I signed up for this race mainly because I really like the race organization, and the race directors Alex and Scott are great. It is also a good early season ‘primer’ to boost your fitness level. You basically run loops for up to 8 hours with your choice of a long 8 mile loop or a short 4.7 mile loop, and you can mix them up (shorts and longs) to try to maximize you miles. This is something I should have given more thought to prior to the race.
Race morning was cold and rainy. There was supposed to be light rain all day and the temperatures could get up to the low 40s. Needless to say this meant for some muddy trails that only got worse as the day progressed. I knew many of the people running and there was going to be at least one other “fast” guy, Brad Hinton, to run with. As the race started Brad and I took out a group of about six on the long 8 mile loop. There was quite a bit of chatting as the pace was fairly conservative through the mud. After the first loop we lost the runners that started out with us. They either fell back or decided to do a short loop. At this time we also realized that runners could run the loops in reverse. This was very confusing as we were both passing and heading into other runners, but you also had constant company on the trail. This is how I saw Hideki Kino, who had come down from New York to cross Virginia off his list of states - he completed 50k.
After the third loop, Anne and Logan arrived at the start/finish. Despite the rain, all Logan wanted to do was go on the playground. After the fourth loop I came into the aid station when Logan asked, “do you have another loop to do? Cause I need you to help me figure out a way to dry-off the playground!” I told him I would think of an idea for drying everything off while I was running.
Brad and I headed out again, and ran most of the day together – talking, sharing life stories, etc. All this made the time go by quite fast. The rain started picking up a bit after noon and the trails had gotten real sloppy from all the foot traffic. With about 2 hours left we headed out for our sixth long loop. At this time we had not run any of the short loops, and we figured no one was real close to us, so 48 miles should win the race. About half-way through the final loop, we really started to pick-up the pace for the first time all day. Thinking that whoever got to the start finish first would win based on time (since we both would have covered the same distance). I was a few steps ahead for most of the last four miles, but there was no way I was going to be able to shake Brad. As we hit the final half mile or so that is on a paved bike path, we really started sprinting. We were neck-and-neck, but as we hit the final 100 or so feet up a grassy hill to the finish, Brad had a little more kick and I could not get good footing to push up the little hill. Brad crossed just in front of me for a great finish.
At the time, we celebrated thinking we were first and second. There were still over 45 minutes left in the race and I pondered (briefly) trying to squeeze out one short loop, but ultimately decided not to. Once I stopped running it got cold real fast. My wife grabbed some clothes for me and I put on as many layers as I could as we waited for everyone to finish and the awards to be handed out. This is when Brad and I discovered that we had made a tactical error. Another runner was still out there who had been mixing up short and long loops and would beat us in mileage by about 2 miles! If we had simply used our time more efficiently, we could have maxed out our miles. Oh well, we ended up second and third and still got an award (a nice Pilsner glass).
What I learned: Timed races with multiple distance loops require calculations as well as good running. As for the running itself, the mud induced slow pace was really good. I could have easily continued at that pace for quite awhile, and I had no problems whatsoever with my stomach or nutrition. I stuck mainly to Ensure, but never really had any “down” spots during the race and my energy level was fairly consistent. Not quite the level of Ian Sharman, who on the same day ran a blistering 12:44 at the Rocky Raccoon 100, wow!
Gear that got me through: I ran this in my New Balance MT 101s, which held up well but required quite a bit of cleaning when I was done. I wore my RoadRunner Ultra shorts and my Zensah Compression calf sleeves. I also wore a long sleeve Craft base layer and Mountain Hard Wear vest. This seemed to work well as I never got cold while I was running, despite the cold rain all day.
It was a fun day of running with some great people, and was great conditioning for my upcoming spring races. Later in the year there is a 24 hour and 12 hour put on by the same race directors. These are low-key, family friendly events and I would highly recommend these races. Here is the link to the races if you want more information: http://athletic-equation.com/ENDURANCE_EVENTS.html