Sunday, March 20, 2011

Race Report: The Art of Racing 50k in the Rain.

Location: 50k Nationals. Caumsett Park, Long Island. March 6, 2011 (

So who’s up for some repeats? 10 x 5k? In the rain? I am!

2010 Recap:  My health was a mystery. Hives attacked at random from February on. I felt weak all the time. I failed a Pulmonary Function Test (what?!) and needed a Nebulizer. My thyroid was erroneously blamed. I was possibly anemic. Specialists started pointing fingers at each other. I was allergic to “something”. After 250 needles, I was declared allergic to myself. I was given antihistamines, three inhalers, steroids, and some “emergency” pills. I have huge zip-lock bag full of medications that served mostly to make be bloated, fat, tired, and anxious. Eventually I just got better.

During all that, my training took a back seat. When the hives calmed down, I jumped back in where I left off and I ended up with fibromas (marble-sized lumps of painful scar tissue) on my plantar fascias. I had a hard time walking. I got the fibromas removed with cortisone. I felt good, so I ran over 65 miles in 12 hours and strained my under-trained ACL.  I spent most of 2010 running less, gaining weight, and just feeling cruddy.
The first of my very many DNF’s of 2010 happened at Caumsett 50k. I finished 2009 by crushing my PRs in every distance.  By February 2010, I was cruising through 24 mile runs on my treadmill during blizzards and racing marathons all around 3:25 or less just as training runs. I felt ready for a great Caumsett, until the week before when I ended up in the ER covered in hives.

Heavily medicated, I still arrived. I started fast and felt horrible. By loop 2, I saw the red welts surfacing. By loop 3, my abdomen was itchy. By loop 4 I called it a day.   In about 150 races since my cancer treatment, I had only DNF’d once (at my first ultra in a snow storm). This was #2 and it unfortunately set the tone for the rest of that disappointing year.

2011: I started 2011 with a “come back plan” that involved returning to my roots. I started again with low mileage and weekly short races. I was "found" driving up the highway by a small dog sitting roadside in the sleeting rain.  I named him Enzo (like Enzo Ferrari, like Enzo the dog from The Art of Racing in the Rain) and as it turns out he loves running fast and far. He got me out the door when the weather was miserable. He pushed (er… pulled) our pace. My mileage finally made it back up to 80 miles per week and then hovered around 60. My fastest long effort was only a 1:41 half marathon at the end of January (7 minutes off my best).  Looking at those numbers, I was not ready for a great 50k so I ran a slow 20 miles the day before.  I had a dream I ran a 4:33.  I decided that would be my goal.

The Race: My friend Ray came up to run. We decided to spend some time together. Ray has had faith in me, most often when I have the least in myself. Having him around always brings out my best.

A rainy road 50k with water stops twice per loops is pretty easy to pack for: 8 Endurolytes, a few gels, a pack of shot bloks, a 20 oz bottle of Gatorade and some dry clothes. I took 4 Endurolytes and drank the Gatorade on the ride to the race. At 8:25 am, I put one (1) Roctane pomegranate gel in one pocket and the 4 Endurolytes in the other. I ate one pack of black cherry bloks and walked off to the start.

Oh no, Ray is not there! I feel a pang of disappointment as the gun is fired. But as the crowd lurches forward, Ray makes his fashionably late entrance and off we go! First split 8:14.  I pass up the AS on the first loop and then wonder if I should have grabbed something. On the back stretch of loop 2, I grab a few ounces of Gatorade. I am very comfortable and wonder when I should take that gel.

Loop 1: 25:45
Loop 2: 25:36
Loop 3: 25:15

Halfway through loop 4, I feel a surge of confidence. I’ve made it further than I did last year and I feel GREAT!  As long as I am happy I will finish.  At the end of loop 4, I take that gel. I decide to take the 4 Endurolytes too. Why wait? I feel good. Nothing hurts. I’m still grabbing about 6 oz of Gatorade total per loop. My legs are steady. I feel strong. Then they run out of Gatorade on the back half during my 7th loop.
Loop 4: 25:47
Loop 5: 25:29 (
2:07:52 – first 25k)
Loop 6: 24:55
Loop 7: 25:27

Since I missed those crucial 3 oz of blue Gatorade on the back stretch, I grab another gel at the start of loop 8. It takes me two full laps to sip that down. As I approach the end of loop 9, I start to feel a little wobbly. I can feel my form weakening just a bit and I catch my self grunting a little.  With so little consumed, I know I am running off a combination of momentum and awe that I am really almost done. 

There is no one to catch and I am not being chased.  It is a relaxing finish. I give once last push as I see the end. I almost fall over from a head rush once I finally allow myself to stop running for the first time in 4 hours and 15 minutes and 31 miles straight.

Loop 8: 25:52
Loop 9: 26:03
Loop10: 25:30
(2:07:48 – 2nd 25k)

Caumsett volunteers print you a receipt within minutes of your finish. It contains your lap splits, final time, pace, place, etc… I look at the pace and see that it is 8:14 per mile. I remember Ray calling out our Mile 1 split as 8:14 and I knew immediately that he had something to do with this! I suspect that he was out there with me just to help me find my rhythm and beat this demon. I see Ray and show him my receipt. Like the human calculator that he is, he quickly adds up my splits and declares “You negative split this!” Holy cow, I did! (sure by only 5 seconds). I tell Ray how much I needed this to be a good race.  He tells me he already knew that.

4:15:32 for 31 miles (negative split by 5 seconds)
8th Female OA
27th place OA

What a great day for Racing a 50k in the Rain!   

Caumsett Park, I can’t wait to see you next year!
Thank you so much for reading.


  1. Once again impressive Shannon. :) a wonderful report. congrats to you.

  2. You are wonderful! Nice race! So glad you got to run with Ray! I loved your comment about him being fashionably late.