The first two miles last year were nice and easy, it was the third mile and on that seemed to have hurt me a little later on in the race.. I mean run.. and this is where some change of approach needed some thought. High 8's and low 9's were a little to speedy for this guy (and my knees) on this 30 mile trail. Not to mention, I never stopped at any of the aid stations for addition fuel until the mile 27 aid station, almost by force because my knee was shutting down and my stomach needed some solids.. bad! Gels alone were just not cutting it anymore.The last four miles last year were brutal. Lot's of walking was evident by the 13 minute miles shown on the Garmin report and I remember my knee being in excruciating pain. I also fell three times throughout the run from catching my foot on tree roots.
I finished last year according to the official time in 5 hours and 12 minutes. My Garmin read 5:09:00. When I stopped at the Aid Station at Mile 27, the Garmin auto paused. This is something I should have changed this year but did not think about until the discrepancy was noticed after the fact.
The cabin we rented on the state park property this year was very cool. Rustic, quaint and basic. No television on the wall or in the rooms. A cozy fireplace with plenty of wood stocked right outside the back door gave in to the back woods feel I think my wife, myself and our two friends (and their little cutie "Baby "G") were looking for. This would be our friend Jessica's (9 time award-winning marathoner) first ultra distance past the 26.2 miles she seemed to have mastered and always runs so well and seemingly effortless. Her husband Matt actually found this Cabin and ultimately booked it for us. It was a great find as we arrived shortly after dark and then headed out to meet some other friends running the event to have a little dinner together.
|Me and Jessica pre race and ready to go!|
|Dogs enjoying the cabin life.|
I slept well and awoke around 5 AM. Race start was 8:15. I have learned that eating 2+ hours before race start is the best for me. It allows the fuel to enter my bloodstream and allow plenty of private time to... well you know what follows. Basically a bagel, some coffee, and plenty of water does the trick. I may have eaten a banana too. Jessica awoke shortly after followed by Matt and Vicki. They would take me and Jessica down to the start.
We arrived to a crowd of about 300 or so runners and their families and friends there to support them, all scurrying about. Some runners were warming up, running down the street. I'm thinking.. it's a 31 mile run... I'll warm up on the course! It was about 40 degrees at the start, but the forecast showed a warmer future in our day and no rain, thankfully, was in that prediction.
A teary-eyed Jessica and I said good-by to our honey's and then made our way into the crowd where we first saw a couple friends, Tim and Andy. They were ready!
We ran into the the others shortly after and all gathered in the crowd at the start line, waiting for the gun to go off... and, finally... it did!
My plan was to go out easy. 9:45 -10 minute miles for the first 2-3 miles and then easy back into a 9:30 - 9:45 pace the rest of the way. I also planned to take full advantage of all the aid stations, to refill my bottles, eat some food and otherwise, just take a moment of rest. No more than two minutes I said to myself. Two minutes!
As the gun went off and we rounded the first corner, I saw Vicki, Matt and Baby "G" cheering us on as we (or most of us) set out to endure another 31 mile race through the beautiful trails of the First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach. They to would be running the trail this morning in a more recreational fashion and I was hoping to see them on the course at some point through my planned 5 hours or so adventure.
It was about a half a mile or so of road before we entered the trails and you could here runners, "whooting" and shouting out with excitement as this is where the race really began!
|Me and Vicki - the morning after.|
So what do I do when I get to the first aid station? I pull off to the side, grab a handful of pretzels and take off, catching back up to the people I was running and pacing with. Eating and drinking while running. I was getting some solids in me but we were only at mile 5 or 6.. I cant remember. I did this very same thing at some of the following aid stations as well. It wasn't until the mile 19 aid station that I was ready to indulge. The volunteers were awesome, handing out cups of Gatorade and water, offering to refill water bottles and keeping the food containers full. Orange wedges, M&M's, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, potato chips, trail mix and many other sugary and salty foods lay on this aid station. It was an other-wise "buffet of junk" for the people hanging around it, but for us runners, it was much needed energy to keep going. I spent a good four minutes here, eating and drinking. By the time I would return back to this aid station I would be on mile 23. It was just a quick out and back from here, the final turn-around and the second half of the second (and last) loop of this 50k.
I pressed on back to the now "mile 23" aid station and ate some more. I will only have eight more miles to go from here. I am feeling good.
It was mile 25 when I caught up to Luty. A German runner who lives in Va. Beach. I ran behind her for a couple miles before she turned and spoke to me. "the next four miles can be pretty lonely" she said. This was true. Having walked/run the last 3 of the 4 miles last year, It was only occasionally that a runner would come by me. Some would offer up an encouragement or accolade as they passed, others, focused on just getting through this, would pass silently by. "I'll try to stay with you." I replied "We'll keep each other company." Luty did not want to stop at the mile 27 aid station and despite my better judgement, I ran past without even grabbing a handful of.. something, anything. There were alot of supporters there and this marked that we only had 4 miles to go.
Luty and I talked back and forth about running, our spouses, Germany, where she was from, New York, where I am from and over the course of the next two miles we were running about a 10:15 pace. We had already completed a marathon distance and most runners will contest to "hitting the wall" around mile 18 or 19. The last six is always hard in a marathon. In a 50k, from my experience the last two years, its the last four.
At the 29 mile marker an older runner that we just passed took a pretty bad fall, or so it sounded. We turned to offer help and asked if he was okay. He waived us on. "I'm okay" he called out. A few seconds later he was back up and running.
I on the other hand needed a break. I need to walk a little. I told Luty it was nice chatting with and I would try and catch up.."We're almost there" she turned and said and then kept going. Walk/running to mile 30, I still managed to crank out a 10:46 pace and then then ran the last one in at a 10:30. I crossed the finish line to find Matt and Jessica, who had already finished, coming in about 25 minutes before me.
|Unbalanced at the finish line. I am directed to get my hard-|
earned "Finisher Shirt"
|Me and Jessica post race|
Something was missing though, rather, someone... my wife! "Where is Vicki?" I asked Matt, chugging down a Pepsi and eating a glazed donut. "She ran up to meet you.. she was going to run in with you... you did not see her?" he exclaimed, puzzled by my question. I congratulated Jessica on a race well done. She was upset that she had followed some runners and missed a turn on the course, ultimately leading to a 25 - 30 minute delay on her finish. Jessica still managed to grab the second place age-group award in the ladies sub-masters division! We all knew she would walk away with something! I have a feeling she'll be back next year to settle the score with the "wrong-turn" and claim a higher victory over the trails in 2013.
|Vicki and Me at the post race party|
I ran ran into my new friend Luty and congratulated her on her accomplishment and then called my wife to let her know she was not going to find me as I had already finished. Bummer. It would have made my race to have seen Vicki on last mile or so and to have her finish with me. It seems as she came into the trail head it forked and she went the wrong way. Good news is she saw our friend Kathy who was the next one of the group to make it to the finish line and so she ran in with Kathy and it turned out that it was the final push that she needed to keep going to the end.
|The 50K Group|
From left: Kathy, Jessica, Rachel,
Andy, Tim, Ariadna, Shane
It turned out to be another great year on the course and congratulations to all who set out to run 31.07 miles and completed that mission! You all inspire me to no end.