Monday, November 07, 2011
Wonderful run Through the Blue Ridge- Mountain Masochist 50++ 2011
No, I didn't get the course pr but I'm still very pleased with the way the race turned out for me and I still ran my 2nd fasted time in 6 attempts. Considering I'm 5 years older I'm thinking at my age (55) that just coming close was a great outcome. But no I'm thinking that as good as I was feeling, with a little more training and a little luck I still might have a shot at that pr someday. Hmmmm, not sure about the schedule for next year.
It was a perfect day for the race with the start in the low to mid 30's and warming up to the low 50's during the day with brilliant blue skies once the sun rose. Despite knowing that I had a rugged 50 plus miles ahead of me and I was going to make it tougher by going for the pr rather than just trying to finish, I was very calm and relaxed. I was just so happy to be here lining up with a few minutes before the start knowing that I was in good shape after missing the race for the past several years.
Ok, there is no aid station there anymore. It used to just be a water stop anyway and really wasn't necessary. I began slowly near the back of the pack in the dark along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I thought I may run with Jenn at least for awhile since my plan was to take it easy for the first hour or so but she was running a little faster than I wanted to begin with so I just let her go and stuck with my plan. It's slightly uphill most of the way out and then turn around and back to the start. It was just beginning to get light as we crossed over the James River and I passed the old location in 33:19, about average for my times over the years.
Aid Station 1-
We now turned onto Hwy 501 N and in a few minutes I caught up to Jim Wei from Raleigh and a first timer here. Enjoyed talking to him and giving him a few tips on the course. We ran most of this section and just walked the steeper parts of the hills. We caught up to Jenn and I ran with her the rest of the way to the aid station at Cashaw Creek. Still feeling nice and relaxed and as the sun was rising I was looking forward to hitting the first trail of the day. Did that section in about 37:00(forgot to hit the split until after leaving) and was just about 1.5 minutes behind pr pace which didn't bother me at all at this point.
Aid Station 2-
Jenn took the lead as we began the first climb of the day on a trail that is like a 4 wheeler path to begin with. Normally she is a very strong climber but after a few minutes I could see she was not as fast as usual and as much as I would have liked to stay with her I knew I needed to get moving so I passed her and went ahead. Not long afterwards I looked back and didn't see her so I was a little worried knowing she had not been able to train much this year and had a swollen ankle up until a couple of days ago from a mis-hap with a pine cone.
I was climbing and running the less steep parts and after awhile it levels out a lot and is more like a narrow dirt jeep road. Lots of puddles but most were easy to run around so mud was not an issue. By now the sun was peeking over the mountains and the light was making the leaves shine like a golden tunnel for us to run through. I love this spot every time I run here. That section took right at 30 minutes for a total time of 1:45:11. I grabbed a mouthful of M'M's and was quickly on my way out.
Aid Station 3
The course began to climb again on a gravel road and I was feeling great now. I only had splits from my 2006 pr for a few key spots so right now I didn't know how I was on pace. I couldn't worry about that much anyway and so I was just going as fast as I felt I could do comfortably. After climbing awhile we get some nice downhill and I was surprised to come up on Anita Finkle. She is making a comeback from cancer and I was happy to see her off to a strong start. I spoke with her for a little bit and then pushed on down the rocky road eventually coming to the first and largest creek crossing. I arrived just in time to witness Jeff from the MTC that I had just met at the pre-race dinner take a slip and fall in the creek. That was pretty cool and I got it on video ! My time was 42:49 (2:28:00) and I felt very good as I grabbed some chocolate and hurried on my way.
You will notice that my fueling strategy for the day was to closely duplicate what I did in 06 which was to rely almost completely on chocolate. That year all I ate was Hersheys and I had a Twinkie at the halfway point and maybe 2 or 3 gels and a few potato chips. My energy level had never stayed more even during a race and I was hoping for the same result today.
Aid Station 4
The next section is a long one with surprise, ups and downs with the highlight being a tunnel shared with a creek underneath the Parkway. The water wasn't high this year so we just splashed along. Soon after passing through it Jeff caught up to me so we took pictures but then I ran on ahead again. That section was pretty uneventful and I came in at 49:58. The total time was 3:17:59 compared to 3:11 in 06. Now I was beginning to wonder a little bit about the pr attempt because I was feeling good and I had been running a lot on some of the hills that I normally would walk and yet I was still losing time. I know I ran well at the end that year so I didn't think I would be making up much time in the last third of the race but I was not discouraged just yet and planned to just keep doing the best I can.
Aid Station 5
Leaving the aid station is a quick downhill and and then a long seemingly endless climb on a well cared for Forest Service road. Time to do some power hiking and I tried to push the pace a bit with frequent running to try and make up a little time. I seemed to be running as well as I was 5 years ago in the ultra's but my power walking uphills is not nearly as strong now , mainly due to limited time in the mountains. I used to have the opportunity to get more training and racing in the mountains but now I work more weekends. The running did pay off and I was a faster on this climb by a little over a minute in 31:21 (3:49:21). Note that all references to 2006 splits with one or two exceptions were after I got home to check since I lost my cheat sheet before the 5th aid station and I could only remember the halfway and start of the loop
Aid Station 6 and 7
The next section is one of the fastest on the course with a long downhill giving back all that altitude from the previous climb. The key here is to make some time while not beating your quads to death because at the bottom you still have 30 miles to go. Did this one in 23:43. The next section is a little up and down some more to the bottom of the reservoir where you get some rare flat running for a few minutes. Good to see Charlie Hesse volunteering there and I did that section in 23:52. ( I didn't know it at the time but I made up about 30 seconds on those two sections.)
Aid Stations 8 and 9
Well, I actually can't remember if there was two aid stations in this part or if I just forgot to hit the split. I know there was one in 06 somewhere in there and it took me a combined time then of 1:00:14. This includes a long climb mostly on the gravel/dirt road up to the Long Mountain Wayside which they call mile 26.9 and the theoretical halfway point of the race. Horton always says you can just about double your time here to predict your finish if you can maintain your pace. I usually run a few minutes faster than that but with my total time now at 5:40:28 my pr attempt seemed to be over and now even an 11 hour finish was probably out of reach. I was feeling warm now in the middle of the day and had taken off my vest so when I saw Jade Wei there crewing for Jim, I handed it to her so I wouldn't have that to carry around the rest of the race. I was in a hurry and regretfully had forgotten to ask if she had been seeing Jenn. I was hoping that Jenn was feeling ok and not having any problems so she could at least finish this year.
Aid Station 10
Buck Mountain. You can see it for awhile before you get to the Wayside but then it's right there and you immediately begin the climb. It's about 2.5 miles of almost all climbing on a very rough, rutted rocky jeep path. I tried running a little bit of it and push the walking pace as much as I could and I was still feeling great so I was hoping to at least not lose any more time and I had not yet given up on a miracle happening in this 2nd half. I could only remember one more split from 06 and that would be much later at the loop so I could only push on and hope for the best.
After about a mile to go you can hear the Rocky theme blasting as always and it is such a welcome sound knowing that the climb will end soon. There is a little downhill before one last short push to the top and I reached the AS in 52:37 (6:33:06) It's probably a good thing I didn't know the pr split because despite feeling good I lost another 2.5 minutes and was now 10.5 minutes behind pr pace!
Aid Station 11
I do love this next section as it is mostly a gradual downhill from the top of buck Mt with just a few short uphill sections. I was feeling very good and sticking to my nutrition plan. My stomach was in perfect shape and the weather couldn't have been better for running at this point. I was able to run almost this entire section with only a minute or less of walking so i was hoping to make up some time from 06 because I remembered having a slight down period that year and walking a lot more of that section. My time down to Wiggins Spring was 26:59 which was 2.5 minutes faster !
Aid Station 12
I really think the next section is my least favorite on the course. It is short bu nearly all uphill on a gravel road with cars, mostly runner's crew driving up and down from the Loop. I caught up to Jeff McGonnell who was going for his 20th finish, an amazing feat to be so consistent on this tough course. I talked to him for a minute and then went on ahead. He was moving along ok but seemed not as strong as usual. that section took 23:50 which oddly was 1.5 slower than 06 so I lost more time
Aid Station 13
The Mt Pleasant Loop is actually one of my favorite parts of the course but I'd heard all the horror stories about it before my first year running. It seems most people think it is longer than advertised which is not surprising considering it is a Horton course but I have always found it to be probably the most accurate sections in the race. It begins easily enough with nearly a mile of flat smooth trail before beginning to ascend.
After awhile it goes through a very rocky boulder garden. Not much running done through this section but I love the scenery through here. After a couple of miles you get to a saddle between the two mountains on the trail and it looks like you are done with the climb but that is deceptive because in a short time it begins climbing even more for another mile before finally descending on a tricky, steep rocky rooty leaf covered section. I love it! And it's nice to hear the sounds from the aid station before you can see it.
I felt pretty good most of the loop but was really glad to head downhill. Unfortunately I was about three minutes slower in the loop than 06 so I came out nearly 12 minutes behind my pace from that year. ( 1:08:28 for the loop and total time 8:32:28) Now the pr was out of the question and it looked like I had lost the 11 hour goal too but I was feeling good and having a lot of fun so I was quickly in and out of the aid station.
Aid Station 14
As I began running onto the dirt road from the loop I couldn't not believe how good I was feeling. I was thinking, wow, who's legs are these ? I had more zip than ever after this much distance and on this tough terrain and picked up the pace and was hammering this section. It's mostly a gradual downhill with a few short climbs. I know I ran it well before but this year I came into Salt Log Gap nearly two minutes faster than before ! I grabbed a couple of pieces of chocolate and that would be the last calories I would take until the finish. ( 32:32 for that section)
Aid Station 15
This next short section is about my 2nd least favorite part of the course. A steep climb on a gravel road but fortunately it is one of the rare shorter than advertised sections and is over quickly if you aren't doing a death march. I climbed it fairly well only losing about 45 seconds. My time now was 9:24:31, nearly 11 minutes slower than 06. To set my pr or break 11 would be impossible because I know I ran the last part faster than ever in 06. Just to break 11 I would have to do the next part to the finish in 1:35. Impossible for me ! I grabbed a small cup of coke and that would be the last I would drink.
Aid Station 16
As I was heading out in this section which is supposedly 4 miles but closer to 5, I was having a hard time remembering much about it other than I knew a really nasty steep climb was somewhere out there before the last aid station. It was just about all single track and the leaves were thick on the ground making it hard to see the rocks and roots. It wasn't long before I came to that nasty climb. It was hard to get traction on the leaves so I found a walking stick to help with the climbing. I saw Eric Fogelman just ahead. We had been leap frogging all day and I know we must have passed each other 20 times throughout the race. He was stronger on the climbs and I would run by on the flats and downhills. I would pass him one more time but he finished strong and that's impressive considering he did the tough Grindstone 100 last month.
Once that climb is over the next couple of miles are fairly flat with some downhill and just some slight short climbs before taking a nice steep drop down to Porter's Ridge. I kicked it into another gear determined to finish as fast as I could and was passing a lot of people over the next several miles surprising myself at how strong I was feeling. This was AWESOME !
Aid Station 17
I blew right through the last aid station just yelling out my bib number as I continued to hammer the pace. According to Jim Wei's garmin it's 3.8 miles to the finish from Porter's Ridge and I remember most of it. Still just bombing as fast as I safely felt I could go and still passing people. After awhile the course turns out of the wild and onto a gravel road and signs of civilization and I knew the last mile was coming up soon. Just before the mile to go sign I passed two guys and one of them called my name. I didn't look back but just waved. In a minute one of them caught up to me and I saw it was Jeff Sacaroff, another of the Raleigh area first timers. I was surprised to see him and he took off and told me we had a shot at breaking 11 hours. I looked at my watch and although it would be close I would have to run a minute faster for the last mile than 06 and I ran it very strong in 9:10 that year.
I got another surprise when I looked ahead and saw Charles Akers. Jeff tried to get Charles to run with him but it didn't last long and Jeff flew on by. I passed Charles and made some comment about how stupid it was to be having to run so hard in the last mile of a 50 miler when I should be just cruising it in. But I was a man on a mission and still amazed at how good I felt and couldn't believe how close I came to breaking 11 hours. My last mile was 8:21 ! and that impossible 1:35 I needed to run from Forest Valley ? I did it in 1:35:23 ! I averaged 9:18 for the last 3.8 ! Just missed in official time of 11:00:20. despite missing the pr, i was nearly ecstatic with how good I felt felt all day and especially the last 12 miles.
Here is a link to my photos.
and here are a whole lot of pic that Jade Wei took while crewing for Jim.
I think she got just about everyone at least once.
I will have a video up soon and some more thoughts on the race later.