|Prerace, trying to wake up|
I had originally intended on running the 50k version of this race but grad school and moving have significantly limited my training. I actually wasn't even going to do this race at all because of fear DNF due to poor training. I registered knowing that if I didn't register I wouldn't actually race. Weather for race day called for rain and it was actually fairly chilly. I struggled with shoe choice because my only trail shoes are the minimus and I have had just a few miles on them. I was nervous about how my calves and legs would feel as this was going to be the longest run I've done wearing these shoes. The race began with the sound of a gong and off we went went down paved road. I made sure to put myself closer to the front of the group because I knew the pace would slow considerably once we hit the base of the hill.The road slowly changed from pavement into gravel, from gravel to stones, and from stones to boulders, stumps, twigs, roots, streams and mud...the works.
As I expected the climb was slow. But I was able to run the majority of the time. One thing I didn't consider was the amount of rocks and roots I would encounter. The shoes held up great but I think that for future races, I may need to go with something with a little bit more cushioning because my feet were very sore from any rocks that were trod upon incorrectly. When I got to the Camping Gap aid station, I thought we were at the top but soon learned that true climb was yet to come. I didn't take any food at the aid station as I tend to lose a lot of time at aid stations and I also carried water and gels with me. After the aid station, the course steepened considerably and I was forced to power hike the majority of this portion to the summit. Once at the top, the course breaks from the actual trail and you have to climb out on the peak to punch your bib, proving that you've actual braved the climb and reached the summit. I wish they would subtract at least five minutes from your time so you could stay and enjoy the view.
After the summit, then comes Fat Mans Misery. Now, I had heard of this in the pre-race briefing but had no clue what to expect. This turned out to be a space between two rocks that were at angles that you had to climb thru. This is where my first big scare came . As I was climbing down my right foot slipped and my left stayed planted. Now my left knee is the one that I unfortunately had surgically altered due to multiples dislocations and isn't quite as sturdy as the other. Thankfully nothing came of the slip and, unlike most other runners, I found the second punch.
From this point the trail follows the ridge for a while and then begins downhill...rapidly. This was the best part of the race. The pain of the four mike climb was erased with the elation of cruising across the ridge. Once the trail starts down I found it difficult to hold back too much. Once on the Rock Garden the run became more of a controlled fall making sure to pick up my feet so not to go down the remaining decline on my face.
It was on this downhill where I met Tom. Tom and I talked for a while about our New Balance shoe choice. Tom probably made the wiser choice with the 101s but I was very pleased with the Minimus. I passed a few others at this point and was very pleased with how my downhill running had improved. Once again, I didn't take any food at the second aid station. I stopped briefly to throw my trash and then started back up the hill. This part was very fun as it was just a constant up and down on rolling hills that switched back and forth so you could see runners in front and behind. There were a few small stream crossings scattered throughout, just enough to keep your feet soggy. Tom caught up to me here and was a good pick-me-up as I was struggling on some of the uphill portions. I matched Tom's pace for the remainder of the race.The trail eventually returns downhill the same way we came up earlier. The Reed Creek crossing seemed deeper than the first time and there just so happened to be a photographer strategically placed here hoping to catch any unlucky persons who may fall. Thankfully I didn't get caught in a photo or in the creek. The remainder of the course is all down hill and eventually back to the road we started on. As we came out of the forest we were accompanied by a hound dog who ended up clipping Tom's heels and bowled him over. About a mile or so from the finish I decided to test my leg speed and opened it up a bit for a strong finish. After high-fiving Clark and changing in my car I returned to learn that I had actually placed 12h overall which was way better than I thought I was going to do.
This race confirmed my love and adoration for trail runs and proved the value in mountain training/running. Please check the next post for updates on my new running venue. Quite different from what I am used to but will be fun.