Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Seneca Creek Greenway 50K

"Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." Philippians 4:6

Saturday, 7 March, I ran the Seneca Creek Greenway 50K which started n Damascus, MD and finished 31ish miles later at Riley’s Lock on the Potomac River. We could not have asked for a better day to run, the temps started out in the mid 60s and rose up into the middle 70s. It was hard to believe that there was 7 inches of snow on the ground just days prior to this run. This race was sponsored by the Montgomery County Road Runners Club (MCRRC) and they did an awesome job in taking care of about 300 runners all day. The MCRRC was taking care of active duty military by offering us free entry into this race, thanks for the support.

This was a point to point run, starting at Damascus Regional Park in Maryland and heading mostly south to the Potomac River. It was a net downhill run with some pretty good size hills in between, but for the most part it was an easy running trail. This was my 3rd race of the year and with the incorporation of some speed training in my workouts I wanted to use this race to test my fitness level, so I intended to run this race pretty hard.

We started out at 0800. The first mile of the course was on a paved park trail that went downhill to Seneca Creek, this gave me the opportunity to really over extend my limits and push out to hard, but the temperature was good, my legs felt great, what could possibly go wrong? After about a mile we jumped onto the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail (SCGT) and headed down stream. The trail continued with the downhill theme with the exception of a couple of small hills thrown in for good measure. I continued to run at about an 8 – 8½ minute per mile pace, the trail was in great shape and the miles were clicking by pretty easily. I got to the first aid station (~7 miles) in 56 minutes and met my Mom, who was crewing for me all day, grabbed a water bottle refill and kept on truckin’.

It was about 5 miles to the next aid station and I kept on pushing hard, reaching it in 39 minutes, refilled, and was on my way to the Clopper Lake aid station. Clopper Lake is the point where the 50 K runners and the Marathon runners part ways, with the 50Kers doing a 3.5 mile lap around the lake and then continuing south on the SCGT. I reached the lake (~15 miles) in 2h:14m and was still feeling pretty good, although I could tell the pace was starting to slow. The loop around the lake took about 34 minutes and offered great views the entire time. So I came back to the lake aid station, picked up some fuel from my Mom and started back down the SCGT. At this point I had completed just over 18 miles in 2h:47m and was feeling pretty good, that was about to change.

About 2 miles prior to Clopper Lake, wooden mile markers started to appear on the trail, counting down the distance to Riley’s Lock and the end of the race (so I thought). The last mile marker I had seen prior to the lake was mile 13½, so it was no surprise that the first marker I passed as I re-entered the SCGT was mile 13. Simple math for Marines 13+18=31 (50K), no so fast Cowboy this is Maryland and apparently they do math differently.

Mile 13 to 12 went well and I ran it in just over 9 minutes. I hit the lap counter on my watch and kept on moving. After running for quite a while without seeing another mile marker I thought that either I had missed it or it was vandalized but what I did not expect was that after 23 minutes of running to see mile marker 11½. Apparently the course left the SCGT for a couple of bonus miles and rejoined just prior to the 11½ mile remaining marker. Psychologically this hit me like a brick wall and I had a very difficult time reconciling the extra distance in my mind, I was prepared to see a 9½ mile remaining marker. I immediately noticed a slow down in my pace and the rest of the race was a slog to get to the finish.

I came into the last aid station about 20 minutes later than I predicted grabbed some water and started toward the finish which was about 6½ miles away. The pace during this section was run at about 12 minutes per mile and my head was still playing tricks on me. I finally reached River Road and knew that there was less than a mile left. I crossed the finish line in 5h:32m and was told that I finished in 25th place, I’m not sure how many completed the 50,the final results are not out yet, but there were 192 signed up for it.

After the race there was a great lunch buffet that was set up with plenty of food and drink. Overall the race was organized great, the volunteers were awesome, weather was perfect, and the trail could not have been in better condition. I was truly amazed by the impact of the mile markers. The perception of what was expected and what occurred nearly shut my body down. I ran a full range of emotions trying to figure out how to process 2 additional miles, knowing full well that my body could easily absorb that distance my mind was not willing to accept it and my anxiety overcame my physical condition. I believe that course familiarity is a great advantage when running ultras, it goes a long way to eliminating surprises. I think that my conditioning is about where it needs to be and I am going to continue to add speed training to my weekly routine. March is a busy month for races, I have a total of three. The next event is this Saturday, Elizabeth’s Furnace 50K, by Front Royal, VA. Run Strong.
God Bless and Semper Fi,

Training for 2-8 Mar: Weekly Mi (45.8), Monthly Mi (52.8), Yearly Mi (406.9)
Mon: 7 mi – Rancho Penasquitos Canyon
Tues: Off
Wed: Off
Thurs: Precor EFX 546 CrossRamp (5.8 mi / 50 mins) / Pull Ups and Abs
Fri: Off
Sat: Seneca Creek 50K(+)
Sun: Off


  1. Greetings Mike,

    Great report. I agree about the mileage. I came into the second to last aid station and expected them to say I had 5 miles left, and it turned out to be 7. Two miles is not much extra when you are already planning to run 31, but knowing I was so far off my originally planned pace is what got me. I had initially considered running in the 4:45 range, but readjusted my goal to 5:00 after my injury at the Reverse Ring. Experience on the slightly longer course would make a big difference in pacing for future SCGT 50's. Interesting note, I spoke to John Anderson who ran the 50k in just under 4:10 in 2006, and he said the course was much more difficult/longer this year. He ended up dropping at 25 miles, when he saw his time was already nearing the 4 hour mark with 7 miles to go. Interesting?

    Anyway, good running. 25th is not bad with as big of a crowd as we had. See you on the trails!

    -Mike Bailey

  2. tough race, marathon is some 28.5 miles I believe. 50k feels like 33 miles.

    i could be wrong but the course dictates the length plus until someone gets out there with a Garmin ...


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