Apr 21, 2009

4/18 Bull Run Run 50M (Race Report)

Completed another step down the trail toward the goal of finishing my first 100 Mile race in June: Mohican Trail 100. My wife, Pam and I arrived in Centreville, VA, about 15 minutes from the race site at Hemlock Overlook Park. We headed to pick up my race packet at the site and also to get our bearings for the area. The countryside heading to the race site was beautiful, with winding turns and huge homes (mansions) off the beaten path. So, we picked up my packet, which included a very nice technical shirt from Patagonia and a nice glass with the race insignia on it. Here is a pic of Pam and I at the packet pickup/race registration: This is what we'd be following all day. As usual, if you don't see ribbons on the course, you are wrong. I found this course one of the easiest yet to follow. Very well marked!!! It is funny, because race morning was nice and cool. Then again it was around 5:30AM when this photo was snapped, but the temps would surely begin to rise: I started the race right off the front. Not because I had planned to go out hard, but because that way Pam could see me from the start and snap a few photos. Here we have roughly 6 minutes to go before the start of the 2009 Bull Run Run 50M. I'm to the left of the guy with the red shorts. I arrived into the Centreville aidstation feeling really good at 7.4M. I hadn't overdone it on this section. That was very runnable for the most part. There were some hills, but none that really prevented me from keeping pace. As usual, I chose to power hike most of them. Coming into the first AidStation: After leaving the Centreville AS, the course goes upstream to a turnaround cone and then goes back the same way to this same AS. Along this 2.2M stretch, there were hundreds, if not thousands of Bluebell flowers. Really beautiful. This also gave you the chance to see the front runners for the first time and the runners behind you. After this it was back on the trail toward the start/Hemlock Park AS. I caught up with some runners on this section feeling great as the heat hadn't yet begun to affect me. I was hydrating well early on with Clip2. Pam had a fresh bottle for me at each pass at the Centreville AS and anything else that I needed. I was eating, but soon found out that maybe I wasn't taking in enough calories early on as my energy was dropping a little. So, I popped a gel and within minutes my energy was back up. I came into the Hemlock AS running great about 5 miles later, grabbed a fresh bottle and package of peanut butter crackers from Pam and was off. Coming into the Hemlock Park AS: I left Hemlock and quickly picked up the pace to catch up to the 2 runners I was previously with. Next up was the Bull Run Marina AS, 4.5M away. This section took you up/down some more hills, down along a river bottom where you had to cross a treacherous section of jagged rocks. Parts of this section along the river were tricky, especially since I wasn't fresh. Even if I was fresh, I'm not sure I could have flown through this part. And back into the woods toward the Marina AS where Pam was waiting for me with a fresh bottle. Up this point I really had no problems. My biggest worry was my left ITBand. It had been giving me problems off and on for the last "year" in training. Bull Run Marina AS: I quickly left the Bull Run Marina AS solo and headed toward the bridge we needed to cross under. It was full of rocks. No way you could run it without falling. So, I picked my way through the rocks and headed back out onto the trail. This section is where my ITBand began to bother me quite a bit. So, I decided that if I needed to I would walk/run for a bit until it loosened up. It did loosen up, but on/off the tightness came back. Probably each downhill affected it more and more. As I hit the Wolfshoals AS, I decided with the heat having more and more of an effect on me, I would take an extra S-cap per hour. And I also switched from Clip2 to nearly all ice in my bottle and lemon lime Gatorade. The sweet flavor really had a good affect at that point in the race. Next, it was onto the Fountain Head AS, at the 28.1M point where I would see Pam once again. I was done taking fresh bottles from her, but just seeing her made the day go smoother. She handed me an extra gel as the AS food choices didn't really sit well with my mindset at the time. I did however grab some boiled potatoes that went down well. And off I was again. Coming into Fountain Head: Next it was onto the Do-Loop AS, where I knew fellow KR "trailgoat" was in charge. Getting to this AS wasn't difficult, but it seemed harder only because it was getting so warm out. There really was no shade to speak of aside from an occasional tree that provided a shadow. I arrived at the Do-Loop AS and immediately introduced myself to "trailgoat". I think I remember him saying I looked strong and I joked that maybe I look that way, but felt otherwise. After filling up my bottle I was off for the Do-Loop. I remember someone saying this section was probably the toughest part of the course. Well, they didn't lie. It is a trail (if you want to call it that) that was well marked and for good reason. Alot of ups/downs with really no signs of a well used trail. After hitting the Do-Loop AS for a 2nd time, I was quickly off toward the Fountain Head AS. I latched onto a couple of runners who were pretty much feeling what I was at the time. Hot, tired and a little worn down. About this time, you could see runners coming up the trail as we headed back. I entered Fountain Head telling Pam that I was really starting to feel the effects of the heat. She told me to walk as much as I could but to keep moving forward. That encouragement really help me get back to Wolf Run Shoals AS. I also popped the gel she gave me and another S-cap and was off running again. I walked all the hills at this point. I knew I was slowing down, but time didn't matter. Just before arriving into the Bull Run Marina AS, a guy said to me as he was walking along, only "5.5M to go after you get into the AS". I arrived at Bull Run Marina not feeling so great. I told Pam that this next section may take me a little longer then usual as I didn't know how much walking I'd have to do to get to the finish. I quickly filled up and wasted no time, running out of the AS as slow as I could. And here were two black labs greeting me as I made my way up to the Bull Run Marina AS: Only 5.5M to go. I was going to do this even if I had to walk I said to myself. I tried to stay positive even though I wasn't feeling well. I was hydrating quite well, but my mouth really had this dry feeling in it. From time to time I would take off the lid from my bottle and take in some cubes of ice, even dip my visor into a stream on occasion to keep myself cool. I quickly caught up to two more runners and latched onto them for a boost of energy that would quickly go away and I would slow to a walk. Then out of the blue, another runner I had seen at an earlier AS, who had twisted his ankle, caught me from behind. We asked one another how each was doing. We both had hopes with about 2-3 miles to go, to maybe go under 9:00. By this point we were walking more than we were running, but made the last long climb out from the river bottom toward Hemlock Park and started running together as we crested the hill. We finished a tough day together in 9:04:06. Pam and I post race: Post race, I really didn't feel like eating anything, but didn't feel sick either. I sat awhile to reflect on the day. I can't say enough about how well this course was marked and the support of the volunteers who gave up their day to encourage and support the runners who survived this day. It also took me this long to realize that it is ok to walk when the going gets rough to finish a race. Every race isn't going to be a PR and things can go wrong when you least expect them to. Finishing is what really counts.


Thomas Bussiere said...

Congrats on BRR. Looks like you will be in good shape for Mohican.

cmerun100m said...

Thanks! Interesting. I actually came upon your blog awhile back. Some good reading there. I'm hoping that is just the case at MO. Running it with a lady friend who I was going to pace the last 40, but after deciding to pull out of MMT last week, I decided to join her for the whole thing. I am excited. Training has been going well. I was able to train right through BRR. Now to find another 50K race prior to 6/20. I'm also looking to do the 38M "Night Run" at Kettle Moraine on 6/06 as my last long(er) run.

05/17/08 - Berryman Trail 50 Mile (Race Report)

My training partner Brett and I signed up for the Berryman Trail races back in late March. I would be running the 50M event while Brett would be running the marathon (his first trail race) or the "fun run" as the website stipulates. I was excited for him and excited for as well as I hadn't run a race since Louisville's Lovin the Hills 50K back in February. I was way under trained for that event, but finished and knew I had alot of work to do come May 17th. Sure, training can be fun, but there comes a point in time when you really need to get back in the game, back where I feel most comfortable and that is racing.

My biggest issue coming into this race was a bout with ITBand irritation in my left leg. It would come and go, but at times it was excruciating following some runs. Come late April I even emailed the RD to ask if it was possible to move down to the marathon distance as I wasn't entirely sure I would be adequately trained come race day. She said that I could once the race starts, but wouldn't be eligible for any awards. So, I completely pulled myself off the road and concentrated solely on training on the trails. In the past when training for ultras I would use a combination of road marathons/trail running. Leaving the pavement behind helped. Even during trail tempos I experienced no problems the following day and was able to bounce back. I was ready for the challenge. From this point on I wouldn't second guess my decision to stay in the 50M race.

Brett and I set off for our destination, Potosi, MO. A small town about 74 miles southwest of St. Louis. Not far from where we'd be racing at the Berryman Campground inside Mark Twain National Forest. This area of the country is quite beautiful and hilly. I did a little research on the course, but one never knows until they actually get out there as to what it’s like. Sometimes it is best not knowing what you are getting yourself into.

Course: Two loops (24.8M per loop) for the 50 mile, 1 for the Marathon, plus a short out and back for each event on a gravel road. There is one crossing of Brazil Creek per loop. The course crosses many other stream beds that may or may not have water in them depending on recent rainfall. Aid Stations will be approximately every 4 to 5 miles apart.

After arriving in Potosi we dropped our stuff off at the local Super 8. A great place to stay for the race and cheap$$. Plus, they had a great breakfast buffet. And the fact that it is located only 15-20 minutes from Berryman Campground. So, we headed out to the campground to pick up our race packets and found they were just getting things set up. It was pretty low key, so we gathered our packets and headed back into Potosi for a bite to eat and some rest as the race would be starting at 6:30AM. We did notice however that the temperature was a bit warmer than northern Indiana and they were predicting start temps in the 50s with a high in the lower 80s. That concerned me a little, but what could we do. At least we'd be running under the canopy.

Going in I really had no expectations as far as finishing time for this ultra. Brett said he'd like to run right around 5hrs. Not knowing what the course was like I through a time out there late on Friday evening prior to the race of 9hrs, but "finishing" was what I was really after.

We turned in somewhat early for a 4:00AM wakeup. I slept about as well before a race as I probably ever had. Everything was ready and we headed toward the campground. The day finally arrived. It was a cool morning, but the sun was slowly rising over a ridge. There wouldn't be a cloud in the sky on this day. We arrived at the campground as others were pulling in. Each of us put a drop bag down for the 16 mile mark after crossing Brazil Creek.

After a few late instructions from the RD, Brett and I wished each other luck and we were off on the short out-n-back section on the gravel road. The 50 Milers would cover .4 miles on the road and the marathoners 1.4 miles before heading back into the woods to start the loop. I started right off the front as did two other 50M runners and a few marathoners. I didn't know these two runners, but by the looks of it they were seasoned trail runners. I stayed close behind them from the start as we entered the trail and was right on their heels. The beginning of the trail is made up of rocky/root covered sections. There were a few dry creek beds, but most had water running through them. The cold water felt pretty good, but my goal was to stay as dry as possible. I stayed with the lead runners just before the first aid station at 4.45 miles. They were going a bit faster than I wanted to go this early and my heart rate was telling me to back off. About that time, just before AS#1, another 50M runner came up behind me and passed. I stayed with him as we headed into AS#1. We left as soon as we came in not wasting any time. I was close behind him. Not far from AS#1 he caught his foot on a rock and rolled it pretty good. I asked him if he was alright and told him to walk it off. Don't run on it immediately. This would plague him all day. Most if not all of this section was very runnable aside from navigating the rockier creek areas.

In 3rd place again, a few of the lead marathoners were making their way along the course. I graciously ran to the right side of the single track letting them pass as their day would end way before mine would. Staying with them would be a huge mistake. I would have no part of that. Over this time as I headed into AS#2 and AS#3, I made sure to power walk nearly every hill. I ran some of them, but it made no sense to waste quad strength that I would need late in the race. By this time the 50M runner who had rolled his ankle was behind me once again and I let him pass. He was running all the hills, but was having a heck of time on the downhill portions where I would trade places with him again and again. I was feeling really good. As we headed into AS#3, another marathoner came in as I was leaving. He caught me going out and we ran together, chatting it up. This section to AS#4 at Brazil Creek ended up being more horse trail then single track. Quite muddy at times, but nothing that stopped me from running through and around it. We headed down the rocky section to Brazel Creek at mile 16 on the course. You had no choice but to jump into the cool water and across. I actually didn't mind it. As soon as you get across and run through a bit of sand, the course veers to the right to the aid station at the campground. I grabbed a glass of coke and filled my hand held with half gator”barf”/half water and grabbed a handful of gummy bears. To this point I was eating Sharkey's and Energy Beans from my belt and the occasional GU.

We left AS#4 through a small clearing and out onto the only paved road section on the course. I decided to walk half of it before heading back onto the trail into the woods. Soon after I would catch the marathoner I had run with prior and we chatted awhile. The pace felt comfortable so I went with it. He told me there are days when he'll mountain bike this course and then run it. I could probably do it but when it comes to biking I'm a green horn and would probably hurt myself on this course. From this point on we would run together until he finished. Most of the bigger (long) hills were from 16 miles on until the completion of the first loop. I would continue to power walk the hills as fast as I could while the two runners I was with would run them. Again, after the hill I would catch them shortly after.

We made it into AS#5 (19.5M) and filled up. I chose to stay away from any solid foods. Nothing looked good to me at the time. I was drinking well and popping an S-cap nearly every 1hr-1.5hrs. One of the volunteers told me he'd have ice and popsicles for the 2nd loop. I told him I'd hold him to it and laughed as we headed out toward AS#6. More climbing ensued, but alot of this section was easy running.

We headed into AS#6 greeted by two lovely ladies, filled up quickly and were gone. One more longggg climb remained and then some rollers back to Berryman Campground to end the first loop. I was feeling good as I came through the start/finish area in 3:49. Maybe a little to good as the temperature was rising. Here you had the option of dropping to the marathon distance by running an additional out-n-back if things weren’t going as planned. I filled up quickly and was out of there. Now I was thinking that maybe I had a shot at setting a new PR. Two other runners came in behind me at the end of the loop and quickly caught me. The guy who rolled his ankle early on and another runner I had not seen to this point in the race. I let them both by and stayed close behind the runner hobbling on his ankle. He quickly pulled off to the side as we headed into AS#1 and I wouldn't seem him again until the race was over. The other guy took off down the trail.

From this point on I would run solo the remainder of the race aside from coming up behind a few late marathon runners. I think at the time I was in 4th place. It was getting hotter. Each time I stepped out of the shade on the trail into the sunlight the sun seemed that much warmer. I kept moving forward. Just before Brazil Creek I came upon 5 horses and their riders on the muddier section of the trail. I quickly moved off to the side not wanting to spook them as they went by. I crossed the creek into the Brazil Creek AS and joked with the two girls volunteering, asking them if this was a school project or were they just giving up their Saturday for us. I thanked them and quickly left. Things were still going well. As I excited Brazil Creek and out on to the small road section I chose to walk the entire length of it until reaching the woods and took off once again. More climbing would ensue. To this point I still had my legs and had no problems running without having to grimace in pain because my quads hurt like in past races.

For some reason with like 5-6 miles to go I kept thinking about the lead female catching me. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it is my competitive nature or something. The funny thing is that I didn’t know who it was and didn’t see her all day. I suppose this motivated me a bit to push on harder. I had two more aid stations to go to the finish. With 6:35 on my watch I headed into the 2nd to last AS. Low and behold they had ice and a lime freeze pop. Just like the guy said that he would. I filled up my bottle and walked out of the AS. Man did that freeze pop hit the spot.

Within a quarter of a mile leading into the last aid station I noticed the runner who passed me at the beginning of the 2nd loop was limping. I asked him if he was ok as I went by and told him to walk it off to the next AS. Now I was in position to take 3rd overall and a new PR was within reach. I entered the last AS and quickly exited after a fill up. I knew there was one long climb to go. I knew I would really have to push myself at this point. I wasn’t struggling, but at this point in the race with it being over 80F, I felt depleted. I could feel the salt hanging on my face and arms. I knew the finish was near. After power walking the last climb, I took off only seeing a few late marathon runners ahead on the trail. I exited the woods and across the gravel road and could nearly see the finish area. I picked it up a bit as they rang the cowbells with people cheering me on. It felt good to be done although I would have pushed on had the race been longer. I met Brett at the finish. He had finished his first trail marathon in 5:17. I was happy for him.

Finish: 3rd Overall (8:30:09PR) - (Old 2006 PR: 8:43:55)
1st Place – 7:37
2nd Place – 7:54