Sunday, January 9, 2011

Harbison 50k Race Report

(Apologies to those waiting for the Paris Mountain 20k Race Report - I will get to it! Promise.)

The 2011 Harbison 50k took place Sat January 8th at Harbison State Park, near Columbia, SC. Never been there, but it is only 1 mile from I-26. Very convenient. Got there too early soon after 6am while it was still dark out and one single planet shining down on us. (Note to self - bring headlamp for these early morning events). A campfire was going, which was a very nice touch to keep the runners and volunteers warm. Got my bib (#48), tshirt and goody bag (Ultrarunning and Trail Runner Magazines) and got my stuff situated warm in my car. Got my drop bag ready with extra shoes, socks, some Gu, some warm clothes for afterwards as this aid station was the halfway point and right at the finish area.
As light began to break, there were a good number of runners in the 50k (~90 or so signed up) and 10k. Met up with Mark C whom I ran with at Chattooga. We were both unsure of our fitness level going into this, but we weren't putting pressure on ourselves and just out there to see what we could do and enjoy it all.
Race started right at 7:30am, with a 0.2 stretch up to the 50k/10k split. We entered the Lost Creek section for 5.8 miles of twisty rolling trails. Leaf coverage wasn't too bad and the single track trail had you watching your footing for roots and rocks. Mark and I ran together this whole section and the miles went by rather quickly with us both feeling pretty good. The day was not as cold as we had expected. The day was windy (and we could hear it often), but we were mostly shielded. I had removed my gloves after 15 minutes and my jacket after 4 miles or so. It stayed around my waist until the halfway point. We hit the Aid Station #1 at 5.8 miles in ~1:03. Took me a whole 30seconds to fill my water bottle and grab a handful of potatoes, peanut M&M's, pretzels, chocolate covered graham crackers, a saltine and potato chips. The volunteers must have thought I was a madman the way I grabbed it all and took off, saying bye to Mark as I walked quickly out of there.
Next section was ~3.4 miles long, starting on the Stewardship Trail and Middle Connector Trail. This section was nice, still rolling along, with fewer tight turns than section 1. Popped an scap and a Gu during this stretch and tried to drink plenty of fluids. A girl running behind us in the first section came upon me thru here and took her a moment to realize I was the one who had been wearing the bright orange jacket. (It sure makes me easy to spot!). She eventually went past and was gone. For the majority of the rest of the event, I was alone. It was kind of nice being in the middle of nowhere for hours and hours...but the miles go by faster when you're chatting with someone, or just being behind someone. Got a glimpse of the Broad River and some rocks in the water thru the trees which was unexpected. Got to AS #2 in another 37 minutes (9.2 miles, 1:41 overall). Did my usual fill up/grab and was out of there. No point in wasting time standing around and not moving forward.
Section 3 was 3.3 miles, technical and twisty starting out straight up the Midlands Mountain Trail (no switchbacks here, just up), a little out and back down each side of a riverbed, then a 0.75 loop on Spiderwoman II, which was the hardest section with some steep hills. One section here (or was it just after AS #3?) was tight up on a ridge, covered with leaves making it slippery too. Aid Station 3 came up soon after and the volunteers there took the water bottle from you and filled them up! Very nice!! At this point, I felt I had taken too much advantage at the aid stations as I felt full. Never took more than 1 or 2 different foods from here on out (mostly the chocolate graham crackers, potatoes and at the last one before the finish - a chocolate brownie). Time here was 38 minutes (2:19:29 thru 12.3 miles). Still felt good. My right hamstring had a little twinge here and there, but nothing serious and not affecting my stride at all. My initial goal was to get out of Aid Station #4 and start my 2nd loop. Then I would be pretty certain of a finish. 1 more section to get thru first.
Section 4 was interesting...Back onto the Mountain Midlands section, followed by a "bike section". Taking a sharp right, we hit a wide service road for a bit of a climb. Saw a couple of people ahead of me and was slowly making time on them. Another turn and ran thru a firebreak section, with most of the underbrush gone from a controlled burn (didn't notice the signs on the first pass). Another flat/downhill section, an uphill, a turn onto another service road, then a nice path towards AS #4.
Jason was supposed to be at #3, but he was here instead. Ditched my jacket, picked up 2 more Gu packs, a small handful of goodies, and off I went - ~15.8 miles in (37 min section; 2:56:42 thru the halfway).
At this point I was feeling confident in finishing. There were 2 guys (Ty and David) ahead of me and I caught up to them at the 10k split. Spent the next section either right behind them or within sight. We walked every uphill and the miles slowly ticked off. Slowly. My right knee began to bother me somewhere thru here. Running, especially anything downhill got difficult fast. I started (too soon) doing the math and counting down the miles. Got to the aid station in 1:19 (Mile 21.6, 4:16:12), a good 16 minutes slower than round 1. The sun was overhead now and there were a few sections where it was right in your face. Had to shield my eyes a few times to see where I was going. That also made it warm and I took off my long sleeve shirt and tied it around my waist. Eventually took off my head band too and pushed my sleeves up on my technical shirt.
This next section I was able to shuffle at times, but running was not fun, so I mostly walked this. May sound odd, but I tried skipping and it felt just fine. Didn't do it much as roots would have made that more interesting, plus, I was really trying to keep a normal gait. I did pop an Advil (or whatever they had) at the next aid station (25.0, 5:04:25) after a 48 minute section. So I was slowing down about 3min/mile from the first pass. It was sort of easy to predict these sections as they all took me about the same time the first time thru (37, 38 and 37mins). Did the math and was hoping to come in before 7 hours. I knew the third section would be tough and I walked it almost entirely. I never really knew where I was in relation to the next aid station and I only had my watch to guide me. Clueless on my pace as well, just knew it was slow. One girl had passed me (last aid station?) and on the out and back along the riverbed, she was ~3-4 minutes ahead. Another guy was ~3 minutes behind me. That was motivation enough to stay ahead, keep moving forward. My muscles really felt fine and walking could have been just a nice stroll in the forest, but that stupid knee thing. Every blue moon or so, I'll have a random knee thing, but it's so rare I don't even qualify it as recurring.
So here I come into AS#3 at 28.5 miles, 5:56:50 into the race (52min section, 14 min slower than earlier in the day). The guys refill my bottle for me again (so many thanks!), I grabbed a muffin and out I went. Something happened thru here. I was able to run. I had it in my mind that 20 min miles would be pushing it to break 7 hours, or to even break 7:23. The way I had been going, it could've happened like that. But no. I was able to run!! Still walked the uphills and the bluffs section, but on the flats and even gentle uphills, I ran and felt fine. I was watching my back the entire time on the straightaways, assuming someone was going to come up on me with the pace I had been going at for so long. Eventually - I saw the girl that had passed me earlier, and a guy in front of her, a good minute ahead after making the turn off the firebreak. I soon came up to him as he has definitely walking more that I was (at the moment). I gained on her up the hill and caught her walking just past the last service road. We knew we were close. She was fine, and she was going to run at the finish. 

Finishing the Harbison 50k in 6:43

I did see two more guys coming up quickly behind me, so I kept going and put it into another gear I didn't realize I had, 31+ miles into an event. Thought I heard steps behind me and saw the finish ahead, there was no stopping me. Got into the finish chute, thumbs up to Jason and company, and ended in 6:38:04. A 41 min ending section was only 4 minutes off my earlier time. So a 45 minute PR on what I'd call a moderate course (more on that in a later post).

Post race notes:
Can't say enough how well organized everything was. Course was marked with flags, ribbons and signs. Aid stations had Everything (I skipped the hot soup, PB&J, and so much more), all the volunteers were excellent/cheerful/encouraging. Dan did a fabulous job and should be proud! The course is excellent and I would recommend this to anyone who likes trail running. 
Hung around and saw Mark (and others) finish. Missed Psyche and Charles before and afterwards. Nice chats with Byron, Jason, Joe and Seth. It'll be a little bit before I get my photos developed from the race (I took ~15 photos during the run. I'll add them then).
Physically, next day right now - feel good other than my right knee - up and down stairs are an issue. Muscles: hips slightly sore. That's about it. No blisters, no cramps. May lose a toenail or two (haven't really had that happen before, so we'll see!). A few days off (snow storm coming and temps down in the teens) to recover and I'll take it from there.
Funny - during the few miles of walking, I had it in my head that I didn't need to do anymore of these, but again, not 10 minutes after finishing, I was already talking about the Enoree 40 miler.

Random musings I recalled later:
-into an aid station calling out #38. When they said a female's name, I remembered I was #48. Was a little out of it at that point (2nd time thru AS #2?).
-No falls, and only 2-3 trips/stumbles. Unlike me (but thankful) not to fall.
-Jason offered up telling us our positions on the course halfway in, but the two of us there didn't want to know.
-Handful of bikers out there to dodge.
Results are up at 34 out of 72 finishers. Not sure how many DNF's.


No comments: