This years race took place on the first Saturday in January again, on the 5th. Temps were in around 30° at the 7:30am start. I had come into this race with 10 weeks of mediocre training. Lack of motivation, ITB and knee issues, travel, and some family health issues all kept me from the desirable training for running a 50k with some sense of positivity. My left knee had gotten to the point one full week out that I couldn't go 4 miles without me feeling it. I decide then to run no more before race day (Should maybe have done that when it started back in early November). I had still averaged 24 miles/wk in the 9 weeks leading up to this event since the Spinx Marathon Oct 27th, but my long weekend runs only consisted of: 14, 11, 16, 9, 11, and a 13 miler over that time frame and 3 weekends with Zero miles. I had only had 1 of those all year before this stretch. But - I was at the starting line with no expectations except to finish (more hopeful, than an expectation).
The course was different for the 3rd year in a row, starting off on a gravel road for almost the first 2 miles before heading onto the trails. My co-worker Marty and I started off comfortably in the middle of the pack and everyone sorted themselves out well before the singletrack started. It took those first 2 miles to get the hands to stop hurting from the cold, but the temps ended up perfect for the duration. The Lost Creek section was very windy and runnable. My left knee started to wake up at mile 3 and I popped an Aleve for the 2nd time ever in a race. We came to the 5.8mi aid station in 57min and that knee never became more than a minor nuisance. Quick food grab and we kept on our way.
The rest of the way, heavenly aid stations were every 3.5-3.8 miles apart, so very easy to guess how much more to go between sections to refill on pringles, m&m's, oatmeal creme pies and more! Continued my habit of bringing a camera and took a few pictures along the way. Gently rolling hills were the norm for this section and we continued our same pace to AS2 at 9.4mi in 1:33. More fuel!
The next section had the infamous Spiderwoman II trail, the only part of the 2 loop course that I'd call tough. It's only a 10min section, so relatively minor in the scheme of things. Marty and I were still together at the mile 12.8 AS after 2:12.
The next section, taking us to Mile 16.6 and more than halfway, had some new sections, as we overlooked the Broad River (Bluff Trail) a little more on some tight trails before some wide service roads bringing us back near the start and the same 1st AS.
I did take a second Aleve thru here as a just-in-case measure. My left knee wasn't hindering me and wanted to make sure it wasn't going to.
2:52 for the first loop, and soon after Mile 17, Marty went ahead as my Right knee started to give me problems. Where did that come from? Was I favoring my other knee? Is it something about these trails that my knees don't like (see my 2011 post HERE ).
Anyway - that slowed me down for the rest of the race, but I was surprisingly able to run much of it. I had no typical issues: lower back was fine, hips were good, no muscle tiredness. Feet were good too for the most part.
The 2nd time thru those sections were ~7-10 mins slower, and Spiderwoman got my heart rate up this time around. I was running mostly by myself, but there were others around as I passed some (William) and got passed (Chad H, Lester, William!).
The course was perfectly marked with flags and "paint" dictating turns, but that didn't keep me from meandering past a clearly marked turn and heading down a hill that quickly looked foreign. 2 guys behind me also yelled to me as I stopped and wondered where I was. One other guy came into the last aid station at mile 24 from a different direction (likely bypassing the section with Spiderwoman).
The last section I was feeling motivated to finish it, and powered my way as best I could. I for once had a good feel for where I was and what was coming up, and I was trying to do the math in my head to break 6hrs, my goal last year and was originally my goal this year before my training-wheels fell off in Nov & Dec. The last aid station had said 4.4 miles, but I was pretty sure it was 3.6 - and that makes the math even more difficult. Regardless, I knew as I got closer that I would have it. I made the 2 last turns and hustled down the last trail to the road crossing, skipping over the logs (and right there my calf wanted to tighten up) and stopped at the finish in 5:54.
2nd fastest 50k and ~40 minutes faster than the previous Harbison races.
I will be back for #4 next January!
(Having issues adding photos, but have plenty on Facebook