weeks of half-assed training and figured I would have a shot at finishing the race and maybe even a top-20 finish. But, the possibility of a DNF was a very real concern before the race.
On Saturday morning, I met up with some friends and we drove down together. Unfortunately, only one of us had been training consistently. Nonetheless, we had some good talk about possibilities, strategy, etc.... All the usual pre-race stuff. Once we arrived in Colorado Springs, we picked up our bibs, put on our gear and then waited. One thing that was obvious was that it was going to be hot. Now seventy degrees isn't that hot under most circumstances, but April has been an abysmal month and I would say most of us were acclimated to about fifty degrees as the high temperatures. In fact, I think there it is a pretty safe bet that Saturday was the hottest day of the year so far. Somehow I wind up with above average temperature races more often than not, so I am pretty used to it. And while I am sure it slows me, I haven't had any catastrophic outcomes.
Anyway, after about forty-five minutes of standing around and chatting with friends like Wyatt, they sent us off. My buddies and I had planned to hang together for the first of two loops and go easy. The trouble is that the trail is mostly single track-like and there are several parts of the course that are two-way traffic. We were sort of running alone, but in view of one another. Things went really well for me the first loop. We ran a conservative pace, and I felt pretty good. I had cobbled together a last minute nutrition plan with more carbs than normal figuring that my effort and the heat wouldn't allow me to eat much solid food. That plan worked out pretty well -- basically 1 serving of GU Roctane Brew per hour and 1 Vi Gel, totaling almost 350 Kcals an hour. At aid stations, I would take plain water to help stay hydrated.
Toward the end of the second loop things still felt pretty good. We kept the pace reasonable on the big climbs from mile 8 - 11. While it was certainly getting hot, I felt like I was still in control of my race. Once we started heading downhill it became apparent that one of my buddies (Jon) was not doing so well. (Really, I could tell earlier as he was pretty discouraged when he compared his heart rate to our pace). Jon had planned to run 8:00 - 8:30 downhill and he was leading us at more like 9:30 to 10:00. It must have been about mile 13 when our other buddy, Mike, took off and started running his own race. I stopped briefly to urinate and then resumed. Jon told me to "just go" and he was having a bad day. At the halfway mark, I refilled my water bottles in my race vest with Roctane and took off, hoping to catch Mike. I knew Jon had to go about a tenth of a mile off course to get his drop bag and he would be lagging for a while.
Unfortunately, a little less than a mile into the second loop (mile 16.5 or so), my knee began acting up. The dreaded ITB flare. The trouble is that once it sets in, it isn't something you can easily undo in the middle of a race. And the build up to the pain happens pretty quickly. There is no doubt that the downhill running in miles 11-15 and the relatively slow pace (slow leg turnover) combined to aid in my knee flare up. I knew then my day was done. Before heading in, I found an intersection in the Blackmer trail and stopped to wait for Jon and Mike. After 10 minutes, neither of them came through. I was pretty certain Mike was ahead of me (he was) and Jon had probably dropped (he had). I proceeded on the slow return to the start, took off my bib so the course announcer wouldn't read it, and went around the finish line. That was it, my first DNF.
Jon and I hung out for a few minutes to see Mike pass by the start line on his way to his last loop and wish him luck. Then we headed back to Castle Rock. I am humbled and frankly not entirely sure where things are headed from here.