Sunday, August 24, 2014

Wildwood Games 50k Race Report

This inaugural event was held Sunday August 24, 2014 in Appling, GA. It started at Wildwood Park and traversed the Bartram Trail towards the Petersburg section to a short 3 mile loop, then returned to the park. I wanted to do this as it was all along the banks of Clarks Hill Lake - near to where I spent a year and a half during high school while living in Plum Branch, SC. Although I was excited to run the Chattooga 50k 2 weeks later and compare my time to my 1st 50k (there) back in 2010, I decided I would do it anyway and see what happened. I'd run a 50k and followed that with a marathon once before - and that did not turn out well (IT band issues for the next 6+ months). But I had trained better this time, right?!

Always in my Harbison 50k shirt and visor)
We started as it became light and after saying bye to Drew, I tried to start off comfortably. Other than a cold just before I was to taper, I had a great lead-in for this event. I had four weeks in July of 40-47 miles, and I had Never had 2 weeks in a row before over 40. After that cold, I was in Minnesota for a week and did my last "long" run (of 15 miles) up there at Afton State Park with a group from UMTR - they were super-kind!
Anyway - I ran just behind some runners until the first aid station at mile 4.5. The grassy and gravel trail up to that point had taken us out of the park and soon looked to be more for mountain bikes. I call the short ups-and-downs "bunny-hops", and they were constant for a while. Used my momentum as best I could. There was one runner just ahead that I could barely make out, and another close behind me (Esteban) - he passed me at that first aid station (46:35).
Started running by the lake soon afterward, and we continuously wound our way beside every inlet along the lake. Still a few bunny hops, but felt ok as it wasn't that hot out. (The previous day was horribly hot, 110° heat index and they trimmed the 100k bike race down to 50 miles. Sunday only saw the temps get to the mid-80s). Snacked a good bit at the next aid station (mile 9.8 in 1:39)

Didn't see the girl (Devon) ahead of me after that, which is odd because she was in the marathon and should have come back toward me later on.
There was more aid a mile after the marathon turnaround (14.1 in 2:22) and I was happy to be doing around 10mins/mile. It was right thru here I saw the leader come by, about 3 miles ahead of me at that point.
The Bartram Trail does have mileage markers, so I tried to keep an eye on them as I ran. The single track trail was not very technical at all (maybe a few places), was rarely straight, and generally not much elevation change either. Total on someone's Garmin read 988 feet gain and 988 feet loss.
So I left one handheld at the AS as I ran the loop. I walked for the first time thru here as I was starting to feel a bit tired and my right calf became tight (and would continue to be for the rest of the event).
Back at the aid station (Mile 17.1 in 2:53), grabbed a small snack again and continued on. This was a day to be out in the woods alone. I saw a few runners here and there, either at an aid station, going the opposite direction, or passing them. not once after mile 5 or so did I run with anyone.
The trails were nice, and had some different areas throughout. Pine straw, dirt, some small fields, and of course the lake.

I made my way back to the next aid station and after some pringles and m&ms, had a treat - a popsicle! (Mile 21.1 in 3:40).
They were prepared and even refilled my water bottles! (Thank you!!!) After this - I was having more issues - my left sole became tender and my right hamstring was tight. I could still move, but I had slowed down to almost 11 minute miles.


The next section was the longest without aid coming back (5.3 miles), and it got a bit disheartening when I could see across the lake, the finish area of Wildwood Park.

I still had 7-8 miles left, but I just had to keep moving. Did come upon two female runners and passed them (after a little chuckle - private joke). My middle/lower back got sore next as I got into the last aid station - Mile 26.4 in 4:45 and up to 12 minute miles (but still moving!).
Back thru the bunny hops and away from the lake told me I was getting closer. I hoped I wasn't going to get passed near the end, but I wouldn't have really been able to do much about it.

I came back down the gravel road, across a coupe of roads, past the unmanned water stations, and turned the final corner to the finish. I was excited to see my wife and daughter, and my aunt and uncle who were there too! Staying with them the night before made the drive in that morning very easy.

Finished in 5:46:50! My 2nd fastest 50k.

Few notes: I would've been close to winning (or at least the Male winner) of the 10-runner marathon. (Devon) The girl just ahead of me at the beginning won in 4:45. 2nd place was 5:30. My 50k time was 4th in the marathon results. 50k winner was 4:45 out of 18 finishers. I was 6th.



Saturday, May 3, 2014

2014 Oconee Trail 50k


Oconee 50k
This race was Saturday May 3rd and held at Oconee State Park in SC. I hadn’t been to the park in about 10 years (back when I was hiking and not running), but my 1st 50k in 2010 shared a few miles of trails with this race.
I had trained a little better for this one (one 14 and then two 19 milers at Paris Mountain) than I had at El Paso, but went in not knowing how I would fare.
The 6am start meant waking at 3:20am and making the 90 minute drive, with a quick stop to get fresh batteries for my headlamp. It was too bad the start wasn’t at 6:30am when headlamps wouldn’t be needed. Anyway – everyone congregated around the visitor center prior to the start and I saw some other ultra runners I knew (Marty, Michael, Tiana, Jason/Sully, and Wayne/Weezy).
My headlamp was giving me fits, not working, then working. When it was time for the race to start – it decided to not work, so I stuck it in my pocket and ran on. There was a line of runners ahead (and behind) and I kept near the one right in front of me and did the best I could to not trip. It took a lot of concentration, and I picked my feet up more than normal to compensate. It was a bit congested, so I was actually able to walk up some of the inclines as fast as others were running. After a mile or so – the guy in front of me took a walk break and I sped ahead to get behind Michael – a friend from our weekend runs at Lake Conestee who was running his 1st 50k (after missing Harbison with the flu). I came thru unscathed and after about 25 minutes, headlamps weren’t really needed anymore.
I ran at a somewhat easy pace, but those first 5-6 miles are always slightly uncomfortable as I get settled in. We hit the first aid station around Mile 4 in 48min (with Merle and Lester volunteering – thanks guys!) and I picked up a few chips and cookies and walked out. Michael caught up shortly and we kept on going together. Nice runnable trails with the sunbeams trying to come in thru the leaf-filled trees. There were definite spots/hills to walk, but never lost contact. It had mostly spread out by mile 3 or so, and we’d see others every now and then, either passing us, or being passed. We were just enjoying the nice soft trails (and dodging the few roots out there) and chatting. Michael graciously offered to pack my headlamp into his backpack.
Next aid station was near Mile 9 at 1:52 with Scott, the co-RD helping out), and we got there and refilled and took in some more food. This was the gravel road we were to go down. We set a comfortable pace, not opening up at all really and just relaxed. A few people passed us and were quickly far ahead. We just kept going down and around another bend and down some more. We went running down for 28 minutes (~3 miles). That is the longest constant downhill I think I have ever run. We were glad to see that section end, but we knew coming back up would not be fun and I already expected to walk every bit of it!
We were now at the Winding Stairs section…a ~3 mile climb up to the next aid station and turnaround point. We had been wondering when we would see the leaders coming back, and after 2:40?, we saw the lone leader come flying down by us. He had a good lead…and we still had no clue how far the turnaround was.
I was starting to feel better thru here and at some point, pulled a bit ahead of Michael (and would run alone for the remainder of the race). There were still a few runners within a few minutes of me by the time I got to the turnaround (in 3:04). I stepped back to get a picture and promptly cut a gash on my shin from a stump/post. Took a little extra time to fuel up, pour some coke into my mouth (it is a cup-free event!) and grabbed a handful of chips, etc before walking out. All the aid stations were wonderful and were quick to help refilling my two handheld water bottles.  

 Almost 16 miles in and now I was going downhill and I ran pretty much all the way down to the road – with a few picture breaks as Drew (missed him at the start), Michael, Marty, and Sully/Tiana/Weezy came upon me. Then there was the road. This one female runner was ahead of me. I was walking at my normal quick pace and would get closer to her. Then she’d run a section, then walk again. I would get closer to her again. I got as close as about 20secs from her before she ran and was gone! (Impressive!). I had found a great hiking stick after the first mile and that helped me tremendously. Once I hit the aid station (at 4:27) at the top of the hill and got some more fuel in me - I was on my way. Pretty much ran solo the rest of the way in. Note I said "ran". Yeah - for the first time in who knows how long - I was running pretty well on flats and downhills. Legs didn't hurt at all, just a little fatigued. I was so happy about that, but still surprised. I wanted to run as much as I could while I felt that way. Once I got to the last aid station (back to Merle/Lester, in 5:35), I was doing the math in my head about when I could finish. It seemed I was running better than I expected, but if it took 48 minutes coming out, I was going to finish with a ~6:30 time. I was a little dejected as I went along, but then I really had the feeling I hadn't run this part of the trail before. I knew we went around the lake, but this was different and there was no lake. Once I got to the lake, I knew I was close. I still walked a bit as my legs didn't want to move at times, but I still felt I finished quite strongly. My wife and daughter were right there at that finish to give me that extra boost. (I was lucky they were there, my wife thought I had started an hour later than I actually had). Finish time of 6:04!! My 3rd fastest out of now 9 50ks. 

















Sunday, February 23, 2014

2014 El Paso Marathon Race Report

Race Date: 23 February 2014
I had registered to turn this race back in 2013, but lack of training and a nagging IT band injury after the January Harbison 50k led me to skip that race. I would not do another race that year. This time around – things worked out. I had not thought about this race until I was making plans to go to Juarez for work. I checked to see the race date and it worked out perfectly. I could fly Saturday, race Sunday, and work in Juarez Monday and Tuesday. My training was only slightly better for this than the Harbison race 7 weeks earlier. Instead of one double-digit training run (10 miles), I had two! I had a 10 miler, and then a steady 15 miler 2 weeks before the race.  That was encouraging. Of course the week after my longer run, I had a cold and it snowed enough for it to be too slippery to run. My expected plan was to run as far as I could, then walk it in. I was only in it to finish and didn’t care about a time.
Race morning began with a short walk from the hotel to the expo center area/finish line where we boarded busses for the ride up the mountain. We began on top of XXXXX and the 1st 4 miles were downhill. It was brisk and breezy up top, but most people stayed on the busses as long as they could. Once the sun came up, it was just fine out.
We started right at 7am and got into our paces. The real downhills began about mile 2, but by then I could already tell I was working harder than I should have been. The views were nice, the road was wide, but cambered. I skipped the aid stations as I had my water bottle. Once we wound down the mountain and came into town, we still had a few hills before it flattened out completely.
1st eight splits:
 1-9:27 2-9:28  3-8:40  4-8:27  5-8:05. Yeah – that last one was fast.
6-8:28  7-10:35 (uphill/water stop) 8-8:44
At this point, we were running thru the edges of El Paso past shops and stores. It was about to become flat. I was laboring already, the sun was overhead as it had been since we came off the mountain and there was no shade whatsoever.
Miles 11-17 were on the same road…mostly straight, with nothing but sand to the left, and alternating walls and (abandoned?) houses for much of it. I started taking walk breaks about mile 12 or 13 and had little enthusiasm or desire to run mush at all after that.
Splits:
9- 9:31  10-9:35  11-9:58  12-10:14  13-10:53. I hit the halfway in 2:12:49 (and already my slowest ever).  14-11:56  15-11:04  16-11:23  17-11:47
So 9 more miles and I was at 2:47. We were just heading into Ft. Bliss for a bit and I was getting to the point where I was about to start walking the rest of the way. Mile 20 was the best mile – right beside the parade grounds and the officers quarters. As I grew up a military brat – I appreciated this area. Also – it was the most “green” area on the course! One wonderful volunteer (could have been a resident for all I know) was giving out frozen Gatorade slushies. I had low energy at this point and was hungry. I missed the aid station fare that ultras provide – and I missed the bananas at the previous aid station. There were a few hills, up and down thru here, and I was only walking by mile 22. The glazed donut gave me a little spike of energy just before then.
Splits:
18-14:31  19-12:31  20-11:37  21-13:29  22-13:00  23-14:10  24-14:12  25-14:25
It was good I walk as fast as I do as I knew going thru the base that I would end up with a sunburn. I had a couple to walk with for a little bit as we hit the downtown area. Nothing too exciting in terms of buildings, but we knew we were getting closer.
I was finally getting to familiar grounds near the hotel/expo center and I knew the finishing chute was around one more corner…so I started a jog. As soon as I crossed the first mat, I walked. I guess the photographer was taking pictures as you crossed the three mats (so the pictures look a bit odd as I went thru the chute).
Last 1.2 miles: 16:30.
Finish time: 4:51:37
Almost exactly an hour slower than my fastest time and 40 minutes slower than my typical time. But as I said – I was only in this to finish – and I did.
I was sore for a few days and walking up/down stairs was difficult, but I recovered and got right back to training. That's one other good thing from walking so much of the course.
PHOTOS:













Sunday, January 19, 2014

4th Harbison 50k Race Report

The Harbison 50k was on January 4, 2014 and held at Harbison State Forest in Columbia, SC, but with a different Race Director than the first three events. RD David Nance did a wonderful job of continuing the success at this event Dan Hartley had begun in 2011.
This race was going to be like no other that I have done. Out of the 9 marathons and 10 ultras I have completed, I had never gone into a race this under-trained. How undertrained? I had zero miles in September and October due to a foot issue. In November (with some custom orthotics to alleviate the pressure/pain) I began my personal “Couch to 50k in 10 weeks“ program. After one week of only walking, the next 5 weeks went almost as expected, getting up to a long “run” of 10 miles. That was my longest run since April! Then I got sick with a 105° fever, and blurry vision from my antibiotics. That was 10 days off from running. (A month+ later now and I still have that lingering cough.) Just over two weeks before race day, so no time to really do much but try to get some running back in my legs. I knew I would spend much of the race walking and I had an expected time in mind even though I had no earthly idea how my legs would respond as the miles went on.
Race day brought mid 20’s at the start, clouds all day and it got up to maybe 45° - the shivering went away as soon as we started, right on time at 7:30am and it was never bad after that. 2 miles of service roads led us to the twists and turns of the Lost Creek Section. I walked many of the short hills and it was easy to quickly catch up to the small group just ahead of me as we went down the same small hills. The 2nd section was very runnable and I was still ahead of my “prediction” by 12 minutes. I typically walk very fast, so I was not losing as much time as I walked a bit more as the miles went on. Still moved well thru Spiderwoman and the rock garden. It was after the 3rd aid station that I was starting to feel the decline. I made it back to the start of the Lost Creek section (mile ~16.6) to start the second loop in 3:30. Although it was 38 minutes slower than 2013, I was happy to have made it that far and fully expected then I would be able to finish. I was going to walk it in from there as my left hip and inside left thigh began to affect my ability to run. I was able to shuffle on the downhills for the next few miles, but as the discomfort increased after that, my walking got slower and my ability to shuffle on the downhills became non-existent.
The aid stations were, as always, terrific! This year I mostly subsisted on potato chips, pb&j and cookies. Reminder to self – M&M’s when temps are in the twenties are quite solid. Also - can’t forget the hot chicken soup at the halfway mark! 

I was pretty much on my own after the very first aid station. Other than people usually passing me rather quickly, there were only two or three occasions where I had any lengthy conversations with people. I am completely comfortable out on my own and enjoy the solitude. 
At every aid station on the 2nd loop, I kept counting down the miles to the next one (and the finish) - that was my incentive. I knew based on my pace difference from the first loop that I would be close to 7:30, but that came and went during the last section. I was able to muster a trot those last 200 yards as I finished in 7:36!! (and one whole minute slower than my "expected" finish). I was thrilled with finishing, even with walking the last ~17 miles!
Thanks to all the support out there, good seeing Sully, Drew, Michelle, & Bill with great finishes - and congrats to the 2 others who have also finished all 4 Harbison 50k's: Viktor and Seth! See you next year - hopefully, with just a little more training.
Finisher!


First miles-near the back
At the back of this early "train"


After going off course early-Viktor passes me again.

by the Broad River...

Firebreak trail
Walking it in...just past halfway

Sulley running strong

Michelle always enjoying being out there