Pre-Race Jitters: 2024 Cruel Jewel 50

On Saturday morning at 8 AM I’ll embark on a 58 mile trip across the mountains of northeast Georgia. In a best-case scenario, I’ll finish 14 hours later. A more conservative estimate might put my finish time at closer to 16 hours. It’s also entirely possible I’ll be out there for 18+ hours or not finish at all and log my first DNF (“Did Not Finish”).

Up until today I’ve felt pure excitement thinking about this adventure, but suddenly today I’m feeling some pre-race jitters. I’m not sure what it is that has me suddenly nervous. It could be the logistics that are getting to me: getting all my supplies together, transported to the start, and working through the mechanics of actually getting to the start line on time means I’ll be up at around 3 AM for the 8 AM start. It could be the difficultly of the course which climbs and descends around 14,000 feet over the course of 58 miles, most of which are comprised of fairly technical hiking trails.

I don’t think it’s either of those things. I think what’s actually gotten to me is the unknown. I really have no idea what’s going to happen on Saturday. On one hand, I feel healthy, fit, and ready, and on paper I think a sub-14-hour finish and a top 10 place are both possible if everything goes right. On the other hand, the closest comparison I have is GDR, which uses many of the same trails, and where I finished in 19:40. On that day, I reached the 58 mile point in 15:40 and felt pretty wrecked. I just don’t know what to expect out of my body, and that has me second guessing my strategy going into this race.

I want to race as well as possible, but I’m not sure what strategy will lead to the best result. I am confident in my nutrition strategy. What I’m not confident in is my pacing strategy: push too hard and I’ll hit a wall and fall apart, take it too easy and I’ll underperform. I have to find the narrow path between going out too hard and taking it too easy that results in the best average pace.

So what is my pacing strategy? Here it is:

  • Climbing: Stay under control on the climbs. Don’t push the climbs, especially in the first 50k. Make time on the downhills and flats, don’t worry about making time on the climbs. During the climbs focus on keeping the effort controlled.
  • Downhills: Keep my weight upright, my feet underneath me, and my legs turning quickly on the downhills. Minimize quad impact and simultaneously take advantage of the free speed provided by gravity.
  • Flat: Run easy on the flats, aiming for a low zone 2 effort.
  • Push: Do all of the above through the climb out of Weaver Creek (48 mile point). Push after the Weaver Creek climb for the last 10 miles if there’s anything left in the tank.

Is this the right strategy? I don’t know. Ask me after Saturday.

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