As I continue the look at 2011 so far – after my solid Freedom Park 12 hr run, the following weekend it was time for the Salem Lakeshore Frosty 50k. It is hard to describe my feeling on this one – great volunteers, and a wonderfully directed race – but for me the course was a bit bleh. I think I did some messing-up-of-the knee too. For the first part of the race, the ground was frozen solid, that on its own would not have been so bad, but prior to it being frozen tundra, it was muddy bike tire tracks. That was very difficult footing to run on. Later once the big thaw had occurred; the frozen tundra became muddy tire tracks again – which was difficult to run on with my already sore knees.
One other thing that I didn’t enjoy about Frosty – there was a lot of trash, gel packs, cups etc, one or two accidental drops – sure, I could handle that, it seemed way more than that. Come on people, this is a $30 race, put on by a great group of people, pick your own shit up, it shouldn’t be left to the volunteers (or the fat bald dude running somewhere towards the back) to clean up after you. It was fun to run with Rhonda Hampton for a while, which made several miles fly by – always good to be friends with the future RD of Umstead 100!
The following weekend was Weymouth Woods 100K. And just like last year, I really did enjoy this race. Marie Lewis, the RD, described the aid station goodies as “typical ultra-fare”. If a steady supply of pizza, burgers, homemade soups, grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, brownies, chips, M&M’s etc. etc. is “typical ultra-fare” – then I should really do more of these things J Despite the ice, the mud, the cold, and getting lost on my 12th lap (it was January – I shouldn’t have been surprised about the ice and cold), I had a blast, it really is a great event. For me now, these MTC races really feel a little like home – I even feel as though I belong, what a great bunch of people. Highlights for me was the awesome job Connie did as a pacer, 35 miles or so – those laps flew by, and then realizing just ahead of my last loop that if I finished that loop within an hour, I would beat last year’s time by 30 minutes. No mean feat considering it had been taking me about 1:10 or longer for most laps. To cut the story short, I flew round, fell twice, and finished that lap in 57 minutes – very satisfying to feel so strong that late into a race.
And that’s it. My craziest streak to date ended at the finish line of Weymouth Woods. In 5 weeks, I had completed 4 ultras. A 100 miler, a 12 hour run (43 miles), 50k and 100k.. After all of that, even though I was physically stronger and fitter than when I started, it was time for a break, and that is precisely what I did for two weeks. No running except for two small treadmill runs, it did me the world of good.
Getting closer to being caught up.
Pilot Mountain Payback Marathon. Love this race, just love it. This was the second time I have done this race, and it was even better this time, as I was running much of the first half with friends, also because I finished much further away from death than I did last year. I really confirmed something that I have been suspecting for a while – I enjoy mountains, going up them is a slog, but a fun slog, and for a back-of-the-packer I am very much a middle-of-the-packer when it comes to climbs. (Admittedly, close-to-the-back-of-the-middle-of-the-pack – which is probably really just the front-of-the-back-of-the-pack). As I told Frank – there is only really one hill to speak of (he hasn’t forgiven me for that one yet) J Even though I set out “just to have fun”, sometime on the descent, I decided that it would be cool to beat last year’s time. I managed to get me a course PR by about a minute. I really worked the last 5 or 6 miles to get that minute, but felt great at the end. I have been thinking about going back to Pilot Mountain for some Tahoe Training runs – the marathon had around 6000’ of climb – proportionately, this is more elevation gain per mile than the TRT. (Although, TRT is much higher in altitude and does have a distinct lack of breathable air). Time was 5:42
You see - proof that there is just the one hill
The next weekend – well, it was a great example of why I run. Frank and some friends (Sharon and Ricky) wanted to run a complete Umstead loop to get familiar with the course. No problem – I have done a few of those, I know my way around there. I was also contacted by an online friend from Colorado who was in Raleigh for work and she wanted to get a few miles in, so Chris joined us too – add my more regular running friends Connie and Amy plus Connie’s friend Barbara (more about Barbara later), and we have quite a group going. And of course Wilbur and Sarah.
Barbara is an NC State student studying journalism, and for an online project, she has decided to make a small documentary about the Umstead 100, and it would appear that Frank and I are going to end up as some kind of movie stars as a result of this. Barbara thought some footage during race would be good – I suggested that the footage to show best carnage would be during the night. And this was how I managed to recruit me a pacer. Not sure what kind of movie star I will make, or indeed what I will do with the untold millions my new career will bestow upon me.
So with perfect weather, we headed out from the parking lot at Harrison, and ran a complete loop (quite how I managed to get lost near Camp Lapahio I have no idea.) We really had fun, hanging out with friends old and new. After the Umstead Loop – Amy, Wilbur, Sarah and I carried on – I wanted to get 26.2 miles, Amy wanted 30, so we did another loop (plus Cedar Ridge twice), and headed back – Amy went on for four more, Wilbur, Sarah and I were content with the marathon distance. This was the pups’ first ever marathon, I am so proud. They both did really well – I am convinced Sarah could run further - I don’t think I would take Wilbur much further, I will always worry about him overheating (even though that wasn’t a problem here).
And ok – here we go – just about up to date…………
How cool is it to have such a great park just 30-40 or so minutes from home, 5 minutes from work. So any event at Umstead has to be considered “home field advantage”. My Badwater crewmate Aubrey came down from New Jersey for a little jog in the park. Again, this was a social event that had some jogging thrown in for good measure – plus of course it was a good training run for Umstead 100, being on the same course an’ all. It was also a great opportunity to see some areas of the park that I am not familiar with. The race was about 4 or 5 miles of single track, and the rest was on the bridle trails. So I think my biggest goal was to run at such a pace that I felt strong at the end – plus perhaps get a feel for how my first 25 miles at Umstead will go. And enjoy a big fat burrito at the finish. And get a new beer glass as a finisher award. And get a cool t-shirt.
So – just how string did I feel at the end? Very strong, Aubrey and I really pushed the last couple of miles, and even sprinting the last half mile or so. I think we even raced each other over the last 100 yds at the end – but finished dead even – was actually quite exhilarating.
My first 25 miles were split at 5:05, and felt very comfortable. Is this something to aim for at the “Big Umstead”? This would probably put me at a sub-11 hr 50, which has been a long term goal (subject to not falling apart) – it also too slow for a sub-24hr finish, right on the edge perhaps. I definitely feel as though there was a lot left in me, so this kind of pace could have continued for a while). Well, I guess we will find out fairly soon.
Plus I got a big fat burrito (two actually, but don’t tell anyone). A finisher’s glass with a picture of a tick on it. And a luminescent green t-shirt, also with a tick picture, appropriately bright enough so I can go run the game lands during hunting season. It also matches my luminescent green Kinvaras – which make me feel really fast (I did notice that during the race, the only people who wore shoes that brightly colored were very fast – so I do detect that there is a potential chicken and egg situation going on here – which came first – the brightness of shoes or speed? One to ponder for sure.
To sum up though, I had a blast, I really enjoyed introducing Aubrey to my home turf, and of course to see so many friends, Frank, Mark, John, ‘Pacer’ Rick from Umstead 100 last year, Jim and Jade (who took some great photos), Laura, Donna and Frank, Lynne probably more that I have forgot – oh and Barbara who filmed and interviewed me after the race for footage that will be used for the documentary she is making. The Marathon time was 5:15
So, there you go, race wise, I am all caught up. I should probably ramble some now and provide some thought provoking commentary or something. Or not.
The sprint to the finish at Umstead Marathon
Photo: Jade Wei