Today's Mighty Oak

Race Report: Pink Lightning Virtual 50K

The year that was. Well, you know. 2020. What I had been training for (Eagle Up) and all my tune up races (Get Lucky and O24) got cancelled, so what was supposed to be a 24 week training cycle, got extended to 36 weeks and I ended with the Pink Lightning 50K as the end goal of my training.

Pink Lightning is the running camp at Burning Man, and I hope to someday run this with them, but it was nice to do it as a fundraiser for their camp, even if we can’t all be in the dust together. It looks like it will once again be offered virtually this year, so I’ll be able to participate again, which is nice.


The aforementioned training plan was a combination of the 50 miles per week and 70 miles per week plans from Relentless Forward Progress, with the speedwork from a Pfitzinger half marathon plan built in as the workouts.

After O24 got delayed I took a week off, restarted in the middle, and eventually, when O24 was finally cancelled, decided to do a virtual 50 miler to cap off this year of training. I put together a plan to use my car as an aid station on the Westmoreland Heritage Trail. Going east was a ten mile out and back, going west was a five mile out and back. I put together a plan of four of the longer legs and two of the shorter ones and had a great spreadsheet (of course) of fueling, nutrition and gear to keep me on track.

I feel like I had finally, maybe not gotten used to, but at least better acclimated, to running in the summer heat. Of course the week of my virtual race, the weather turned extra hot, and the night before, a huge thunderstorm rolled through (more on that in a bit)

Miles 0-15

I got to the trailhead as it was still dark to get some miles in before the sun came up. As I was getting everything ready out of the trunk of my car, a runner came in from the western side and let me know that a tree had fallen across the trail on the eastern side, about a mile up, due to the storm the night before.

Well, that threw everything I had out the window and I had to adjust on the fly. It was a big defeat, and I decided to cut down to a 50K instead, still a good run (and the actual distance of Pink Lightning), but also because at this point in the year, I just did not have the mentals to deal with that kind of big wrench.

I ran out east to at least turn that side into a two mile out and back, and sure enough, a huge tree had fallen across the trail. I took a moment just to make sure that I really couldn’t go around it, and confirming that, began redoing all the math in my head. This now meant that this was a two mile out and back, and I knew if I ran past the original turn around on the western side, I could increase that to a six mile out and back (instead of five). This let me cobble together a new race, although it ended up just over 32 miles.

The day was hot, but I was (over) stocked on Tailwind, Gatorade, water and food. By this point, I had dialed in my fuel, and swapping between gels and Bobo’s bars for the first half the race, and I just ticked off miles. The day was humid as well, and there were a few other people on the trail, but generally it was pretty quiet, except when I ran past BY Park.

Miles 16-32

The second half of the run, as expected, brought some more walking breaks, and truthfully, more than I had hoped for, even if I had been running 50 miles. The mental break was a bit of a letdown, but honestly, it all felt okay for 2020.

The second half of a run like this, especially after mile 20 in the heat, is always a bit of a grab bag for what I’m going to want to eat or able to stomach. Thankfully, some Pringles and a Moonpie just hit the spot, were easy enough to get down and kept me going. I was actually very consistent through mile 25, but after that, the temperature, humidity and direct sunlight just zapped me.

As I was coming in from my last eastern out and back, I saw the crew of volunteers assembling with their chainsaws to take care of the fallen tree. By the time I finished my final western out and back, they were packing up and heading out, having opened up the trail. For a moment I thought about continuing on and changing it back to a 50 miler, but having already changed once, I was dialed in for that distance and decided to call it at 50K.

Final time, 6:18:04, 32.13 miles. Still missed by goal of a 6 hour 50K.

Why yes, I did come in fist place, in my corner of the Multiverse

Mental Health

This race seemed to be the embodiment of 2020, so I just had to roll with it. I’m certainly proud what I ran, but even more so for training and running over the summer, normally a season where I don’t, so that’s a huge win in my book.

I still have yet to hit my goal of a 6 hour 50K, which is disappointing, especially since this was after two (or maybe one and a half) training cycles. I surprised myself when I broke two hours in the half marathon, so I know this goal is possible, I’ll just keep working on it.

Looking forward

I’m finishing this as I start up my next training cycle, so it has been seven months since I ran this. Knowing everything that has happened, I wonder what was going through my mind about future goals and races. Plans, as we first lay them out, as well as hindsight, are always 20/20.

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