Date: January 14, 2012.
Location: Bear Creek Lake State Park in Cumberland, VA
Event: 50k (35k and 50k distances offered)
Presented by: Richmond Road Runners
Event Website: HERE
Cost: Only $25Other race reports on this event: Lost In The Woods Running (Mike Bailey)
It seems like you don't have to search much to find the expensive races, but to find the events with less fuss not only do you have to search deeper, but you have to register quick too.
Not only was Willis River 50k a cheap event (same price for 35k and 50k) but it was also full many weeks before race day.
A first REAL ultra?
I ran 50k for the first time at Hinson Lake's 24 hour event. I completed the 50k in 7 hours. That was my main goal, 50k. This was in late September. My total miles for the event was 55 miles.
I ran 50k for the second time at the Crooked Road 24 hour event. The structure of the day did not allow me to keep time like I did at Hinson. My total miles for the event was 62 miles.
Believing that I could cover the distance, I did feel a little concerned that it was a measured distance and a bit less supported than a 24 hour event. (had good aid stations, but not the FOOD that you get at those 2 24 hour events). Thinking to myself that it would be different as I'd likely log in many more miles alone, rather than shared with whomever was on the loop course, that you get at those 24 hour events. Still I was confident that I could, and would.
Of course I researched as much as I could for the event. I found limited info. One of the most helpful sources I found was a race report from Mike Bailey, whom I had just shared the course with at the Crooked Road 24 hour event. He wrote a report on his blog after he ran it in 2009 in blistering cold weather.
The event takes place in January... in 2009 (see Mike's blog above) temps were as low as NEGATIVE 1 degrees! I'm learning that the course has some mandatory creek crossings where you WILL get wet. I'm excited and nervous both. I would much rather submit myself to such conditions at an organized event, rather than on my own training run somewhere all alone. I figured worst case is I sign up, waste $25 and not run, but either way, I was going to be there before I decided to DNS (Did Not Start).
|Dead Last finish is better than Did Not Finish which is even better than Did Not Start.|
I prepared for the cold temps by buying my first pair of running pants. OK they are tights, but I researched around and decided on Patagonia Speed Work Tights. Retail $69 affordable and a simple design, no external pockets or fancy anything, just quality material.
I also bought a Smartwool neck gaiter and headband. When worn together is could simulate a balaclava, which is pretty much a ski mask.
I had recently upgraded my gloves from simple polyester liners to a much nicer Mountain Hardwear momentum running glove.
I was concerned about what the weather would bring, and there was only one thing I could do about it, and that was to prepare. I made sure some cold training runs took me through water so I could run with wet feet and I tried not to let the cold weather hold me back in my running.
Plans - driving arrangements
After I assembled a list of those that might be attending, and learned what running friends would indeed be running this event. I began to talk with them about their past experiences there and how to prepare. We also made driving and traveling arrangements. I was excited to be invited to ride with Josh and Gina Both of them having run this race previously were able to offer a lot of important support.
The drive up and pre race prep.
Meeting early on Saturday AM in Roanoke, we were on our way. Josh, Gina, Dru, Mike and myself. I was thankful to not have to drive. Josh having made everyone some muffins, I think they were chocolate chip banana nut, pretty good stuff! Wish I had one now actually. Discussion about who ran what race, and comparing ultras and some talk about who really knows how to put on a good race. We all seemed to enjoy one another's company and conversation.
Race headquarters was in a nice heated building with restrooms (additional "john's" outside) and water fountains.
Arrival was just over an hour early. Perfect. Packet pickup and time to dress, prep the body and mind. Rid of all the pre-race heebie-jeebies, take pre-race pics and enjoy a lot of nervous chatter and reunions.
|Photo courtesy of Tom Rickard, Mike is missing from the pic.|
Questions about about what items of hydration to bring. Wear a pack, or just the hand held bottle? I opted for the hand held bottle as I knew there would be an aid station every 5 miles so I could refill.
The course - weather, trees, mud and water
The new name of the event includes that it is s "wilderness trail" I believe that is to let others know that is may be a bit unmaintained in places, and possibly difficult to follow. The course mostly followed white blazes on the trees, and there were white streamers tied to trees every so often, especially in the difficult areas. I think the white was hard to see, I'd prefer a brighter color. It was obvious that the course had some preparation to it. There were a couple areas that made me feel like we were being used to forge a new portion of trail rather than following an established trail.
I heard it many times, and I must say it here as well (and if you hear one thing about the course other than the potentially cold temps it will be this) but there are many down trees that every runner must step over or climb over. These provided nice breaks in the running though. Well, I thought that at first, but after you get a good number of miles under your feet, your legs don't want to lift that high off the ground!
Other than temps and trees there was mud and water. At various times in the past 3 days leading up to the race it rained. I was thankful it wasn't raining today, but the rain left countless mud pits and filled up the creeks just right. Mud pits so deep that the ever present leaf covered trail became shoe sucking black dirt soupy sections that at first you try to dance over, but soon enough you tie in and just tromp right through. I still don't know how I'm going to clean those shoes.
The creeks included many countless crossings, perhaps 10 times? Not all of them required you to submerge your feet, but a couple of them did for sure. At this race and for this time (another day might be completely different) you could find some areas that would put you in as deep as mid calf. Usually there was a better option. Personally after all the mud, it was kind of cleansing to run through cleaner water. The cold temps of the water only penetrated for a very short time. I wonder if that was in part because I was wearing Smart wool socks, and I've read that wool stays warmer when wet than other fabrics? Who knows.
35k complete stop or go?
I was aware that this course didn't have a lot of elevation, but then was surprised that it has 1800 vertical. I would have considered it more flat than that. It had plenty of simple short ups and down (muds and puds - multiple ups and downs, pointless ups and downs).
After 5 miles out the first aid station. Aid stations were stocked with only water and soda for drink. food included cookies, m&ms pretzels and potato chips. Gummy items and I forget what else.
It was nice that before the turn around, I could see the lead runners as they pass. I was excited to see that Josh was in 3rd place at about that time, and not far from the guys ahead of him.
After returning to the start and completing the 35k. Many choose to call it quits, but I knew what the plan was and I was determined to stick to it. I knew I had 5 more miles out and 5 more miles back. I was feeling good having crossed the line in under 4 hours. I rested a moment and refueled at the aid station, then went back down the trail. It was good to see some friends in our group (Mike and Walker) there resting after having completed the 35k a while ago.
Once I headed back in tot eh woods for the final leg of the 50k. I noticed who came into the aid station behind me. He eventually passed me.
The final 10
I think the last 10 miles were more attractive than the first 20. Arriving at the turnaround aid station. I was pleased to be seeing some greenery and a nice river not too far away. I stopped at the aid station. the Race Director was there encouraging the runners. I thanked him for his work on putting the race together. I enjoyed some m&m's, Pringles, one Advil and I forget what else.
The first 5 of the last 10 were heavily hiked. The last 5 of the race, I felt stronger than the previous 5, and I ran more than before. Perhaps it was more downhill? I do know that I think the last 10 miles were more hilly than the first 20. That could be perception though too as my legs were quite tired by that point. There was definitely less mud water and down trees. it was easier to run without interruption. There was a section of forest road (well, there was a section on the first out and back too) which was a nice change of pace for a short time.
It was again exciting to see the oncoming runners. Constantly wondering how well Josh was running, I finally saw 2 figures emerging through the woods toward me. Josh was in the lead!!!
The runner that passed me in the final 10, never got too far ahead, as I could tell from the turn around how far ahead he was.
At the finish
As I was nearing the last mile. I came up on the runner that was behind me before I began the last 10. We enjoyed one another's company and conversation for that last mile. I really appreciated that as I had so little conversation during this run. We crossed the line together.
The clock read something short of 6:30 and I was pleased that it was below 7 hours, but soon thought that it took an extra 30 mins to cover 10 miles, when on the first half of the race I ran 10 miles every 2 hours. Despite my instant negativity, I enjoyed the moment. Soon I asked how the end of Josh's race turned out, and I was happy to hear that he won! His first ultra win!
After a short cool down, food was on my mind. I knew the other in my group were waiting only on me and ready to go. I wanted to refuel. I partook in what the aid station at the finish had to offer, but knew I wanted more. Soon we were in the car and headed down the road.
Like the good husband, I make contact with my wife. Soon to learn that Lydia is at the race and looking for me! What a nice surprise! She had arrived about 15 mins behind what may have been ideal. We had the option of turning around to meet her, or just to stop at a gas station and let her meet us there. I was thankful for my friends for waiting for me, and the finish would not have been the same without them there. I was also glad to see my family happy for me and providing comfort.
Things I did differently - NEW products
Not too much to say here. I'm getting a little more consistent with what I do at long runs now. I have enjoyed the Salt Stick caps. I'm convinced that they help ward off cramps and assist in keeping me hydrated. I began taking them much less than suggested, but now I'm taking them as suggested with one an hour. I would have had some electrolyte product (Gatorade or NUUN) in my bottle on any other given day, but today this is where I did things differently. I'm trying out a line of products by Visalus Sciences. I used PRO in my bottle, which is a powder to mix in water. I did this for my first and 3rd bottle refills. It is recommended not to exceed 4 servings a day, so I felt that 2 was conservative in testing out something new. How did it work? I'm not sure. It surely did not hinder me at all. It tasted better than plain water. I know it lacks the electrolytes in other products, as it is an energy product not electrolyte replacement drink, but then again I'm taking the Salt Caps for that. I will continue to use the PRO and see how I feel about it.
PRO is only one item in a long list of products from a company which I have begun to work with. I am promoting their products to be used for a 90-day challenge after you set a goal for 90 days. Is it weight loss or athletic performance, go to my website at eliminate waist.bodybyvi.com and learn more about these awesome life changing products. I have seen it effect the lives of others, if I had not, I would not be talking about it here. Check it out.
What is next?
Holiday Lake 50k in 4 weeks. I am confident as this trail claims about 2000 ft in elevation, just slightly and probably not even noticeably different that I just ran. I have not committed to the entire Lynchburg Ultra Series, but I do want to do it. I've even signed up for Terrapin Mountain 50k in March, the second event of 4 in the series. I ran the half-marathon distance at Terrapin in 2011. I am excited to return there in 2012 for the full experience.