Monday, April 5, 2010

Terrapin Mountain 50k Race Report

Note to Self: When you sleep on a piece of plywood in the back of your dad's pickup truck in 25 degree weather, the last thing you want to do when your 5:45 alarm goes off is stay in "bed."

After changing into my running gear in my sleeping bag I carefully climbed out of my frost ridden cabin. The challenge of not touching the cold grass with bare feet must have provided quite an eloquent display of ballet for any folks arriving early in the morning to the Sedalia Center. After getting on all my race gear, checking in and properly stretching out I went for a quick warm up jog. The air was crisp.

Clark Zealand (RD) stepped to the side of the starting line, raised a huge beater and struck the gong to start the race. I started out in the front pack, yet holding myself to stay behind a runner with a team Inov-8 Jersey on. The race did not start fast and as we ran towards the base of Terrapin Mountain, you could tell why. Many of these people had been on the course and knew what the next 30 miles would bring, others had just seen the elevation profile. Either way, everyone was conserving.

Within a mile we started the climb. In the next 4-5 miles we would climb 2,500 feet. This climb was not forgiving and paying close attention to the four or five folks in front of me I quickly realized that power hiking was just as efficient as running at certain points along the climb. By mile four I was running alone with five people in front of me. Having not had the half marathon race split off yet I was quite pleased with my position. I could hear the Aid station up ahead and was psyched. The end of the climb was at the aid station and we would next drop over the other side of the ridge for a 5 mile downhill taking us right back down 2,500 feet. Coming into the aid station my time was 41 minutes. A solid 10 minute/mile pace up the hill.

After eating and drinking a bit the wonderful volunteers sent me off down the backside of the ridge. Sure that I would gain some time on the lead pack on this section and having learned that two people had split off for the half marathon, I was currently running in fourth. The downhill was on a gravel road, and it was fast! I ended up running a 6 minute 13 second pace for the next five miles bringing me into the aid station at mile 9.4 with the pack of three leaders heading out just a few hundred yards up ahead. Another quick stop for some necessary refueling; for what was next would prove to be the toughest part of the race.

The next ten mile section of trail would climb 3,500 feet. I had told myself that I would take the first climb a little slower in order to be able to run this whole section. I did not run this whole section. The first half of the climb went very well and my legs were feeling like pistons, strumming along pushing me up the mountain. As we dropped into the 3rd aid station I stopped for a banana, dropped it as I was peeling it and it fell in a plate of sugar. I laughed in my runners high and spouted out "banana covered with sugar, even better!" The volunteers said "no, no!" and I took a big old hungry bite out of it. The banana was not covered in sugar. The banana was covered in table salt. We all had a good laugh and off I went for the second half of the climb.

Having already run down this gravel road about an hour ago I soon grew weary of it and began power hiking again, keeping careful watch on any that may be coming up behind me. Still noone? I came into aid station #4 and was never happier to be off that gravel road and very pleased with having been by myself for 14 miles now and still holding 4th. As I set up the last 3 miles of the climb I heard David Horton shout out some motivational tidbits and got charged up for the 6 mile loop WHOR (White Head Oak Ridge) loop. By far one of the most beautiful parts of the course. The old fire roads had been overgrown with grass and the climb to the top was gorgeous, including some patches of snow! Just as we were hitting the top two runners approached me from behind and passed by. I got pissed. Super pissed. Was I really going to have another race that I start out fast and let people pass me the rest of the time?? We were now at mile 19 and the end of the 10 mile climb. I was NOT letting these guys out of my sight and they could feel it, joking with me a few times that they were going to push me off the ridge. I stuck with them all the way to the sixth aid station and we approached our last climb. Terrapin Mountain. Another 700 ft of elevation. Another runner was approaching from behind and the four of us ran together for the next few miles.

Coming out onto Terrapin Rock was probably one of the most difficult parts of the race. It was one of those spots that you just wanted to sit and enjoy the AWESOME view, but no! we had to go sprint down the backside of the mountain and run 8 more miles! After a short glance we hit the trail again quickly coming up on a super fun part of the run called Fat Man Squeeze Tunnel. It was a narrow passage in between two rocks for about twenty feet and it lived up to its name . .EVERYONE had to turn sideways to get through.

What came next may have been the scariest or possibly most fun part of a race I have ever experienced. We ran down the backside of Terrapin Mountain dropping 3,000 feet in just about two miles. I passed back by the two guys in front and moved back into fourth place on this section. It was by far the most out of control running I have ever done. One wrong step and I could have ended up flying for a good 20 feet before I hit anything, which would have most likely been a huge rock. Lets put it this way, when I reached the bottom of the descent I have NEVER been so happy to see an uphill section in a race before. Gravity was no longer in control.

The last 5 miles turned out being very difficult for me as my legs were starting to cramp yet I was still trying to move efficiently to stay in front of the two guys on my tail. We went over multiple small creek crossings and finally Darryl Smith finally caught up with me again, found his final punch and I never saw him again until the road into the finish line. I was determined however at this point to hold fifth, I had accomplished my goal of being consistent through the race and was not about to give it up at this point no matter how bad it hurt, and boy...boy did it hurt. The last mile of the race I had to concentrate solely on one step at a time and constantly telling myself that I only had five minutes left to finishing my best ultra to date. I crossed the finish line alone in fifth place in a time of 4:52:22, just 2 minutes off setting a PR for my 50k time. The next two hours I soaked up the sun and enjoyed the awesome bbq meal they had prepared for the finishers.

Looking forward to the Virginia Tech Relay for life this Friday which i'll be using to train for the Keys 100 coming up in 40 days! Hope to see everyone out there, come run some laps with me!

Totals on the Day-
Miles = 31.1
Time = 4:52:22
Shoutouts - David Horton, thanks for the motivation throughout and after the race
- Darryl Peterson and David Peterman, didn't get to talk much but it was nice running back and forth with you guys for 10 miles. Darryl, nice kick at the end there!

1 comment:

  1. I have to say, I just started getting into running, and every time I wake up in the morning completely unmotivated to run for 3 miles, I just think "thank God I don't have to run as far as Henry!" :)