Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pisgah 50k

I went into this race a couple weeks ago hoping to learn how to pronounce the name of it, but the race director didn't have a megaphone for the pre-race announcements. By the time I had worked my way forward to try to hear him, I caught "so watch out for that" and basically "Go!" It turned out there was a huge bee's nest somewhere on the course, but we would be rerouted and hopefully no one would get stung. Great, now I had 2 things to think about.

I started running like I did at the Bull Run Run - thinking about what I was capable of at Bandera (twice) and deciding I should be able to do that again. I did ease into the uphill on the nice road at the start, speed-walking and loosening up. At the top the road was lined with beautiful trees with beautiful sunshine pouring through. Very pretty!

Yeah, I've got no photos for this post, I suppose I should tell you that now in case you want to skip to the next one (assuming I have that written up soon)... for a couple shots of the area, you could check out the race blog:


Although it doesn't do justice to the awesome trails we ran. Maybe it was a fluke with the weather, but I experienced an amazing 30 miles of trail running, winding back and forth through the park without ever (well, except a tiny bit) repeating itself. Yep, I need to bring John to this one.

Anyway, back to the details. We hit the trail at the end of the road which also corresponded to a nice long downhill. Never one to shy away from fun descents, I bombed by a few folks and by the time the course split into 50k/23k there weren't many runners around me.

The run going south was slightly technical here and there, mostly flat, and I was feeling good. I passed a few more people, eventually coming slowly upon a man and woman who were chatting as they ran. I wasn't in any condition to "chat" so I figured if they stopped talking and focused on running they would likely be faster than me. Sure enough, as soon I went by, they went silent.

Not a surprise, the woman caught up to me now that I had turned her attention in a different direction. What did surprise me was that she didn't pass me, she just stayed right on my butt as I motored along. I wasn't keen on slowing down nor speeding up, and I figured something would happen eventually to change the situation so I should just be patient and deal. It was way early in the race, after all.

We zoomed through a couple gates, passed up the first water drop, and thankfully found the next section with several decent uphills. I changed to speed-walking and the woman took off. I figured I would not see her again - and that was true. She was obviously talented - and fine with running up steep hills.

I worked the uphills and enjoyed the downhills, and I really enjoyed the gorgeous trail which alternated between single track and double track. What a beautiful day!

At the first manned aid station I refilled my bottle and filled a Spiz baggie. This was a great place to fill/shake a Spiz, as the course goes up a really steep, old paved pothole-filled road. Weird. It seemed the guys around me were moving well and working hard. I drank the Spiz and let them go on ahead. By the time I got to the top I was alone. Works for me.

The trail was again loads of fun, even the next big climb didn't bother me at all. The downhills were short and fast, then I was just running through the woods for a while. I passed through the next aid station and waved at the man taking numbers. I was on a good pace and happy to still be pushing fairly hard.

The next dirt road may be the straightest line of the whole course. I was a little confused at the direction/location of the sun in the sky, but there were a couple other runners and plenty of ribbons so I just kept running (it makes sense looking at the map after the fact). Two men who may have started early (I think they were wearing race numbers?) were hiking this section. When I passed and greeted them, they told me I was the 4th woman. Well then, that's neat. I guess top 10 was a reasonable goal after all.

I went back and forth with one guy a few times in the middle miles. He had good uphill speed, and I was making good time on the downhills and reasonable time on the flatter stuff. He got ahead when I stopped to make a Spiz at a water drop, but I eventually caught him as he was eating right before the next aid station.

Apparently I snuck up on the guys running aid station 3, because I was at the table before they even saw me. They said they could hear some folks coming from half a mile away. I also figured since they had zoned out, there probably wasn't anyone to chase down anywhere ahead of me. But I still wanted to keep up a good pace.

Well, this next section isn't conducive to any kind of "good pace". Forget whatever minutes-per-mile you may have been maintaining, it all goes out the window here. Uphill Man came by as I hiked up a huge climb. He suggested we might be climbing Pisgah Mountain. Sure hope so, I'd hate to do this again later in the race!

Not only that, but I knew the course would overlap slightly before the next aid station. I was just really, really hoping we would be going back DOWN this mountain before that happened...

The view at the top was very nice, from the quick glance that I got when the trail detoured to the one open spot on the whole hill. And there were hikers with dogs, so I guess this was the mountain for sure. Awesome.

The trail took another little odd detour, which I guessed was for the bee's nest. I didn't see any bees, nor a nest for that matter, but I was happy to forget about that worry. Downhill, yay! Back down, down, down to swamp level, so that was good.

This section took forever. 2.9 miles, really?

I finally found the spot where the trail converged from the left, or at least I guessed that's where it was. They did a great job of not putting any ribbons on the 2 trails coming in, only a bunch in the direction you needed to go both times. So it wasn't an obvious merge, but I made a note for the next time I came around. I started a timer and got to the aid station in something like 6 or 8 minutes from there (the hazards of not writing a race report immediately - I forget little details that might come in handy next time; well, that's assuming I think to re-read my previous race reports, which stupidly I almost never do).

Where was I? Oh yes, an aid station. I filled a Spiz, even though it was a little quick since the previous one and a few long miles until the end with no Spiz remaining in my waist pack. I carried it for a mile+, which was a good decision since the trail went directly downhill to the south. Eventually I stopped to drink, and then the trail went downhill some more but my stomach handled it OK.

I knew this was the quick "half" of the Kilburn Loop. Obviously we were going uphill to get back, and with extra distance too, perhaps 3-3.5 miles vs. the 2 mile downhill run. I was ready to be patient with this section and figured it could take a while.

And it did, but I was. One guy passed me, but for the most part I was completely alone and completely fine with that. Speed-walking uphill was still working well. I tried to figure out where I was and how close to Kilburn Pond, but it was all fruitless. Just follow the pretty trail, you'll get there eventually.

Sure enough, (eventually) I found the same merge, and again it wasn't obvious that the course also came in from the right. Excellent course marking, I couldn't imagine anyone making a wrong turn there. I checked my watch and started running since I knew I was finally close to the aid station again.

It was odd passing a few runners who were coming into the aid station for the first time. They didn't look particularly back-of-the-pack-ish, so I figured my pace was pretty solid.

I filled my bottle and got a cup of Coke for a few calories. I gambled that I would not need many calories to finish this thing out. Only 5.5 miles or so to go, I should be able to do that...

Right out of the aid station there's a nice downhill on a road. My right calf started twinging like it might cramp. Hmm, that could be bad. Or maybe it will go away. I don't normally (hardly ever, really) have leg cramp problems, but ever since the REgaine my calves seem to be more susceptible. Or maybe it's the humid air, I don't think to drink as much here as I do in dry climates. I downed some more Gatorade from my bottle.

From a parking lot the course starts up a nice trail uphill through the woods. More talk of cramping from my calves. I debated stopping to fish out an electrolyte tablet from my little med kit. Instead I went with drinking more liquid. I had a very clear conversation with myself - if I ended up with cramping issues, it was obviously this decision that could have changed the outcome but didn't.

I was fine with keeping a reasonable pace, even passing a couple guys who were struggling up the hill. Then I looked back - gah! - there's a woman! That does it. I have to run.

Yeah, great combination. Pushing hard and cramping calves. Not! I tried my darndest, and my legs occasionally relaxed and let me run for a while. The steeper downhills and uphills were hard. My right thigh got into the act with the little cramp twinges. I looked back and saw that I had gained some ground. Now if I could just... keep... running.

That, sadly, was not to be. The more I tried, the worse the cramping got. My legs were finally like "HEY! What ARE you doing?" and in order to really get my attention they seized up altogether. I was sitting on the ground when the lady went by. She nicely asked if I was OK and I told her yes, just cramps. Within a minute, as my muscles were slowly (come ON already) releasing back to normal, another woman zoomed by. Wow, she looked pretty fast. So much for 4th place. But I sure wish I could have been there for that shoot-out at the end! Apparently the 2nd woman passed up with 1st to come in 4th. The math made sense when I wrote it.

I got up and ran/walked along, taking my time and letting my legs dictate the pace. I was ready to try a salt tablet but I was out of water and I have a hard enough time swallowing them as it is. Eventually I found the last water drop, where I sat and finally got one out to down with a cup of water. Might as well try to help my legs recover enough to drive home after this end-of-the-race fiasco.

So I had a leisurely run down the road, wishing I could push but deciding to take what I could get and be thankful that I was almost to the end. I looked back a couple times, but didn't see anyone. One last climb up a paved road, there's a stop sign, around the corner to the finish. Yay! Another woman ran in a couple minutes later, so I can be thankful I didn't have to deal with that while on the course. Yep, top 10 was a good goal.

OK - another race, another (different) issue to fix.

Final time = 5:42:28, 6th woman, and room to improve

Summary = Awesome trails, excellent race, I highly recommend it!

1 comment:

ultrastevep said...

I sure do miss pisgah! What a nice race that is....I'll bet your problem was more "Hardrock" than electrolytes...or maybe you just a need a little speedwork, it's hard to switch gears like that.
You ran a great time, regardless!