Sunday, March 4, 2012

Holiday Lake 50k

Event info
Date: February 11, 2012.  
Location: Holiday Lake 4-H Educational Center in Appomattox, VA
Event Distance: 50k 
Hosted by: Extreme Ultra Running
Series: Lynchburg Ultra Series - event 1 of 4
Event Website: HERE
Other race reports on this event: 22 stories (and possibly more now)all linked from THIS page.

I am much later than usual posting this report. The real motivating factor was because I ran another race, which I  want to get to and I had to finish this one first. I had been 90% done for a long time, but never completed it. Life has been non-stop.
Even though I've covered this distance, just last month and a couple times previously, THIS was the event I was waiting for. I suppose I felt that to take part in one of Dr. David Horton's 50k's Was just something I HAD to do. Now I can check that off my list. If you don't know much about all he has accomplished, read the bio on that link and you'll be impressed to have a guy of such character and accomplishment in our region!
He and his friend Dr. Clark Zealand host the Lynchburg Ultra Series together, along with the Beast Series.
These are the region's ultimate ultra running events.

I wanted to run this event and this series for a couple years now. I always wanted to get my running up to this distance. I have a few people to thank for this. most importantly my wife, Lydia for allowing me to spend hours away from home and out in the woods. I'd like to thank my encouraging running friends. Especially Anita Finkle. She provided me the final step of encouragement that I needed to really get out there. I believe her encouragement to enter a 24 hour race was just what I needed to show me that I could do it! Also I'd like to thank some bloggers like Jenn at Freedom to be, for sharing her experiences of working toward and running her first ultras. I learned a lot from those stories she shared. I only hope that what I've been documenting here can help someone else get the info they need to accomplish their goals of running ultra marathons.

Events prior to the event
Why do I even call these races events, and not races? it is because they are so much more than a race to me. I think of shorter distances as races. and longer distances as events. They often take all day and there is food and friends and fun. how can you call that a race? I know it still is for many, of course it is. It can still be a race, even thought I call it an event. I think that shows it to be less intimidating and emphasizes it's just not all about gutting it out to the finish.

Trying to fit in my last long run was probably the more dramatic story in the small events leading up to this Sat. I sent out a message to running friends on FB that I'd like to do a long run. I changed the date on everyone a couple of times. and as my schedule would have it, I couldn't do it on a weekend. Which left me to run mid week in the afternoon / evening and it would take me long into the dark hours of the night. After stringing along a few friends and then changing plans a couple more times... I finally arranged with Eddie Mann that we would run the Chestnut Ridge Loop (next to Mill Mountain in Roanoke) and circle the 5.4 mile loop  times. Eventually the day came, I think it was a Thursday and it was a success. of course it got dark, which added an exciting element in the final hours. I was thankful for Eddie to have come with me and I believe it was his longest run at the time of his training... I'm looking forward to hopefully sharing with him his first ultra later this year, possibly at the Eastern Divide 50k.

The morning of
The race starts at 6:30, wow that is early. but I'm thankful for the early start. Of course that means it could be horribly cold, but thankfully today it wasn't. This also means that I wake up at 3:30 and try to leave at 4AM, so I arrive between 5:30 and 6 in just enough time to check in and get comfortable. That is exactly how it happened too. Believe it or not, the only thing I could have done differently was not take the first parking opportunity I saw which would have placed me closer to the race start, but it wasn't bad at all.

I arrived, Took a small walk to the lodge building where it was obvious that check-in would be located. grabbed my entry t-shirt, and scanned the left overs from what looked like a nice breakfast. I took a pack of chocolate covered donuts, which I knew would taste nice after the run. I saw a couple familiar faces, but didn't talk to anyone. Back to the car to make the final prep before the run.

At the start line, I looked around for familiar faces but didn't see them, I heard a couple names I knew being called out for not having checked in. Eventually Samantha Mitchell arrived to the start - Ah! finally a familiar face. Why does that help so much? I don't know. Just nervous energy. I knew others that would have been there but I didn't see them until later.

Finally we were off.

The race

Speaking of the person in front of me....
As the sun came up and I was passing a couple runners here and there, while a couple runners passed me here and there. I came upon an almost familiar figure. I approached him by the side and said "Craig Burns!" sure enough I was right. I've only met Craig once and that was at the Mountain Masochist mis-point. We had a short conversation and he drove my car for me to take it to the end of the race so it was there for me when I was done sweeping the second half of the course. When I expressed my excitement for having recognized him, he humbly replied "It's the Spirit".

Craig and I ran together for a while. I thoroughly enjoyed his company and his focus. Craig and I share the same the same faith in Christ and we were able to enjoy that element as we ran together. I could go on about how important it was to me to have that conversation with him. It was just the right timing. At times when I run, I pray and Craig entered my prayers more than once throughout that day.

A little longer down the trail I ran upon Helen MacDermott. Helen was dragged through the drama of me trying to organize a small group to run with in my final run before the big day. At last minute, I changed plans and she was unable to make that day and time. Life is hectic and schedules can sometimes be difficult to plan around. My life with a family and 2 babied, just makes it challenging. It was good to finally meet Helen. We chatted and ran together a short time as well.

As I was running along. I'm always thinking to myself... "Am I running too fast" because I've got a long way to run and if I run too fast now, I just won't have any energy later in the day. sooner or later I get behind another runner, or group of runners. usually when I find myself behind one or two runners. They may seem to be a tad slower than my desired pace to run at that omen, but I force myself to stay behind them for a little while, just to help control my pace for a moment. At times, thought I come upon a long string of runners and thought difficult to pass. I usually do. So along one long string of runners. I run into John Farmer. John and I crossed the line together at the Willis River Wilderness 50k just last month. It was nice to see him again. Just an encouraging face and name. He was surprised I remembered him. but of course I did.

After that I didn't see familiar faces until the turn around.

The course is 2 loops. Run it once one way, and then run it in the opposite direction. Before the turn around I crossed paths with Jenn from Freedom to be, and soon I was headed down a staircase to cross over a small reservoir  and then around the last part of the lake. Soon I was back to the start with another Aid Station. At this point I felt strong, but I knew I was going to slow down. It was nice to See JJ Jessee at the Aid Station.

JJ, along with Jenn are part of the Iron Mountain Trail Runner community in the Damascus, VA area. That group of trail runners really seem to have a great network of running friends with people always looking for others to run with, or someone asking for advice. I've benefitted a lot from their FB page alone and the conversations they have had there from time to time. I'd hope that we could have something like that in Roanoke, and I feel that we are getting there.

A short conversation with JJ helped estimate my finish time. I secretly wanted to finish at 6 hours. I stopped for a moment, enjoyed a short conversation and some more food and drink. I headed back down the trail.

Pit Stop!
Knowing the next aid station was 4 or miles ahead, I still decided to press on. Even before I got to the turn around Aid Station I felt that I may need to use the bathroom soon. I began to develop a theory that if my body is able to focus resources on digestion, then I'm just not running hard enough. So I kept pressing on, thinking of the 6 hour goal, which I knew I would fall short of.

The next AS was at mile 20 or so. I had no doubt that any of the ASs would have had anything I needed. and so I asked for some toilet paper. As the young volunteer went to look in the back of the vehicle, she turned to yell out to another volunteer, "Hey, where's the... never mind" She didn't want to yell the words "toilet paper" Which was the polite thing to do. Sure enough she found it and I was off into the woods in a totally different direction until I could no longer be seen.

I kept reminding myself that though I'm losing time on my goal, I will be more comfortable overall. Sometime in all my reading, I recalled how to properly go about doing this.... dig a hole, down to the depth of where it is packed dirt, and then cover it all up with the dirt (and leaves and whatever) you displaced.

Of course I immediately felt better when I got on the trail, but I had lost track of all runners before and after me. I was running along a different group of people now. It was a bit of a mental challenge. I knew I wouldn't catch up to them. For some tho would not have been a concerning element at all, but out there in the middle of nowhere it was nice to feel like I kind of know who I had recently passed, and who had recently passed me. Those things give me comfort. It is like I feel that I fit in at this spot within the field of runners. That was disrupted. Once I felt comfortable that I was doing the same thing and only the faces had changed, I was back on track.

Heading home
I enjoy all that I learn from talking to other runners at such events. I spoke with another runner who was strictly sticking to her plan to run for 4 mins and walk 1 min. I tried to stay with her, but I was slowly losing the ability to run for 4 full minutes. but I was surprised how long I was able to stick to that. It is encouraging to find someone to run and chat with in those last miles. Even after pressing on and on, I still found the strength to keep pressing on.

It was nice to finish. A little less climactic than how it was at Willis River 50k when I had a group of friends awaiting, that was nice!

What was done differently
The main thing I did differently was changing some of what I was drinking throughout the race. I carried a 22 oz. Nathan handheld filled with alternating products. I switched back and forth from Pro and Neuro. I felt that I was getting my electrolytes from Salt Stick caps, so I used my drink as energy products. I felt that it worked well. 

The more amazing thing was in the few days after the run. I experienced a muscle recovery faster than I've ever had. I often take ibuprofen for about 3 days after a long run like this one. but this time it took less than a day to recover. It sure felt that way. I took ibuprofen ONCE the night of the race, and never again. I felt great. again what I did differently was that I've been drinking a Vi-Shape shake after my runs, usually 2 during the rest of the day, and often the following day as well. and I've been taking the Vi-pak of vitamins also from ViSalus Sciences.

Most people who really get into a sport or activity eventually find their product line that really works for them. and I'm really enjoying these products.

The Vi-shape shake is marketed as a post-workout recovery drink for protein and nutrients needed as well as marketed as a meal replacement for weight loss. I've seen it have amazing results in my family for weight loss, and I've read the stores of others, whom I don't personally know and seen pictured of those using it to improve fitness. I can now say I am learning it's potential for runners also.

What is next
Explore Your Limits 10k on 3/3/12, Then Terrapin Mountain 50k on 3/24/12, and on to Promise Land 50k continuing with the Lynchburg Ultra Series.