Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Training Run Report: TWOT '09

It's official. I am no longer a TWOT virgin! Now now, get your minds out of the gutter you pervs. I'm referring to my first time running The Wild Oak Trail, aka TWOT. The event is technically a 100 mile run (4 x 25mi loops), but few people attempt more than 1 or 2 loops due to the beating that you ensue from the killer climbs. Needless to say, Keith Knipling holds the course record for 4 TWOT loops with the ridiculously fast time of 27:11:10. Being a TWOT virgin and with my Holiday Lake race next weekend, I opted to run just one loop. Smart move I must say. Below is the course from my GPS.

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I carpooled down with some friends who are preparing for the upcoming Libyan Challenge. It was forecasted to be 60 but at 7:30am the temps hovered around freezing, so we chose to stay in the car until go-time.

The Libyan Challenge American Team and myself before the start. Why am I the only one in shorts?

2009 TWOT Runners at the start

We headed out at 8am in the clockwise direction. Within a mile it warmed up significantly and I shred my headband, gloves and arm warmers. *Sigh of relief* For the first few miles I was running with Sophie Speidel, Marc Griffin and Marlin Yoder, all of whom had run these trails before, so as seems to be the norm with my training runs I was getting a full on guided tour of the TWOT loop. Eventually this became known as Sophie's Tour de TWOT. The TdT was extremely helpful because part of the trail is run on the Grindstone 100 course that I'll be running in October. It's never too early to start training, right?

A group on our way up Hankey Mountain

Top of Hankey? Should've payed better attention to Sophie's tour.

I was relieved when we got to the top of Hankey Mountain. It was the first of 3 major climbs that we were to encounter throughout the day, but unfortunately it was the easiest (see elevation profile below).

8500ft of elevation gain. Sweetness!

As we descended from Hankey we came to the first aide station of the day (at Camp Todd I believe). This was a total surprise to me since I thought the entire event was unsupported. Thanks go out to Dennis Herr for not only organizing the run and being a definite ultra-legend, but also for the unexpected aide that hit the spot. The sandwiches, gingersnaps and gatorade were a welcome to treat to say the least.

We left the aide station and began our ascent of climb #2, Big Bald Knob. This climb sucked. Energy management with ultrarunning tells you to walk the hills, but I don't think it would be physically possible to move any faster than a slow walk up at this point. Just prior to the top we leveled off for a bit and I made an ode to TWOT in the snow.

Snowy TWOT

We also ran into Sean Andrish since he was running in the reverse direction. Even though we ran into him after our halfway point, he still finished first for the day with a time of 5:57, so he must have had a late start (either that or a teleportation device).

Sean and Marc

The descent from Big Bald was fun and fast. I took a video around this part to show how beautiful the trail was with fresh white powder on the ground. There's something about running on snow while wearing shorts and a tshirt that makes me all warm inside. There's also something about quickly melting snow that makes my shoes all wet inside, but that wasn't really much of a problem since I had on my Drymax socks and those suckers go from drenched to dry in all of maybe a quarter mile. Seriously, try a pair if you haven't already. I love those socks!

Dennis showed up with aide station #2 (of 2) right as we approached the bottom of Big Bald, and just in time to prep us for a stream crossing followed by the ascent up Little Bald.

Sophie trying desperately to not get her feet wet. She obviously hasn't learned of Drymax socks yet!

"Are we *gasp* at the *gasp* top yet?" Yes.

Reaching the top of Little Bald was a fantastic feeling. I wouldn't say I was totally beat up at this point since I had been running at a fairly conservative pace all day, but it was nice to know that the climbs were over and it was smooth downhill running for the remaining 6 or so miles. We cruised on down from there and finished our loop in 6:41. My Garmin read 27.23 miles, so it was slightly longer than the 26 I was told, but I'll gladly take extra mileage any day of the week! (watch these words come back and haunt me)

Marc, Sophie and myself after some great TWOT action

An ice cold river makes a great ice bath substitute!

Finish line festivities

These crazy fools went on to do 2 loops! Mitchell's pants provided enough light for them to run into the wee hours of the night.

Kirstin, Jill and Debbie - the Sassy Lollygagging Ultra Tarts (get it?)

Me and the JMU mountain-bikers who opted to do the loop by foot for a change

At this point you might be asking yourself "So what happened to your Libyan Challenge crew?" Well, they spent the day running/hiking the TWOT course while wearing fully loaded packs to simulate what it will be like running in Libya. Needless to say, killer TWOT climbs + heavy packs = slow pace. I hung out at the finish after everyone had left, knowing that they'd be showing up at some point. The sun started to go down and I started to worry since I knew they didn't bring headlamps or flashlights. Two runners, Barb and Vicki, had come in from their loop not too long before dark. They took a short break to put on some warmer clothes, gathered up all the headlamps and flashlights they could find and headed back out to find the Libyan Challenge crew and bring them light so they could safely navigate their way back. Barb and Vicki were no more than 100 feet onto the trail when I heard Rebecca calling from the distance. Safe and sound! Whew, what a relief! Isabella and Cason (her son) had a train to catch back in DC, 3 hours away, so we jumped in the car and booked it back. I put on my teleportation skills and got them back with 10 minutes to spare.

Libyan Challenge crew throwing their stuff into the car for the pleasantly-smelling ride home

All in all, my first TWOT was a huge success. I took it easy and still finished in a respectable time (although Tommy C gave me a hard time since he's an old man and he finished before me). Thanks again to Dennis Herr for organizing the event and bringing aide when it was least expected! Special thanks also go out to Vince for having hot soup at the finish. That hit the spot.

Honk honk!


Sophie Speidel said...


Clearly you were not paying attention during the Tour de TWOT---you made your Snow TWOT at the top of LITTLE Bald, not Big Bald. Hard to keep track, I know :-)

Good times running with you and Marc, and I will be thinking of you at Holiday Lake--looking forward to reading your report of your very first Horton race!!

Tara Lawall said...

You run with a crazy group. Looks like a lot of fun. And by fun for others. I wouldn't make it 27ish miles in the woods with anyone.

Maybe my ipod- but after 10 or so miles even the ipod would be in danger.

At this point you might be asking yourself "So what happened to your Libyan Challenge crew?"
- hilarious