I've been thinking about the Pacifica 50k I tried to run this past Saturday, mainly about why I stopped at the 30k mark. What motivated that decision and why did I choose to accept it rather than to push on.
In hindsight it is always easier to identify what went wrong. It is also easier to try and make excuses for why I wasn't able to finish what I set out to finish. In an effort to identify what went wrong, I hope to not make excuses. When it all comes down to it, regardless of what happened or what I think happened, I didn't finish. In running are we really and truly only as good as we were in our last race? That is what I hope to fix by learning from Pacifica.
What kicked all this into gear was realizing that I had ran the 30k in 3:34 in Pacifica, which was 2 minutes faster than my previous 30k at the Rodeo Beach 50k. Huh? How was this possible? Pacifica has a ton more elevation and yet I was on pace to to set a PR. Of course the answer was the most obvious. I had eaten roughly 300 calories by the time I decided to stop. Not near enough by far. It is funny the tricks your body plays on you without enough energy. Your morale plummets, which mine did. I began doubting myself and wondering what I was doing. This had happened to me at the Woodside 50k in the middle miles and the same sensation came over me around the 30k mark, the sensation of thinking there was no way I could continue. I almost DNF'd, but instead I took extra time at the aid station and consumed a ton of calories. My energy instantly increased and my morale was given a boost, ultimately leading to my 2nd 50k finish.
And I think if I would have stopped at the 30k aid station and took extra time to consume the calories then I would have most certainly finished the Pacifica 50k as well. The funny part is that I knew I had some Clif Bars and Clif Shot Bloks in my hip pack, and I knew I had to eat more calories, and yet I didn't break them open. Hopefully this will be the last time I learn this lesson as I now have something to draw upon, an experience to point at and remember.
Finally, the last factor, which I knew going in to it was a possibility, was the fact that I was coming off of a cold and didn't have all the energy I needed. This was made even more clear now, today, a few days after. Either I was sick during the race or the race shocked my body and brought the cold back, but either way I am perhaps the worse for wear now. I am right in the middle of another nasty cold, one that I had during the race.
So two positives can come from not finishing the 50k. One, a deeply ingrained lesson with an experience to draw upon and warn me every time, namely to eat, eat, eat. And the second positive was that I was a bit under the weather for that run, that perhaps I had prepared properly but being sick made everything that much more difficult, and yet I still ran a good 30k.
No excuses, only thoughts on how and what I can do for the next 50k, and to hopefully help others who want to tackle their first 50k.