Race morning would surely be a challenge in the morning. It didn't start until 10am...a very late start for this 3:30am waking runner. At 3am I was awake...4am...then 5am I couldn't lay there anymore. Up, brewed the espresso at the hotel kitchen stove, ate some Kashi cereal I'd brought from home, then lounging until it was time to leave shortly after 8am. Surprise, surprise....at 5am when I walked outside to go brew my espresso, it was clear. Now, it was a heavy snowfall. The roads were already bad so it was a slow trek to the starting line where the warm busses waited. We snapped a quick pic (see below) and got on the HOUR long bus ride to the start. 10am passed and luckily, they didn't start the race. About 10min after we arrived, the race started at about 10:20am. First mile: 7min, 17sec.....OOPS! (Note to self: this is a TRAIL race! NOT a road marathon!!!) From that reality checkpoint, I slowed it down and ran my own race. None of us had been here before so no one knew what to expect. Roots? Rocks? Technical? Well, it's very similiar to the Buckeye Trail here in Ohio with tighter switchbacks. Fresh, wet snow combined with a full leaf cover provided very slick and eventually icy trail conditions. Temps at the start were around 18F with wind speeds between 10-20mph, thus dropping the windchill to the single digits. Most of the race it snowed and was heavy at times with wind. Here's my "little" race mess-up: I know gear and I know how to dress in nasty conditions. However, given the protection of the trees, I figured I would dress light and minimal. Being on essentially a Vertical Runner road trip, I figured I'd better wear a VR tech tee. Well, the only long-sleeve tech tee I have (except for another overly snug one!) is a black tech that I bought about 2 years ago. If you know my history, you'd know I was 50lbs heavier back then...so that's an XL tech tee. Within minutes of starting the race, a little lightbulb goes off in my head...kinda went like this: "You moron! Why on earth did you wear this trash-bag fitting tech tee? Don't you know technical gear doesn't work so good when all the frigid air blows freely inside the shirt?" Yea, yea, yea....I know. I was freezing. The sweat, instead of being wicked away like technical gear does, it was collecting on my skin...and freezing. My alternative? "Bun" it up and tuck the "bun" inside my pants. You know how girls balled up their shirt in the 80s? Yea...that. Anytime I saw a photographer, I pulled it out...as well as when I pulled into an aid station. I was doing my best to trap in the heat and dry my skin. The high winds only made it worse. (stupid, stupid!!!!) Exactly at Mile 13, I hit the "Mother Hill." It was EXACTLY from the Mountain Masochist race course. Very steep, wide, gravel surface, and no end in visual site. I get to the top, and in perfect Masochist fashion, it curves and continues its steep upward trend. This ended up being the worst hill all day...thank goodness. The course continued as it had all day....curvy, hilly, technical, slippery. Around the 21-22 mile mark, we entered one of the most gorgeous areas I'd ever seen while running. Pine trees about as high as a 5 or 6 story building. After entering, all the wind stopped and it was so quiet...just perfect. Fresh pine needles on the ground, very little snow, and a much appreciated break from the potentially treacherous trail leading into it. Unfortunately, it only lasted 1/4 to 1/2 mile. Home stretch to the finish! Oh yea, I haven't mentioned the aid stations: they were very well done. Unlike a typical road marathon consisting only of water and sports drink, these were more like ultra-marathon aid stations. Starting at AS 4, typical ultra-fare started such as pretzels, cheese crackers, bananas, M&Ms (one of my personal favorite ultra foods), hot chocolate at one AS, fig newtons, Gatorade, and water. OK, back to the race: the final 5 or so miles were a bit faster. Not totally downhill at all, but a net drop overall. The final mile has a bear of a hill on the gravel road leading to the finish but luckily, due to our drive to the finish the night before, this hill was no surprise at all. I finished in 4hrs, 28min. I'd be quite unhappy with this time on a road course, but with this course, I am very happy. The course actually has an 8 hour cutoff. Official results aren't posted yet but when they are, I'll post the official time and my placing on the upper right of my blog.
On my bib, I had everyone on the VR Road Trip sign it with the number marathon this was for them.I think that makes 10 marathons/ultra-marathons in 2008. (that is, if you count 55 miles of Burning River!) 4 of those were marathons, one 50 miler, one 100K, and four 50Ks. Funny...after running 7 road marathons in 2007, I told myself I'd do LESS in 2008. I guess that didn't happen, huh?!
Now for smart recovery. Not much else scheduled until the Winter Buckeye Trail 50K in mid-January. If you are free the last Saturday of the year, join us on the 2nd Annual WaterFalls 30K...leaving from Lock 29 at 7:30am. Entirely run on trails, we will visit the Blue Hen, Buttermilk, and Brandywine Falls. Plan on a fun, social, and picture-taking trail run. I came up with this run last year as a great way to close out the year on the trails with friends...I hope you can join us!
Happy Trails, everyone!