Thursday, May 30, 2013

Massanutten Mountain Trails 100

Kym and I arrived at camp at around 3:30pm Friday and immediately made our way to the registration for the 4pm race briefing. We met Biddi, Larry, Nebs, and Mike B. there. We we going to go out to dinner with a group with my running club, but we got there too late and didn't have time to set up camp before dinner. After setting up camp and heading back down for dinner at the race headquarters I was actually able to fall asleep at around 9pm. Of course I was up by 10:45 for a few hours, but I got a decent amount of sleep before the 3am wakeup. One thing led to another on race morning and I was literally running from camp to get to the 4am start. And we’re off. The first 3-4 miles was road and Nebs and Mike B don’t know it but I stayed about 5 feet behind them the whole time on that road. I didn’t necessarily want to get into running “with” anyone this early, so I hung back a little. When we hit the first trail it was a decent, not too rocky trail until we hit Short Mountain. Short’s a great place to start the race because you’re quickly introduced into the ridiculous rocks, and it’s very much 30 seconds running, 30 seconds rock-hopping. So, there’s not much room to really hammer in this section to get into too much trouble. In this section it was probably in the mid to lower 60’s out, but the humidity was very high and I couldn’t wait to get the stupid headlamp off. Around mile 8 I started to feel a hotspot on the ball of my right foot from my shoes slipping on all the rocks. Shortly after that the trail actually became runnable, so I didn’t want to stop there to fix it. Just after the first crew aid station (12.1) I remembered to stop and adjust my shoe. I had put them on in my tent at around 3:15am, with intentions of readjusting later, but forgot. I should have adjusted both at this point, but I didn’t. And here’s where the rest of the day/night becomes mostly a blur, so I’ll just randomly say stuff now. Nebs and I ran for about 8-10 miles together from like 20-30. It definitely helped get through a very boring 2-3 mile crushed gravel section. Ball of left foot blister started around mile 40 and was uncomfortable for the next 7-8 miles before it burst. Then I could put pressure on it. Every step was a stabbing pain, but I was moving well. At mile 63 I decided to have it addressed and Biddi moleskined me up and definitely helped save my day. Two of the aid stations had cold towels/dunking stations and they were the greatest baths of my life. My Garmin first died after 12 hours and 48 minutes and 55 miles and did not upload the elevation stats today. Devastating. I borrowed Biddi’s Garmin at mile 63 while I was feeling good and had fresh coverings on my blister. I put in a 22 minute mile during the big climb before the downhills into Gap 1, and I thought it was my best mile of the day. My least favorite part of the day was after Gap 1. There was a big climb, then what felt like miles of unrunnable trail in the dark. Massive boulders the size of cars you had to jump across and off. My right foot blister kicked in here and every jump was murder. From mile 78-82 were back to back to back 28 minute miles. A brutal climb and thick fog at the top put me at a race low. (Amzginly, looking at the splits, that 3.5 mile section was very middle of the road, while it felt like I had to have been worse than everyone) After Bird Knob AS It was 7 more miles to the Picnic aid station and I worked on a way to talk myself out of quitting. It was going well as the trail became runnable, until I thought the aid should have already been there and it was no where in site. When I got to Picnic Area (87.9) I grabbed a chair and a blanket and closed my eyes to the best of my ability. My blisters were killing me and my attitude sucked. After 15 minutes I opened my eyes and Kym and Biddi talked and Reike’d me into going. It was then 3:30am, my brain wasn’t working and I thought I had 18 more miles and I was calculating 18 miles of 30 minute pace for 9 more hours and I simply couldn’t do that. But, eventually I decided I had to. I took some magic pills (carbo veg 6c) from Biddi and got on my way. Forgetting to re-lube, my headphones, a new Garmin and everything else I wanted. About a half mile later I actually started running again. The magic pills worked? The blisters still killed, but my head was much more clear. Over the next 5 miles I passed about 6 or 7 people, I was feeling great. A comical section of about ¼ mile – straight uphill through a fast flowing creek. It was ridiculous. A girl I had caught was trying to quit throughout this section but her pacer kept her going. I think I need one of those pacer things if I ever do this again. Then a downhill rocky section did me in. I had to walk it all because of the blisters and all those people I had passed, then passed me back. I was in and out of the last aid station in a few minutes. The sun had re-risen and I was going to finish. The only way I was able to get through a very technical section around mile 99 was to literally lean into a tree, then fall into another tree to make forward progress. Once the 5K road section to the end came I was cruising. I didn’t have a watch, but I’d guess I was doing around 9 minute miles. Largely because at one point I turned around and saw a blond girl pacing a tall guy. I thought Nebs and Biddi were catching me, so I put my head down and ran as fast as I could. Coming into the finish, I hadn’t had a watch in 16 miles, so I had no idea if the clock would read 29 hours or 32 hours. I was in shock when I saw I went 28:49:15. All in all the lows were lower than the highs were high. I’m very proud of myself and I couldn’t have done it without all the help I received along the way. Thanks to Biddi and Nebs, and especially my awesome wife who was there for me at every stop. PostScript - almost two weeks later and I still haven't run. Two days ago I pulled a 3 inch by 3 inch hunk of dead skin off the bottom of my left foot. My left ankle is still bothering me and I have an MRI set for next week. Oh, and I know I can go about 2-3 hours faster if I can figure out the blister issues.

mile 33.3 - Elizabeth Furnace

Note left foot is twice the size or the right

mile 13ish rocks after Edinburg Gap

I think this was mile 67ish before Gap1.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Febapple 50 race report

In December I won a chance to run the Massanutten 100 so I started looking for semi-local ultras to use as long runs to help prepare. The Febapple 50 fit perfectly in my schedule to use as an early long effort, and would be my first official 50. Kym and I started the 2 hour drive at just after 4am. The weather forecast was 40s and rain all day and a light rain fell for the whole drive. It hadn't snowed in a week and the mild weather had melted it all. All except the snow on South Mountain in NJ. Somehow the trails were still largely covered in a thick layer of ice and snow. We arrived and I got dressed in the car and had just enough time to hear the RD's pre-run talk (which I should have paid attention to) and we were off. Knowing some of the others running, I settled in a smaller pack of about 4 off the lead pack which had about 10-15 guys. The first mile was on roads and then we took a quick 300-400 foot drop over the next half mile on a trail similar to those on the Horse Shoe Trail around here - small, somewhat loose rocks. A short flat stretch, then back up. I tried to keep a steady run up this whole big hill, but even the first time around ended up walking some of it. Several technical miles with several very icy spots followed back to end the first mini-loop to the start/AS area. The first 4 mile loop was about 25% covered in ice/snow and the second 6 mile loop was closer to 2/3rds covered. The second half was less technical, but the ice made the going a bit slower than I was hoping to run. I noticed some people wearing yaktraxs, but I feared that wearing them for too long would tear up my feet.

Slipping into mile 4 Aid Station
 The course lollipops around mile 7 and mildly confusing trail markings and my stupidity of following the people in front of me, and my failure to listen to the RD's directions before the race lead to a 2.2 mile mistake when we turned right instead of left. I noticed this as I reached the 2nd Aid Station for the 2nd time in a row. Another runner in front of me, and the one I followed who was now behind me started to backtrack, picking up several others that made the same mistake. At least 8 runners did this on the first loop. It mentally crushed me for much longer than it should have. I also ran faster than I should have trying to make up that time, which surely hurt me in the long run. After my second full loop the ice and snow was bothering me enough to decide to put on my yaktraxs for the 2nd half of the race. Of course though before I put them on I had a nasty, feet above the head, cartoonish fall on the ice. Initially I thought only my right hand took the brunt of the fall, but a few days later when my left leg was the only thing still hurting, I realized the bruise on my hip was due to this fall. Once I put the yaktraxs on I cursed myself for not just wearing them the whole time. No feet issues, no slipping, and no prancing around trying to avoid the ice. At mile 30 I changed out of my wet shirt (as far as I can remember there was a light rain all day) and this made my outlook a lot brighter. I felt so much better being warm and dry, if only for a short period. When all was said and done I finished in 9:39 and in 8th place. Out of 40-50 that started, only 20 did the full 50 mile distance. The race has 50K, 20 mile, and 10 mile options that all start an hour apart and if you want to drop down, the RD allows you to just enter in that race's standings. When I finished up and was eating a little, the awesome volunteers pointed me towards a cooler of beer they had and offered me to help myself. Can't beat that. While leaving my house at 4am for a race isn't the most desirable thing, I'd definitely do this race again. The race and course are awesome (my Garmin measured 5500ft of gain, a friend's measured somewhere around 6700 ft of gain). The "swag" was a vest with the race logo. It's nice, but I always prefer a technical shirt to run in.

Finishing happy