Monday, May 19, 2014

Cruel Jewel 50 Race Report

The name "Cruel Jewel 50" is two-thirds accurate.  It's 56 miles, not 50.  But cruel is right, and jewel is right.

The jewel part:  This race is on a beautiful course in the north Georgia mountains.  The course has a nice flow to it, starting out with the easiest parts and then getting harder and harder until the big climb up Coosa Bald at mile 47ish.  Then, as long as your quads are still intact from the previous 47 miles, it eases off with a giant descent (2,500 feet I believe?) and an easy-ish last 3 miles.  And, for this year, the weather was one of the pluses.  After hearing the horror stories about last year's heat and torrential rain, I was trying to be mentally prepared for anything, but we ended up with perfect running weather the whole time.  It was even downright cold at the end--ideal for an ex-Minnesotan.

The cruel part:  There is a whopping 17,000 feet of ascent in this race.  The race is run mostly at night so there isn't much enjoying the scenery to do.  From miles 36 to 49 the course is on the Duncan Ridge Trail, and if you don't know what that means, trust me that you probably don't want to ever have to find out.

In theory I had a good race.  I came in second woman, just about made my absolute-best-case-scenario time goal (it was 14 hours, though I had expected to be closer to 15 hours; I think my finish time was around 14:05), and my legs felt strong the whole way.  I enjoyed large parts of it, especially the late evening hours and getting to see the eventual women's winner, Jaclyn, a couple of times as we went back and forth with each other--I was equal parts dismayed and impressed when she flew past me on the way up Coosa and I knew I wouldn't be seeing her again.

But despite all this, I don't feel like I had a good race.  I was so, so sick most of the way, throwing up with high frequency from around mile 25 to the end.  It was worse than Arrowhead; I was sick more often and it was all stomach acid coming up, which made for a very painful 8 hours or so.  I was still able to run okay until the last 7 miles but eventually I couldn't handle the pain and just started walking.  This didn't end the vomiting but it lessened it, and the motion of walking didn't hurt my stomach as much as the motion of running.  

It felt like just a little bit more damage to my body than was justifiable.  I don't know what that much stomach acid coming up in that short of a time span might do to my esophagus (though I'll be looking into it now...) and although my kidneys were okay despite me not keeping any significant amounts of water down in the second half of the race, they might not have been okay if it had been a hotter day.  

The race also left me no closer to figuring out why I get such terrible nausea in races--the weather wasn't hot and I wasn't overdoing the effort, and these are my two top contenders for causes.  I was wearing a heart rate monitor and in fact, if anything, I was pushing the pace too little rather than too much; for about 80 percent of the race my heart rate was actually at closer to 100 mile effort than 50 mile effort.  

I was actually going to drop out at mile 53 but I had forgotten that the aid station there was just an unmanned table with water jugs, so there was nobody around who could have taken me back to the finish line anyway.  I walked the 3 miles in to the finish but it was seriously unpleasant and not something I'd want to go through again any time soon.  If I can't find and fix whatever's causing the nausea, I may consider focusing on shorter (marathon to 50k) races for a while to give my body a break.  Even an easy 50 miler might be okay since I wouldn't be out there so long.  I just can't repeat the Cruel Jewel experience in the near future.

Once I finally started feeling a little recovered a few hours after the finish, it was a fun morning.  The race finishes in a cabin at Vogel State Park and there were lots of nice runners and volunteers hanging out and waiting for everyone to come in.  Divesh was out on the 100 mile course having a great day so I spent the day talking to racers and waiting for Divesh--although in a pathetic failure of support, I actually missed both his stop at the park at mile 85 *and* his finish.  It was clearly his fault for running too fast!