Sunday, March 28, 2010

Terrapin Mountain 50K

It's been a tough winter-let me say that right up front. House renovations, sickness, snow, snow, and more snow have-how shall I put it-killed any serious training for Terrapin Mountain 50K.  I had intended to do the six race "Beast Series" but missed the first race due to pneumonia, and so approached this first serious race of 2010 with quite a bit of apprehension.  Would my lungs hold out?  Did I have enough miles in the bank to even finish the race?

Peg and I drove down to Sedalia Center, VA with a Lancaster friend, Steve Goss, who was running his second ultra marathon. We arrived around 8:30, checked in with race director Clark Zealand, grabbed some pizza and set up our tents in the large field adjacent to the pavilion.  It was a cold night with frost on the tent but Peg had packed flannel sheets so we were toasty warm in our little cocoon.  5:30 came very early, we dressed quickly, and milled about in the semi darkness talking to friends and waiting for the race to begin. 7:00 came, the gong went off, and we were off.  The first 4.1 miles are all uphill and was an excellent way to warm up for the day.I hit AS#1 at 59:00 and felt really good.

And now a word about fuel and hydration!
In past races, fearful of stomach upset, I have run exclusively on gels and salt tabs.  It's worked pretty well early in the race but I think I would get behind on my calories later in races when I couldn't take another gel hit and bonk. Also my stomach would get queasy after 20 miles and so I would neglect water further compounding the problem. I was talking with Peg about the upcoming race and she commented that she ate solid food until her stomach rebelled, and she drank coca cola to calm the stomach.  This sounded like a good strategy so decided-at the last minute- to try it.  It worked like a charm!  What a difference it made in my race.  I managed to eat solid food through most of the race, augmenting with gel when I felt a little hunger pang, and drank water with nuun for electrolyte replacement.  I also popped a salt tab at every aid station to make sure that there would be no cramping issues.

After AS#1 there was a long five mile section that I hammered at a sub 9:00 pace.  It felt good to run, the sun was out and warming us nicely, and the conversation was flowing with friends on the trail.  I still was being pretty cautious about running too close to the edge of my comfort level and kept reminding myself that the "A game" plan TODAY was simply to finish.  Time goals could wait for another day.  I reached the halfway point of 16.4 miles at 3:38, and knew that the day was going well. I felt absolutely great and charged up Terrapin mountain.  The section from AS#6 to AS#7 is just over three miles but it is the toughest section in the course. You first climb hard to the summit of Terrapin Mountain, then pick your way down the steep, rocky scree to "Fat Man's Misery" and then another tortuous descent to the final aid station.  Despite the climbing and descent I still had loads of energy and attribute a large portion of this energy to proper nutrition and hydration.
I crossed the finish line in 7:40:44 and felt absolutely energized. Lots of folks cheered me in (Thanks Rick, Sophie, David, Markie Mark, and Goose!) and it felt so good to to feel so good!

Could I have run this race faster?  You bet.  Am I ready for Promise Land 50K in four weeks time?  Bring it on!  The "A game" is to break eight hours.  My PR on this course is 8:02 two years ago, and I think that I have it in me this year to squeak under that.

Capon Valley 50K in early May, Dances with Dirt 50 mile and the Damn Wakeley Dam 50K in July will give me a good training base for my first attempted leap to big boy status-Grindstone 100.

 Here's wishing everyone good running this spring!