Saturday, January 10, 2015

Two, long and hard

Well 2015 has started out with a bang! It's a double race report, kind of.

I got a surprise in the pool on New Years Day. My buddy Tom from the RAM team suggested we do a 10k swim in the pool. Eventually the RAM coaches got involved, and it turned into a 2 hour masters practice starting at noon. Anyone who wanted to keep going to 10k could go for it after practice. Our normal practices are only 75 minutes, so going for 2 hours was already a stretch.

10k is an interesting goal to chase. it takes a lot of technique and endurance to keep going that far. To do it in the pool takes a special mental fortitude as well. I wore my Garmin to the RAM practice, and we went pretty hard for the first 2 hours. I stopped the garmin timer when we were resting between intervals. At the end of the workout the garmin the garmin was sitting on 4.01 miles at 1:35 movement time.

Everybody else got out, but Tom and I both ended up sticking around for another hour. It was a lot of tired arms and staring at that black line. I counted hundreds, drank and ate when I needed to, and before you know it I was done.

The pool water does strange things to my hair and really brings out the red in my beard. ha! Still doesn't lie, that's 6.26 miles in 2:25:24. 10k swim done. That was an amazing way to start out the new year. I'm still hoping to get in an open water marathon swim this summer, and this was a great way to test myself for that. 

However, it might not have been the best activity to taper for a trail 50k. The following Saturday, Jan 3 was the Harbison 50k. Our little Christmas secret was that we left the kids in SC with grandparents for the whole week! Sunday we left  them with my parents and Kelley and I headed back to Raleigh. Then on Tuesday they met up with Kelley's mom for a handoff, and they stayed at the lake for the rest of the week! The kids had a really fun time at both locations. Friday we went down to the lake. Once this plan looked like it might work out, I went ahead and registered for the 50k.   We hit the packet pickup on the way to the lake friday, and saturday morning was cold and rainy as I headed back into Columbia.

In the dark after parking in the middle of the park
Harbison State Forest is very close to downtown Columbia, so it was about an hour's drive from the lake. It was a 2 loop course of 15.5 miles each, mostly single track but all trails. I figured this one could be a doozy but had no idea what I was really in for.

I got there just in time, then blew right past the parking area. Half a mile later I figured it out when someone told me to turn around. Then I saw someone else who got their car stuck on the side of the little dirt access road! So I got a bit muddy trying to help this guy to no avail, eventually I had to leave him stuck to get to the starting line on time. I tried! He wasn't running today so he had plenty of time to figure it out.

The race started right after I got checked in, so there was almost no time for me to stand around freezing. That was good! The entire first loop was actually pretty non-descript. And this would have been a perfect 1 loop race. It starts out on a gravel road big enough for a car for the first half mile or so, then goes onto single track for the remaining 15 miles. That much single track presents new challenges for me. Lots of climbing, rocks, roots, leaves to deal with. Fun times. It was a pretty rainy week before race day, so there was lots of mud on the course. But there was only a 5% chance of rain before noon, so the entire first loop was dry, and the biggest thing to note was that they had bacon at the aide stations! It was a nice little salty protein to keep you going.

It ends with the 0.8 mile Eagle trail, which starts out going straight downhill, then briefly comes up at the end to finish the loop. This was quite a pleasant surprise, and the RD was waiting to greet us at the end of the first loop. Like I said, this would have been a great place to stop. Right at 3 hours to finish that loop makes for a solid day of racing.

My legs were pretty fatigued going back out for loop 2, no bones about it. Lots more walking once I got back onto the single track. The middle part of the loop was the SpiderWoman II trail, and after going through it once it made me appreciate how runnable the first section of the loop was. I'm a fairly big dude, about 6'1" & 180 lbs, and there was several parts where the trail was only as large as I was. Pine needles dripping with dew were brushing my hat and arms from different trees. it was like running through a cocoon. Crazy, but incredibly cool. So cool, in fact, that I noticed my thumbs turning purple several times. Really hating that I forgot those gloves now!

By mile 21 I was back on the SpiderWoman II trail, and it rained for the entire mile (about 18 minutes - yea that slow) so that really upped the mud factor. It drizzled for about another hour after that, but luckily that was the only solid rain. Did I mention temps were in the 30's the entire race?

In mile 24, The Bear had to make a return appearance. This wasn't a particularly dense forest, so I couldn't just find a curve in the trail and duck behind a thicket. I had to get off of the trail by a good 20 or 30 paces, find a tree that fell down, then just pray that nobody came by.  Sure enough, I got out there, did my business, cleaned the cage, made it back out to the trail and started running again. You could see forever on these trails, and I couldn't see another runner in front of me, nobody passed while I was off the trail, and I couldn't see anybody behind me when I started running again. Got to love a small race. A girl did catch up with me about a minute after I started running again though, so my timing was on point.

The just before the mile 26 marker, about 5 and a half hours into the run (by far my slowest marathon split ever) I was running on a path that was about a foot wide and carved into the side of a hill. 20' up was the top of the hill, and 200' down was a huge river. I thought, "at least if I fell down into the river and died I wouldn't have to finish the race", then I slipped and fell down, but only about four feet. Still got a rear end full of gray mud. Tried to clean off some before the next aide station at mile 26.3 but there's only so much you can do.

The last 4.7 miles meant that I was off of the Spiderwoman trail, and that made it the best part of the day. I got back on the Eagle trail, and the downhills hurt just as much as the uphills did before. But at the end, I got a medal and some black bean & quinoa soup. I finished in 6:54:49, good enough for 80th place of 132 finishers.

Lots of mud on the legs and shoes

Garmin, medal, smile
My intention for this race was to just go out there and have fun. I talked to everyone, made a lot of jokes. This was the first in my quest to run 6-10 marathon or longer races this year, and 14th overall marathon+ race. I wasn't trying to hit a specific speed or grab an age group award. Just count the miles and have fun in the woods. Next up is another trail 50k that will also knock Maryland off of my 50 state list.

So how did you start out the year?


Kyria @ Travel Spot said...

I love it when the aid stations have bacon! There is a 50k here where all of the aid has to be hiked in, so the boy scouts hike in the night before and stay the night and then get up and make breakfast and so one year they had extra bacon, which they gave to the runners. It was such a hit that now it's a standard! It's so good!

Also, I find it interesting that your 50k was EXACTLY 31 miles! Ours never seem to be exact.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Wow, 2015 really is off with a bang for you! Nice work on big accomplishments on back-to-back weekends like that! 2015 is off to a great start for me. I haven't ran all that much but I am trying to not put pressure on myself to get miles in as this is just not the optimal time to run with our stupid cold weather and all.

That is awesome that you and Kelley's parents were able to take the girls for a week. Everyone wins in that situation as I bet the grandparents loved having time with the kids and you and Kelley got some alone time which is precious!