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