Mitch Miller

24 Feb, 2019
Croom Zoom Post Race Report

Croom Zoom? More like Croom Gloom (kind of)…

This year’s race was my second running of the Croom Zoom 50k and it can be best summed up by quoting Queen Gorgo from the greatest love story ever told, “300”, as saying “This will not be over quickly. You will not enjoy this.”

It turned out to be a learning experience in patience, perseverance, and power of positive thinking. I had no plan of sounding like a self-help book with that much alliteration when I was typing that out, but here we are…

To get the math out of the way, a 50k is 31.07 miles. By GPS, the course is closer to 31.36 miles consisting of a 2.2 mile first loop followed by three 10-ish mile loops. The start/finish/lap (transition – in tri speak) area is where the spectators are all gathered, making it a fun setup for spectators as well as a nicely spaced out break/aid station for the runners. The atmosphere is the most relaxed of any “race” I’ve been in, I put race in quotes because while there are a few fierce competitors running for time (this year’s winner finished in 4:08 and lapped me on the 2nd loop), it’s mainly a gathering of people that are there for a nice laid back trail run with good company. Runners in the transition area are generally calmly refilling hydration packs, rolling out knots, and getting a quick bite and a laugh with their friends before heading back out. There’s also a 25k and a 100k version of the event that uses the same trail but a different number of loops.

The conditions this year were far more comfortable than last year. Last year’s start was sub-freezing and warmed up just a little over 6 hours. I had multiple layers, the hood was up on my hoodie, I needed gloves or else my hands would go numb, and there were icicles in my mustache after the first loop. This year was mild enough for a t-shirt and shorts which made moving and breathing much easier.

One of my goals throughout 2018 was learning proper on course nutrition. At the beginning of the year I had no plan whatsoever and had some purchased bottles of Gatorade and 4 Larabars for 6 hours of tough running. This year I came prepared with my extra strength hand mixed Gatorade, electrolyte packed energy gels, salt tablets, and again some Larabars for extra calories. It’s no wonder I felt so depleted and exhausted last year, I was starving my body.

On to the meat and potatoes of the race report…

With no prior training or knowledge of how my body can handle running for that length of time and on that level of rough terrain, I ran last year’s race hot out of the gates. I kept a quick pace and felt like I could dominate the terrain like I was in some sort of Nike commercial. By mile 20 my knees were telling me they’d had enough. The inflammation in my right knee was so painful that I was forced to walk most of the last lap and took a huge blow to my pride. The following months required a trip to the orthopedic clinic, a prescription of anti-inflammatories, and a solid 1-1/2 months of strict leg rest (no running, no biking, no lower body workouts) per doctor’s orders. I knew what I had to do this year and started at a nice steady pace with a buttery smooth running motion to keep little to no impact on my knees. This year I would work WITH the terrain and set my goal to finish under 6 hours (last year I finished in 6:20). Things were going exactly as planned until “early” at mile 10 when the same right knee developed the same inflammation that felt like a dagger behind my kneecap. I had a few miles to go between that point to the transition area so my thoughts immediately went to the gutter – calling it quits, not finishing, and pouting all the way home about how terrible this year went. After making some adjustments to my pace and my running mechanics to compensate, I decided to go for another lap and see how it goes. I quickly learned the pace that I needed to keep and how much walking I needed to incorporate. With some walk breaks, mostly on steep climbs and descents, I could mitigate the pain. Right away I threw my goals of beating last year out of the window, but also realized that my overall pace still wasn’t all that bad. Due to the changes in my mechanics, over the next several miles those different muscle groups became tired. In several more miles, that tiredness developed into soreness. After several more, that soreness developed into even more soreness. Bad news – it didn’t feel any better as the race went on. Good news – it didn’t feel any worse! I’d hit homeostasis.

To sum up my experience, I could be negative about not hitting my goal, realizing the onset of my age & fitness history and its effect on my joints, and taking such a hit to my pride. OR… I can take my lumps, learn that maybe my joints just aren’t meant for trail running anymore, and take pride in the fact that I completed another ultra (Is it an ultra? I don’t know, who cares I’m calling it an ultra) marathon.

I’ll let you all know how the next ultra (on pavement) goes next time…

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