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.|
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|
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!|