Ouch!!.... Followed closely by OH NO!!!!... These were the first two phrases that popped into my head when, 9 days before The North Face Trail 50K, I attempted to walk across a grocery store parking lot only to be stopped short by an excruciating pain encompassing my entire right knee. Now I have battled on and off with a tight IT band but this was not even close. While IT issues are more localized to certain areas of the knee, the pain that I currently felt was like something had exploded inside my knee cap. I decided right there, ha my knee decided, that I would not run another step till race day. So it was time to reacquaint myself with interval session on the bike and ladder sprints in the pool. I usually swim, bike, and lift weights while running, but for the next 10 days these would become my focus. I also made an appointment with my Chiropractor Dr Charles “Buck” Blodgett. It took him 5 whole seconds to deduce that my tibia and femur were no longer aligned and my knee was rotated, YIKES! Well he adjusted me and I swam and biked away my frustration.
Sunrise mist (Photo from TNFEC)
Race day started out like always; up early, eating while getting ready so your body doesn’t realize you are filling it with food at 3:30am, and driving to the race. The morning air was a bit chilly, so I chose to wear arm warmers. The great thing about arm warmers is that once the day heats up you can roll them down and they are great for wiping sweat out of your eyes. Well the call to get ready came, everyone left the comfort of the heaters, lined up, and off we went. Due to the knee issues I decided I would hang just off the front and take it easy through the first 10 miles. The first 10 miles run through the Scuppernong Ski trails and a northern section of the horse trails, and are hilly. While not long hills they are steep and relentless. They were also made all the more beautiful by the fog which had settled due to the cool temps. My plan was to make it through this section in the top 20 then see how my knee was holding and begin to pick up the pace. I ran this first section with several guys from my trail running group, The Lapham Peak Trail Runners. We were running a comfortable pace and the conversation was flowing just as easily.
The next 10 mile or so section is on the Ice Age Trail, which has some small hills, but is mostly fast and non-technical. I decided here, since my knee was holding, that I needed to pick it up. I settled into a pretty fast pace and began to reel in both people and the trail. Throughout the race I was blown away by the number of aid station staff and road guards from the LPTR group, it was a huge boost to see so many friendly faces while pushing hard. I road this wave of energy to the final turn onto the horse trail.
The horse trail is soft sand which you can not avoid, even if you run off trail. Soft sand is not something you want to face at the end of a race. But I decided to turn on the tunes and maintain the best running pace I could. I was still moving pretty quickly up the hills, just not as fast over the sandy flats. I managed to reel in several more people. I started to cramp a little in the final 2 miles. Up the last big climb I went and then I let gravity do its thing on the other side. I made it to the final .8 mile section of road before being seized by full cramps. I managed to run through the finish and hold off a hard charging Adam.
I was extremely happy with my results at this race. I managed to run a 4:35 (results) for 12th (13th overall, yes I got chicked), set a PR, and had zero knee issues the entire race. Sometimes I guess you just need to go for a really long run. My nutrition was spot on and powered by VESPA, stay tuned I plan on detailing what I eat before a race and how I fuel in a future post. The course is very beautiful, the volunteers are spectacular, and the event itself is well put together. If you are looking for a fun and somewhat faster course then I would highly recommend this race. At the end of the race I had the pleasure of hanging out with the winner of the 50 Mile, and new course record holder, Ian Sharman as well as the third place finisher Eric Senseman. Both Ian and Eric ran amazing races and were great people to end the day with. I also got a consolation picture with Dean Karnazes for getting “chicked”.
Dean Karnazes and I
50 Mile Podium
L-R Eric Senseman, Mike Bialick, Ian Sharman
50K (31miles) 4:35:51
12th Male 13th Overall9th AG (26-35)
Shoes - Hoka One One Stinson Evo B (www.iRunFar.com)
Socks - Drymax Trailrunning (Performance Running Outfitters)
Calf Sleeves - CEP (Performance Running Outfitters)
Shorts - Salomon Exo S-Lab II (www.iRunFar.com)
Jersey - Sugoi Team Jersey (Performance Running Outfitters)
Hat - Headsweat (www.iRunFar.com)
Bottle - Ultimate Direction Access (Performance Running Outfitters)
Arm Warmers - The North Face (Performance Running Outfitters)
VESPA - www.vespapower.com