My family came up with me Friday afternoon and once settled into the hotel in Galax, we got some dinner downtown and headed to packet pickup.
|Start/Finish (packet Pickup)|
|Heron on the New River (packet pickup)|
Got to pick out my pottery for registering early, got my shirt, bib and put in for a few door prizes - all went smoothly. Spent a little time at the river just enjoying the views as the sun got lower and thinking about the race. I was looking forward to the course - north along the river to Aid at Fries Junction (5.3mi), a little out and back before crossing a bridge and then running beside Chestnut Creek. Another Aid station at 11.8mi (or 6.5 since AS1). Continuing on by the creek another 4.1 to Cliffview Turnaround (at the edge of Galax). A little past halfway at mile ~16, then returning: AS 4 same as AS2-Mile 20, AS5=AS1-Mile 25.8. No out and back there, just the turn towards the finish. We got our certified Marathon split soon afterwards and finished where we began at 8am.
|and we're off!|
|where did we go??|
At the starting gun from Annette Bednosky (elite runner and race director!), the faster runners took off and the rest of us settled into our paces. We headed down the trail and into the misty morning. With such a flat course - it only took a mile or so for the field to spread out and I was soon running by myself. I felt pretty good and kept a comfortable pace, trying to keep my body relaxed. The first miles went by pretty quickly even with stopping for a few pictures of the river.
|sunrise over New River|
I got to the 1st aid station in 46min and ran thru it as my 2 handheld water bottles were fine and I'd already taken a Gu. I was on the out-and-back and as I started seeing more people, I knew the turn-around was near. Sure enough - an orange cone and 2 volunteers marked me down and I was heading back. As there was alot of time to think out there, I wondered how they got that point to make it a 50k? They'd have to measure from the start to the 1st AS, then the far turn around to the 1st AS, then subtract those from 50k, and then go exactly half that distance. Then - did they have to measure it from start to finish to see if it was accurate?
Anyway - I was running and had a long way to go.
Bypassed the aid station again and crossed the river on a nice big bridge. I had warmed up and after putting my gloves away after a mile or two, now had my sleeves pulled up. We got into some well shaded sections as we ran by Chestnut Creek, so I put my sleeves back down. I noticed how wet my arms were from all the mist in the air. Haven't had that happen in a while. A tunnel on this section was unexpected, but pretty cool.
Thru here I was running just behind two others who looked to have a nice steady pace, and I stayed with them for a few miles.
It was time to re-fill and re-fuel at the next aid station (1:51). A guy ran up and got a bottle as I switched one of them to gatorade. I grabbed food and stuffed my face (usual items: chips cookie, PB&J, pretzels...), grabbed another handful, and left. Running alone again.
|2nd & 3rd place males|
|1st place female on way back|
I had plenty of time to calculate when I could expect the leaders to come by me the opposite way. I had expected by about mile 13 (which would be about 5 miles ahead of me). After 2:06, here comes the leader, followed 30 secs or so later by two more guys and not too far behind, the 1st place female.
Hit the turnaround at 15.8 miles in 2:29, grabbed some more snacks and headed back towards the finish. It's always a great feeling going thru the halfway point where you know each step is toward the finish line. I was still running fine and hit the next aid station in almost exactly the same split (38/39min for the 4.1miles). 3:08 overall after ~19.9miles.
I could feel my legs wanting to slow down soon after this aid station (refill & small snack). I was so far very happy with my time and knew I'd be around 5 hrs even if I slowed to 12min miles. I added some walk breaks, but I do walk quickly anyway, so it wasn't slowing me down too much. The next aid station (and the landmarks that told me it was getting closer, like the tunnel, bridge) seemed to take forever to come into sight. It was on the warm side now and I was wishing I'd worn a short sleeve shirt. There were a few more bikers/walkers on the trail, but the runners heading toward the turnaround we're all past.
Finally, the tunnel, bridge and the last aid station at Fries Junction (mile ~25.5). I skipped the orange gatorade again and as usual at this point in an ultra - I had no appetite for food. Stood there waiting for something to look appealing. Gave up, grabbed some chips and left to go get my marathon split.
It came up pretty fast - even with me mot moving so well. My IT band flared up which made running difficult. Wasn't concerned with the split, but I was very happy with the 4:10:36. With my previous 50k PR of 6:19 - something dreadful would have had to happen for me to Not PR.
I ended up running with (occasionally as we repeatedly passed each other) a woman which helped push me along, but I could only "run" for a few minutes at a time. I walk fast though, so I was still doing ~11min miles or so.
Finally - I saw the road crossing (~14min from the start heading out) and I was on my own after that. Came upon another guy obviously having chafing issues. I felt bad for him, but couldn't do a thing for him. I was still alternating running and walking, until I saw the clearing ahead for the finish. I walked to the little bridge and ran in from there. My wife and daughter were at the finish waiting for me as I crossed the line in 5:07:47, a 1 hour and 12 minute PR!!
|Into the finish!|
Felt pretty good afterwards - no more knee issues (until I ran again 5 days later). Was Very sore the following 2 days, but the 1.5mi walk on a different section of the New River Trail was nice the next morning.
I really enjoyed the course. Volunteers were amazing, aid stations were well spaced. It's difficult using the same muscles constamtly for 5+ hours. There was not the slightest hint of a grade anywhere on the course - FLAT as possible. If that is the way to get a PR - this course is for you! Not sure I feel the need to do that again though. (That's also my typical post-ultra comment!)