The details that surround this race will follow as I have the chance to race this Sunday as my trail running opener which I am very excited to get out on the soft stuff and away from the slushy snow as much as I enjoy running in the snow (only for one season out of the year).
Get excited as the weather seems amazing and race-day is going to showcase great stories as people put themselves to the test!
Thank you Mammut North America, Fits Socks, Acidotic Racing, Karhu/Craft and Dion Snowshoes for all the help and support! Lets have fun out there!
Photo from start of Virgil Crest Ultra (I am in the green and black centered in the photo)
So race day could not come quicker…..
As I gathered my gear early Saturday morning, I was excited about getting in my last quality long run (race simulation) of the year. Earlier this past Thursday, I twisted my ankle while running out along the rail trail (Lehigh Valley) towards Limehollow Nature Center. To my dismay, I was foolish how I foot planted and bruised my inside ankle pretty bad. With diligent icing, I felt it would be fine by Saturday. I also forgot to signup online for the Tom B 52k option the newest option this year. Luckily, the Race Directors were kind enough to get me into the event.
Back to the race…
So I loaded up my Honda with all my gear and my new Mammut running apparel for this year and off I drove the 20 minutes to Hammond Hill State Forest. Hammond Hill offers some nice uphills and downhills as the majority of each 13k loop offers more sustained climbing the first half and then solid downhill running the second half. I arrived at the race site, got signed in and prepared for the race event. My goal would be to run somewhere around an hour per loop which would be a solid pacing from last year where I averaged 49 minute loops. The day was a nice morning with tons of bugs from the rain the other day and humidity that had warm fog everywhere. With my new Ultimate Direction 20 oz bottle, I knew that with the warmer weather and high humidity, that hydration and nutrition was going to be even more key. 15 of us lined up and we were OFF!
I followed the nice 800m uphill which is the steepest portion of the race and then easily progressed into the main trail. I felt good in the early going just running nice and calm and relaxed. I could feel my head heat up some with the fog bank of humid air nearby. I wanted to run the first 2 loops like a walk in the park. Due to the excitement of a race, I ran a pretty solid clip the first loop never letting up on the ups or downs. My ankle felt just fine and was excited to see what I could do. With Nuun in my bottle, I gently drank and would use a gel every time I finished a lap. Running up and down the xc ski trails I practiced visualizing running the Cayuga Trails 50 running nice and smart, saving my reserves for the end. To simulate what my body could do, I did not carbo-load the night before nor was I properly hydrated. This placed a lot of strain on my body as the distance progressed but I managed it pretty well with minor cramping the last 3 miles. The first loop I managed to split 55 minutes which was quick and felt solid. I splashed some water on myself and headed out for the second loop. The mud all over the course made the footing a little difficult and I knew as the other distances would come about later in the day, it would be a tough challenge. By loop two, I needed water. My head was hot, the humidity was sapping my energy and I could feel my core temperature rise as the sun on the end of the first loop to the second and third loops was out in full-force. The shade on the course is minimal at best as the trees have yet to grow in. This is where my race strategy failed. The other aid stations out on the course had not been set up and my bottle was almost out by lap two, I began to feel hot as my Powerbar gels and Nuun was not enough to replenish everything I was losing. Finally towards the high point of the course near the Finger Lakes trail section, an aid station had been set-up. I ran to it and dumped cold water all over myself and boy did that feel amazing. I had water in my bottle with a little bit of old Nuun and felt kinda bloated this last miles of the second loop.
I needed energy drinks with tons of salt. By loop three, I was around 58 for that loop and positioned myself for a sub 4 finish. I took my next gel and made the push. I was beginning to fatigue a little but my legs felt great and my body was nice and relaxed though feeling hot. I continued to press on around the winding trails. I was lucky to advert many potential ankle-twisting moments to keep myself running smooth.
I had made my final section of loop three as I knew that the other race would be starting soon. I came from the woods and received a round of applause which was really cool. In that moment, I felt like a mini-celebrity. By lap three, I was stopping at every aid station drinking gatorade, water, Ginger Ale, Coke, anything! I was still under 4 hour pace hitting the end of lap thee in 2:56. I ate some M&Ms and loaded up on goodies and out I went. I power hiked the big hill a little and then made it to the regular trail. It was 2 minutes or so into the trail and "POP". I twisted my bad ankle. The pain rushed into my leg as a solid 7:20 pace became a hobble and then a crawl. I was then passed by the other racers as I had to take it easy with the ankle. With the sea of people there to help motivate me along, eventually I continued to run with them at much slower pace after walking about a mile. At this point I was not going to run sub 4, I just wanted to finish. The last lap, I struggled with my ankle on the uphills and downhills as any uneven footing made me yelp in pain. I did not care if this would take me a while as I just wanted to be done. I had run three spectacular laps in humid/warmer conditions than what I have been used to with three gels and fluids that were not my go to type of stuff. This race gave me the ability to test how I can adapt in a race situation and really proven to myself that I am incredibly fit running every lap but the last lap almost as fast if not faster than the 13k winner. The last lap, I walked a lot and as the watch crept over 4 hours, I worked hard to manage my fatigue. I hoped that I could make it under 4:10. I knew that if I ran under 80 minutes or 10 minute miles for the last section I would be at 4:20 and I wanted to be under that. I willed myself a 4:15 finish not bad considering my last lap was a junk lap in terms of pacing.
Thank you to my family, friends and sponsors for a wonderful day out on the trails. Thank you Mammut, Acidotic racing, Fits Socks, Dion Snowshoes, and Karhu and Craft for the support.
Now it is time to ice the ankle, rest-up and enjoy running these next few weeks, internalize my solid volume of training with three 20+ runs in the last three weeks and prepare myself for my first A-Race of the year!
Mammut MTR 71 Shirt (Red)
Mammut MTR 71 Shorts (Blue)
Mammut MTR 201 Pro Low (Blue and icy White)
Mammut MTR Visor (Green)
Lots of Ginger Ale, Gatorade, Coke
Handfull of M&Ms
Ultimate Direction 20 oz handheld (Fastdraw)
Ultimate Direction Essential Belt (Nutrition)
Fits socks (Performance Trail)
Zensah Compression Calf Sleeves (Blue Tie Dye)