Sunday May 29th was the 2nd Long Cane 55M/50k race as part of Terri's http://www.ultrasontrails.com/ South Carolina Ultra series. She knows exactly how to put on a low-key but very enjoyable ultra event. The 4am wake up call came too soon as my daughter kept me up until ~11:30pm. Lack of sleep was never an issue, and I grabbed my bagels, water bottles and gear and left for Abbeville, SC. I got 2 minutes away and realized I didn't have my watch. Oops. I turned around, parked in the driveway and made my way up the stairs from our basement. Lying there was one of my handheld water bottle holders. That would have been disastrous with the expected 91° high temp.
With watch in hand - no trouble getting to Parsons Lake Recreation Area. Followed 2 cars the last 20 miles or so and saw some familiar faces as a line of cars formed behind us at the pay station. Parked, got my bib and got ready for the expected 7am start. Chatted with William, Seth, Chad and Viktor as we waited for Terri's pre-race banter. Ended up being a 7:30am start - great, 30 more minutes of the sun higher in the sky and beating down on us. Her instructions highlighted the figure-8 loop the 50k runners would have, and the additional outer CCW 23 mile loop for the 55M runners. Signs at the junctions, aid every 5 miles or so (plus an extra water drop), a few creek crossings and a "bridge" where you would get your feet wet.
We start off on the trail by the lake for a quarter mile or so - most of this I did my fast walk/shuffle as it was quite crowded. Hit a road before getting on the real horse trail. We were warned about possible poor trail conditions with a heavy rain Thurs/Fri and then many horses on the trail Sat. Turned out to be just fine. A few sections of pure mud that had you stopping to scrape off the bottoms, but for the most part, the moisture made the ground just a little forgiving - so much better than hard and horseshoe formed.
The first few miles had many trees down and a narrow trail as we ran single file. After starting off immediately behind one other, I passed him and stayed just beyond another group of 3 or 4. The guy right ahead of me was the same one I ran near at Enoree for many miles after the turnaround - Mark H. We'd again run together at times today and had some good conversations. It was easy to tell when he was close as his music offered a little reprieve to the sounds of nature.
After a quick stop at AS1 (~5 miles in, ~50min), the rolling singletrack trail continued. It was already borderline hot as I pulled my shirt over my head for the duration of the run. I was trying to take in most of my 40ozs of water from my 2 handhelds between aid stations, plus I carried 3 Gu's, a pocket of some S!Caps (note - lost my tiny ziplock before the race so I had them loose. After 4+ hours, they were mush and useless), and a bandana. Of course I also had my camera! I was super careful when it was time to cross the streams, but did get pictures.
Came into AS2 (~10 miles, ~1:45). Took time for photos, refilled, snacked and was out. Was soon right behind Mark and another when we got to the biggest stream where you would get wet. I darted past the other two guys but was unconcerned with getting my feet wet...need to practice sometime, and I knew my smartwool socks would be dry in the next mile, and they were!
I knew early on that I was not feeling as good as at Enoree. The ups and downs weren't an issue, legs just didn't "have" it. Kept going along though and seemed to be pretty steady. Had practically no issues with signage, so staying on the trails wasn't an issue. Only 2 times were the flags at crossroads not readily seen (and that was in the last 7 miles), but I was near people on and off most of the day.
AS3 (~15miles, ~2:40) came quickly and took a little extra time there, snacking, refilling. Got my bandana out and put a cupfull of ice in it, folded it over, and wrapped it around my neck. Pulled off a safety pin from my bib and had a volunteer attach the ends together. I'll go ahead and give a HUGE thank you to all the aid station workers. Giving up your time to help those choosing to run does not go unappreciated. Numerous "Thanks" were given out at each station. (They had the std ultra-fare: PB&J, potatoes, M&M's, chips, so much...and so wonderful!). Going out of that aid station I had to actually think - was that really the halfway? I feel too good. Interesting how mentally different (ie: easier) it is than Enoree (where halfway is at 20 miles).
Sadly - the mental boost was not enough as I soon had minor issues. Left arch became sore and the bottoms of my feet became a bit tender for miles before fading away. The arch-thing stayed around much longer. The heat, hills began to get to me too. After trying to stay with Mark H and company in the last section, I was mostly on my own for the next 10 miles and I slowed down.
AS4 eventually appeared (~19.5 miles, ~4:00) and I repeated my neck-ice thing. The ice hadn't lasted 20 minutes, and even though it initially helped a lot - it was not the constant reprieve I had hoped for. I was going to continue it - better than nothing.
I knew early on in this section as I began to crumble that breaking 6 hrs was not possible. Was having to walk long sections here - the familiar, twisty, center section of the figure 8 before a 2 mile stretch on new ground into AS5 (~25miles, ~5:05). There was a short out and back on the trail to get to the Aid station, and I saw Mark again here. Saw a few familiar faces sitting down at the AS (I assumed they had finished and came back out to relax) as I took in calories and re-iced before heading out.
Not 1 minute out of the AS - stopped for a photo op: Nice black snake crossing the trail.
Quite a few runners were pretty close to each other thru here as some faded faster than others. I alternately walked and shuffled as 3-5 of us stayed in proximity with each other and others went ahead or fell back. Seemed to take forever - and I was wanting it to be over. I was able to run some downhills, but again, had mentally given up. This wasn't frustrating as Enoree was, just uncomfortable due to the heat. To tell you how out of it I was - probably less than a half-mile from the final aid station (~1/2 mile for the finish), there was a guy directly behind me and he asked if my water bottles were empty as I held them both in one hand. I said pretty much so, but there was a few swallows left. Didn't hit me until the aid station that he had been out and likely needed some. So sorry (Julian) - I was just out of it! Refilled just a little and you could almost see the finish.
Finish time: 6:34:30 - a new PR (~5 minutes over Harbison). I still think breaking 6 is a reasonable goal. After flopping down on the ground for a minute, headed for the lake to join a few others in a dip. Was that a great idea! All ultras (at least during the summer) should end near water.
Ended up 14th out of 59 in the 50k. Only saw 2 heading back out for the 55M (no telling how many dropped down from the 55M to the 50k), but 13 finished it! Kudos to them in those conditions! 16 DNF's (sadly) included Psyche/Charles and William.
Thanks you again Terri for a well organized event! She does a tremendous job with all her races.
-Post race recap:
No soreness whatsoever. Small, tender blister on pinkie toe of right foot that I didn't even notice until I got home. Few little scratches. But then - ~2 days later - the obvious signs of poison ivy appear. Welts, Rashes, oozing blisters still has me miserable 6 days later. Painful to walk for 4 days, but think I am on the mend. Cortisone shot Tuesday didn't seem to do much. Due to this - no running since the race - zero. Maybe early next week I'll see if I can manage it. Then it is all about Chicago and my quest to break 4 hours again.
PS - will have to add photos later - having uploading issues!