Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Terrapin Mountian 50K

“Inspiration, move me brightly. Light the song with sense and color;
Hold away despair, more than this I will not ask. Faced with mysteries dark and vast, statements just seem vain at last. Some rise, some fall, some climb, to get to Terrapin.”
The Grateful Dead: Terrapin Station, July 1977

I usually lead off my race reports with a biblical quote but in this case, being a closet “Dead Head”, I could not resist a quote from The Grateful Deads, Terrapin Station. However as the tunes of the Dead were filing through my head on Saturday, I remained forever “Grateful” that the Lord provided me with another opportunity to run in the beautiful mountains of Virginia and open my ears to hear: “The voice of the one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth.” (Isaiah 40:3,4).

I ran the Terrapin Mountain Marathon in 2008. This was the second year that the race was run as a 50K and it was a great opportunity to run on some trails during the daylight that I had only run in the dark. The race started at 0700 from the Sedalia Center with a loud bang of the gong. It was a little cold at the start, about 28 degrees but it would warm up to 50 by the end of the race, perfect day for running. The 50K runners and the half marathoners started together and ran the first four miles to Camping Gap. The race started out on pavement for about a mile, then switched to dirt road and finally dumped out on to a trail for the last 2 mile climb to the first aid station.

After hitting Camping Gap for the first of three stops it was down, down, down for about 5 miles. This section was run on some of the Hellgate 100K course. It was nice to see it in the day time because during Hellgate I usually hit this section of the course about 0230 in the morning. This section was all on dirt roads and a little pavement and moved very quickly but I was careful not to overdo the downhill. Once we got to the Goff Mountain aid station we started the slow climb back up the mountain. Again we started on dirt road and after about a mile we got back on the trail to the next aid station and then the steady climb, on dirt road back to Camping Gap (16ish miles).

Leaving Camping Gap for the second time we headed out to the White Oak Ridge loop, which was 6 miles and covered some trails that will be used in the upcoming Promise Land 50K. I was feeling pretty good at this point and was able to run the loop in 1 hour. Coming back into Camping Gap for the last time I knew that I had one last big climb and then a lot of step, rocky downhill trail up ahead.

I left the aid station at 1100 with 22 miles under my belt and started the hard climb up Terrapin Mountain. The views from the summit were awesome, you could actually see the Sedalia Center and the finish line from the rock outcropping. Playing off the adrenaline rush of being on the summit I picked up the pace on the downhill and made good time in to the last aid station. With 5.5 miles to go I knew that I was going to be able to finish under 6 hours and in fact was able to run the last part of the course on a 10 minute per mile pace and crossed the finish in 5h:43m (results).

This was the second race in “The Beast” series and is 7 weeks out from the Massanutten Mountain 100 miler. At this point in my training I am feeling good about my conditioning and am looking forward to the Bull Run 50 miler in two weeks. The Race Director, Clark Zeeland, and his volunteers did an awesome job with the race. The only drawback for me is that most of the races in this series are about a 3 hour drive from my house in Fairfax, so it’s a little disappointing when the total time in the car exceeds the time spent running on the trails; a small price to pay. The Lord continues to keep me healthy and I continue to feel His joy as I run and for this, as always, I give Him all of the thanks and the glory. Run Strong!
God Bless and Semper Fi,

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Elizabeth’s Furnace 50K

“But the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of Heaven, a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year.” Deut. 11:11-12

It was good to be back in the mountains. Over the past couple of years I have had the chance to run in some pretty challenging weather conditions; 100 plus degree temps at Western States, sub zero temps at Swinging Bridge 2009, 6 inches of snow at this years Holiday Lake and on Saturday--the mix of constant rain and melting snow led to some spectacular flash flooding at Elizabeth's Furnace. First off, thanks to the VHTRC, Mike Bur, Quatro Hubbard, and the hearty volunteers that battled the weather to ensure that we had good support during the race.
The Weather Channel was forecasting 2-4 inches of rain throughout the day and looking at a raging Passage Creek as I drove to the start at Signal Knob parking lot, it looked like the Front Royal area already had their fair share of the wet stuff. We started at 0700, in a light rain, with about 50 runners. The trail quickly turned into a stream and after about a half mile my feet were soaked and would remain that way for the rest of the day. The first 4-5 miles of the course is a steep climb up to Meneka Peak, a mile across the ridgeline and a 2 mile drop into the first aid station. The gameplan for the day was to try and continue with the success I had the previous week at Seneca Creek and start out slower and try to maintain a constant pace for the entire race. I felt like I was able to pull that off.

This being a Fat Ass event, the aid stations were a little more spread out than a normal race. Runners were expected to be a little more self sufficient, especially for the "big loop" section of the course. The big loop was about 13 miles with two big climbs. Leaving the first aid station I headed down the purple trail, or should I say the purple stream, over to the Mudhole Gap trail. We were briefed about the Mudhole Gap trail in the pre-race meeting--there are 5 "stream" crossings and the stream is about knee to mid-thigh high. Normally this stream is a foot deep, gently flowing and can be forded by stepping on rocks--NOT ON SATURDAY. As I came up on the first crossing I stopped and thought to myself that this could go very bad with a wrong step. Not only was the stream deep, but it was flowing fast-real fast (refer to pictures). Long story short, the first 4 crossings were all about the same, mid thigh to waist deep 15-20 feet wide and raging, the last crossing was wider but not flowing quite as fast, all of them presented a significant challenge.

Having run this race two other times I knew that the worst of the stream crossings were behind me, now it was up to Three Top Ridge and about 3 miles of rock hopping. This section of the course is extremely tedious due to the amount of rocks and boulders on the trail, this is true Massanutten running. After coming down off of Three Top I started another climb up to Signal Knob and back to Meneka Peak and then a good 5 mile downhill run to the Elizabeth's Furnace parking lot and the 22 mile aid station. I came in there at 4h:45m and was hoping to run the small loop in about 2 hours.
The small is 9 miles and has a huge climb up the Sherman Gap trail. The first mile of the small loop runs parallel to Passage Creek, fortunately we didn't have to cross that. However, the creek was running so high that it was spilling onto the trail in multiple locations and ensured that the feet stayed plenty wet. The climb up Sherman Gap was tough but I was feeling pretty good and still taking in calories. Once on the ridge, there was another round of rock hoping to Shawl Gap and then a steep 3 mile descent back to the parking lot.
The last .9 miles of the course parallels the Fort Valley road back to the Signal Knob parking lot. I crossed the finish line at 6h:47m soaking wet and very pleased with the condition I was in. I grabbed a bowl of chili and started to hear some of the stories from the trail, there were some who got to the stream crossings on the Mudhole Gap trail and turned around and still others that got swept down the stream for a while as they were attempting to cross. There is always something that sticks in your memory from these races and those stream crossings will remain with me for a while.
It was awesome to see the power of nature at work and I found myself thinking how lucky I was to be able to see Gods wonderful creation up close and personal. I ran this course alone from about the 3 mile point to the end and during that time I had plenty of opportunity to reflect on many things. It’s good to feel secure in the grasp of a loving God and to once again realize the importance of a strong Faith and Family. Run Strong!

God Bless and Semper Fi,

Monday, March 8, 2010

2010 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

The Seneca Creek Greenway 50K is in the books. I ran this race on Saturday and could not have asked for a better day to run. First of all I have to say thanks to Ed Schultze and his great group of volunteers, especially those who contributed to the trail clean-up the week prior to the race -- awesome job. The Seneca Greenway Trail is a runners trail. Starting in Damascus, MD and ending at Riley’s Lock on the Potomac River, the course is a net downhill run and even with some snow, ice and mud, it ran pretty fast.

I was lucky enough to have two of my daughters follow me down the course and provide some crew support. It really warmed my heart that two teenagers would be willing to get up early on a Saturday and follow their old man around Maryland. I have said it before; I am a lucky man to have such a wonderful family that supports my ultrarunning habit -- THANKS.

We started the run at 0800 from the Damascus Park. Due to the trail conditions, Ed had offered an early start option at 0700, so the total of 300+ runners were spread out pretty good and congestion was never a problem. It was about 30 degrees as we left the park and ran downhill for about the first mile on paved trail to the creek. Once on the trail it was single track all the way until the last mile at Riley’s Lock. The goal for the day was consistency, I wanted to try and run similar splits for the entire race. I started this race way to fast last year and paid for it in the end.

Coming in to the first aid station, at 7 miles, I was just over a 9 minute pace (1h:4m compared to last years 54 minutes) and just where I wanted to be. My youngest daughter, Abby, had the camera duties and was very good at snapping shots at each of the aid stations, while Ashley gave me a fresh bottle and I was down the trail.
Aid Station 2 was at about 11 miles; I was staying right at my 10 minute pace and covered the distance in 40 minutes. Quick aside on nutrition; I have been struggling fiercely with caloric intake during my runs, stomach just doesn’t want to cooperate. I have been a big fan of Ensure drinks and have used them for over 2 years, well Saturday I tried some Odwalla Superfood Products and they seemed to work great. The fruit smoothie drinks were loaded with potassium and the protein drink contained a whopping 33g of soy protein. These drinks combined with some early Hammer gels, water and SCaps seemed to do the trick. Throughout the race I drank 2 of the 16oz fruit smoothies (320 calories a piece) and 1 chocolate protein drink (500 calories) and I had consistent energy all the way to the finish.

Aid Station 3 is the Clopper Lake aid station and the split for the marathoners and the 50Kers. The loop around the lake is about three and a half miles and I was sticking to the 10 minute pace, finishing in 35 minutes. With 13 miles to go, I was feeling pretty strong.

This next section of the trail is where I lost it last year. From Clopper Lake to Riley’s Lock the trail is marked every half mile with wooden markers. Last year just after the 12 mile marker the course left the Seneca Creek Trail for about 2 miles and then rejoined just prior to the 11 ½ mile marker, I wasn’t expecting this and it really got inside my head. This year that section of the course was not in use due to the trail conditions so the mile markers were accurate all the way to the finish. Not that the extra distance was a problem last year it was the psychological impact of thinking I was further down the trail than I was. If the Rifleford loop had been in effect this year I would have been mentally prepared.
Maintaining my 10 minute pace, got me into aid station 5 (25.5 miles) about 15 minutes earlier than planned and I caught the crew sleep in the parking lot. No worries, quick refuel and onto the final 6.5 miles. This section of the trail was very muddy but nearly all of the snow cover was gone and I was once again able to keep on pace. I broke off the trail with 1 mile to go and heading into a strong finish at 5h:07m which averaged out to be just under a 10 minute pace. It was a good day. Thanks again to Ed and all of the volunteers -- Great Race!!
With the MMT100 just over the horizon on 15-16 May, I am feeling pretty good about my running. I think Saturday gave me two steps forward on the nutrition front, now I just need to hold that ground. I have a pretty heavy race schedule for the rest of this month and into April and continue to pray for guidance and wisdom I try to prepare my body for the upcoming events. The Lord continues to bless me and keep me injury free. The support of my family, motivation of running in faith and for the pleasure of Christ along with the knowledge that my efforts are contributing to fundraising for Injured Marines is all of the sustainment that I need. My next event is this coming Saturday, Elizabeth’s Furnace 50K - - back to the mountains. Run Strong!
God Bless and Semper Fi,
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