Sunday, March 23, 2014

3/15/14: Elizabeth Furnace 50K Race Report

So I am out of shape.  This fatherhood thing doesn’t exactly line up with running ultras, and being sick for 2 weeks with no running doesn’t help.  But I toed the line at the Elizabeth Furnace 50K again regardless.

It was a fun day in the mountains, and running with friends was definitely the highlight.  After a snowy, cold winter we were treated to a beautiful 50-60 degree sunny day.  Woohoo!!!

The first 1,500 climb went fast running with a big group.  From there Greg, Brian, and I forged our way through the 5 streams of mudhole gap and trudged up to the Tuscarora trail.  This rock infested disaster is not my favorite trail, and let’s just say these 3.5 miles went slowly. 

A little over halfway into the race on the climb up to Signal Knob, Brian had decided he slummed it with us for long enough and took off (he went on to finish in an impressive 5:17!).  Greg and I pushed along up to Signal Knob and then back down the mountain to the 21.8 aid station.  It was around this time that we both realized we somehow forgot to train for this race.  It was going to be a looooong Sherman Gap loop. 

After Greg’s impressive somersault coming down the Tuscarora trail, we rolled into the aid station and quickly move through.  I felt worked over at this point and the inside of my thigh started to cramp up badly.  My body just wasn’t used to using the lateral stabilizers on the trail.  Fortunately I had a steep 1,500 foot climb to work off the cramps.  Shoot me now.

If I wasn’t running with Greg, I am pretty sure I would have turned around and called it.  But we soldiered on.  The last mile of the climb is insanely steep and cruel in the best of conditions.  From how slow we were moving you would think Greg and I were trying to summit Everest.  We staggered up impossibly slowly and literally just flopped on the ground at the top.  I guess that was it, and we would just be left for dead.

Eventually we talked ourselves into moving along the ridge.  My legs were dead, and I couldn’t run much without the cramps coming back.  But I had been taking S-caps, hydrating, and eating some gels, and I was kind of coming back to life (sort of). 

Jack came by moving much faster, passed us, and told me to latch on.  I felt barely good enough to do that, and he dragged me across and down the mountain.  Thanks to him I finished pretty strong and ran the rest of the way in.

Mile 21.8 was a minute or two faster than my time 5 years ago.  I crashed hard in the last stretch but was pretty happy with being only 18 minutes slower than 2009 overall and squeaking in under 6 hours.

It is also pretty clear that I have lots of training to do.  This is a tough course, but it will seem easy compared to the Sardona Ultra in Switzerland at the end of February.  53 miles in the Alps with 20,000 feet of climbing is terrifying.

Time to get to work!