As he did last year at the Rock N’ Roll USA Marathon and at TNFEC-DC 50 Mile, Michael Wardian again finished one spot ahead of me at the Tussey mOUnTaiNBACK 50 Mile this year. This time, however, he bested me far more dominantly, crossing the line nearly 24 minutes faster in 5:46:34. The 24-minute sized gap was largely created from mile 20—at the start of the day’s biggest climb of 1,330’—to mile 35, a stretch during which I averaged nearly nine minutes per mile, didn’t know if I would finish, and couldn’t manage more than a shuffle on down hills. Nine days before the race, I made the retrospectively clear mistake of bombing down Snowbowl Road in Flagstaff with Brian Tinder at 5:13 per mile pace for about six and half miles. I had never run that fast for that many miles and I was pretty wrecked for several days thereafter—and for many days more under the surface. The opening climb (3.2 miles, 850’ of climbing) on the course is followed by about eight miles of down hill and flat running and just a few miles into that stretch my quads began to whimper. It felt as though I was going for a run the day after a hard down hill workout. So the majority of the race was really a grind in which I was battling to maintain pace and keep form.
Ultimately things turned around near mile 35 thanks to continuous fueling with gels and electrolyte water. My legs never fully came back but they did so enough that I was able to manage around 7:10 pace per mile over the final 15 miles. In doing so I went from fourth place to third around mile 40 and then from third to second just after mile 45. First place didn’t seem to be in the cards on the day but had my legs not faltered I believe it would have been a much closer battle to the tape. In any case, despite such a significant setback I PR’d at the 50-mile distance by 10.5 minutes. It’s rather surprising, though perhaps promising, that I did so since I lost such significant time on the course due to muscle ailments. That gives me hope that a markedly faster PR is in store down the road.
But it would be worth discussing something more important than the race itself.
Some actions during a race cannot, and should not, be tolerated. There is no place in the sport of ultrarunning for people who jeopardize the sport of ultrarunning. If one’s actions during a race could lead to the termination of said race, then those actions are fairly obviously actions that should not be performed—assuming we all want to continue to run beautiful courses for long distances through the woods and mountains.
Let me be less abstract.
If the race guidelines say that you shouldn’t relieve yourself during the race anywhere except at designated bathrooms along the course, which are found every three to five miles, then you shouldn’t relieve yourself along the course. And the logic on behalf of the course guidelines is simple: the areas along the dirt roads are either privately owned, in which case you shouldn’t trespass, or the area is part of a state park, which has rules stating that patrons should use designated bathrooms. So, you shouldn’t relieve yourself on the side of the course.
Whether or not the race guidelines say not to litter, you shouldn’t litter—and that is true whether you’re in a race or not. That is a fairly obvious truth about any place—not to mention a state park. So you shouldn’t drop your trash along a dirt road, during a race, in a state park. And you definitely shouldn’t throw your paper cup into the woods, while running on a dirt road, during a race, in a state park. And if you are crass enough to do one of those things, you shouldn’t say, “I didn’t know [not to do that],” when confronted about it. Because unless you have about seven screws loose, you do know and it’s cowardly to pretend otherwise.
The reason not to break race guidelines is simple: doing so could result in permits being rescinded, races being cancelled, and folks missing out on the opportunity to enjoy wonderful trails, roads, woods, mountains, or whatever. So don’t do it. Doing so is not tolerable and jeopardizes the future of races. If you are going to do it, get out of the sport.