Saturday, October 24, 2015


Every year, it seems, I end up racing hard on back to back weekends. This year it's a "stupid fall". Doing my first swim marathon the weekend before a running marathon in a new state was really hard. But I didn't really achieve stupid status until I tried to run my first 50 mile trail race only 2 weeks after that. But I didn't schedule the WC-50, and I certainly didn't pick the trail either.

I should know better than to go to Charlotte for anything by now. It never ends well for me. And I do know better than to show up to a trail race without a beard, ugh. This time I am actually putting a positive spin on it and looking for outcomes.

Friday night I got settled in at my old fraternity brother Pat's house and actually got down for an early bedtime. Since the race started at 5 am, pre-race meeting at 4:45, I wanted to get there about 4:30 am. Since I thought Pat lived about 30 minutes away I planned to leave about 4, which means getting up at 3:30 am to allow time for breakfast, coffee, and getting dressed. The fact that I needed to get up at 3:30 in the morning should have told me something.

Why do we have to start at 5 am?

Bag drop area

The river is still calm & steamy

Starting in the dark sucks

The starting line was angry that day
The prerace meeting was actually the best part of the day. 4 laps at 12.5 miles each with the big aide station at the start/finish line. The RD said that the aide station there would have cocaine laid out, and after you were done with your bump, run up these stairs and get on the next lap. And he did it with a totally straight face. Too funny!

So before I was fully awake, we were off. The first 2.5 hours were run in the dark we started with headlamps on. I wouldn't call that fun, running unfamiliar single track in the dark. But it did happen. For the first couple of miles  I was running with other people, some that new the trail pretty well. Around mile 5 I had to step off of the trail to take a dump, it was nice to have the extra privacy of darkness.  Around 7:30 the sun finally came up. In mile 11, I saw a tree that had fallen across the trail, and thought "that tree is going to fuck me", and it turns out I was right. Tripped as I jumped over the tree, landed left knee first on an exposed root. Ended up with bleeding knee and hand, and chose to collect myself for a minute before continuing. That's when I knew I was going to take the DNF. I felt bad, was running very slow (as planned), and just wasn't having a good time out there anymore. It wasn't fun. First lap done in 3:03, which is only about 10 minutes slower than I wanted but my legs felt very fatigued, sore muscles, and aching joints. The course was much harder than I was expecting.

When I finished the first lap I showed the RD my garmin at 14 miles and told him I had found some extra-curricular activity out there. I was also very hungry, so I was kind of banking that eating something serious would help me feel better. Sure enough, I took about 20 minutes to sit and eat before heading up those stairs to start lap #2. I wanted to see the course in the daylight just to figure out what I had missed during the dark hours. I thought we were running by a river at one point, and turns out I was right.

Lap 2 was all in the daylight. I decided to go back out just to get past a marathon distance, and to see if my garmin was going to track consistently or if I got an extra loop in the course somewhere from running in the dark. The short version of that lap is that it included lots and lots of tripping, falling, cursing, bleeding, and walking. It still came in at 14 miles, and took 4:12. Over an hour slower than the first lap. I did feel better at first, after getting some food, but the muscle ache was still there. Eventually I decided I would just walk whenever I saw roots since I couldn't get my feet off of the ground enough while jogging to not trip. Then I couldn't pick up my feet enough to avoid tripping while walking. Lots of jammed toes, tripping, falling, scraped knees, it was awful.  These mile splits tell the tale:

Mile 1: 12:20
2: 12:21
3: 11:35
4: 12:12
5: 12:33
6: 14:10 (aide station)
7: 12:01
8: 13:27
9: 13:43
10: 12:59
11: 14:59
12: 15:11
13: 14:29
14: 18:46 - 20 minutes eating at the finish line aide station, some of that time ended up in mile 15 too
15: 21:51
16: 15:47
17: 15:00
18: 16:55
19: 16:02
20: 18:23
21: 17:56
22: 18:49
23: 19:02
24: 16:52
25: 19:46
26: 18:04
27: 17:17
28: 12:42

Garmin also reported over 2800 feet in elevation gain and loss.  Every uphill has a downhill, and they hurt equally.

There ended up only being 1 female finisher and 21 male finishers, as well as 1 female and 13 male DNF's. I finished lap 2 at 7:14:52, and since there is a 14 hour cutoff I would have had to negative split to even finish in time. And there is no way that was going to happen. technically I could have gone out for a 3rd lap before the time cutoff, but by the time I finished the 2nd lap I was ready to head back to Raleigh. College Football and my own bed seemed much more fun than more single track.

Fuck single track. I ate enough dirt out there to really lose my taste for it. About 95% of this loop was single track, where the trail is only wide enough for 1 person to run on, not like at Umstead where we get nice wide bridle trails or any of the rail to trail conservancy races. Highly technical single track like this stuff, with lots of hills, rocks, roots, slick leaves, embankments really forces you to pay more attention to not breaking yourself than to enjoying the time in nature. I've done enough of it and will avoid any race in the future that lists hard single track. I just don't need that in my life anymore.

The mile split breakdown shows the difficulty in this course. The 12 and 14 minute miles in the first half were ok, but the 19 and 20 minute miles in the second half are not. I don't think I was really conditioned for a 50 mile race anyway, and the difficulties of the course didn't help me any. I had put in so much time swimming this summer, trying to get ready for the Swim Around Charleston, that I just didn't have enough miles on my legs going into this. Overall I'm glad I went out for the second lap, it did push me past the marathon distance. And in my book, getting in 3 marathons in only 4 weeks ranks pretty high on the badass meter. Even attempting a 50 mile trail race only 2 weeks after running a 4:08 road marathon in Twin Cities takes some serious balls. So mentally I'm treating this like a marathon without a medal instead of a failed trail race. still my slowest marathon ever by more than two hours, but that's more like what it was.

I didn't carry my phone with me on the trail because of the amount of falling, so I didn't get any other pictures until I was finished.

The river was man-made, they turned it on when the center opened for whitewater activities

The upper tier view of the finish line

Ready to dive in the rapids

Still got my free post-race beer

The river was really cool when it was running

Bleeding knees suck.
The National Whitewater Center is a really cool place! They had a huge rock climbing wall, the manmade river really creates some fantastic rapids. They had kayaks and inflatable 6 man rafts going around, it was really cool. There was also a ropes course and zipline. The place had thousands of non-runners in there by the time I was done. really huge facility.

I would reccomend this race if you love really challenging single track. They also had a 50k race, 3 loops of an easier course than the 50 mile course. I needed the 50 mile to qualify for the Umstead 100, so that wasn't an option for me. But if you're into that kind of thing, go for it. The WC-50 is what it is, and I took what the trail gave me that day. I'm still grateful to my body for allowing me to push as hard as I did, and proud of my accomplishment.


Kyria @ Travel Spot said...

I love this line: I ate enough dirt out there to really lose my taste for it.

Trail races are hard! Running in the dark sucks; falling sucks; single track is scary at times! You did a great job and gave it a lot, especially considering what you had done for the past three weeks. I mean, you swam TWELVE miles! I say it's a win. However, you do have to go out and get back on that horse and conquer it, and I know you can! The question is...when?

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Oh man. This race sounds hellacious. But the recap was highly entertaining! You made the right choice in not finishing and it sounds like you were in good company since many others didn't finish. I am impressed you finished as many miles as you did!

The WWC is really cool, though. I went there before leaving Charlotte and had a blast doing all the ropes course and zip lines. You can also rent paddle boards or kayaks down by the river which was fun.

Al's CL Reviews said...

Sounds like you made the right choice. Being frustrated and having your legs not cooperating could have just left you with more injuries. Great accomplishment on the 28.

Kristie said...

Definitely more fun reading this than you had running! I would have died out there for sure, so congrats on the 28. Can't wait for the next adventure.