Life tasted sweet and rich on Saturday, when I was able to complete yet another Cumberland Trail 50K.
Let's start with what's most important: Race promoter Susan Donnelly, course marshal Rob Apple, and their exemplary crew of volunteers make this one of the best ultra runs in the USA.
That's a lot of praise, but everyone in this org deserves it. Top notch from start to finish with a great course, excellent coddling before and after the race, and some of the best swag available (I got a tech t-shirt, coffee mug and fleece blanket). That, on top of the 20 or so pizzas that are delivered at the finish, make this a must-do event.
I had the pleasure of running the race with Wesley Fenton, Rob's best friend and accomplished ultrarunner. Wes has been out for over two years with three injured discs in his back, and this was his comeback run. We took it slow and easy and enjoyed every step. Wes' back held up fine and we jogged in together for a 8:51 finish. For the first time in years, I felt fresh and could have done a 50-miler. Thanks to Wes for showing me how to maintain a casual pace.
Other points to consider:
Wes told me that ultra legend Art Moore once told him to "pound that foot into submission" when he had a malady during one event. That is good advice and it works. I wore Brooks Cascadia trail shoes, the Pro-Tec arch brace, and hammered through the course. Want to massage an aching plantar fascia? Slam it on rocks and roots for a full day (FYI I went out for my 90 minute loop this morning and was pain free without the arch brace).
Please don't try this one...but I have a really efficient 50K training plan: 1) Base - zero. Don't need one, just head for the starting line. 2) Buildup phase - zero. A couple of 90 minute jogs will do. 3) Taper - always. Stay calm and rest.
Based on insurance, Susan has a no headphone rule. That sort of scares me: Left to my own self-talk, 8+ hours can induce partial insanity! I had been listening to a riveting autobiography with Dave Mustain from Megadeth, but without that I shifted instead to discourse with Wes. We attempted to solve America's educational problems and that went so well Susan may assign topics for discussion at next year's event.
I had considered isolating the variable and testing Crank e-gels during the event as my sole source of energy. That lasted to the mile 13 aid station, where I started slamming PB&J's and cheese tortillas. Good intention but failed implementation.
What I have learned is that master man is an active participant, not a racer. I spent most of my time in church yesterday thanking the Lord for another gem in my life...the chance to get out on the CT 50K course for the third consecutive year. I'm a rich man by most any standards. When you run with good friends and traverse an epic (and difficult) course, there isn't too much more one could ask for or require.