Monday, December 16, 2013

Pure Hellgate 100k ++

Hellgate 100k++ December 14th 2013 12:01am

The last race in the dubbed Mini-beast series due to the cancellation of Grindstone 100 this fall because of the government shutdown.
I was very excited and ready for a good long run.
The weather forecast promised some wintry mix and rain. After a couple of years of good weather, we believe Dr Horton the race director got what he wanted. You could almost see the horns at the side of his head...

 I like running in the rain but with the temperature forecast being around low 30's was cause for concern.
Hellgate 100k is point to point starting near the Natural Bridge area at the base of a big mountain it first starts with an easy 3ish miles of nice runnable trail and gentle hills. Everyone took off and I was left climbing those first few little bumps on my own, right at the back of the pack. Some runners stopped to make an adjustment to clothing as they heated up quickly but they were right back way in front of me.  I was scared at the base of that big climb and I had already rolled my ankle pretty good. I had some worries that I wasn't prepared for this race watching the runners headlights far in front of me, zig zagging slowly up the first big climb of the morning.

The nice man at the first aid station told me I was second to last but I told him I would catch up with the others. I played leap frog back and forth with 2 girls and finally pushed up and away past them. 
They had warm food and a nice fire at aid station 2, I could feel the heat from it as I walked past it... promising myself I wouldn't go anywhere near them. They are bad trouble and can easily change a runners mind about going onwards!
Now done with uphill climb, the course goes across the BRP and its time to hit some single track that winds its way down thru the woods with a few rocks to keep you alert. This is my strength… a little technical but not too steep. I moved well but held back a little knowing I had still a long way to go. After a fun descent of about a mile the trail widens then takes a turn on some single track which has some fun short steep ascents and gentle hills for about another mile. Soon the fun single track hit ended and we climbed up another dirt road.  It starts snowing, big, fat snowflakes. It’s a nice gradual climb to the top of this road, the snow making it hard to look up ahead for markers. The snow was beautiful and made me happy. I moved my light to the side of the trail to see all the snow that had accumulated and was stuck on the trees. A winter wonderland! There must be a couple of inches on the ground.
After Camping Gap aid station - which I don’t remember too well there was some nice climbing up gentle hills that reminds me a lot of the grassy wide section of Promise Land 50k, maybe I was on part of it. It was a fun section. It had stopped snowing and turned into a light wintry mix. The gentle short climbs gave a welcome break from running. The wide trail in great shape here, and it was easy to select a path from the runners before me. This section went on a while till you come to a turn down some fun single track. I stopped here to get a sandwich I had packed. I was getting pretty hungry and also shed my heavy layer. I felt much more comfortable after doing that… I didn’t do it earlier because I was scared of making the cut offs in time!  There was a short climb and I knew I had been here before. Some tape across intersecting trails directed us in the correct direction. I recognized this part of Promise Land. The Rhododendrons where  spectacular under the headlamp, thickly covered from the earlier snow. After the short climb up, the trail turns very rocky and its downhill AND the footing is slick due to trampled down snow. I took my time here not wanting to fall or slip.  A few switchbacks later I knew I was getting close to the road that I knew from the Promise Land course.  It was a welcome sight to see the aid station and the end of this slow single track section. This was Headforemost Mt about 21 miles in.
Some hot broth hit the spot and I took another one, a little coke and off I went.  This was the first aid station that I asked what the cut off was so I could get an idea how I was doing.  They informed me the cut off was 6:10am and I had arrived around 5:40am. I felt that I was doing quite well. I was comfortable with my pace and feeling good that I could maintain that and I got my first confidence booster of being able to finish this race.

Leaving the aid station we began some easy climbing and into the fog.. the road turned into a grassy road and I saw a kilt in front of me for a short while. Doug Campbell was a short ways ahead but I needed to make a pit stop and didn't see him again till a long time later on.

I don’t remember crossing the BRP again, but the next section is a long downhill run on single track and wider grassy trail. There were some nice views of the closer mountains that were covered in morning fog. I caught up with Helen MacDermontt and she was flying on the down-hill.  I enjoyed her pace and didn’t want to get in front of her as I would probably blow my quads out if I did. She tried to let me go ahead a couple of times but I refused.  The trail got wider and she expressed she was hungry. I was too, but I knew the aid station must be coming up soon. 

We arrived at Jennings Creek 27 miles in and our first drop bag stop.  They offered bacon and eggs. I couldn’t even think of eating eggs at this point, it didn’t sound appealing. I took more soup, but I knew I wasn’t eating enough. I was doing well eating some honey stinger chews and good ol’ hammer gel.  I dug into my bag for my asthma med and restocked up on chews and gel and I was outta’ there. 

I had caught up to Larry Huffman at the aid station but I didn’t see him so I left… more road - more climbing.  The snow had made the road really slick and traction was bad… a lot of switching sides of the road to avoid camber. The middle or very edge of the road had the best traction.  The slick spots not helping the ache that was building at the inside of my knee.  Plenty of climbing here and a couple of people passed me along this stretch…  Little Cove Mt aid station at the top of the big climb. It was lightly raining up here, so I needed to keep moving. I took some warm soup and A piece of potato.  I had recognized a couple of volunteers that were at an earlier aid station and really thanked them for being out there all day. The next stretch had some nice downhill trail and then some downhill dirt road.  I remember the rocks on the next single track section. Mostly an easy grade, would have been nice and runnable, but the rocks where hidden under the leaves and you had to take some time here. I passed a runner who was having trouble with the rocky section, I loved how the trail swooped in and out of the mountainside. After hitting some switchbacks and a crossing a creek getting my feet soaked again, a gentleman walking along the trail informed us to go across the road and up the short hill to the aid station. It was short, and Larry Huffman caught up with me at the aid station.  It seemed very cold here at this big aid station. I got chilled fast. The pancakes were awesome and I asked for more.. I would have kept asking but I felt guilty for already taking two. I also took more broth. I stocked up on Gel from my drop bag and got outta there. The rain becoming more steady now began to chill your bones.

The next section had some runnable sections and a few rocks thrown in. The trail winds up, down, in and out of the mountain side.

 Bobletts gap was under a bridge that I didn’t even know at the time was the parkway again. I was focused on what Mile I was at… and it was depressing when they said it was mile 49.5… knowing then I still had around 16 miles to go.  I had … guess what… soup.. The hash brown tots looked good but I had trouble chewing them down. I got out of that aid station quick. I knew Larry Huffman wouldn’t be too far behind and it was really cold up there.  As I was moving down the next trail I couldn’t figure that I really had that far to go when it dawned on me that the mileage they posted wasn’t in Horton miles. So really I had come about 52 miles. ‘Horton miles’ - so named because a stretch that is said to be 6 miles, will actually be 8 miles.

After some time on this destroyed downhill dirt road that had you jumping from one side to the other… the trail came out on a residential dirt road… you could get moving here and I though this might soon be coming up to the last aid station and the 3 mile climb up the to the parkway before the last descent down .. but I was wrong.

The road section ended after a mile and directed us onto a single track trail and some nice climbing.  I felt really alone on this section.. I was a little disoriented and thought I was just about the only one out there and that maybe I was following some hunters trail ribbon. Each ribbon I saw gave me some confidence. I just couldn’t hear anyone around me and just hoped it was the right way. This was nice runnable trail, a little windy and gentle hills.  I could hear a road not far off and wondered if I was going to hit it soon, but it took a long time. The trail dipped up and down thru tributaries. It went on and on. This was surely another so called ‘ 6 miles’ that was really 8.. it must have taken a couple of hours. I was so thrilled when I got to the last aid station just before 4pm. They assured me this section was a true 6 miles. 3 up - cross the parkway - and 3 down.

I didn’t take much to eat.  I don’t think I took anything besides some coke. I wanted to get moving and be done.

I spotted a girl I had been close to much of the day but was never able to catch her. I felt good and strong on the climb up. I finally caught up and passed her. I knew it would be over soon.  I caught up to Doug who was struggling with this last section. But I was excited to be here. The final stretch!

The wide dirt road winded around and you wondered how much further it would go, you thought you were getting to the top when around the bend there was a little more climbing and a little more. 

Finally the gate, I crossed the parkway and it really is all downhill from there.

I was surprisingly able to run again even though my feet and knee ached. My fingers where numb and toes felt frozen. Once I was moving I didn’t feel too bad.  The rain became heavy and I tripped a couple of times and decided to pull out my handheld light. The section turned into a wide dirt road and I knew I was getting close.  Horton had the '1 mile to go' marker on the ground and I was soo happy I cried with joy. Joyful to have accomplished Hellgate 100k and the series of races that began a long time ago with Holiday Lake.

The final turn into Camp Bethel and I was already pumping my fist at my side.. I ran walked the last section thru the camp but made sure no one was catching me.

 Horton asked my number and I shone a light on it, 130.. he said ‘Diane Behm!” like maybe he was surprised?!

I had finished Hellgate! 17hrs 20 min 52 secs

Larry came in a couple of minutes after and Doug Campbell finished strong too.

Helen MacDermont uncomfortable with the close cut offs, kept going and also made it.

I told Horton how I hated him and his Horton miles. I was cursing out there on the course a little as a couple of the last sections dragged on and where longer than they should be.

But we love it really. Deep down, the extra miles, the challenges, the mental, physical fatigue, the lows, the highs, the people you meet, the encouragement and support of others, the amazing mountains and the desire to be on your feet for incredible distances.  And when its over the bask of the glory in a great accomplishment is all yours to enjoy forever.

Thank you to all the volunteers out there for there countless time and clearing trail in preparation for this race. It didn’t go unnoticed. The trail was in fantastic shape.

Thank you, Dr David Horton for a superb race.

Till next year!





Friday, June 7, 2013

Bryce 100

I had selected Bryce 100 for the following reasons:
- The time of year
- The reasonable running temperatures (average of mid 60s for high, to 30's at night)
- A place I had travelled to before 12 years ago on part of our honeymoon trip.

I tried to trust in my training that I was ready for Bryce 100.  I was starting to feel like I should have done more.  My friends reached out and assured me I was ready and well trained.  I was so busy at work with our biggest sale of the year that I got plenty of good sleep that week.
I got up at 3am after a restless night feeling way to nervous.  I got in some calories, a bagel, banana and I was lucky enough to get some things 'cleared out'

 The temperature gauge in the car read 34 degrees but it was a calm, still morning.  Harry claims he saw 28 degrees as the temperatures continued to drop that morning.  I took some warm layers I could drop off at the start to be taken back to the finish. I assured Caroline Williams that I wasn't going to run in my fleece pants as we huddled around the fire can.  The director Matt Gunn called us over for a quick talk, he mentioned there was some obvious trail vandalism to our markers but they fixed those up.  It was time to strip down to my shorts and t-shirt and we were soon on our way.  All tensions and worries eased as we began to move.
We begin on the Coyote Hollow Trail which seems more tailored to bikes, we wound in and out and up and down gentle rolling hills.  We begin at 8000ft, mostly walking as we waited for the runners to spread out.  I was patient and enjoyed the nice easy start.  Soon people where taking out there cameras snapping pictures of the views.
I ran gently downhills so as not to 'blowout' my quads early in the race.  These ended up being some of the easiest miles of the course.  I spotted a horny lizard as the temperatures began to warm and the sun started to hit us.

We popped out on a ridge and ran along the orange sandstone hills past huge vertical rock formations known as 'hoodoos' shaped by natural elements. Sometimes you stand in wonder at how they haven't just toppled over already.
We dropped 500ft down from the ridge to the lowest point of the course and ran through some lovely meadows before arriving at Thunder Mt Aid where Harry was waiting.  I was hungry and stocked up on some fig newtons to take with me and put on some sunscreen before getting on my way.
The section to Proctor Canyon Aid was mostly down at lower elevation.  I was feeling good and pacing myself well.  We ran more windy, rolling single track.  The trails here are well packed but sandy and you can taste the dirt easily kicked up by other runners.  After a few miles of easy terrain we faced a small climb up to Proctor Canyon Aid.  I can usually maintain a strong  power walk on my uphills, my legs felt great but suddenly I would find myself breathing hard and my heart beat pounding in my chest.  I would have to stop every 6-8 steps on the steep climbs just to let my heart rate recover.  The short climb was over quickly and I arrived at Proctor Canyon Aid.  Harry was having his own grand adventures driving  the dirt roads to come and meet me at the aid stations.  I am glad he had made it to another one, I know there was no guarantee that he could find or even get to these aid stations.
The next section is shorter but wow was it hard.  After a short descent from the aid station we soon began climbing. At first a nice easy gradual climb through more meadows
which turned into a steep ravine with huge boulders where I found myself stopping again to catch my breath.  We were gaining altitude and I knew it wasn't going to get any easier so I just went with it.  We approached the top of that climb we came into some Aspens.  Just as breathtaking as any other part of the course.  The colors astound you with the white bark and fluorescent green leaves.
We peaked out on a hill and it felt good to be running again after a slow ascent, we went down through some shrubs and into the pine trees descending 500ft  before we began our big climb of 1000ft up to the next aid in just a couple of miles.  The climb got steeper and I had to stop a little more frequently.  The girl in front of me wasn't stopping on her climb but she moved very slowly up the climb. Even with my breaks I was able to catch back up.  When we arrived at Blubber Creek Aid we were rewarded with amazing views.  I was pretty hungry when I arrived and the nice volunteer made me just a jelly sandwich. It had been hard to eat on the move with all the nausea I was dealing with, but I was eating well at the aid stations.
This section reminded at an altitude of around 9000ft we ran along some beautiful ridges and along cliffs
The air was thin up here and even running these easy looking rolling hills could be difficult.
We went into the pine trees on a wider section of trail, even with the trees the afternoon soon was blazing down on us
There was alot of runnable sections here but with the altitude alot of us were walking, even running downhill winded you! I caught up to some friends on the trail who said they had no intentions of running at this altitude, he told me we had just approached 9300ft a little earlier.  It had now taken 9 1.2 hrs to make it to the 100k turnaround meaning I had come 50k.  My longest 50k time yet!   Still I accepted the time easily due to the difficulty of this course and that I was still making good time. Plus I wanted to begin this way, I still had a ways to go.
I met Harry at Kanab Creek Aid at 3:30pm right on his estimated time of my arrival.  Burrito and pudding while I sat on a log, a cool wash cloth felt great on my head. I changed my shirt and was soon again on my feet.

Climbing with Jeff to Kanab Creek - an experienced hardrocker! I knew I must be in good hands.
We ran along some beautiful sections here towards Straight Canyon Aid along cliff edges with amazing sandstone features
We ran some wider trail here littered with small rocks. The grade was easy and with some nice downhill stretches.  We were making a turn to the east we got this great view of a forest of pines and cliffs in the distance. I think it was clear where we were headed.
I was feeling very strong through this section and could run most of it. Making my way into Straight Canyon Aid.  It was time for a fresh pair of Hokas, my toes felt like they were bumping in the older ones.  I grabbed some fruit and a toastie sandwich to snack on as I headed down the dirt road.  I feel I am fueling well. Replacing my GU bottle about every 20 miles.
We took the dirt road down from Straight Canyon Aid for a mile and then crossed an open meadow surrounded by pines.  So we began another long climb up to the highest point of the course at 9500ft. After climbing gently up through the meadow we climbed a long dirt road, other runners headed on there way back flying down the road offered me encouragement.  I was taking breaks again on this long climb.  The last 0.15 up to the top of pink cliffs was the shortest but probably the hardest climb of the day!  After taking in the view I began the climb.
Doug Campbell catching up on me at Pink Cliffs
 Finding I now had to stop every 4 steps, Doug Campbell from VA joined me and couldn't move any faster either.  Glad to know I wasn't the only one having trouble out there.
I would see Harry again at Crawford pass as he skipped pink cliffs with it being so hard to get to. I was happy he was able to get some rest.  The 5.3 to the halfway point went by fast as I was mostly running and feeling great.  I ran down the long dirt road for a few miles dropping 1000ft and then some single track I looked up to the towering cliffs above me and hoped to heck I didn't have to climb up that!
I got reassured after I asked a runner if we had to go 'up there'! Phew. I was happy I would make it to the aid during sunset to see Harry.  I arrived to Crawford pass aid station -the half way point- to an amazing bunch of cheering volunteers. It felt great to be there!  I took some time here to brush my teeth, grab some layers for the night.  I saw Doug Campbell again who was looking a bit rough, Doug would make it 2 more aid stations to mile 61 before dropping out due to a huge blister.  I met Linda Dewees here too from CA, we ran very close to each other during the trip back passing each other back and forth.  She gave me great encouragement that I looked great though somehow that was hard to believe.  My chest felt tight, the climbs back where getting slower.
 Back up the long dirt rd to Pink Cliffs. I caught up with Doug Cammen from NJ.  We had been back and forth, mostly with him being forth.  I felt really good and strong on the low grade climb back up.  The night was here and the cooling temperatures felt great. I powered up to pink cliffs and it was supa windy up there.  I got in some hot ramen soup while Doug was patching up his feet.  It was taking him a while due to the cold.  We would find out the next day that It was around 28 degrees again for the low that night.  Even though the tent was staked the kid was holding onto the tent, others volunteers where curled up on the floor trying to stay warm.  It wasn't long before I was shivering so I knew I had to get moving. I was pretty scared about the short steep descent from pink cliffs with the trail so close to the edge.  I hoped I wouldn't get blown off.  I made it down (phew) and was running alot of the dirt road back down to Straight Canyon Aid.  Shadows played tricks on me as I ran back through the meadows and sometimes I thought the lights on the course markers were eyes.
I walked up the dirt road back to Straight Canyon Aid.  Harry was awake and saw me coming from the car.  The volunteer at the aid station helped me put in some new headlight batteries.  I had more warm soup but it didn't take long before I was trembling.  Harry had my tights but I refused to put them on because I didn't want the hassle of 'changing'.  I went into panic mode as I left the aid station, I couldn't remember the next section well, my chest ached and I was cold.  My first real low point of the course. He assured me I would be ok once I got moving.
The next section was slow, I climbed up the wide trail section that I had loved flying down earlier.  It was only 5 miles back to Kanab but it took me over 2 hours to get there. There was no one else around and I thought I might have missed the aid station and be disqualified. Harry was surprised by my late arrival.  I was getting sleepy and just wanted to curl up on the trail for 10 minutes.
Finally I arrived at Kanab Creek.  They had a nice fire going, chairs and blankets!  It was nice to sit around the fire with the other runners.  I grabbed a blanket and got hot soup in me - I was doomed to ever get out of this aid station!!  This would be one of my longest stops at 30 minutes.  I slouched in the chair and closed my eyes for a minute.  I soon told myself I had better get moving but as I tryed to step away from the fire my my body convulsed in the cold and I couldn't stop shaking.  I felt ill and Harry 'told' me to put the tights on.  So I went back to the fire and pulled them over my shorts (why didn't I think of that earlier), instantly that felt better and I began moving again.  Harry helped me so much, he told me I was looking and moving good.  It wouldn't be light till I saw him again.  Once again before dawn I began getting very sleepy.  I stopped to sit on a log and close my eyes knowing I could very easily sleep right there. I pushed onwards, I wasn't running to much on this section of rocky trail I just found it easier to power walk it.
I arrived at Blubber Creek it was still very cold even with the sun coming up.  The aid station volunteers were shivering and wrapped up in blankets.  I got in some pancake for breakfast and a fruit cup.  I had now reached a new distance of 74 miles.  It didn't feel as long now.  I didn't realise the next aid station was Proctor Canyon again.  Linda came into the aid station saying I looked really good.  Harry helped get her some food.  As I left Kanab Creek Aid, Harry would walk with me a short ways.  He was very concerned by how much I had to  stop and that my chest was sore, he asked me if it was a heart attack, but the ache was mostly on my right side.  It was good to be leaving 9000ft and we had (what I thought) was a mostly downhill section to Proctor.
I became very confused on my way to the next aid.  Harry said it was 5 or 6 miles but it felt much longer.  I couldn't remember so much downhill - I was worried I was following old markers from the previous morning - no one would know where I am, I would run out of water, I can't climb back up all the way I just came down. All panic where flashing.  So I decided to wait around, 10 minutes and no one was coming.  I called out ' HELLO?' .  I just wanted to cry I came this far and now I would fail.  I was angry, frustrated and sad. Finally Linda was coming down the hill after I about 20 minutes of waiting, she assured me it was the right way that she remembered all the long hill. Big relief, I was having fun again, but a little more pushed for time now.
We started to climb, I kept looking for the trail we came off the morning before which would tell me the aid  station is near.  I kept thinking I saw it and then some of the trees in the distance would look like a car, playing tricks on me.  Finally after a long slow journey uphill I arrived at Proctor Canyon Aid at 10am.  Harry didn't meet me here as we would be running down the road and they tried to keep as many off the road as they could.  I knew I couldn't stay long at Proctor with the speed I was moving.  I took off my layers from the night which I had now been sweating in with the morning sun.  I quickly ate a fruit cup and took some grilled cheese to go.  Another long dirt road ahead of us.  First we climbed a couple of miles then all downhill to the keyhole arch trail and Kings Creek Aid.  I tried to run some of the downhill but my form just failed.  I could make a quick walk down the road just as fast.  It felt like forever to reach the unmanned aid station.  Then I faced another good climb ( I was hoping the RD might have skipped this part in the course changes)  there were tons of switchbacks up keyhole arch and I was surprised how many people where behind me climbing slowly too.  Where did they all come from?   I felt a little re-energized getting to the top of that climb and ran most of the way into the final aid station.
Thank goodness Harry got some sunscreen on me.  I was so stubborn that he just pumped it on me.  We were informed the finish was 11 miles from there and mostly on ATV trail, a gradual climb and then a flat road to the finish.  We had 5 hours from here to finish.  If only I could run it, it would take me half that time. The tought of running for that long pained me.  It was getting very warm and the heat slowed us all down.  There was very little shade on the road, I swung my arms and power walked as much as I could.  I ran a short stretch of downhill but the road was mostly flat, so I ended up walking again.  Linda was walking very strong and passed me.  Every time we got to a little raise on the road we expected to get a view of Rubys Inn in the distance, but we never did so it was hard to know when it was coming up which felt like forever.  After a long walk I spotted Harry taking pictures.  I ran a few seconds, but it was too much of an effort. I walked up to Harry and he asked what I tought of Bryce 100 and I TOLD HIM.  I didn't mean what I said ('it sucks')  I had actually had alot of great moments on this trail.
I didn't feel a high or surge of energy when I approached the finish. I didn't feel satisfied with my accomplishment. But it took some time to set in.  I plopped to the ground after finishing just wanted to sit.  Beer tasted good and it took some time to realize I had made a great accomplishment and I have many happy memories.   I had finished a truly tough, brutal 100 miler for my first one!  Bryce is going to be a very popular destination for Ultra runners, the course is just amazing.
I placed 15 out of 16 women
103rd place out of 114 finishers.
Total time for 100 miler: 34 hours 47 minutes 40 seconds


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Terrapin Mtn 50k

Terrapin Mtn 50k held in the Blue Ridge Mountains outside of Luray Virginia is one of the most scenic courses I have experienced.
Race starts at 7am with the Terrapin gong gets you excited, a good size crowd of runners for this race with 2 distances - the 1/2 marathon and a 50k. Only the 50K is part of the Beast and Lyncburg Ultra Series.
A fairly crowded start but wide trail for a good stretch so you can pass people. This is on our first climb just over a mile in with a nice following creek alongside for a good ways, which you have to cross over a little later.  Some people decided to get by on the rocks while most of us just got our feet wet.  The sunrise was coming up behind us and we climb and set a lovely red light on the trees around us.
I started conservatively as usual and hung near the back to start. It didn't take long to get to the first aid station after a few miles of climbing. Our next section would be a long down hill dirt road.. we were all flying and loving it.
You could look around enjoy the views and some interesting features in the nature around you...
The long downhill would send some runners charging by me... we passed some farms and came to the next aid station before more climbing on dirt road where we made our first loop in the course, I caught up to some friends and we happily chatted for a few moments, but today I was feeling strong and wanted to push hard. Downhills are a good strength for me and I felt comfortable on the single track out there, they are fairy rocky... but after doing so much training in the Massanuttens lately I didn't think much of these rocks :)
After the loop you climb back up the dirt road to visit the first aid station again and then went onto another loop which is the longest section without aid of about 6 miles, which took you on some of the Promise Land 50k Course... it was nice to be a little familiar with some of this course. I passed some friends, and we made quick compliments and words of encouragement to the fast people just finishing this loop section. They all looked strong.
There aren't so many clear views around you on this section so no pictures here I was talking to a Brian who was running his 2nd Ultra we were back and forth a lot in the race earlier.  After hitting the top though I didn't see him again because I was flying down the hill and back to the first aid station again for the third and final time. They did such a great job at this aid station because it was always busy with runners and they were working hard to refill bottles and supply to our needs.
Next we face a good climb up Terrapin Mtn which was not really that long, maybe a good 1/2 mile climb? but its steep with some loose dirt and rocks... here's a picture...
It was pretty up there offering more open views around us of the mountains and some color with the Rhododendron bushes.
I knew the fat mans misery was coming up that Caroline had warned me about, after seeing a picture of this the night before it was not how I had imagined it to be. A very short out and back to a magical look out....
... and it was time for the Fats mans Misery..
As you see its a squeeze and big step down and onto angled ground in between these 2 rocks made it tricky to get your footing without slipping and today it was a little icy in there which made it fun.  I got to bring back some of my old rock climbing skills and looked for features in the rock to hold onto.  Duck under the chalk stone in between held between the rocks and your free...
... or so you think... after punching your bib again there is one more obstacle. Which isn't was technical and if you have longer legs than me it won't be a problem for you... but it includes a big step up and I though I was going to need a push and ask the people behind me to be prepared to give me a push... haha... but then I looked at the boulders and was able to find a flake on the rock that helped to pull you up and through the 2 tall boulders... I shared this feature with the people behind me and they thought that was very helpful and he let his friend know...  here's the big step up
From here about mile 23 it was mostly downhill from here as they say... with some rocky sections and steep slippery loose dirt sections which really start to burn your quads out, and your legs remind of all that downhill running you pounded out on the dirt road in the earlier sections comes back to bite you!
Some amazing views and we headed down to our last aid station..
It was a perfect day and the sky's were finally starting to clear from a mostly cloudy day, temperatures cool made for a good, strong race for me.  I was making great time and still passing people. A runner who I passed within the last few miles of Holiday Lake 50k I passed again in the last few miles of Terrapin. He encouraged me on and made a compliment.  It was rolling hills from here. A you could see the field of cars in the distant valley.  More creek crossings and one final big crossing with tricky footing and you are just a couple of miles from the finish.  
I had a great day, finished strong in 6hrs 47 mins with a total of 7560 ft of elevation gain and loss.
Many of my friends set new PRs and enjoyed an amazing day in the mountains. There is no place I would rather be.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Holiday Lake 50k +

Holiday Lake 50k. February 9th 2013 the first race in the Beast Series!

I arrived at Camp 4H at holiday lake in plenty of time on Friday to get a look around the area and get settled in my bunkhouse which is located right at the Start/ Finish area of the race.  I met some really nice ladies in the bunkhouse all of us very excited for the race the next morning.  It was a little unsettling that there were so many ladybugs right above our heads in the bunkhouse, but it turned out fine and they made there way over to the lights in the restroom after we had lights out.
We had all planned to awake at 5am to get ready, but when I woke up at 4:45am I just got up and sneaked out for some breakfast at the cafeteria. They have a whole breakfast spread with bagels, juice and they also have a microwave, toaster and coffee maker that you can use.  I just went with my usual breakfast routine of oatmeal, banana and other fruit.
I was wearing my tights at first as it was a bit cool out but not as cold as most of us expected. A low of 34 is a pretty nice running temperature, a little cool but eventually it was going to warm to around 40's, so after seeing everyone else in there shorts I decided to change.

Since our bunkhouse is right outside the start line, we just hung out in there till a few minutes to the start.  Horton is always great about starting the races promptly on time.  I dropped a bag at the start/ finish as this would also be our halfway point.
We started the race up the road which was uphill to start, I walked the first hills as I usually do early on, It wasn't worth rushing too much because when we forked off the road right onto the single track it got all backed up. Still I was happy to walk the first hills as I wanted to feel strong later in the race. So it was a slow walk a least for the 1/4 mile pciking up to a steady walk. A little frustrating at first but soon it picks up...It would play out alright later on.  It was still pretty dark so the tiny LED flashlight I had helped a lot, you can just take something really small and then put it in your drop bag later on. The single track is rooty so its worth taking one... The sunrise was coming up as we ran the single track by the lake and it felt energizing.  I got to the first aid station, grabbed some fluids, a few chips, and an orange slice and the next section of the race was right along some more single track, gentle and rolling my favorite kind of trail! I could run that all day!... I passed a group of runners that I felt were holding me up a little too much and I wanted to make back a little time from the start.

The course then ran along some open dirt road with a large open area of pine trees, used mostly for logging, it really caught my eye - I just had to take a picture...
It looked pretty here in the morning sun which was feeling starting to feel good and take some of the chill off my cold red legs!

Feeling good and making steady time, the ground was nice and firm with the morning frost, I was about 2 1/2 hours into my run when the leaders came heading back.  We all exchanged encouragement as we pass by each other, I am amazed by there speed and how good they all look!  After running some more single track which amazing views of Holiday Lake...

 I finally made it to the half way point around 9:45am.  I got rid of my light, jacket, grabbed some food and Heed and off I went again headed back in the direction I just came from.  Feeling happy and strong I was now to be on the way back and I really liked this single track section again by the lake.

It was feeling good and warm now and I had a great run on the way back, it was a little more slick now on the roads, sliding a bit I tried to stay on the dry grass when I could.  I ran as many of the hills on the way back as I could and felt that my pace was picking up. I felt strong on the hills and was now passing quite a few people too.  There was one fun section I had this guy running behind me, he wouldn't pass me but he was right on my tail. It was a nice strong pace and I was having fun with it. It was a great section of single track too, mostly smooth trail through the leaves and pretty flat. Altough I did manage to take one fall here!  It felt like a little competition but I think we were just both eager to get to the last aid station and on to the finish.  He confirmed he was just trying to hang onto me!
After making it through the last aid station the energy really picked up. I did get some tendonitis around my right knee which was just beginning to bother me a bit towards the last couple of miles.  But I felt strong enough to keep running and fly down the last hill to Dr Horton.  I didn't have anyone else waiting for me at the end so Horton's hug made my day and a great finishing time (negative splits!) of 6:22:50

Thats one off the list for the Beast Series!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Willis River 50k - Jan 12th 2013

First race of the year went really well.
We headed down to Bear Creek Lake State Park some 30ish miles west of Richmond, VA at 4am in the morning with Ultra runner Caroline Williams.  Stopped for a sugary latte at Mc Ds which woke me up from a sleepless night.  Scary drive down in thick fog, passing a big truck on fire off the highway and after a small detour we got there around 6:30am. Plenty of time to use the nice facilities :D

It remained foggy for much of the morning during the run which was perfect - it kept the temperatures low and the mist felt good and cooling to the skin.
The first 5 miles were probably the most tricky where people got lost, they said to follow white blazes and tape.  Sometimes you end up with white blazes going 2 different ways and was really confusing. After some debating with others and spotting some taped markers further down trail we headed in which was hopefully the right direction.  Although I remember one spot that was taped in a couple of different ways - so you have to use your best judgment. Not the best marked trail. Lucky I stayed on course.

Stream crossings were not bad - I have heard one year it was waist deep (brrrr)!

 The aid stations have little in the way of food so come prepared if you plan to do this one. I found myself pretty hungry by the end. 
The course is 2 out and backs so its nice to see some familiar faces, there was maybe around 80 people doing the race so you don't have to step off to the side too much.
The course is very scenic. No big climbs or mountains - just some rolling gentle hills, a few rocks, roots and pot holes so you have to pay attention to those ankle breakers, mostly soft with pine needles and single track with a couple of short stretches of dirt road. You follow a river much of the way which I was always find to be relaxing.

I would do this one again, but would bring a little more for food and some Gatorade mix.
Happy trails!