Sunday, June 5, 2016

Hyner View Challenge: 3rd Place, The View was Worth the Challenge

Alright, it has taken me a long time to write a post on this race so I will make it short and sweet for everyone but to sum up the whole experience, it was a true confidence booster for myself and a truly incredible event.

For all of those out there: Hyner is a tough race. With 5 long arduous climbs all 800ft-1200ft ascents with similar descents on Rocky and technical Central PA terrain, this race truly...Hard! 

I was unsure how this race would go for me as I had come from places such as Savanna, Georgia where the running is pretty flat so my dedicated hill-training was at an all-time low. Running this race was a great opportunity as preparation for Cayuga Trails 50.  With running with the Nathan Team, this was an even more exciting opportunity.  After my events in DC during that week, I took the Nathan car out to Lock Haven, PA for the race. I camped in my car at the starting line and arrived at the race site around 10pm. I rolled the windows down as it was a beautiful April evening and quickly grabbed some zzzzzz.

The morning came quickly and as I lounged around and almost missed getting my bib and had some contact with the Nathan crew: Maggie, and Brent; and then I was off with the crew for 50k of some of the most brutal trails around.

The race went out comfortable and sadly I could not get that darn GPS of mine to sync up. Time to race by feel. To say that the course record was not on my mind would be a lie. I really felt that with such a solid crew of runners and with some smart pacing, that the record could go down.

To see the top 3 including myself break the record, was something special!

The Top 3: Myself, Adam and Mike!

We hit the first climb and the run now became a hike. I was breathing a little heavy but was to be expected with running hardly any hills like this in quite some time.

I latched onto Adam Russell and Mike D, who are very accomplished Ultra runners. Adam recently was second to Ben Nephew at Breakneck and was the past course record holder of Hyner. As For Mike D, he has all kinds of fast times out in the East Coast trail scene such as A victory at Umstead 100, both course records at Green Lakes 50k and 100k and numerous other fast times. I knew that if I could run relaxed with these two for as long as possible, great things would come from it.

After the first climb, it was us three the whole way. Mike and Myself had to work hard to match Adam's strong downhill running. That guy knows how to fly on steep technical terrain! I felt pretty solid making sure to drink often and take my Boom gel every 45 mins. This worked great to keep my legs and body feeling strong. I felt strong on the climbs and even worked a few of them pretty well to test how Mike and Adam felt.
Making the first big climb at Hyner!
On climb number 3, I made a little move up the long gradual climb before running a little harder on the flat section and then into a nice runnable downhill. I gained some separation on the two but the goal was to test the waters and see how they would respond. Eventually, the two matched my pace on a steeper downhill section.
I still managed to feel fresh. We hit this creek section that was the next climb and Adam decided to ease off the pace as I led Mike into the wet rocky footing ahead. It was hard to run fast on this section and I felt like we were crawling but I could look back and it seemed that our pace was consistent. Remember, with no GPS, I had no idea if we were on record pace or not or any pace really. Towards the top of the climb, Mike caught to me on my shoulder and we talked how we were running close to 4:30 50k pace which was stellar as the old record was 4:52. I told Mike if we keep working together here, good things will come from it. It was fun running with Mike as we rocked the NJ love pretty well growing up only 7 miles from one another. Mike was also the man I attempted to break his incredible 3:28 Green Lakes 50k time so it was a pleasure to connect with him during the race.
I lost contact with Mike at one of the Aid stations. I stopped, he kept going. I lost about 20-30 seconds on him here as we made our way at the top of a ridge. I kept Mike in my sights as we began another descent. Once we finished the descent, we were now mixed in with the 25k runners. I knew that I wanted to catch Mike as this would be the final home stretch and we had one more crazy climb before the finish. I pushed hard on the wet rocky footing trying to pass the 25k runners as best as possible. To put it in perspective, this part of the course is wet slick rock and one bad false misstep and you could fracture an ankle. It is a trail designed for a few hikers every so often. Passing a conga line of runners was difficult as there was no place for the runners to step off to the side of the trail. A little frustrated as I was losing Mike in the crowd, I tried to maneuver off the course running as hard as I could to pass as many people as I could. With each strong pass, my body was getting exhausted. I could feel myself creeping into severe fatigue at this point as the small gap to Mike felt like an eternity.
I eventually gave up to trying to maneuver on this course and began to hike slowly behind the line of runners. I felt that all of this extra effort just was hurting my cause so I began to fuel up for the final miles of the race. I began to lose sight of Mike but knew that if I kept it within a few minutes, that I could close well. Maybe a few minutes go by and then I see Adam as he passes by on the trail. At this point I am just trying to stay upright as my legs have cramped on me.
Once out of the Creek Bed, I was able to run more as the trail allowed some passing but I was just frustrated that I gave up. I mixed in some run-walk to get the legs to have me power-up the last SOB climb. I have heard this one is a tough one. I clenched my teeth and gave it one last push. Once up the ski slope 40% type of ascent up the SOB, I fueled at the top of the climb and saw Brent. We chatted a little and then off I was running. This portion of the trail was more runnable and now after losing about 15 minutes I felt on the last few miles from Mike and Adam, I began to gain my energy and kicked it into high-gear. My GPS watch finally kicked on. Okay, let's see how fast I can go!
My last 4 miles, I split: 7:38, 7:15, 7:49, and 6:23.
I ran through the trail hard and was yelping "50k runner flying" the whole way to the finish. I was on a mission to catch Adam and Mike if I could and felt great the last few miles. As soon as I hit the road section, I opened up my stride and kicked it to the finish.
I hit the 3rd place mark in 4:47:27. I was 10 minutes behind Adam and 15 behind Mike.
We all broke the course record and my body handled the hills incredibly well. I was truly pleased with this performance and know that if I was to run this race again, I could improve upon that last section on the creek and serve up an even faster time.
The views of this course was unbelievable. This is a true mountain ultra. For me, it was a very technical race with rocky and loose footing but cannot express how incredible the experience was.
Thank you to all of my sponsors that help to power me through all of my running adventures:
Mammut North America
Nathan Sports
Fits Socks
Boom Nutrition
Mcdavid USA
Redfeather Snowshoes
Craft NA

All the gear used from a solid race:
*Nathan Sports Fireball Hydration Pack with Exo shot 12 oz Flask and Speedraw Plus Insulated Handheld
*Mammut MTR 141 Zip Shirt, MTR 71 shorts, MTR 201-II Max Shoes
*Fits socks Runner Low Sock (No Blisters, No Problem)
*Boom Gels (Consumed one gel every 45 mins for perfect energy levels)
*Mcdavid Compression 10k Run sleeves!
*MPF/RNR Apparel for the race and cool down!
*Karhu Flow Trainer: Cool down shoes
*Craft Focus Shorts: Cool down shorts

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