The Avalon 50 was a tougher race than I expected, but it still went really well and I learned an important lesson. It was a hot day, mid-70s, and the race wasn’t on trails—it was on fire roads and paved roads. The hard-packed terrain punished my feet and joints since I primarily train on trails that offer more natural cushioning.
Special thanks to San Diego ultra-runner Jerry Armstrong, who ran the race last year. He advised me to wear my road shoes for the race, so I ended up packing them in my drop bag, which was accessible at mile 18.9. As beautiful as the sunrise was from the highest ridge on the island, all I could think about was changing out of my trail shoes and into my lightweight road shoes.
Once I made the switch, another issue surfaced--but not so obvious. I had slowly become hyponatremic because I was not taking in enough sodium to counter-balance my water intake. I was still thirsty as I took in more and more water. I developed a headache and I couldn’t think clearly so it became increasingly difficult for self-diagnosis. I finally figured out what was going on when I recalled Joe Decker’s story from his first Badwater 135 experience. He told me that he literally had to drink salt out of a Morton’s salt container to counter-balance his over-hydration symptoms, which were very similar to mine.
At the next three aid stations, I used potato wedges to scoop-up and ingest heaping piles of salt. I finally began to feel better around mile 38 which was over 7 hours into the race. As crazy as it sounds, I felt my best for the final 10 miles. My head was clear, I had positive self-talk, my run-walk intervals up hills were pain-free and I had solid momentum. I finished with a personal record of 10 hours, 21 minutes, which is almost five hours faster than my last 50-mile race. It sounds like a significant improvement but it’s relative to the terrain differences. Mt. Disappointment was all above 5,500 feet of elevation, through rugged mountainous terrain. The Avalon 50 never climbed above 1,400 feet on hard-packed fire roads.
It was a learning experience to say the least. I have a much better understanding of my hydration needs and I’m just thankful I was able to hold it together and finish on a positive note. Now I’m excited to start training for the Ironman-70.3 in Oceanside on March 29. I’ll be taking a break from long runs to concentrate on swimming and cycling, but I’ll get into those specifics in my next series of blog posts.
I want to be sure to mention the outstanding performance of my girlfriend in her debut 50-mile race this weekend. Marie made the giant leap from 50-km races to the 50-mile distance on Saturday and finished close on my heels with a time of 10 hours, 55 minutes. I’m so proud of her and thankful that we had such a great experience together on Catalina Island.
I couldn’t do this stuff without your support--thank you all so much for believing in me.