This race popped up on my radar a while back but I didn't put much thought into it until I noticed it's timing relative to Bull Run Run. At just over one month before the 50 miler it was the perfect pre-race long run for me. I signed up tentatively with the RD figuring if I was feeling good and Matthew was in I'd be there.
That said, with the set backs in training, 1 week being sick at the end of January followed by a generally weak week (sorry), the February double whammy of a snowstorm and then the week long trip to Asheville and Knoxville during which I ran 3 times I wasn't feeling too great about my chances of completing this race. On the other hand, I had a good past couple of weeks, and aside from the horrendous conditions on the Potomac Heritage Trail last weekend, I did manage nearly 3 and a half hours of on the go time. Time on the feet I've heard is one of the most important parts of training for ultra distance races, so I figured it was well worth the $20 to get out there and give it a go. When Matthew came back and said he was in, I knew it was on!
We started off somewhere in the middle/front of the 350ish marathon and 50k runners and settled onto a nice long train of people. We were cruising along in the 7:30-8:30 minute mile range for probably the first 10 or so miles stuck pretty tight to the remaining train, picking our way over the frozen solid and rutted out snow on the trails. Somewhere along the way we passed some folks and leading Matthew I tried to stay with a few runners in my sights maybe 25 yards ahead. I wasn't doing it and was slowly dropping back when Matthew took over and slowly and steadily reeled the two guys ahead of us in. I was struggling there but made it up with him and did my best to continue to hang on.
We stayed with those two, one named Daryl (I think but I'm probably wrong) and the other a young guy in a VHTRC sleeveless shirt around the lake loop. About half way around the lake we caught up to Rob D(2nd 50k in 3 weeks following the 100 miler 4 weeks prior... ouch!) who'd been volunteering at the PHT 50k and I dropped back to chat for a minute or two but knew I'd be dead if I didn't hang on to Matthew and Daryl for a bit longer. It took some serious effort to catch back up to them but I got up there and followed through to the second stop at the lake aid station.
Shortly after that aid station we lost Daryl off the front and Matthew and I continued to roll along. Matthew was feeling good and I was slowly falling off his pace. I was doing what I could to keep him in my sights but he was cruising and continued to pull further and further ahead mile after mile. Eventually though, I got a bit of help when he got stuck behind some folks and I managed the slightest little second wind and finally reeled him in on a fairly steep little switch back "climb" and we stuck together for a bit after that until a long grinding uphill.
A young women we'd run with before caught up quickly up here, tried to stick behind us and then rocketed by once she saw us dying hard at the top of the climb. I offered to play rabbit for Matthew for a bit and shuffled off in front of him. I eventually separated from him over the next few miles and settled in to my shuffle jog for the final miles of running. Somewhere in here we started to see mud; mostly just relatively small patches that were pretty sloppy, though again I was surprised by how dry most of the trail was.
The last aid station came a supposed 2.2 miles to the finish but was followed abruptly by a second creek crossing (which felt GREAT!) and the steepest little kicker of the race (which DIDN'T!). The end of the trail put us out directly next to my truck and even thinking it was well under a mile to go I absolutely had to fight off thoughts of just going straight to my truck. It was especially difficult when all I could think of was how I'd already run this portion of road in the morning since we were the last people boarding the last bus to go to the race start (aka we were late...)
Around two corners and an announcement that we had a mile road run to the finish was tough, but I managed a little focus, took the smooth road for what it was and gritted out my final mile back in a reasonable (though in all reality super slow) pace. My finish time of 5 hours, 20 minutes and change was a significant improvement over the PHT 50k though I'd guess the trail is quite a bit less technical then that one was; at least at times. Matthew came in a short 10 minutes later and we headed over to the race provided BBQ for some well deserved sodas and BBQ sandwiches.
Caught up with Rob a bit afterwards and talked to a couple of the people we'd run with during the race before heading home, taking a detour off River Rd due to an accident, ending up near Catholic University (way out of the way) and finally getting home to ice baths, a quick meal of pasta and veggie sausages and heading straight to Jenny's house for her 30th birthday dinner and games party. And, yes we did both eat full meals again! Yum!
No official results though from what I can tell I was somewhere in the sub-40's for the 50k placement. A much faster race field then I think we expected, though the delusions of top 20/top 10 placements were way off base to begin with! :)
Check out my GPS report on Garmin Connect here.
Can't wait for BRR!