Thursday, April 2, 2009

Up Down Up Down

Well there's the proof, straight off the Garmin, (you can click on the graph to see the whole race, sorry I'm not an HTML expert) I knew this race contained a little more elevation than the Superior 50K but was really taken back by the steepness. Holy crap, this was up up up and down down down. I remember writing about the "Smurf the Murph" course and it being somewhat sly in the way you accumulate elevation. This was just the opposite - in your face up and down. Notice the naive look on my face, 5:45 in the morning, no problems at all.
The race started about 30 minutes before sunrise, a bit of a pet peeve of mine as I hate having to lug the headlamp along until an appropriate dumping point, the photo shows us climbing the steps up to the top of an earthen levy, the starting point . The 50M, 50K and 25K started in mass, 336 starters total, with the single track about 1/4 mile from the starting line I pushed to the front to avoid the funnel effect. I took my first spill about 1 mile in the race as my right foot smashed into a rock, damn this was going to be tough.
The weather was fairly nice for the race, about 42 degrees at the start and 49 at the end, there was fog and mist for the entire race. The effect was surreal, while you knew you were in for a long race you could never get a feel for the effort you put in, no views to be had for all the work, very similar to Superior spring of 07.

The first part of the race was awesome, the climb was doable and fueling was going great, I had 3 gels and 3 shotblok tubes throughout the race and would fill my bottles at each station and grab a 1/4 or 1/2 PBJ at about every other one. Actually blew off one and spent no more than 1 minute at any one stop.

Every race I seem to match up with someone for part of the race, I met Allen, a VA native and ended up running together for about 6 miles and leapfrogging each other for another 6. Prior to arriving at the 3.5 mile gravel road stretch we agreed we would both benefit from running that together. Its nuts just how tough a stretch like that can be in the middle of a trail race - cars, pavement like surface ... just seems to play with my mind. I definitely ran this better with someone to share the misery with. For some reason I seem to be tipping to the right?At about mile 16 starts the second climb, it ends at 24 miles, I can say that this makes this race. The ascent starts gradually, up Turkey Pen Road, none seen. You end up running up the bottom of a draw, the trail criss crosses a stream about eight times - nice. Now we get to add the slosh factor. I chose my footwear, NB 790's, because I know my feet would get wet, they really worked good for this purpose as they drained well. They did not, however, offer much protection from rocks, not sure what would have. Some of the rock is quite pointed and the sole was a little weak in that area. It does have a rock shield, just not a very good one. The toe box is very soft and offers no protection from direct impact, as you will see later.

The last mile of the ascent was brutal, I cant imagine anyone running it but I'm sure the front runners did. I felt ok at the top, just grabbed a refill and a PBJ and started to walk off the cumulative effect of a 6 mile ascent. I really stiffened up here. After 1/4 mile we dropped off the face of the earth. I had to stop to retie my shoes to attempt to keep my toes from jamming into the front of them. As it turns out, part of my heal lift shifted to the front of my shoe and started to curl up and hit my big toe. I thought it was my nail after being pealed off, feasible option.

Anyway I had a really tough go of it in the steep downhills, I tried to gut it out but occasionally had to walk some downhills to keep my sanity. My quads were also quite fried by this point. On a few super steep sections I walked down backwards. The following picture shows me with about 3 miles to go. I think I'm still listing a bit??

The race, as may trail races do, finishes with the last half mile or so on the pavement - why is this? You can see the results here and in the photo below. I knew it would be a tough one and was shooting for the 6 hour mark, cant say I'm disappointed as I really pushed hard. Actually got sick with a cold about 1 hour after finishing - that's never happened before. After leaving the last aid station I caught a bit of powder blue out of the corner of my eye. All I could think about was my kids seeing me being beat by a girl - I know that's chauvinistic of me but it did shave a minute or two off my time. She was the third female finisher, seven seconds behind me, minor victory. Doubt the kids noticed.

Race by the numbers:
Miles run in 2009 up to race day: a paltry 208, longest run 22.3

117 starter - 110 finishers
Finished 26th

9/39 in 40-49 age group

24/94 males

My wife was at two aid stations and caught a few glimpses of Sean Andrish as he was making a bid for the course record, 4:26:17 missed the record by about 7 minutes. How come in all the photos of the elite runners they never have their feet touching the ground?

The parting shot was supposed to be a before and after but I refused to take off my shoes at 5:00 in the morning for the before shot. I must have stubbed my Rt big toe 30 times. Only went down once but had many a "windmill" moments on the trail which would have looked hilarious on video. I have to say, this was an awesome race, well directed and in a beautiful area. I ran it as hard as I could and am grateful to my wife for allowing me, no encouraging me, to tag this on to the end of a great spring break vacation. Superior 50K is next on the agenda, possibly Trail Mix 25K just for fun.