Friday, April 1, 2016

Race Report: Naked Bavarian 40 (20) Miler

Aha! Bet you didn't think you'd see a race report from me soon. At least, I didn't expect to want to write one. I'm frankly not sure I actually did want to write one, but I just have to keep trying things to see if I can't get myself out of this rut.

In January, one of the things I thought would motivate me to prioritize training in my schedule was to sign up for an ultramarathon. Really seems like a gamble, doesn't it?

Surprise! It didn't motivate me to prioritize training. I think I signed up for it on January 15 and the race itself was on March 6, so I gave myself a full six weeks of training. At my best, I could have done that, I think. But I'm coming to terms with the fact that I'm not at my best and I can't count on being able to pull off dumb things like that.

It's not all bad. The weekend itself was a lot of fun and the run was gorgeous, from an aesthetic perspective. Let's explore that some more.

A few years ago, I did the Bob Potts Marathon in Pennsylvania. I rented a car and drove about five hours out, did the race, and then drove back. Even though it was a lot of driving in a short amount of time, I liked the trip because it was like an adventure. Plus, I was able to stop at a brewery on my way home. When I signed up for this race, I liked the idea of doing the same kind of thing.

I rented a car, which ended up being a minor disaster due to the fact that Advantage has a crappy "local renters" policy, which basically means you can't rent a car from the airport unless you 1. have an itinerary in or out of the airport or 2. can prove you have auto insurance in the state. I had neither, and so had to make an impromptu cancellation and reservation with a different car company. A similar thing happened to me last year when I drove out to do the NJ marathon, but this was more annoying.

I finally got myself into a Canadian Toyota Yaris and was puzzled before I realized the speedometer was in kilometers. It was fine eventually, and I drove it to my friend Helen's apartment where we had pre-race Bechdel Test Movie Night and sandwiches from Luca Brasi's deli. At some point during the evening, I thought it might be helpful to look up the course and understand the terrain. Although I was hopeful that it would be mostly a road race, I was dismayed to find out that it was probably more like 90% trail. Even though I'd already spent some time worrying about my insufficient preparation, it was at this point that I started to give some serious thought to whether or not what I was attempting was even doable. I started to strategize about worst-case scenarios.

I went to bed probably too late, but that's my pre-race MO. I had a good sleep, even if it was only a few hours long. My plan was to drive the two and a half hours before the race, which started at 8am. I woke up at 4:45 and left around 5:15, which was 15 or so minutes later than I'd hoped. It proved to be a valid concern, as I didn't make the time I really needed to to get there with enough time to pick up my bib and mentally prepare. Instead, I got there approximately 7 minutes before 8 o'clock desperately needing a toilet. I grabbed my bib, pinned it on, had to run back to the car to throw the things I didn't plan to run with, and then go to the bathroom. Even with all the rushing, I did not make it by the beginning of the race and started about 5 minutes late. The races I usually do are chip timed, so it doesn't matter when you start because your chip time, or when you crossed the mat, is used. Unfortunately for me, this was a "budget" race and therefore had a more traditional timing method, which is just pulling off tabs on people's bibs in the order they cross the finish line and recording their time.

So I started dead last and wearing my (faux) fur lined vest because it was cold and I hadn't planned my attire accordingly. I started so late that no one was even in sight anymore and I had to ask a volunteer where the course was after approximately 50 steps of running. He directed me, and although I started at a nice, slow pace, I eventually did begin to catch up with other runners. I first passed 3-4, which was good news for me because I was dubious that I'd make the 1pm cutoff time.

Trails are a b
After a little over half an hour of running, I reached the first aid station. I think I had a quarter of a potato? I don't remember. What I do remember is that I caught up with a group of three runners together and another guy that was more by himself, and we formed a little caravan. We weren't really trying to stay together, but we did anyway for the next ten miles or so. It was entertaining to listen to them talk as we ran, because I was woefully unprepared for the trails and it was hard.

Let me explain a little bit about the course. There were three distance options available: a 40-miler, a marathon, and a 20-miler. The 20 and 40 mile options were created by completing either one or two 20-mile loops depending on the chosen distance. The marathon was a 20 mile loop with a smaller 6.2 mile loop in the middle of it. The 20 mile loop itself was what the site describes as a "lollipoop." Here's a mathematical interpretation:

By the third aid station, the three runners had started to pull away and I was left with my thoughts. My thoughts at that point mostly consisted of trying to decide whether or not to do the full 40 mile distance. My past self would place a lot of value on going through with it no matter what, but there were a number of good reasons why this was inadvisable. First, my pace was slowing down significantly and although I expected to make the cutoff, it wouldn't be by much. I expected that my pace would continue to slow, and at that rate, that I wouldn't finish by dark, if I finished at all. I also didn't have a headlamp, and I was getting tired to the point that I was no longer picking my feet up high enough to avoid protruding tree roots. I ate it three different times within probably 10 minutes of each other, and I was starting to be very annoyed with that.

When I look back on it, the choice seems simple, but I agonized over it for probably six of the last seven miles. What finally allowed me to be okay with it was thinking about it in these terms: what was I proving by staying out there and finishing?

Not friggin' much, let me tell you. I eventually concluded that all I might prove by finishing was that I could still finish a race without doing any of the preparation that I should have done, and what kind of point is that to prove?

So I cut out after the first 20 miles. Was it the right decision? Yes. Was it a decision I was happy to make? No.


  1. dang, son! sounds like a rough race with all the logistical fails.

    what movies were on the Bechdel Test Movie Night agenda?

  2. It sort of was. It's probably bad that I barely even consider it out of the ordinary anymore.

    We watched A League of Their Own and Thelma and Louise!