Monday, March 02, 2009

Pacing the Cowtown Ultra

I signed up the pace the Cowtown 50 km a fews ago. Admittedly, my main motivation was a free entry to the race. And I was still ticked off about the RR DNF. I wrangled Jballs into pacing with me, figuring it would be good to have somebody else around in the event I wasn't quite up to par. We weren't sure how fast we planned to run, but somewhere around 5 1/2 hours sounded about right.

Jballs and I met at my office early Saturday morning and snagged our "Ultra Coach" race bibs and our Ultra pace-group sign, which proudly declared that we would be running the 50 km in "5 : ??". We made our way to the start and lined up amongst several thousand other shivering runners.

So, yeah, about the race day climate. What the hell? Earlier in the week it was in the 80s; on race morning temps had dropped into the 30s with a brutal north wind gusting up to 35 mph.

We chatted with a few folks here and there and hooked up with Jeff and Yumi Davis, a couple from Norman, Oklahoma. Jeff had only started running a year ago, but had already completed two marathons. Saturday was going to be his first ultra attempt. Yumi was running the marathon. We ran about 6 miles with them before we got separated at a rest stop.

By the time we reached mile 7, Jason and I were pretty much running by ourselves, although we chatted with ultrarunners and marathoners here and there. Nell took a few pics as the course meandered a couple blocks from our house, at which point Jason and I detoured for a restroom break, adding about a quarter mile or so to our run.

Just past mile 8, the 1/2 marathoners broke off, and the crowd of runners thinned significantly.

As we neared the neighborhood surrounding Colonial Country Club, Jeff hooked back up with us. (Yumi continued on her own but at a slower pace.) Jeff, Jason, and I would run the next 12 miles or so together, until the brutal winds along the Trinity River would cause Jeff to drop back. Along the way, we picked up several other runners, including Mike and Dave.

Around mile 23, the ultra course split off from the marathon course, and we were on our own for about 5 miles. From mile 23 to 26, the five of us (me, Jason, Jeff, Mike, and Dave) banded together as we fought a killer north wind that did everything it could to knock us over.

Finally, at mile 26, we turned around and got a bit of a tailwind. Unfortunately, at that point Jason and I had lost Mike, Dave, and Jeff. Because we were "pacers" and not "coaches," we felt obligated to keep moving, trying to get as close to 5 1/2 hour as possible.

We steadily passed runners--marathoners and ultramarathoners--over those last 5 miles. I won't lie; it felt good to be feeling so good while others were clearly suffering. It was also nice passing MANY ultramarathoners who had gone out more quickly than we had and who hadn't joined up with us because they wanted to finish faster than our pace.

About a mile from the finish, we hooked up with Ben from Nevada, who was having some calf-cramping issues. We did our best to motivate him, and Ben picked up the pace and joined us as we crossed the finish line.

Official chip time -- 5:39:56. Not 5:30:00, like we had hoped, but it felt good under the conditions.

Jason had to take off for an appointment, but I stuck around and cheered Dave, Mike, and Jeff as they made their way to the finish line. I'm happy to report that all made it in under 6 hours. So we stayed true to our "5 : ??" guarantee.

The next morning, I woke up feeling fine. No soreness at all. I worked out this morning with Dave (who trashed my upper body; thanks, dude).

Next week, another 50 km in Waco on the tough trails of Cameron Park.


p.s. Left the Flip camera at home, so no video or pics. Sorry, amigos.


Rachelle said...

Can I just tell you that I LOVE reading your blog. I sorta know you, I think we might have met once a LONG time ago. I was friends with Francie all through school, and we were roommates for a semester at SFA. Anyway, my friends and I just started running about 6 or 7 months ago, and just finished our first half marathon a few weeks ago. It is just so cool to get a glimpse of the ultra runners world. I cheer you on through all your runs, you just don't know it. I admire all your accomplishments, and love to read about the next.

I just wanted to let you know I'm out here reading so I don't feel so much like a stalker, hahaha.

Great Job man, keep it up.

Rachelle "Richardson" Thompson

Ryan V. said...

Hey, Rachelle! Congrats on the 1/2 marathon. That is a great accomplishment. Long distance running is like a drug. You get hooked and keep needing a bigger hit.

If you're interested in a new challenge, come out and run "El Scorcho," a midnight endurance run in Fort Worth. We've got a 25 km, which is a nice step up from the 1/2 marathon distance. You can get more info at

Good luck with your training!


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