Thursday, July 29, 2010

7/29/10: Catherine's 50K Race Report

This past weekend I hit a new level of stupidity (hard to imagine, I know).

I was scheduled to run a 50K, which was a questionable idea in and of itself. I had been on vacation in Hawaii and hadn’t been running much. The course was also out in the Southern Massanuttens and a tough one with somewhere in the neighborhood of 7K feet of climbing. It would have been a rough return after the hiatus in the best of circumstances.

As it turned out, circumstances were not at their best. The forecast called for 100+ degree temperatures. Did this deter me? You would think so, but for some reason I still decided to run. I even threw in a cocktail party the night before just to make things interesting.

In one last bout of stupidity, I also opted not to go for the shortened route on the out and back course. What can I say? I guess sometimes you just have to put it on the line and see what you’re made of.

(At the race start. I was already starting to sweat!)

It was a tough run, but I finished pretty strong and had a good day all in all. The first ~9 miles was on some trails I’ve run before and is basically a long climb up followed by a long descent down to the first aid station. The climb went pretty quickly as my legs felt pretty fresh after the rest. I also made good time on the way down the mountain to the first aid station.

(Running down the mountain)

I blew through the aid station as the race director said there was a natural spring just a mile and a half down the road. I filled up my bottles there and had a kind volunteer pour a pitcher of spring water over my head. It was amazingly and gloriously cold. Apparently it is fed from deep underground.

The next 10 miles out and back from the spring were fairly uneventful. I was getting a bit tired along the way, as my legs weren’t really in top shape after vacation. I was moving a lot slower on the uphills in particular.

Despite filling up by bottles at the halfway aid station, I was running low coming back towards the spring and was also getting really hot. Temperatures were really rising on the course, and it was slowing me down.

I stopped at the spring for a few minutes to get a lot more cold water on my head, neck, and back. There are few things in life that feel that good. There are some that come to mind, but not many! My core temperature lowered significantly, and I came back to life. I motored down the gravel road to the aid station 9 miles from the finish. I came in feeling strong and quickly filled up my bottles and got some more cold water on me to cool down.

The huge climb up the next 4 or so miles was brutal. My legs were shot, it was really hot, and I could already tell that my two Nathan bottles wouldn’t get me to the finish. I kept chugging along and finally hit the top. I start moving faster on the downhill but was out of water with 4 miles to go. Luckily I passed Eva from VHTRC hiking up in the other direction, and she filled up one of my bottles. Thanks Eva!

The last two miles were a gentle downhill, and I made good time again now that I was rehydrated. I was also really motivated to finish and cool off. I finished in around 6:35, which is slow for me on that course, but I was pleased given the conditions.

I survived my own stupidity and came out with a pretty solid race. Now I’m just hoping it gets a bit cooler for the rest of the summer!

Monday, July 5, 2010

7/4/10: 4th of July Browntown Loop with VHTRC

Yesterday I met up with the VHTRC in the Shenandoahs for the traditional 4th of July running of the Browntown loop.

I run a lot in George Washington National Forest but have hardly spent any time in the Shenandoahs. Man I've been missing out! It was a beautiful 20-21 mile loop. There are some great views and a lot of fun trail that is very runnable (especially compared to the Massanuttens).

Below is a picture from the spot where we all met up at 7am. The trailhead was about 15 minutes away from here towards the mountains. While it was supposed to hot later in the day, it was mid 50s at this point and looking like an excellent day for a run. It did warm up as the day went on, but it never felt too hot with the shade on the trail and lack of humidity.

The next few pictures show the view from Big Devil Stairs, which we got to by a side trail at the top of the first climb. On the way up, we saw a bear from the distance, and there was a buzzard hanging out at the top of Big Devil Stair. Hooray wildlife!

I didn't really know the route, so I was trying to stick with someone who knew the way. That someone ended up being Keith, which meant I had to run hard. This was at the bottom of the first climb, and I was starting to feel not so good. I hung back a bit but kept Keith and John in sight and met up at the General Store.

The next climb really worked me over, and I felt like crap. Keith very kindly circled back for me to point me in the right direction for the next turn. It was all downhill from there, but I just couldn't get the legs going. I started to cramp up and realized I was probably low on salt. I ended up taking four S-caps pretty rapid fire and really came back to life. I was back to having a good time in the last few miles and finished strong.
Thanks to the VHTRC for another excellent run! I'm excited to get back out to explore this area again soon.