Monday, October 13, 2014

New River Trail 50k Done!

Virginia ended up being state #7 on my 50 state list, and a trail ultra seemed like a good way to go here. Turns out I was right, this race was a blast! I found the New River Trail 50k online, the race site was about 3 hours outside of Raleigh so it looked like an easy drive, and the time of year and course description seemed perfect.  Go for it. I got nothing else going on October 11.

Friday night I headed up to Galax Va, hit some pretty bad traffic around Winston, so it took almost 4 hours to get there. Still the crappy cheap hotel I found turned out to be pretty decent for the price. Saturday I got up about 6:30, got some breakfast and headed out to the race site. Both friday night and saturday morning it was pouring down rain.  And driving up there, you had no doubts about being in the Virginia mountains! Suddenly I was doubting the course description of "flat".

Saturday morning at the Rodeway Inn in Galax. Pouring rain.
Pouring rain is perfect marathon weather right? The trails should be nice and muddy. The race start was at 8 am, and since the course was a rail-to-trail conversion route it was actually really flat. But that rain meant that I wasn't going to carry my phone on the course, so I have very few pictures for the recap.

Trail races are very low key. I opted to register without paying for the shirt, so the only swag was a sponsors water bottle. I got that and my bib and that was it.  No finishers medal or other finishers gear either. I showed up with some Hoka One-One's, and I left with dirty Hoka's and a water bottle.  I did see my fried Tammie Massey at the start, and there was plenty of other friendly people to talk to as well. The regional trail ultra community is small and tight-knit, so you are always going to find a friendly face at these races.

The New River is actually very old

Registration tents behind the parking lot

Trail beard is starting to show up

totally skeptical face about the conditions for the day
Found out that the rain was supposed to stop about 8 am, which was also the race start time. Sure enough, there was a downpour during the pre-race instructions and it stopped just in time for the countdown to the race start.  10 seconds of dry was all it took and we were off and running!

I don't have all of my mile splits pulled off of the Garmin yet, but I knocked out that first mile in only 8:06.  My plan was to keep around a 9 minute to 9:30 pace for as long as I could, so I knew I was going to pay for that one later. I tried to slow down, but the course was absolutely beautiful, and I was just casually going along and talking with other runners, and kept losing track of the pace.  The first 5 miles were all under 9 minutes. One guy was doing this as his first ultra after doing 4 road marathons recently, and I told him to plan on taking 1 minute per mile slower than his road pace. So here I was breaking my own rules. Eventually we did hit that first aide station (they were every 5 miles) and I got down to a more comfortable pace after that.

Does a bear shit in the woods? I had to step off of the trail for a bit at mile 12, and every trail runner knows exactly what that means.  Small trail races mean you can look around and see nobody running in front of you, and nobody behind you, and you've got the entire trail to yourself.  So of course, while I was "off the trail", 3 runners came by without spotting me but as soon as I emerged onto the trail again there was a very attractive girl running by. Totally busted. She had a good laugh at my expense.  Hey, it happens.  We ended up talking a while later and she was really nice.

I hit the 13.1 split at almost exactly 2 hours, right on pace. At 16.3 miles there was an aide station at the turnaround point, then we just had to get back to the start/finish line. (there was a spur after the mile 5 aide station so the main turnaround point was more than halfway through the total race distance. No spur on the way back). Around mile 18 I had some nipple chafing issues that were starting to get painful, so I took off my shirt.  Since the bib was pinned to my shirt I tucked it into the bottle holder belt I was also wearing and kept on going. Mind you, it was only about 60* and sometimes kind of raining, so that was barely more comfortable than bleeding nipples.

I hit the 4 hour mark at exactly the 24 mile marker. Then put my marathon split at 4:27:22, almost exactly 1 minute per mile slower than the 4 hour marathon speed I felt trained for, which was perfect. And at this point most of the miles were around 11 to 13 minutes each, so it was kind of a shuffle for up to a quarter mile between walks. I felt as good as I expected to feel (which was pretty rough), and still holding my own. Those last 5 miles were really tough though.

Hitting the finish line was very special. It started raining in earnest again while I was in mile 30. I was ready to collapse by the time I hit the finish line.  It was quite a beautiful sight.

The course was amazingly beautiful. Fall has come to the mountains of Virginia. The changing leaves, the big New River, there was even about a 10' waterfall in sight. It was a flat and very fast course, but the rains left it really muddy. Most of it was double track with packed screenings, making for a very soft surface.  Almost too soft, like running in black packed sand. I tend to not repeat destination races, but this is one that I would certainly consider doing again. It was truly well organized and just beautiful. Hats off to the race directors and all of the volunteers and other racers.

Dirt on the one leg

31.13 miles in 5:28:19. pretty sweet.

Rep'd the AAA team

how I hit the finish: shirtless and cold

That river water was a nice ice bath

had to wash off my legs and let the feet heal

The other leg - black sandy dirty

Selfie in a river

Beautiful day, beautiful river!
If you're in the mood for some mountain trail running, put this race on your list. It was a big hit from this end.


Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Sounds like a fun race and it's nice that it was a flat one! The trail half I did last month was my first trail race and I definitely like the laid back atmosphere of the race. It's so different from road races, but in a good way I think.

Nice work on your pace and time!!

Al's CL Reviews said...

Sounds like you had a really good race. Nice job getting to your pace goal!

Rush said...

Hey, I ran this race with you! My first 50K. I too have run 4 previous road marathons, but I don't think it was me you spoke to during the race. I was actually more focused on the marathon split as I thought I could take advantage of the flat, dirt course and run a sub-4 marathon split and just trot in the last 5 miles of the 50K. Not to be. I started getting calf cramps in mile 15, and both calves took turns seizing up over the entire return leg. My day turned into a pain-wracked slog. So much of my training was on the A.T, 20-25 mile trail runs with 5000-6000 feet of climbing. I wasn't prepared to run 5+ hours of flat terrain. Oh well, we live and learn. Finished in 5:19 and will definitely go back and run that one again. Congrats!

Abby said...

I thought of you when I was running my trail half. It was pretty flat and still so much harder than a normal half. I am amazed by you. Ironmans and ultras on trails. Wow!

annette bednosky said...

I saw you out there...Congrats on being smart and positive:)

Alisa said...

Wow, that's pretty fast for a 50k! I feel like 50ks and ultra's in general are so hard to judge one course to the next are vastly different.

Congrats on the finish!