Thursday, November 12, 2015

2015 Icebox 480 Race Report

7 November, 2015 - The  Icebox 480 was held at the Whitetail Ridge Trails in River Falls, WI. Pretty much some woods behind an office park - seems to be geared toward mountain bikes, but some good single track trails for running on too.
Got there about 6:45am for the 7:30 start. Was a little chilly at 34° as I got my bib, shirt, sticker and other swag, but by the time the start rolled around, I decided shorts was still the right move to go with my long sleeve technical shirt and orange jacket, gloves, Afton buff, one handheld and my 'old' Montrails. My newer Montrails didn't feel so well when I tried them last weekend without my orthotics, so I went back to the 'old' ones.
I realized right at the start in the parking lot cul-de-sac that I still had on my glasses (that I only wear for driving), so once we started and ran by the bag drop, I put them in my bag and got in the line of runners. To have over 120 runners, it spread out pretty quickly and moved well. After the first 2 miles or so, it was pretty thin already. The trial wound this way and that, had orange flags and tape marking any intersection - you really couldn't go wrong! First mile was completely runnable until the hill up to the 'top'. 1st mile marker was 2/3's the way up. Second mile was more rolling (the whole course just kept winding back and forth). The mile markers were 'painted' in orange on the ground and I finally noticed them at Mile 3. There were plenty of roots and rocks the whole way, and I had two good trips the first loop (and one more each of the next 2 loops, all with my left foot). There were two sections that went by fields/cornfields. Hadn't ever seen corncobs on a trail before! Mile 3 and 4 had some planked bridges to what I assume was to avoid some shallow troughs for runoff. We did come across a guy with a leaf blower clearing the trail. Another first for me at a race. At around mile 4.7 there was an aid station with water (and Hammer stuff). I bypassed it the first loop. The last two miles were quite runnable and you could open up on some of the downhills, especially with two sections of banked curved boardwalks and all. The last half-mile was flat and near a brewery (keg by the trail was a dead giveaway) before getting you back to the main aid station.
So the first 7 mile loop was fine - kept a 10-11min mile the whole way, maybe a bit faster at the end. Took a quick pit stop, swapped my water for Gatorade, dropped off my gloves that I had on the first mile, had an S!cap, grabbed some snacks (PB&J, chips, M&Ms) and headed back out. Time was 1:10.
I had run behind two people once it spread out and was content to not push it. Until we hit some downhills around mile 3 and I had to move ahead some. I followed one guy for some of loop one and ended up behind him again on lap two. We stayed somewhat close to each other the whole loop, and if he did get ahead, I'd close the distance on the downhills. I had to push a bit on this loop to keep up my 10min miles, The temps were fine, but being in the sun to going in the shade felt like a 10° difference. Wasn't getting 'warm', but did get cool every so often. After Loop 2, had the same aid fare, went back to water for this lap as I was alternating, and walked out eating with a lap time of 1:09 (2:20 total).
Was decent the next few miles but I knew I had slowed down some (as expected). Walked when I needed to and still ran a good amount. My feet were already getting tender, so I changed socks here too from Smartwool to my thicker Balega. Lap 3 in 1:20 (3:40 total)
Lap 4: At the mid-aid station, they had cookies. I took two and walked out munching. Nice surprise as I had brought a Gu just in case I get hungry mid-way thru a lap. This loop was not easy. I had been running solo now for much of the last 2 laps. My right hip and hamstring were both talking to me, but I was still able to run downhills without issues, My compression shorts (under my regular running shorts) were starting to annoy me, so I finally had an opportunity by the cornfield and stripped off both pair of shorts to remove the compression ones. Managed it without another runner coming up, or falling over. Not sure how much the cookies had to do with it, but I felt really good for some miles after that - no leg issues for about 4 miles! After grabbing my usual aid, I saw grilled cheese and swiss cake roll slices. Took one of each and soon wished I had taken more of the warm grilled cheese! Yummy. Lap 4 in 1:29 (5:10 total)
Lap 5: Another solo lap. Passed a few while I felt strong early on this lap, but struggled for three miles in the middle here with right achilles soreness. Was still able to do 13:30 miles. Luckily it felt better by the time the 'downhills' came up and felt good going into the aid station. Lap 5 in 1:32 (6:42 total).

The website says:
The race will end eight hours later at 3:30 PM. Once you come through after 2/2:30 pm you will be directed to a short course of 1 mile loop where we will track your remaining distance till 3:30 pm

My laps and mileage (and my wife/daughters arrival times) were planned on the mile loop opening at 2pm. I came in at 2:06 or so and they asked if I was going back out. "Yes, of course, where's the one mile loop?". It doesn't open until 2:30. What?! So then I had to make a quick decision - go back out for the 7mile loop and push to run it faster than ~1:24 (and miss seeing my family) or only be credited with 35 miles, or wait around for ~26 minutes for the 1-mile loop to open. There were alot of people around and I realized they weren't done, but also waiting. I waited too. (If I had known that the time was going to be 2:30, I may have pushed a little more before then). Saw my wife and daughter as they pulled up, rested a bit and ate some more snacks (grilled cheese!!). A few minutes early, they said Go! and we were off again. Within a quarter-mile, it was thinned out completely. I was behind two others the whole loop and we ran the whole thing. Only as we power hiked up the hill to the turnaround (much shorter up the hill this time!) did the female runner and I distance the other guy we were with. She was the lead female and had done 42 miles before the mile loops. We did that mile in 11:10. We didn't stop and ran on to do the loop again. I had decided to stop after that loop. I hadn't thought I'd be able to run that fast, so I didn't realize that 40 miles was still in my grasp until much later. I told her she could easily do 4 or 5 of these loops but I was done. I felt good and didn't have anything in particular to prove to myself. My goal (outside of 40) was 36, so I was very happy with 37! That last mile? 10:00! Crazy...
(Realized Sunday why my feet had hurt so early. I didn't just put on my 'old' Montrails, but my 'oldest' Montrails - that had tread missing and had been relegated to mowing shoes for about a year. Oops!)
Post race: Felt fine. Normal tenderness on right hip/glute, shins felt it on my 4 mile walk Sunday too. Normal gait though. Tuesday - 100% and will run Wednesday. I seriously need to do yoga again - my hamstring issues are annoying...
Forgot my camera the last big this is it!

Thanks Shawn Severson!

Hill @mile 1 of loop

Saturday, August 29, 2015

2015 St Paul Trail Marathon Race Report

Had 7 weeks after Afton to train for the 3rd St Paul Trail Marathon, held on August 22, 2015. My buddy Todd had told me a couple months beforehand that he would be up for work in August and we should find a race that Saturday. I told him I had already signed up for this, so he did too. We picked up our packets in Minneapolis on Friday and ate some pasta. Saturday morning, we woke up early and after parking, got on a the bus to the start. We easily could have slept in longer. We started at Battle Creek and the whole course was unfamiliar to me except the section between Swede Hollow and the Eastside Heritage Park. We were a little intimidated by the hill seen from the starting line, but it turned out to be nothing in comparison to the hills overall in the first sections. We started off easily together as we wound thru the grassy trails before going thru some woods. Lots of turns! I took a pit stop and caught back up. Met and ran with a few people on and off (Sami, Chris) - both with Todd and without as he moved ahead of me. I caught up to him on an out and back and we had some more miles together. With all the turns, there were only a couple areas where you could miss a turn if you were not paying attention. We eventually got intermixed with the half-marathoners and even the 10kers. They were really good about allowing up to pass.
I had expected the race to be on paved trails just about the whole way, and wasn't too excited about the course going into it - moreso just about seeing and running with Todd. A few days before the event - I realized that the course was 55% on 'real' trails. So much for not training in my trail shoes and doing all those miles on the paved path around Lake Phalen.
Anyway - the trail did become technical the 2nd half and had some good ups/downs. Todd took one spill (behind me, so I missed it), and I had one good rock/root I kicked, but was barely able to keep myself on the trail. (That big toe hurt on and off for a couple of weeks).
One section on a rock wall was interesting, as was going by an empty homeless campsite - but those 83 (or 86, I forget now, but I counted them during the race) stairs were quite difficult at mile 19? or so.
After a steep rocky climb to an aid station at Mile 17.2, as I crossed the walkway over highway 61 - my legs started cramping up. First the left inner thigh, then the right leg, just above the knee. Then the left just above the knee. Then the inner thigh on the right. It alternated between all those places for the next hour and last 8 miles of the race. It was bad enough to stop me in my tracks on two occasions - once as I passed near the finish line after a long downhill (mile ~21.5) prior to going out to Swede Hollow, and another time at mile 24.5 near Heritage Park, before heading back toward the finish. I was hoping to see Todd near that turnaround before getting split off on the opposite Swede Hollow trail. When I did see him just after another cramping episode, he told me as he passed that this was my fault. I completely understood and felt it myself. Just wanted to get thru it and keep moving to fend off more cramps. (The decision to leave my S!Caps at home - it was in the 60's to low 70's, why would I need them? and the fact that there was No Gatorade on course. ok - just water is fine. Duh, no wonder I got cramps the worst I have ever gotten them!).
The last few miles were slightly downhill and I continued to move. Wasn't so worried about time and had very little expectations with not knowing the course AT ALL. As my watch ran though, I had a goal of beating 4:10...and I came in at 4:07:36.
Ended up as my 3rd fastest marathon ever (out of 11 now) and best since my fourth marathon I finished with a 3:53 PR in Dec 2009.
Todd wasn't too far behind me. As a non-trail runner (one other trail event in his history), he did rather well!
We enjoyed a post-race beverage and food before finally ambling to my car and making the short drive to the house. (My family was on their way back from Milwaukee, so missed this one).
We took a little walk to the lake later on to help things get back to normal. After three days of my legs being sore to the touch, they were perfectly fine.

Friday, July 10, 2015

2015 Afton 50k Race Report

My entire running life, up until this point, had been based in South Carolina. After living there for almost 28yrs, I picked up and moved with my family to St. Paul, MN in April. I had scouted races enough to know I wanted to do this race, so I registered for it before I even moved. My training for the first 4 months of 2015 was decent, even with my back and forth up north for work. Even got some cold-weather running in with a -12° temp! On my first trip up in Aug 2014, I met a group for much of the 25k loop, and I ventured out solo one other time (stopping at every map!) just prior to the move and went ahead and bought a State Park pass.
So - leading up to the race, I was at Afton doing some, all, or more of, the 25k loop as best I could figure out 10 weekends in a row, from 7-21 miles. I thought I had figured out the course after a few tries (I actually did, except for the one short section by the yurts).
Race day came (Thanks to Pa Der for the ride!) with 65° temps to start, some haze (mostly missed the incoming smoke from western/Canadian fires), with no wind and pretty dry. Trails (snowshoes section) had been cleared too and we started at 6:30am.
Started off at my own pace down the hill and after a flat section, headed up the first climb. No point running uphill this early! I was able to do the first section about the same compared to my usual times (even with a quick, early pit-stop!) and bypassed the first aid station completely. I was pretty much alone, but there were people around. If I did stay near someone, it wasn't for too long; Aid stations were never too far apart and that always provides some separation. Nothing to special the first half - just felt fine.
Aid Station 3 (at the river and same as AS4) was lively! That was nice. Standard AS fare and I, as usual, subsisted on potatoes, chips, and M&M's. Did have 1 Gu, 1 Gatorade and some (5) S!Caps.
After AS4, I ran the whole way along the St Croix. I did pass a snake (not sure what kind) on the first section, and later, saw some really huge birds! (buzzards). Move well up meat grinder and ran much of the snowshoes section directly behind another guy.
My goal for the first half was to not get passed by the 25k winner (who started an hour after us!) last year's winning time was about 1:36.  I made it (with a few other runners nearby) in 2:32. That was just about my best lap there in training. I ended up making one mistake in all my training runs when I thought I was running the true course. I kept missing the right turn after the meat grinder that heads by the yurts. Oops!
Anyway - I had to take off a shoe as I had a tiny rock in it (that only began bothering me about a mile earlier). Picked up my Gatorade (in my handheld) from my drop bag and put it in my vest pocket. That ended up not working well. Should've just held it.
Lap two started off with the same downhill...glad to be running that direction. It would have been less fun finishing having to go UP that hill! I knew I'd slow down the second loop, but I was hoping to minimize it. Lost 2 minutes on the first section in lap 2, and only a minute on the next section (the back 40). It's a very runnable section.
At mile 19.7 (AS 8) at the end of the back 40 - I was at 3:13.
After the next part of the Africa loop, ending with the technical downhill and the gentle road to the said station at the river - I was at 22.1mi and 3:41.
The next section was the longest between aid (at 3.8mi), and it felt like it. Legs were getting tired. I still moved all right thru here, but still lost time walking up the hill on the gravel road as well as some of the flat river trail. The trail back up to the campground was tough. I then had the fun downhill back to the river from the campground. I loved that and felt like I was flying! Got some snacks at the AS (Mile 25.9, 4:29).
The next flat river trail was hard to motivate to run, but I broke it up by trees, or benches, or whatever else I could to keep moving at some kind of decent pace. Meat Grinder wasn't too bad and got to the next Aid at 4:56 (mile 28.1). 3 more miles!
Found a little motivation here following people and trying not to get passed, but at some point, it just doesn't matter - it's all about finishing. My right achilles got a little tender for a bit, and behind my right knee turned weak with the last 1/4 mile - but I knew my wife/daughter would be there at the finish and that always keeps me going. As I came thru the grassy trails by the road, I saw them. My daughter came onto the trail and finished the race with me - there's nothing like it!!
I ended up with a time of 5:34:46, which I was thrilled with. Over 9,000 ft of elevation change - more than Harbison but a faster time by 13 minutes.
No issues afterwards either other than some typical soreness in my quads/hamstrings. Went to a get-together that afternoon, took in a baseball game the following day, and on Monday ended up in El Paso after my flight there via Phoenix got canceled and I drove the 6+ hours. Right back to training that Wednesday!

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015 Harbison 50k Race Report

January 3, 2015 Harbison 50k
So this was my fifth straight Harbison 50k at this 5th annual event, held at Harbison State Forest near Columbia, SC. There were supposed to be a few other 5-time runners at the race, but I was the only one to show up.
Spent the night with my family at the host hotel near the race (both a first for me for this race), and had a nice group dinner with some other Greenville runners-Kerrie, Michael, Terri (and her sis!). Race day morning was pretty low-key...just hung around and talked with a few others I knew (Chris). Wondered where Viktor and some others were...
Very happy not to have driven down that morning.
Temps were nice just around 49° at the start, and had a new course this year as a true 2-loop design, bypassing the Lost Creek section, added the Eagle trail, and extended the Firebreak trail.
Started off on the gravel road and found my pace, not too concerned with anyone else then. Hit the trails toward the front of a group including Terri and Kerri. Dropped a Gu at some point and that whole line passed me. Good thing I didn't need to stop at the first AS (52min)...passed most of them back right there.
At some point - I joined up with Hilary, settling in right behind her, with Kerrie always within a few minutes of us. Hilary is a very strong runner and I was lucky to be feeling well enough to keep up with her. I was going to hang on as long as I could.
I was so engrossed with either our conversations, keeping up with her, or something - that I didn't even notice that we had already gone thru Spiderwoman the first time around. Guess that was a good sign!
Made it thru the Halfway point in 2:42. That was a good 10 minutes faster than when I ran my fastest Harbison in 2013 (half at 2:52). Going back to 2014 - I had not raced since January 2013 and ended up shuffling/hiking the last ~17 miles of the race. My finish time was 7:36. I was secretly hoping to take 2 hours off that time.

I stayed with Hilary thru the next AS (this time faster than lap 1, 49min) at mile 21. It was in the next few miles that she left me. Kerrie was still right there behind us (we had flip-flopped on and off for awhile) but then she also went ahead to stay. I moved well a lot longer than I usually did at this race and knew I was i for a good time, My left knee was nagging me some, and I did walk some, but my motivation was still high as I went thru the last section. Not having been down Eagle Trail before that day - I wasn't entirely sure how much further I had. A few other people passed me on that last section, but I was still thrilled as I came down the finishing stretch. My wife and daughter were there to see me finish, and the RD (David) shook my hand, gave me my finisher award, and called out my name as the only 5-time finisher of the race.
Finishing chute

Greenville 50k Finishers

Monday, November 17, 2014

2014 World's Toughest Mudder (WTM) CREW

Outside Las Vegas, November 14-16, 2014. I helped crew my brother Pat and his buddy Jeff for the 2014 World's Toughest Mudder. Pat had done a few TM's, Spartan races, and other mud/obstacle events (Jeff had too), but neither had done anything like this before. Having set a goal (good or bad) for 50 miles would require traversing the 5 mile loop course (with ~23 obstacles each loop) 10 times. You had to start your final lap within 24 hrs, and were given a 2 hour window (for 26 total hours) to finish.
We all got there Friday afternoon and after doing some shopping, went to secure their 'pit' area and set up much of their stuff. We checked out some of the visible obstacles (rappelling, Berlin Walls, some good, short/steep hills, some electric wires, some new and old obstacles. We checked into the nearby host hotel, rested, I ran an errand, and we ate dinner with the other participants and got some clues on the course. With a 10am start on Saturday and a long weekend ahead of us, we all went to sleep early.  
Pre-Event: We got the pit all set up, walked around, checked out the 35foot high jumping platform over the lake that would be the last obstacle of each loop. Stopped for a nice photo op with Amelia Boone. (It's worth it - go check her out!) 
My goals were to see them (in the daylight) as much as possible on the course, be ready with whatever food and information they needed each lap, help them in any way possible to get their 50 miles. 
The lead up to the race start was lengthy with the motivational speech of Sean Corvair, National Anthem, and other standard pre-event info. But at 10am, with the expected leaders (including Nick Hollan, Ryan Atkins, etc) up front - they started!
Long conga line to start and I got quite a few photos before they headed out away from the pits. I went back to camp. This first lap had no obstacles - but the leaders were still crawling thru the pipes before it was corrected. Saw P&J head up a short steep hill by the pit entry and I went back to wait for them at camp.

So, for most of the daytime - I went back and forth from camp to various points on the course - to see them and take photos. I think 'Tight Fit' was the only obstacle I did not see. I stayed moving constantly - sometimes second-guessing myself where they would be.

Random notes from the day on the obstacles:
Saw them about 1.5-2 miles Weigh Too Much
They had to put the correct weight (plus or minus a certain amount) of either sand/gravel or concrete (I think) as directed, and walk a short loop. If the weight was off - had to try again - re-load and walk and weigh. Some people weren't even putting the right stuff in their buckets...
Birth Canal...sliding underneath a pool of water. Some lines were much longer than others.  
Grappler - going to the dinner the night before and hearing how to do this really helped. Not 100% - but the idea of it helped. Some (Amelia) just bypassed it without even trying at times. Didn't lose too much time either (with Berlin Walls and some extra distance).
Swingers - Started out allowing people to ring the bell with their feet, then changed it (too easy I guess) that it had to be your hands.

I waited for them two times at the Cliff and somehow missed them go by. Once - just assumed I missed them and ran back to the camp and there they were; the other time, I saw Jeff had posted something. Ooops! Not a good pit crew move.
Camp time with them was mostly getting stuff they needed - food/sandwiches, drinks, clothes, etc. Breaks seemed kind of long to me, but it seemed to all be going well on their end. I knew I had a good 20-30 minutes at camp after each loop to prep for the next break before I could get to where I could see them on course. Even got out to mud mile once.
Once night came, obstacles and the course changed slightly. I know it would be difficult to see them on the course, so there was more time in camp to prep. I think it was 11pm or 12 before I really sat down and rested for a few minutes. At some point, Jeff had to get a new timing band so that made for some extra work/worry.
The wind was starting to pick up around 1am. They were out on lap 6. I had everything settled in the canopy and actually got into the small tent to close my eyes for a bit. The wind kept whipping the flaps and it was getting louder and harder. I got out and saw one neighbors tent/canopy start to blow away. I helped them for a bit before our own canopy was in a fight with the wind/sand. I had some help too and it was tough to just lower it down to half its height. It had already bent the metal at that point, I stood couching under the center just holding it down so it wouldn't blow away for about 30 minutes...other neighbors were in the same mess.
I eventually had the canopy dismantled and it was in shambles. I tossed it over to the side in no-mans land and gathered our stuff that was now spread around. I was still finding written stuff the next morning across the way...
(Swingers got shut down; Ladder to Hell was lowered)
I stuffed whatever I could into bags and grouped them together, About this time, Pat and Jeff came back. Needless to say - they had no reason to stay long. One of their shorter pit stops.
I did manage to get things in some order and the small tent was fine. So after Lap 7, they took an 'extended' break. It was 2:45am or something, They needed just three more laps. I knew Jeff was ready to go, but Pat was almost done. I am not sure I ever got to sleep, but I prodded them awake and between some white lies and some persistence (do one more lap, THEN take a break), they got up and back on the course at 5am (?). They moved fine and once they left out on Lap #8 I knew they had it. I spent a good deal of time with them on lap 8 and 9. Didn't talk too much, just kept with them.
There was practically no break after Lap 9 and they were right back out there, I packed up the tent and bags, took much of it in just 2 trips to the entrance. Ran for the car and parked it closer. Filled it and then parked it again and hustled back to the pit. I did make it to the Cliff for one last jump and got them as they finished at about 10:20am, after 24 hrs 20 minutes and 50 miles of WTM 2014!
Couldn't be more proud of those two and all they accomplished - and doing it side by side every step of the way (except penalty things of course!). I was honored to have helped them reach their goal.
(I started this a month after the event and finished it up with many details still missing almost 1 year later! I'll do better all around next month!)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

2014 Paris Mountain 16k Trail Race Report

Greenville Track Club (and John Lehman) hosted this event again on November 1st, 2014, but this was my first time running it as a 16k since it changed from a 15k (by adding switchbacks down Sulphur Springs). It was 3 weeks after The Bourbon Chase relay, but I had put in some good miles and I wasn't looking to do too much with this race. The 15k I ran in May 2010 in 1:46, a week Before my 1st 50k at Chattooga,
I showed up early and helped set up the start/finish line and helped with registration until only about 10 minutes before the start. That made me a little rushed as I got to the start line, but did warm me up a bit after being cold in the 34° temps standing still for an hour. There were snow showers overnight  and some wind, but the trail was a bit wet but clear.  
So - we started off, I laid back just a bit as we went down the road, letting others go ahead and got comfortably behind a group on the trail. Not alot of room to pass of course, but I wasn't in any hurry. I was cautious not to push too hard, but still sped up and passed a few. That is, until we got to the steep section of Sulphur Springs. I knew the 'train' would go slowly, they'd run, then have to stop and wait/walk. I planned it well and walked so much of that section, even well before it got really steep. I knew with my walking speed, i would catch them soon enough, so I'd let them get a good bit ahead and sure enough, I'd catch them as they got bunched up. My heart-rate never went up, so at the top, I was good to go. Cruised up Firetower and then pushed a good bit going down to the lake. There was one point where a chunk of ice fell off a tree and almost got me. That would have hurt, but luckily I didn't have any trouble.
I did fade some after the downhill on Sulphur Springs, but picked it up more toward the end of Mountain Creek. I knew my times were decent on each section (except the downhill, which I hadn't run that much), and it helped that I mostly followed someone the whole way. A female was just ahead of me most of the race, just out of reach, but close enough to 'chase'. I ended up beating my 15k time by 10 minutes, in 1:36:09! A very satisfying result!

Friday, September 12, 2014

2014 Chattooga 50k (non-)Race Report

Sept 7, 2014. Terri Hayes was putting on her last ultra in SC after a number of years of low-key, low-frills, donation-only events. I had completed my first ultramarathon here back in June of 2010 and was anxious to run it again. Partially to see how my feeling for it has changed after 12 other events, and also because the trails are so nice. I had no reference for "elevation" before this race, or the time it took, so it wasn't "difficult", it was just what it was. Now, maybe I'd have an idea.
This turned out to not really be a race or even an event, but a low-key run that you could do whenever that weekend, you just had to turn in a time that you kept yourself. I prepared myself for that by putting aid at the 17/21 aid station. There was aid there already, but it felt good to be safe about it.

So after leaving the house at 5:15am or so, with a stop for ice and water, I pulled into the Cherry Hill Campground parking lot and got my things together. I was using a brand new Ultimate Direction SJ 2.0 vest that had come the previous week (while I was in Juarez, MX working). My legs weren't completely fresh, having run the Wildwood 50k two weeks earlier. I've never run two races of this distance so close together before. When I did a flat 50k, followed by a road marathon 2 weeks later, that combination gave me IT band issues and severely hurt my running for the next 15 months. That explains the poor times and event gap in 2013.
Anyway - Terri was just finishing up the instruction for a small group, and they went and started. After a quick hello to Drew, I tied my shoes, and ran to catch up with the group, led by Joe Parker. Hadn't seen him in a while, but he looked comfortable out there. After dropping my vest off at the Winding trail intersection with the camping area, I hit the trail with my two Amphipod handhelds, heading down the 3 mile out-and-back section. I was in the back of maybe 5 or 6 runners for the first bit, but decided that I would run a little faster going down here and I went on ahead. I eventually saw 4 or 5 runners coming back that had started a bit earlier. and made it to the turnaround area (road) in 25 minutes or so. I was in the gravel looking for where the trail went wondering where exactly to turn around when another runner came upon me and reminded me that it was here. I knew, but just wasn't thinking. The other guy went on ahead as I walked much of the uphills. Legs just didn't seem to have much (even on some of the flats/downhills) and I was already worrying this would be a Very long day. I knew I was capable of walking it, but really wanted to run it somewhat well.
Saw some runners coming the opposite way, Joe, Drew, and then Psyche and Charles! Stopped and chatted for a few catching up some. Met Psyche here back in 2010 and have always enjoyed hearing of their many adventures! Finally got back to my vest as we turned away from the campground, went up a nice hill, and a sharp downhilll to Hwy 107. Terri was there with some Aid, so I filled my handhelds and crossed the road onto the Big Bend trail. At this point (~7mi/1:17), I was about 6mins ahead of my 2010 pace. The guy (in blue) was just ahead of me, and would be barely in sight for the next 3-5 miles.
Was running fine thru here as we headed to the river, and I tried to keep track of some times between bridges (I walked every one of them - I was not going down this time!). There wasn't any real issue of going off trail, but I was cautious about looking to see where I'd be going on the way back. The guy in front of me waited for me at one point to make sure, and then he was gone. I munched some and drank well, but it really wasn't too hot out. I did not take many photos as I knew it's easier on the way back (when I want to stop and break).
Kept moving and felt better on this section - guess it just took me a while to get my legs. Nothing too hard, but I did walk up anything with more than an easy upslope - lots of miles left. I did get a little off the main trail going by a campsite, but plowed ahead and ran back into/onto the trail.
I hit the sign in the parking lot (~14.8/2:56) 10mins ahead of 2010 and had the climb up to the road and the next aid station. I passed a couple thru here and eventually came upon a guy who was walking and holding his bloody hand. He had tripped and disclocated a finger, then injured it again in another fall. I walked with him the mile or so into the AS and made sure they were aware there of what was going on.
Dropped off my vest again (why run with it when you don't need!), got what I needed, and headed off down the trail. It felt good knowing I was now past the halfway, but finishing this 2 mile out (downhill) and 2 mile back (uphill) would put me heading in the right direction.
(Finally finishing this a LONG time later - so details may be lacking!)
The downhill went by fine and saw a few people, Made the turnaround (~18.8mi) in 24min (3:58 total). The uphill saw me start to feel it - a tight right hamstring so I took it pretty easy and came back to the aid station (20.8mi) in 43min (4:42). I took what had to be my longest break ever at an aid station, maybe 7 minutes. I ate, refilled, took some photos, really just took my time.
It must have paid off, because I moved very well thru the next section. This is where I had so many problems the last time with sore feet, sore back, etc. Now - a different story entirely. I knew it was to be short lived on this downhill section, but I made up a ton of time than on the way out (17 minutes vs 37 minutes).
The next section (the 5+ miles to the Big Bend trail) was still pretty good. I stopped for about 5 minutes to chat again with Charles and Psyche (gotta stop - why not?! It's Charles and Psyche!) and then kept on going. I power hiked as I needed and ended up about a minute and a half per mile slower than on the way out. I was a bit unsure of myself on the turn off the Chattooga trail (27.9/6:27), but soon recognized it and knew I was getting closer. That's when you really start to think about a finish time, but when you really don't know how much further, it's really just a constant guessing game. With a mile to go, I was on the very edge of cramping (left thigh). I got slower, but still had some running left in me. I was excited to be beating my first time, finishing this non-event, being in the woods for hours, being able to complete 31 miles - so much to be happy for.
Finish is a bit low-key, but that was fine. I was done and I was happy!
7:11:37, 12 minutes better than my very first ultra in 2010.
I was sore for a few days (legs, arch, calf) and had to travel for work, but got back out for a run after 4 days off.