Saturday, January 4, 2014

Race Report: Frozen Sasquatch 50K

This 50K marks my 3rd entry into the world of the West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners (WVMTR). I first ran the Highlands Sky 40 Miler last Father's Day weekend then the Trilogy last October. True to form and reputation, the Frozen Sasquatch 50K did not disappoint. (and I did register for my 2nd Highlands Sky just 3 days ago, too.) :)

We have, as a family, become big fans of short trips within 5 or so hours from home for a race. We still vacation, etc., but I simply don't like leaving home for the weekend alone. In some way, we try to make it a family event. Our kids love the pool at hotels, my wife loves to relax poolside and read, and well...I love to run...for hours. This trip was about 3 hours so we came down Friday night with enough time to drive to the start and familiarize ourselves with the logistics of race morning. We even had the pleasure of having dinner with Jamie Summerlin, the Marine who ran across America in 2012 in 100 days. He founded the Operation Welcome Home non-profit in Morgantown, WV and continues to run and raise money for returning warriors. Joining us, too, were good friends of his (mentioned in his book, too..."Freedom Run") Aaron and Sandy Yocum. It was a great night, great fellowship, and great carbs at Olive Garden.

So race morning...check out this weather. 9F and forecasted to rise to 48F. Now how exactly do you dress for that?! However you slice and dice it, you're going to be underdressed early or overdressed late. I decided, after much deliberation, to suffer with shorts, wear a Hammer Nutrition tech tee as a base layer, then my old trusty 5+ year old Mizuno Breathe-Thermo top along with gloves and a headband. My plan was to shed all but the shorts and tech tee after the 25K loop. While uncomfortable at the beginning and first many miles, I was always OK and wouldn't have done anything different.  It was perfect and the temperatures rose as expected with nothing but sun. 41F at my finish time.

The Frozen Sasquatch 50K is held just south of Charleston, WV....the state capital. Many of you have seen the gold dome on the capital if you've every driven I-77 through West Virginia. We stayed in a Hampton Inn south of downtown and only 20min from the start in Kanawha State Forest. Comparing this 50K to the other WVMTR events I've done, it's nothing like them as far as difficulty and technicality. Actually, I wouldn't call any of this trail technical. Single track...yes. Climbs...many...yes. But not technical like the others. In my humble opinion, I think it's a fantastic first 50K for someone. It actually was Jamie's first...which started the whole thing about running across America. (good grief!) The course is two 25K loops and the race does offer that option. This year, they split the field after a few hundred yards to ease the congestion of going up the first climb with 200 runners on single track. Both groups climbed and met up with each other at the top...or near the top. The idea worked so hats off to Mike Dolin, race director, for making that change. As you will see in the graphic below, aid stations are modestly spaced, another reason it's great for a first time 50K. The longest stretch is the first one and all others are under 4 miles....which is quite close in ultra-standards.
Click on image to view larger
The area received a few inches of snow a few days ago. Before that, the trail was dry and leaf-covered. With no snow pack, I expected slippery, powdery conditions on the first loop and muddy areas and leaves on the second...precisely what happened. I opted for a pair of Brooks Cascadias for the added traction of my Pure Grits and they served me well. Overall, there are climbs as the image shows above but runners are rewarded time and time again with sometimes gradual and sometimes steep descents. Sometimes, those are on the single track and other times, on a wide jeep access road. The key to success, in my opinion, is to run that first loop very smartly when it comes to the downhills. You could EASILY trash your quads which would make the second loop miserable...making those beloved downhills nothing but pain...and a disappointing day/finish/recovery. I did my best to do what I preach and think I did a pretty good job. I actually ran many of the uphills which I normally don't do. When I say run, it wasn't a normal-looking run. If you were to see me, you'd swear I had cross-country skis on. I ran but without impact and kept my feet very, very close to the ground. It allowed me to scale the climbs, pass lots of people, yet keep my heart rate under control. I had never tried that exact method until today...and it really worked. I was able to charge on once I reached the top without missing a beat.

Arriving back at the start/finish at 25 kilometers, my time was somewhere around 2:50. I thought I'd finish around 6:30 or slower so I was WAY ahead of schedule...but still feeling good. I shed the outer layer, gloves, and headband in my duffle bag and got the heck out of there...and back up that first climb...alone. I have NEVER run a 50K with a loop course (and there are many) and not passed or been passed or even not seen another runner. Chalk that up as a first for today. I was starting to wonder if I was the only one out there! In the end, I never did see another runner. Given my time, I do think I finished near the front of the pack but I haven't seen the results...that could be part of the reason. The second loop went well and much of the snow was gone on the trail. I had a few near misses with falling hard but never did. I was tired...yes...but not hurt in any way. I should be tired! I mentally kicked that garbage out the door and kept on kickin' it. I do love the layout of the course, especially for me...someone who has never set foot on it. That first loop really let me strategize and mentally destroy the second loop. I couldn't wait to get to that last aid station because I knew a lot of fast switchbacks waited in the last 3.8 miles. Some climbing but a lot of flat and descending trail. I knew a 2:50 doubled would be 5:40. I knew I wasn't doing an even split...or a negative split. Very tough course to do that on...but I did want to get under 6 hours. I knew that on this course, with those climbs, I'd be thrilled with that kind of time. Those last 3.8 miles were fast and I held nothing back. I didn't wear my Garmin so all I could do was leave it all out there and see what the clock read. (that's one way of not managing the clock and instead, giving it your all) In the end, I crossed the finish line in 5hrs, 47min, 49sec. BAM! Mike Dolin was waiting with my finisher's award (branded, by the way!) and a hand shake and a few others of the WVMTR leadership. I mingled for a bit, got a few photos, refueled with some homemade BBQ, took my Hammer Recoverite, and headed on back to the hotel..and the pool. Happy? You better believe it! I'm thrilled. I ran a 50K last August in Aurora, OH (see right sidebar) and it was 10min faster...but that course was nearly flat. To only be 10min slower is awesome. Arrogance aside, I really do feel I am at a peak right now and running very strong. Winter running is absolutely my forte.

So there you have it...#26 is in the books and 53 total marathons and ultra marathons. My next race is another ultra so for a brief time, I'll have 27 marathons and 27 ultras. Sweet! I absolutely recommend this race for your consideration. WVMTR is a class act reason I joined them a few months back. I can't wait to get down here again for my 2nd Highlands Sky. Here are a few photos I took. Feel free to grab, share, whatever. Click on any one to view full screen.

Pre-race with my love

Pre-race instructions from race director, Mike Dolin

Seconds before the start

These marked the way. SASQUATCH!!!

1 comment:

Tony Mollica said...

Nice running Nick! This is one of my favorite races!!