Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Success at Tussey Mountainback 50 !
Right up until Thursday night before the race I was about ready to just cancel the trip. The hamstring had finally began to show some improvement after over a week off but then would start to hurt all over again just as bad as before and I was getting very discouraged. As bad as I wanted to go and get the WS qualifier, I surely didn't want to go and have yet another dnf and make the injury worse. But the race was paid for as well as advance payment on the hotel so Friday morning I threw the stuff in the car and headed north.
Woke up Sunday am to a perfect day for a race. At least I wouldn't have the weather conditions to worry about derailing my plans. It was a chilly 40ish so I stayed in my car until a few minutes before the start. When it was time to get ready I headed over to the start and found Jim Plant who was in the same situation as me needing to get in one last chance to qualify.
The sun was not yet risen as we began. I started very slow and easy to see how the leg would feel. No pain for the first few minutes and I was thinking just maybe it would be ok but no, within half a mile I could feel the pain coming on and by the 1st mile I was already hurting quite a bit. All I could do was suck it up and hope for the best. I stopped to stretch it out for minute and Jim passed by with some concern for me. I told him I was just doing some preventative maintenance before it got any worse. Well it didn't help. I was just going to have to deal with the pain.
We finished the first climb which was about 3 miles long but not steep and was runable the whole way although I did take a few short walk breaks. I soon passed Jim on the downhill and then settled in for the next several miles that were pretty easy with short easy ups and downs and lots of nearly flat sections. Normally I would have been pushing those downhills but today I was being careful to save the leg for as long as possible so I just joggy jogged as Laura Frey would say ! I was moving along well and enjoying the gorgeous morning but every step was hurting. I just took pictures, took in the views and thought of my friends and family back home that I knew were supporting me to try and take my mind off of it.
I did the first 10 miles in 1:47:22 and even with the beginning climb it was the easiest 10 mile section of the race. The next aid station was around mile 11 at a State park and then we began another climb. Jim caught up to me about mile 13 and after a few words of encouragement I let him go needing to stick with my own plan. I was pretty much alone from that point on as far as other ultra runners because we were so spread out and there were only about 150 of us. The next 10 were pretty uneventful. Other than the pain I was actually feeling very good.
I think it was around mile 18 that the first of the relay runners went flying by. They started in several waves beginning an hour after us. I normally don't like being passed but knowing they were fresh and only doing legs of 5 miles or less made it easy to take. I did that 2nd 20 miles in 2:02, still well ahead of the pace I needed and feeling good.
The next section had the hardest climb of the day, from about mile 20.5 to 25 was all uphill and 2.5 of that was fairly steep so I just settled in and not worrying. So far the leg had been holding up but now it was flaring up for a few minutes every now and then. I was talking out loud to it and praying, just hang in there leg. We got this if you just hold up. It never got tight though and would soon just go back to the normal pain.
I finally topped the hill and shortly after passed the halfway point in 5:07. My energy level was still good so I was feeling confident as long as the hammie held up. I had a pretty simple nutrition plan. I was drinking water in my bottle and Heed at the aid stations. I had taken 2 gels and eaten about 4 cookies and 4 small hand fulls of M&M's and the stomach was very happy. I normally have no problem eating or drinking whatever I want when it's cool. By now it had warmed up into the middle 50's and the wind had kicked up a bit.
I passed mile 30 in 6:09 slowing to a 2:19 for the last 10 and most of that slowdown attributable to that long climb from 20-25.
The next 10 had some up and down with another long 2+ mile climb but it wasn't nearly as steep as the previous long one. I was actually looking forward to the relay runners and their support vehicles passing me at this point. Nearly all of them were very supportive of us ultra runners, cheering and telling us how awesome and amazing we were. Just before the 40 mile mark we came out of the forest for the first time and ran on some paved road for awhile past some farms and homes with beautiful views of the Fall foliage on the mountains in peak color. I did that 10 mile section 2:13.
As I was passing he 40 mile I was doing some multi-tasking. Tried to take a picture of the 40 mile point with my phone to post to FB and somehow screwed up the phone address to FB. I was also taking pictures of the beautiful scenery with my regular camera and then texting Amy an update. Dropped my phone and then a few feet later dropped the camera and the battery popped out. Ok, time to get going here. Anyway the update I texted was I had passed mile 40 in 8:22. A little over 2.5 hours to do 10 more miles. One more big climb to go. I think I got this !
There was another aid station just before the 41 mile point and as I begin to run again I noticed that my leg pain had actually subsided quite a bit and was now just a mere nuisance. My confidence was high now. I felt pretty sure it was going to let me get through this and once i got the last climb behind me it was nearly 4 miles of downhill to the finish.
I settled into the climb and somewhere around mile 43 I caught up to Alana Garrison-Kast , a friend of Jim's that I had met at breakfast after Hinson Lake. Shortly after that the grade of the climb increased substantially. I really haven't trained much for climbing up long hills and I was a lot slower than usual but at this point I wasn't worried knowing if I was moving I was going to make it.
I made it to the aid station about the 45.5 mile point and was disappointed to find they were out of Coke. I like to wait until the last 3rd of the race to drink the soda but beginning from about mile 33, they had been out at every aid station. As I was heading back out to do the last leg, Alana caught up to me and somehow she had snagged a bottle of Coke and offered to share it with me. Thank you ! It definitely hit the spot.
We walked together up the next small hill and then with the downhill I took off. I was afraid it might be a quad pounder but it turned out to be a sweet gradual downhill on pavement. I welcomed the pavement because it was easier on my feet than a lot of the gravel had been over most of the course. I was still feeling great and was cruising along easily at a relaxed 10 minute mile pace. With about 1/2 mile to go the course merged with the first half mile that we had started earlier. There was a woman at the intersection stopped and I could tell she was confused on which way to go. She looked back and I just waved her in the right direction. She was so happy she didn't go the wrong way. I saw her afterwards and she thanked me again for sparing her who knows how many bonus miles !
With about 1/4 mile to go we came out of the woods and there was a slight uphill grade to the finish. As I approached I suddenly began to choke up and was fighting back tears of relief joy. For that one brief moment I was almost happy one of my Angels wasn't there at the finish because I know I would have been boo hooing. But then I just got happy and was smiling big time as I crossed the finish to lots of cheers and good job ultra. ( The relay folks called all of us ultra )
As I crossed the line and got my medal , a group of young lady's handed me a water bottle and asked if I was ok and if I needed anything. I said yeah, I think I need one of you to take a picture. One of them said sure and was about to snap one when I said wait a minute and let me get ready and then I dropped down and started doing my pushups. They were all like OMG I can't believe he's doing that. After a few snapshots she said she had the shot and I could quit but I said no got to do 50. All the other spectators were cheering and amazed. I guess they just don't know who I am ;)
I was so happy to have accomplished my goal, feel good and almost more so , glad that the leg held up on me so that I could do it. I fired off a text to the Angels and then found Jim. He had finished about 10 minutes before me with a pr and of course he was elated and while we were there Alana came in just squeeking under 11 hours.
Other than running out of Coke way too early in the race everything else about the race was 1st class and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a moderately challenging 50 miler.
Now, I just have to take care and make sure the leg heals so I can get back into regular training and be able to race hard again.
The lottery for Western States is on December 7th and I will have 3 tickets in the hat this year. wish me Luck !
Here is a link to the pictures I took on this beautiful day in the Allegheney Mts of PA