Sunday, March 29, 2009

Race Report: Terrapin Mountain 50k

I took a risk this weekend and raced knowing that my IT band was still in healing mode. I had to because Terrapin Mountain 50k is the 2nd race in the Beast Series and, aside from finishing MMT, finishing the Beast Series is one of my goals for this year. With plenty of visits to the PT and equal amounts of time spent stretching and foam-rolling at home, healing has steadily moved along and two days prior to the race I was able to get in an 8-miler with little to no pain.

This was the inaugural 50k at Terrapin. Last year they ran a marathon, but in actuality the mileage was a bit higher than 26.2, so instead of shortening it to be legit, Clark Zealand (the RD) did what any decent ultrarunner would do and he added an extra mile or three to make a nice challenging 50k.

That's me - #5. I guess they didn't realize I'd be taking it slow(er) today.

Rain was forecasted for all of Saturday. As I slept in my tent the night before the race, I was constantly awoken by loud surges in the rain's intensity - never a good sign. By some amazing turn of events, mother nature called it quits just before daybreak and we were graced with a dry start. I snuck in to the middle of the pack, hoping it would trick me into running a conservative race, but as we made our way out of the lodge and into the mountains I slowly found myself passing a good number of people. I was somewhat expecting to be passing folks though. Coach Mike had formulated an ITB-friendly gameplan for me: run the uphills and walk the downs. So I did, passing everyone who sticks to the normal ultra routine of walking the uphills. It was actually quite entertaining because going up I would pass the same 10 or so people and then on the downs they would all pass me. We yo-yo'd back and forth all day long, and eventually, to qualm the "this idiot doesn't know how to run an ultra" thoughts that were most definitely running through their heads, I would explain that I in fact had a method to my madness.

Trying to walk the downhills is tough, so I shuffled/power-walked instead.

The course itself was challenging yet fun. Plenty of climbing, roughly 8k feet of it, and despite all the rain from the night before, there wasn't nearly as much mud as anyone had thought. Contrary to what the attached pictures show, most of the day had us running through jeep roads or single track. There was even a section towards the end that was MMT-esque with jagged rocks that made for impossible fotting. The final ascent up Terrapin Mountain was steep and gnarly as well, and to prove we were there we had to punch our bibs with two different orienteering punches that awaited us at the top.

The course was well marked and, being a first-timer on these trails, it took me onto portions of the Promise Land 50k and Hellgate 100k courses, both races in the Beast Series that I will be running this year. I don't remember much of the specifics from the course, probably because I was concentrating so hard all day on my ITB to make sure it wasn't hurting, but it definitely felt great to be out there running in the mountains, and it especially felt good to be running pain free. On some of the downhill sections, the gradient was so steep that I couldn't help but move at a not-quite-walking, aka running, pace. When I would do this, my ITB would quickly chime in with a hint of pain as if to say "No no, remember what Coach Mike told you!" I quickly got the picture and went back to shuffling downhill, repeating to myself my mantra for the day: "It feels good. Don't f@#k it up."

FOG, FOG and more FOG... all day long.

Speaking of f@#cking it up, I somehow managed to drain my GPS battery before the race and I also forgot my camera battery sitting on the charger at home, so if you were wondering where my usual array of pictures, maps, and elevation profiles are at... sorry boss, not this time. (By the way, all pics courtesy of eco-X Sports).

Clark cheering me on as I finish. The camera guy missed our sweet high-five.

I finished in 5:41:43, 27th place out of 148 starters. Not too shabby for just trying to complete the dang thing under the cutoffs to stay in the Series. All in all, I'd have to say that Clark and the rest of the eco-X crew put on an extremely well organized race with great schwag and cool logos (who doesn't love cool logos?!). I am definitely looking forward to running more out on these trails and running more eco-X events in the coming future.

And now that I've got my legs back, it's time to make up for that month of lost training!


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Catawba Run-Around 2009

This past weekend there was an "unorganized" and "unofficial" ultra on the Appalachian Trail in southern Virginia, the Catawba Run-Around. (Organized events are not allowed on the AT, so technically this event doesn't happen. Shhhh.) My IT Band is still recovering from Holiday Lake so I went out to this un-event looking to get in some time-on-feet from hiking and check out the stunning views that I had been hearing so much about.

Lots of ultrarunners who happened to be at the same place at the same time

After dropping more than 9" of snow on us just a few days before, mother nature decided to cooperate and bless us with temperatures in the 70's, something that is extremely rare for early March. I had planned on hiking 13 miles, but with the amazing weather and an IT band that wasn't feeling all too bad, I opted to do some additional mileage and logged a total of 18 miles of hiking with some light running thrown in for good measure. Rebecca Byerly (of the Libyan Challenge 1st American Team) was taking it easy since she too was having some ITB issues, so I had good company for the day.

After the runners headed out, a group of us headed out to the Aide Station #1 and set up shop. After sitting around for a bit, Rebecca and I got antsy to go explore the sights so we decided to hike up to Dragon's Tooth. Talk about a good idea. Check out the view!

The view from Dragon's Tooth

On the way up to Dragon's Tooth we passed all of the runners as they made their way down to the aide station that we had just come from. (Check my Flickr page for all of my shots from the day.) We spent just enough time gazing off into the distance and taking pictures to make it back down as Keith and the rest of the crew were packing up and ready to move to Aide Station #2. This was great timing too, because as soon as we pulled into the next parking lot the front-runners were just arriving. Hands down the fastest aide station set-up I've ever done! Then again, it was only the second aide station I've ever set up...

Front-runners Mike Mason and Clark Zealand refuel at AS#2

After a few minutes of hanging around eating oreos and pringles, Rebecca and I realized that we had to get out onto the trail before our inner fat-kid ruined our intentions any further. We headed out, albeit slowly, and started to once more enjoy some gorgeous hiking on the AT.

Good times on top of Tinker Cliffs

Rebecca, in typical fashion, was only carrying a single water bottle for a 4 hour stretch out on the trail. Luckily there was some leftover snow on the ground that could be used for melting into a hydration source. Rebecca also realized another less practical use for the snow - snow angels!

Sophie caught up to us at McAfee's Knob

Tommy C. caught up on McAfee's too, but he opted for some water instead of posing for a pic

For the most part we hiked it, but when the legs were feeling good (read: dying to move due to recent inactivity) we ran the downhills and select flats. Hiking proved to be a wise decision because I only felt minimal pain throughout the entire day and that was in the final mile or 2. In total we got in 18 miles with 3 good climbs in just over 6 hours. I found a murky but cold pond close to the finish and sat in there for a bit since I knew an ice-bath would be out of the picture for the evening. Let's hope there wasn't any giardia in there!

The post-run activities once again proved to be a great time with good VHTRC friends. We all hung around the finish line consuming recovery beverages of the adult variety as runners trickled in. Somehow an AT through-hiker found his way to our gathering and he partied with us for a bit. Interesting.

Aaron, myself and Sophie enjoying the good life

We spent a lot of time in those chairs

Once night fell and all runners were in (and our stomachs started rumbling), we headed over to the Homeplace, an all-you-can-eat restaurant that is heaven to a through-hiker looking for a warm meal, or in our case ultrarunners looking to replenish depleted calories.

The Homeplace

We ate to our heart's content and had a great time heckling the wait staff (all in good fun, of course). What a great way to wrap up the day. With fantastic views and freakishly warm weather, it was a pleasant reminder that Spring is right around the corner. Let's hope my IT band heals up quickly and allows me to run the whole thing next year. Can't wait!

Trail Paparazzi Links:
Charlie's pics
Kirstin's pics
My pics
Sophie's pics

Sunday, March 1, 2009

MMT Training Run #2

The second MMT Training Run of the year was this past weekend, running south from Camp Roosevelt thru Gap Creek and north up to Woodstock Tower. I have been having some IT band pain in my left knee for the past two weeks, a result of running too fast (if that's possible) at Holiday Lake. I had hoped it would be well enough to run all 25 miles of the training run, but unfortunately that wasn't the case and instead I dropped at mile 16. I like to think that my decision to drop was one based off of sound reasoning for my health rather than the fact that there was beer at the mile 16 aide station. I'll let you be the judge on that one.

The gang

The run itself, when not in pain, was pleasant. I ran with Phil Rosenstein and got to hear stories and strategies from Badwater and his recent trans-American run. Shortly after leaving the first aide station at mile 8 my IT band pain came back and I was having a hard time lifting my left foot over/around the jagged MMT rocks (see below). I knew that backtracking to the aide station would be useless since they would have moved on to aide station #2 by that time (gotta love roaming aide stations), so I just kept moving forward and eventually made it to the next spot to drop, mile 16.

MMT Trails

Most of the day's fun was had after I stopped running and got to hang with Tom Corris and the rest of the drinkers... err... aide station volunteers. Tom found a deer hoof and it was immediately put to good use.

High five for the aide station crew!

Captain Hoof

And then of course the fun continued once we made it back to the finish line. Rick Kerby one-upped Tom's deer hoof and found a mounted toilet seat in the woods. Clearly it needed to be brought back to the parking lot social gathering.

Duty calls

Unsure of how to react to Rick on the crapper

All in all, another good day with the VHTRC crew. Sad that I didn't get to run the whole thing, but I went to physical therapy today and my therapist thinks my IT band will be good to go in no time. Until then I'll just try to enjoy my forced downtime.

Link to Kirstin's pics from the day.
Link to Q's pics from the day.