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.
|Finishing the Harbison 50k in 6:43|