Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Race # 38 - Odyssey 40 miler (DNF - 13.5 mi.)

Odyssey 40 miler
7:00 AM
Millboro, VA
DNF - 1 loop (13.5 miles)

The Odyssey 40 miler was supposed to be my last long run before Grindstone.  The race consists of 3 loops 13.5 miles long with about 2,600 ft. of elevation gain on each loop.  Perfect training for Grindstone's course. 

My buddy Jon and I headed out at 3am to drive to the race.  We got there in plenty of time to catch the pre-race briefing and set up our coolers and drop bag at the start line.  Soon enough, 7am rolled around and the race director sent us on our way.

The course starts almost immediately starting up the local mountain.  Semi-technical trail and gentle uphill made it easily runnable to start the race.  The two latter loops would probably require runners to walk this part but I ran to try and stay out of any bottlenecks.  Eventually we're climbing the mountain and something stunk.  Literally.  Smelled like bad BO.  I asked another runner if he thought it stunk and he said yes and there was a paper mill nearby which caused the smell.  Glad I didn't live there!

The first three miles were basically all uphill.  Once we got to the top of the mountain we had to check in with some volunteers that were stationed at a cabin with an amazing view.  The sun was rising and it was a beautiful morning to be running. 

After a quick look at the mountains in the distance, it was time to turn and head back down the other side of the mountain.  It was some really nice downhill running.  A little technical with some loose rocks but I was enjoying it.  Maybe a little too much though.

I decided to practice my downhill running so I let loose and started barreling down the mountain.  Big mistake.  I passed a few guys and rounded a corner and my right foot hit a root or rock or something that just didn't move.  Typical physics, my body stayed in motion while my right leg stopped.  Eventually though that right leg landed and went the other way.  Instant pain.  All I could think about was Willis McGahee's knee injury.  I'm sure mine didn't look like that but that's how it felt.  Basically hyper-extended the crap out of it.

I sat there on the trail in a world of hurt wondering what was next.  I was less than 6 miles into the race and at least 5 miles from the start/finish area.  Only one thing to do:  Get up and keep going.  I started walking to see how bad it was.  Nothing broke, and I didn't think anything was torn, so my thought process became 'let's see how it feels over the next 7 miles on this loop'.  Once I finished the loop I could decide if I would keep going or not.

By mile 9, I knew the answer.  One and done.  I could continue in the race but it most likely would put Grindstone in jeopardy, and that was not an option.  As lame as it would be, I had to drop. 

I made my way down the mountain, walking most of the way.  Runners passing me by asking if I was ok.  I was.  Just my pride was hurt mostly.  I came into the finish line and told the race directors and timers what had happened and that I had to drop to avoid messing up Grindstone.  They understood and my day was done. 

The worst part was having to wait another 6 hours for Jon to finish!  He did great though coming in around 8h30m.  I hung out and watched all the other runners from other races (26.2, 13.1, 6, they had them all!).  One girl gashed open her knee on a rock so I watched the medic put stitches in her leg.  Ended up taking a nap on a bench.  But overall a very unproductive day!  It happens though and made me realize that I need to keep myself under control going down hills and not run as fast as I did.  It was now time to rest up and make sure the knee was ready for Grindstone in four weeks.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Race # 37 - Bethel Hill Moonlight Boogie 50 miler

Bethel Hill Moonlight Boogie 50 miler (with 30 mile option)
6:00 PM
Ellerbe, NC
Time: 5:22:08 (30 mile race)
Place: 3rd out of 34

The Boogie 50 miler had been on my list of races to do for a couple of years.  I had even signed up for it in 2012 but a knee issue made me back out.  I needed something on the calendar in the summer though so I signed up.  It's a road race which goes against my normal racing schedule but I figured I'd try it.  

I drove down to Ellerbe Saturday afternoon and found the race site.  You really feel like you're in the middle of nowhere at this race.  As I neared the race site, something caught my eye on the left side of the road.  When I looked, it was a huge black wild boar.  I had never seen one in person before and thought how wonderful it was going to be running roads where these things roamed in the middle of the night!

Once I got parked and checked in, I got to talking to the guy who parked in front of me.  His name was Scott and he was from Texas and was in NC on business.  Since he had to stay over the weekend he decided to run this race.  

The race consists of five 10-mile loops.  Each loop is a smaller 6-mile loop with a 2-mile out and back which is downhill then uphill.  Seems pretty simple but alas, a loop course would soon get the best of me as it seems to always do.  

Starting at 6pm, we're all giddy and head out to cover the first loop in the day's remaining light.  It's amazing to run for 6 miles and not see a single car, especially since we were running on the road!  We were really in the middle of nowhere.  The 6 mile loop was gentle rolling roads.  There were a couple of hills that would definitely be used for walking later on but we decided to run most of this first loop.  Once we got back to the area our cars were parked, we ran by the start/finish area and began our descent.  It was a long slight downhill that seemed to go on forever.  A good runner could really do some damage on this downhill but I tried to take it easy.  Eventually it levels off and the turnaround is in sight.  Coming back was a different story.  Again, a good runner could run the uphill but given the length of the race, pace was key so walking was inevitable for me.

I had planned to try and do 2 hour loops which would give me a 10 hour finish.  Definitely achievable but anything can happen.  I completed the first loop in 1 hour 40 minutes.  Probably too fast but it felt comfortable to me.  

I stopped at my car and ate/drank a little bit.  Someone had posted on Facebook not to drink the water and I made that mistake on the first lap so I had to refill with the water I brought.  I headed out for loop 2 and Scott soon caught up with me.  We ran together and talked about where we were from, what we did etc.  He was a nice guy and I enjoyed running alongside him.

The sun began to set and headlamps would be coming on soon enough.  But the moon would also be rising and it was bright and almost 100% full.  Running without the headlamp on was definitely an option and added another cool factor to the race.  After the 2 mile out and back, it was time for another break.  I had finished the second loop in about 1 hour 50 minutes so still ahead of my 2 hour per lap pace I wanted.  But the pavement was taking it's toll.  

I started on loop 3 alone.  I was starting to have doubts.  My feet were hurting.  I was not used to running on roads this much.  I also wore the wrong shoes.  The 2 mile downhill was causing my toes to slam up against the ends of my shoes.  I should have worn a pair half size bigger.  I didn't even bring another pair to change in to!  

I contemplated many things on this third loop.  Did I really want to be out there for another five hours?  Would doing two more loops do more harm than good to my feet?  The doubts had crept in and made themselves at home.  I crossed the timing line for the third time and headed to the car to sit and think.  I had covered 30 miles in 5 hours and 22 minutes.  I decided to call it a day and head home.  

I hated dropping.  I walked up and told the race director I was dropping and he said I wasn't dropping but instead just finishing my race as a 30 mile runner.  The Boogie has always been a 50 mile race but this year they added the 30 mile option for which runners could receive credit.  When I told the race director I was dropping, he handed me the finishers award for the 30 mile race and said thanks for coming!  It was some nice hand-crafted pottery.  Engraved on the bottom it said "A little Boogie is better than no Boogie at all."   I took that to heart.  Although I didn't run the full 50, it was a good training run.

The worst part about it was the shoes I wore.  As mentioned, I should have worn some that were a half size larger but I didn't.  My big toes ended up being bruised and the one on my right foot was majorly bruised.  Over the course of the next few weeks, it turned darker and darker.  Here it is October and it still doesn't look right.  I'll have memories of this Boogie race all the way into 2015!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Race # 36 - Promise Land 50k++

Promise Land 50k++
Race #3 of the 2014 Beast Series
5:30 AM
Bedford, VA
Time: 6:36:59
Place: 103 out of 334 finishers

Disclaimer:  Writing this three months after the race, I've forgotten a lot of it.  

The third race of the 2014 Beast Series was the Promise Land 50k.  I had heard great things about this race and was looking forward to completing the next step in this year's Beast Series.  With a start time of 5:30am, it was best to head up the day before and camp out which adds to the awesome race experience.  Jon and I headed up that afternoon and got settled in with our tents before going to chow down on some pizza and a ton of junk food desserts.  It was ridiculous how many sweets we had at this place.  The pre-race briefing was the standard Dr. Horton heckling quite a few and lecturing all of us not to be stupid the next day and miss certain turns etc.  As darkness fell though, it was time to turn in so we were ready for the next day's race.

I slept about as well as I could in a tent in a field with a few hundred other people and of course awoke before my alarm was even set to go off.  Still a bit chilly outside, I stayed in the tent as long as possible before lining up with everyone else.  Soon though we had the national anthem and were sent on our way as it just started getting light.  I decided to go without headlamp since the first few miles were on a gravel road.  I figured there would be enough light from everyone else's headlamp around me.  After reaching the end of the gravel road part, we headed up our first trail.  The first five miles were all uphill.  Once we reached the top of the first mountain we began descending which was nice for a change.  

We crossed over the Blue Ridge Parkway and hit some nice trails that were semi-technical.  I enjoyed that part.  After a little down, it was time to head back up again before reaching the highest point of the course.  The next eight miles were mostly downhill and I ran a decent pace on this section.  Then came a long section through the woods that seemed like grassy roads.  I ran this with a friend and we kept leap frogging each other.  I would walk the ups and she would run the ups and pass me.  I would pass her on the downs.  

Soon enough I hit the trail that lead to the finish.  I felt great so decided to run.  I passed several people and started looking at my watch.  I didn't know exactly how long the race was but I knew I would be flirting with 6 hours 30 minutes to finish.  So I ran as fast as I felt comfortable without blowing things up to where I would be hurting the next day.  After a couple of miles though I knew I wasn't going to beat 6:30 and the gravel road was starting to hurt so I took it easy and just made sure no one passed me on the way in.  I finished in 6:36:59 and enjoyed a wonderful post-race meal watching the other runners come in on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

Some pics from the run:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Race # 35 - Pilot Mountain Payback Trail Marathon

Pilot Mountain Payback Trail Marathon
9:00 AM
Pinnacle, NC
Time: 4:48:40
Place: 14th out of 42 finishers

The Pilot Mountain Payback marathon is one of my favorite races.  It was my first marathon back in 2011.  I train on the course most weekends.  It's local so my family is able to come watch.  It's just a great race.  Usually held in February, it was postponed this year due to the 18 inches of snow we received just days before the race.  While the snow made for a brutal Holiday Lake 50k, it allowed me to pencil in PMPB after not thinking I would be able to race it this year.

When held in February, the race begins at 9am given sunrise time, etc.  When I registered for the race, I'm almost certain the website stated the race began at 8am, which made sense given that A) sunrise is much earlier in April than in February and B) generally speaking it's warmer in the spring than the winter.  The night before the race I even checked the website and there was a clock counting down to 8am Saturday morning.  But it also said the race began at 9am.  I didn't know what to believe.

Nevertheless, Jon and I showed up around 7:15 that morning ready to run.  We were the first runners there.  A couple of guys from the timing company had just started unpacking and I asked what time the race started.  One of them said 9:00.  I said, "You know the website has a countdown to 8am, right?"  To which he replied, "Not my job, buddy."  I guess he woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  The race was under new management this year, and immediately I was not impressed.

With over 90 minutes to spare before the start, and since Jon and I had decided not to race, but instead just treat this as a long training run, we headed out for a warmup.  I showed him some trails he had never ran before and ended up doing a nice 3.6 miles before the race start.  We spent the last few minutes before race talking to a few friends and soon we headed off.

The first of many creek crossings comes within 100 ft. of the start line.  You can't avoid getting wet in this race.  A long uphill gravel road after that and while a lot of people were running up, Jon and I decided to walk.  After running this parts of this course almost every weekend, and this being my fourth year running the race, I know it like the back of my hand.  I know that pace is key.  If you start out too fast, the second half of the race will chew you up and spit you out and you'll end up doing the death march to the finish.  So we walked.  Once we got to the top of the road, the former race director was there to point us to the trail.  We said hello and hit a nice mix of single/double track trail.  Down the hill and back to the road that leads in to the park, we have to cross two more creek crossings.  You can avoid getting wet hear but what's the point?

Outside the first section, we cross a road and hit the Corridor Trail which is a 6.15 mile one way trail that is a constant up and down.  There are few flat sections so you're either going up or running down.  It's a nice section consisting of mostly double track and wider trails, a lot of the time used by horses.  Luckily the horses stayed home for the race as I did not encounter any.  Jon and I ran this section at a comfortable pace while talking amongst ourselves and other runners.

As we near the end of the section, the leaders of the half marathon pass us in the opposite direction.  We cheer and congratulate each runner as they pass by and we concluded the Corridor section with a stop at the aid station.  Half marathon runners turn around here and head back to the start/finish line but full marathon runners cross another road and head up the mountain trail to the summit of Pilot Mountain.  Jon and I are fortunate that we train on this course and given that this was my fourth running of the race, I knew where to go.  Others weren't so lucky.  

Jon and I headed up the mountain trail.  I love this trail.  It's about 2.35 miles one way and a lot of rocky sections.  It helped me prepare for MMT100 as it was the closest thing I could get to the rocky terrain of that course.  We ran the downs and walked the ups.  The day was heating up but it was breezy so tolerable.  Soon we reached the end of the trail which gives you the option to go to the left or right.  Course goes to the left but some people, whom we encountered later, went to the right.  Another blunder.  Regardless, we press on.  As we near another fork in the trail, the previous race director was there to greet us.  We talked for a minute and then continued to the summit.

As we near the top, I could see the school where Summer teaches.  Unfortunately, too many snow days forced them to have Saturday school and it just so happened to be on the day of this race, at which she loves to come be a spectator.  I waved and kept climbing.  

Soon we reached the top and there were my parents and Summer's parents and sweet little Gemma.  She was too busy playing in the dirt to realize I was there.  Expecting me sooner, my mom asked me why I was so slow to arrive.  I told her I was there to run instead of race and that Jon and I were staying together for the day.  We talked for a few minutes but then headed toward the knob.  

The trail that goes around the knob can be ran in any direction.  But I believe in a race, everyone should go the same way.  That was not the case today as the volunteer said we could go either way.  As we finished the loop around the knob, another runner was running toward us and slowed down thinking he was going the wrong way.  We told him they said we could go either way but again, this makes things confusing for runners.  

The next section runs along the west side of the mountain.  The terrain is tough with a lot of steps made out of rocks.  This is also where rock climbers hang out as there are a few sections worth climbing.  This section also intersects where the Mountain trail ends.  Here we encountered other runners who were going the opposite direction as us.  The volunteer who was standing at this intersection said they made a wrong turn.  I wasn't quite clear on what that meant but as we passed the former race director again, he explained to us that those people had taken a right instead of a left at the halfway point and not gone up the mountain trail.  Total mind blow as this could have easily been avoided with a simple sign directing the runners to the Mountain trail.  

Jon and I press on though and head down the Grindstone trail.  It's about a mile downhill, semi-steep in one part.  The end of the downhill puts you right at the campground and some nice single track trail the leads to the visitor's center.  I always enjoy running this section because it is twisty and curvy, up and down.  The Grindstone trail ends and the Grassy Ridge trail begins and more of the same, nice trails that take you to the park perimeter.  Some gravel road trail and some double track and soon we're back at the half marathon turnaround aid station.  We didn't stay for long here and headed back onto the Corridor Trail that takes you to the finish.

It was beginning to warm up as we headed down this section.  Another runner, Mark, had joined Jon and I.  We talked for quite a while as Jon ran behind us.  It seemed as though the heat was getting to him or something.  Eventually he told us to continue ahead so we did.  Soon enough Mark had to stop as well and I kept going.  I was feeling good.  I picked up the pace a little and started looking at my watch.  I had said I wanted to run under 5 hours, which was still achievable.  Although I wasn't there to 'race', I still had that mentality as I drew closer to the finish.  I didn't want to be passed.  So I kept picking up the pace which was tough because temps had risen into the 80's by this point.

I came to the end of the Corridor trail and crossed the road and hit the trail into Yadkin Island Park.  Only a mile or so to the finish.  Crossing one creek, I come out on the gravel road entrance and see another friend already in his car leaving.  I stopped to say congratulations and he informed me he finished in 3rd place.  An amazing job since I believe it was his first race of this distance.  

Two more creek crossings, the second of which was almost knee high (which felt really good), and the finish line was in sight.  No one to pass.  No one to pass me.  I cruised in with a time of 4h48m40s.  Good enough for 14th place out of 42 finishers.  Jon came in about 13 minutes later.  It was a good run for us but obviously could have been handled better by race management.  There was nothing left to snack on at the end either so we quickly departed for home.  Satisfied with the day, we had covered almost 28 miles with about 4,500 ft. of elevation gain, which proved to be a good long run before Promise Land 50k++.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Race # 34 - Terrapin Mountain 50k

Terrapin Mountain 50k
Race #2 of the 2014 Beast Series
7:00 AM
Big Island, VA
Time: 6:09:30
Place: 77th out of 245 finishers

Two weeks after Lapper's Delight, I ran the Terrapin Mountain 50k which was race #2 in this year's Beast Series.  Looking back, I'm thankful that I didn't run 100 miles.  Once again, I didn't know what to expect.  I knew this race was harder than Holiday Lake, but didn't know the course or what to expect.

I left about 3:20 am and drove to the race which started at 7 am.  As the time drew near, we all gathered for the start and I met Bob who I have known for a couple of years now through running.  We started the race and ran the first few miles together catching up on what was new.  Soon enough we split up and I ran ahead.

The first four miles of the race were all uphill.  Whether gradual or a little steep, it was all going up a mountain.  I loved it.  And for the second Beast Series race in a row, there was a creek crossing at the beginning that forced you to get wet.  I was beginning to sense this was a theme.

Headed up the first climb of the day

We reached the first aid station a little after four miles and I grabbed a quick bite to eat and began the descent down a gravel road.  The descent was a little over five miles.  It was nice to have a change after the initial climb so I rocked the downhill.  I knew I'd probably pay for it later, but little did I know it would be the week after the race.  More on that later.

As the descent came to an end, I noticed my surroundings as beautiful Virginia country.  Who knows how far we were from the closest city.  Mountains all around us and a beautiful day it was shaping up to be.  I came in to the second aid station and again grabbed a little to eat and headed up the road.  I looked around and could see what I thought was the mountain we had just ascended and descended the first nine miles.

The mountain of our first ascent/descent

The next section was some easy running and really nice single track trail that led back to the second aid station.  But once I got to that aid station, I knew what was next.  In mountain trail running, generally speaking, whatever goes up, must come back down.  But also, in a lot of cases, whatever goes down, must go back up.  The five mile downhill we ran earlier in the race was now the next section, but in the opposite direction.  I walked the majority and ran a few times when it was a gentle uphill.  Soon enough, I reached the main aid station for the second time.  A quick bite to eat and it was on to the next section which did sort of a lollipop and brought us back to this aid station.

Some nice single track

As I started out the lollipop section, I was greeted by the leaders of the race.  I didn't know how long this section was, but I knew these leading the race were way ahead of me.  They were looking strong. I was just out there to survive and advance.

The first part of the lollipop section ran along the north side of a mountain so there was lingering snow covering the trail.  With the warm temperatures, avoiding the snow meant running through mud.  Classic case of pick your poison.  I, like most runners I'm sure, chose the mud. We soon rounded the mountain and were in the sun which meant better terrain.  There was a long uphill climb of which I walked the majority.  I had played leapfrog with another runner most of the day and he and I matched strides and struck up a conversation.  I had heard of an infamous climb called the 'Apple Orchard' but couldn't remember what race it was.  He informed me it was the next race, Promise Land 50k.  We ran together for a while talking about the races in the Beast Series, the courses, and what was to come in the remainder of this race.  Eventually we made our way to the 'stick' of the lollipop and returned to the aid station where we started.

I grabbed a gel and some food and started the climb up Terrapin Mountain.  I was told this climb would be the toughest but wasn't quite a mile so not too long.  Then the back side was pretty steep.  In a line with other runners, we were walking up the trail and it was a little slow for me so I made a pass and hiked faster.  Eventually reaching the top, we were to go to one edge where there was a lookout and a tool to use to poke a hole in our bib number stating we had made it to this turnaround.  I stopped for a few seconds to admire the view and take a picture and then kept moving.

Made it to the top of Terrapin Mtn!
Once runners leave this point, we ran along the ridge for a little bit until we reached a section called Fat Man's Misery.  I wondered where this section got it's name and would soon find out.  I was accompanied by a few other runners and we hit a section where we were basically climbing down boulders.  Another spot to punch our bib numbers but the tool to use was broken.  Then I saw it.  A sliver of a hole, maybe three feet wide, that we had to shimmy our way through.  Several thoughts ran through my head.

  1. I'm glad I'm not fat.  I see where this gets it's name.
  2. Thank goodness it is a beautiful day and this spot isn't covered in snow or ice.
  3. You've got to be freaking kidding me!!  Are you serious?!?
A fellow runner sliding down through Fat Man's Misery
 Essentially it was just a small opening between two huge boulders that one had to ease down in to.  Then come out on the other side.  Definitely a new experience for me.  Good thing I'm not claustrophobic!  As we exited the other side, it was time for some downhill.  This wasn't any regular downhill though.  It was STEEP.  I was enjoying it for a while but then my quads were really feeling it.  I knew at that point I was going to be really sore.  I had worked those muscles a lot throughout the day.  As I kept going downhill, trying to keep it under control and not fall down and roll down the mountain, my feet started getting hot spots.  Eventually I made it though and there was some easy downhill running in to the last aid station.

As I was nearing the aid station, I couldn't tell if things looked familiar or not.  Had I been here before?  Was this an aid station we came to earlier?  So many questions.  I asked a fellow runner as she passed me and was completely ignored.  It was then that I realized she had both headphones in.  I don't mind if runners wear headphones, but just use one and not both.

Earlier in the race as I was talking to one runner, he said that the course was short. Maybe around 29 miles.  So as I come in to this aid station, I'm thinking maybe less than four miles to go.  A local Boy Scout troop was manning this aid station, I believe.  I asked how far to the finish and one of them told me eight miles.  I was baffled.  Either I had less than four miles to go, or eight, or somewhere in the middle.  Regardless, it was time to get moving.

As I departed the aid station, I encountered other runners as they were coming in.  Soon I took a trail to the left and no matter the mileage, I was headed for the finish.  This last section though was torture.  The beating my legs had taken the last three miles or so was taking it's toll on me.  My feet needed cooling down.  I wished that creek crossing from the beginning of the race would soon be ahead.  I was entering the bad mood zone.  I was over it.

What's worse than feeling fatigued and ready to finish a race?  Feeling fatigued and ready to finish a race but not knowing how far it is to the finish.  This last section was all mental.  My body was done. It was up to my mind to get me across the finish line.

There were no more climbs.  Just a steady trail of easy ups and downs.  So I ran as much as I could but succumbed to the mental anguish and walked occasionally.  A few people passed me, but I didn't care.  Survive and advanced.

The section seemed endless.  I knew I had to start descending at some point to get to the finish.  But when would the descent begin?  Every time I thought it was beginning, the trail would shift uphill again.  After about three miles, I knew this was it.  My legs were hurting to run but I had to keep telling myself the more I run, the sooner I'll get there.

Eventually, I reached a creek crossing that was so inviting.  The water cooled down my feet and made the last mile or so bearable.  I ended the race just as I began.  The finish line drew near and was soon in view.  No one in front of me to try and run down and there hadn't been anyone behind me for quite some time.  I just trotted in, extremely relieved, finishing in 6:09:30.

Seconds later it seemed, another couple of guys finished.  I had no idea they were so close behind me.  I congratulated them, picked up my shirt and headed for the post-race meal.

In hindsight, this race was great.  I loved it, even though I suffered through the last 10k or so.  The trails were really nice and very challenging.  And if you're wondering, my Garmin read 30.7 miles.  Which meant I had roughly five miles from that last aid station to the finish.  Mental note made for the next time.  I survived, and now advanced to Promise Land 50k, race #3 in the Beast Series.

Garmin Data:

Elevation Profile

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Race # 33 - Lapper's Delight 24 Hour Run

Lapper's Delight 24 Hour Run

9:00 AM
Pinnacle, NC
Distance:  28 laps / 42 miles
Place: 16th out of 20 

I had a great time at the 2013 Lapper's Delight.  It was my first overnight run and I used it to prepare for MMT100.  I did 56 laps in that race for 84 miles.  This year I wanted to hit 100.

The race fell three weeks after a snow covered Holiday Lake 50k and we actually had some snow the week of the race that had me hoping and praying it would melt before the start.  If it was a snow covered course, I knew 100 would be out of the question.

When I showed up Saturday morning, the snow was almost completely gone so I thought there may be a chance at 100 miles.  I checked in with the race director, Glenn, spoke to a few faces I recognized and then set up my personal aid station at my car.  The course was modified slightly but still a 1.5 mile loop.  A course like this has advantages and disadvantages.  It's good because you're never too far away from the aid station but bad because it's not too far from the aid station.  Aid stations contain chairs.  Chairs are bad for ultrarunning.

Gemma and I before the race

Taking a bite of the leftover snow

They got me up too early for this...

Family pic before race start

We started at 9am and the first lap gave us a taste of what was in store for the day.  While the snow was minimal, it was melting fast.  There was one section that was a huge puddle we all chose to go around.  Soon though, there would be soggy grass covered puddles in multiple places.  The back side of the course was behind a line of trees and the snow did not melt as fast.  It would be a tricky spot to maneuver and not bust your rear.

All smiles for the start

I tried to run my own pace and not worry about the other runners' paces.  This is always hard to do, especially early in a race.  Your body is ready to go but remembering to pace yourself is key.  Eventually I slowed down and fell into a good rhythm.  After the first lap, I passed the aid station and grabbed a Krispy Kreme donut.  After the second lap, I stopped at my personal aid station and grabbed a slice of bacon.  Only in ultrarunning is it important to have a balanced diet breakfast of donuts and bacon.  Another reason I love this sport.

After four laps, my toes didn't feel good as they kept pushing up against the ends of my shoes.  I was wearing my waterproof Hoka Mafate's.  They had kept my feet dry through the wet spots but I could not continue with it like this.  Soon it would be detrimental if I didn't make a shoe change.  So six miles in, that's what I did.  The following lap I really found out where the puddles were as my feet got wet.  But my shoes would drain and my Darn Tough socks left my feet feeling dry until I circled back around and got them wet again.

I covered 10 laps, 15 miles, in three hours.  I knew I wouldn't be able to keep that pace up for the full 24 hours but figured I'd keep it going as long as I could.  It felt good so I ran with it.  As the day passed, I was making good time.  Mentally though, I kept doing a stupid thing:  Mental Math.10 laps in 3 hours, 20 laps, in 6 hours, 30 laps in 8 hours, etc.  Keep up the pace and that's 80 laps in 24 hours.  I was an idiot for thinking like this.  In hindsight, I needed to just say 3 laps to the next aid station.  Just keep moving.  Treating it like a normal ultra would have been a better plan.

Soon though, I was about to hit the 6 hour mark.  Sure enough, I finished my 20th lap right at 6 hours.  I decided on that lap that I was going to sit down for the first time.  Another stupid mistake.  Why did I even bring that chair with me?  I sat and contemplated what my plan was.  I didn't feel great.  I knew that it would be a long struggle if I kept going through the evening and into the night.  Was it worth it? 

The afternoon soon stretched into the evening and although it wasn't official, I had thrown in the towel mentally.  I knew I couldn't get 100 miles in 24 hours. Do I stay out and keep moving though, just so I'm not a quitter?  Or do I bag it and call it a day and recover faster?

Summer, Gemma, my parents and my nephews showed up as the sun was starting to set.  They were there to encourage me, but I wasn't in the mood to be encouraged.  Summer decided to take a lap with me and we talked.  I told her how I felt and brought up the Geoff Roes article I had read a long time ago where he talked about elites dropping when it just wasn't their day.  He said that while the elites compete to win or do well, if they don't feel like they can do just that, they drop because there's no point in beating up their body anymore than they should and force longer recovery times.  Yes they can finish the distance but what's the point if they knew they couldn't win.  Now I'm no elite runner, but the same holds true.  I could have stayed out there the full 24 hours and probably put up a good 70-80 miles, or more.  But that wasn't my goal.  And this wasn't an 'A' race.  With race #2 of the Beast Series coming up two weeks after, there was no point in risking it.  She agreed with everything I was saying.  So we finished the lap together, I told my parents I was stopping and went to talk to the RD.

Glenn was completely understanding and that meant a lot to me.  I told him my goal and that it wasn't going to happen and it wasn't my day.  He could relate and I immediately came to peace with my decision.  I had no regrets.  Yes I was going to miss being out there all night amongst the ultrarunning community which I enjoy so much, especially at this race, but bigger races were in my near future and this one will be back on the schedule in 2015.

I stopped my watch at 9h30m.  I had covered 28 laps for a total of 42 miles.  While it wasn't what I was hoping for, it was a good day and a good long run.

Garmin Data:

Friday, February 28, 2014

Race # 32 - Holiday Lake 50k++

Holiday Lake 50k++
Race #1 of the 2014 Beast Series
6:30 AM
Appomattox, VA
Time: 6:58:07
Place: 140th out of 281 finishers (314 starters)

I can probably make this the shortest race report ever:

Lap 1:
Road > snow covered trail > snowy slush > knee deep creek crossing > snow covered fields > single-track snow covered trail trying to let leaders pass without falling into lake.

Lap 2:
Single-track snow covered trail passing by those finishing lap 1 without falling into lake > snow/mud fields > knee deep creek crossing > snowy trails turned mud/water > road > finish.

That was about the extent of Saturday's 19th annual Holiday Lake 50k++ held in Appomattox, VA.  Should you choose to continue reading, I can give you a few more details.  Unfortunately I do not have visual proof of the mess that ensued.  You'll have to take my word for it.

After a successful 2013 and completing my first 100 mile race, I did what any ultrarunner would do and planned out 2014.  This year I wanted to complete the Beast Series which is a 6-race year long event held in Lynchburg, VA and the surrounding areas.  Saturday marked race #1 of the series, the Holiday Lake 50k++.  This would be my first race since last May when I completed MMT100.

The week of the race, my hometown saw the largest snowfall in over a decade.  While the race location in Virginia didn't get as much as, they still received 7-8 inches of wet snow Wednesday night and Thursday.  The roads were cleared on Friday as temps rose well above freezing and I hopped in the truck with Jon Westmoreland and headed to Appomattox.  We arrived, checked in, enjoyed the pre-race meal and headed to bed.  Sleeping in a bunk house with 16 other people is ok unless someone is snoring all night!!  I didn't fall asleep until midnight I guess.  Dr. Horton blew the bull horn at 5am.  I hadn't slept that crappy since Massanutten and I've got a 2 year old in the house!

Light rain was falling as we gathered outside for the 6:30am start.  Soon we were off on a crazy nasty adventurous day.  The first half mile is slightly uphill on a road before turning off on to a trail.  I started up front to try and avoid the bottleneck I heard would appear as we entered the trail.  This means I also went out too fast, just as I always preach to myself not to do.  It seemed as though taking 8-9 months off from racing made me forget a lot of things.

Once I got to the trail, I realized just how bad of a day this would be.  The snow was slushy and slick.  Footing was terrible.  Every muscle in my lower body was being used to keep myself upright.  I didn't like this.  Being from NC, my experience running in snow is minimal.  Especially with the amount that fell earlier in the week.  This wasn't fun.  IT WAS WORK!  I wasn't a happy camper.  The snow.  My pace.  The fact that we had to endure this for ~33 miles.  All of that put me in a bad mood.  I kept thinking to myself, just keep going, it'll get better.  Eventually I came to the realization that it wasn't and I just had to stick it out to the end.  I can't quit the first race of the Beast Series.  I was just going to have to suck it up and get it done.

Before the race started, everyone gathered in the dining hall.  I traded a few words with a guy who was running his first ultra.  He said he heard there was a knee deep creek crossing about 15 feet wide seven miles into the race.  I was unaware of this.  And if true, was going to be mad at Jon for not informing me of this!  As I passed through the first aid station grabbing a little food and drink, I was still in a sour mood.  People were passing me, but I didn't care.  I had finally convinced myself to run my race, not get injured, and try to have fun.  A little over six miles in and we come to a creek crossing.  My shoes barely got wet and I was hoping that was the creek crossing he was referring to.  It wasn't.

Just shy of seven miles in, I arrived.  There was no way around it.  Well I take that back.  There probably was.  But I didn't want to look like the wuss and try to avoid it.  I slowed to a walk and went for it.  As expected, it was cold.  My poor planning for the race was then realized.  I only brought one pair of socks, shoes, everything.  I was stuck with wet feet for the rest of the race.  I could only imagine how big the blisters would be but I had hopes my Darn Tough socks would be worth their price and keep my feet in tact.

The next mile to the aid station was jeep road that was a mix of snow and mud.  When I arrived at the aid station, word was spreading that a girl had slipped going in to the creek and broke her leg.  Having broken my leg before, I felt for her and hoped that she could get out of there quickly. 

Eight miles in and I had finally come to peace with the course.  I knew it would be a test of endurance.  I wasn't going to set any PR's.  I just kept telling myself "survive and advance".  Just make it out alive.  The sections were long and alternated from trails through the woods to trails in an open field to trails that followed the paths of power lines/poles.  There wasn't a lot of elevation change so really a lot of running.  The trails were slush.  If you got off the main path that everyone was wearing down, footing was worse.  I could feel my legs getting sore by the minute.

There was a slight downhill coming in to the third aid station.  I had fun almost skating down it as I ran.  I departed and set my sights on the last section before the turnaround.  The race consists of two loops, one clockwise and the other counterclockwise.  As I neared the end of the first loop, the trail ran along the lake short.  With the snow creating tricky foot conditions, and the leaders of the race already on their way back on the second loop, crossing paths was tricky as to not slide down the short embankment into the lake.  Given that the leaders were out there to compete, I did what any runner should do and stopped to let them pass by without interfering.  The last thing I wanted to do was to cost someone valuable time.  We all know I'm not there to win the race!

I arrived at the start/finish area completing the first loop in about 3h15m.  I drank an Ensure I had in my drop bag, grabbed some food from the aid station and set out on the second loop.  I knew a negative split was out of the question, especially since I had gone out as fast as I did.  So I thought to myself if I could do the second lap in 3h45m, I could break 7 hours.  Not ideal for a 50k but given the conditions, I'll take it.

The second loop was the same as the first, just in an opposite direction.  It felt like it was early afternoon but wasn't even 10am yet.  A mile into the second loop, I passed Jon.  We stopped for a bit to talk and he told me that he helped carry the girl who broke her leg out of the creek as he was right behind her when it happened.  Jon is such a kind person.  The night before the race he went with a few big guys and helped pull a girls car out of the snow that had gotten stuck.  He's got his good deeds taken care of for a while.

As I headed back out the lake shore trail, I had to dodge those coming in and again make sure no one slid into the lake.  Eventually all the other runners were gone and I was running by myself.  I ran alone most of the day.  But at one point another runner was behind me and I had almost slipped.  She asked if I was ok and we started a conversation.  We learned we were both running the Beast Series this year.  Soon enough though, I decided that trying to hold a conversation and watch every step I was taking, along with running the pace she wanted to run was out of the question for me.  I told her to go ahead and never saw her again the rest of the race.  Call me the type of person who can't walk and chew gum at the same time.  I can't run and hold a conversation at the same time.  Proof that I train alone A LOT.

As I reached the next aid station, ~20 miles in, the clouds began to break.  The hill I skated down was now an uphill and a spectator had set up a hammock between two trees.  I would have liked to have laid down in that thing for a few minutes, but I had to keep moving.  I was beginning to fatigue, but I tried to think positively about the finish.  If I can make it to the second to last aid station, it's only 8 miles from there.  Then it's a mile to the creek crossing and then three miles to the next aid station, and then only 4 to the finish.

Step by step, mile by mile, just keep moving.  I finally reached that creek.  The cold water was almost enjoyable on my legs.  The other side showed what 300 runners can do to a trail.  The snow had been turned to water and mixed with dirt to form mud.  It was nasty.  I kept trying to avoid the water puddles.  Why?  Who knows.  That was stupid.  My feet were already soaked.

I made it to the final aid station and one of the volunteers said I looked pretty clean from the ankles up.  I was thinking to myself, that's because I haven't fell down.  I knew not to say it because I would soon enough do just that.  I grabbed some food and a handful of gummy bears and set out for the finish.

The trails through the woods were also trampled to death.  You had two choices.  1:  Run in the trenched out ditch filled with icy cold muddy water or 2:  Run in the snow slush on either side of the watery ditch.  Since I was already soaked, I chose option 1.  Yes my feet were numb, but I knew I would soon be done.  I was actually feeling pretty good though.  Running through the mud wasn't that bad and I was actually running at a good pace.  I passed quite a few people and just kept saying the faster I run the sooner I'm done.  Once again, the highs and lows of ultrarunning made themselves evident in the days race.  I always hit a low point around miles 18-25.  And then I hit a groove after the marathon mark through 50+.  Today was no exception, except I wasn't going beyond 33 miles.  I was feeling it as the finish line drew near.

I passed one person who said a little over two miles to go.  Then I saw the "1 mile to go" mark spray painted in the snow and looked at my watch.  6h47m.  13 minutes to get to the finish.  I knew the road section was coming up soon and I couldn't wait.  I wondered what it would feel like to run on the road after being in the snow all day.  I soon found out.  It hurt.  When your feet are numb and pounding the road, it hurts.  I didn't care.  I was almost flirting with the 7-hour mark so I had to keep it going.

I crossed the finish line with an official time of 6:58:07.  My watch said 32.63 miles.  I don't know what the official distance was supposed to be.  I didn't really care either.  While it was my worst 50k time to date, I know that a race like this builds character than can go a long way.  Especially with five races remaining in the Beast Series.  I also wondered if this would be a sign of future races in the year.  I hope they aren't all covered in snow!

Garmin Data from the race: