Wednesday, June 6, 2007

DNF/BWT(Did Not Finish, But Wanted To)

My husband Tony has told me over and over that it would happen to me eventually. I, however, am stubborn and refused to believe him. In the Smoky Mountain Adventure Race, I stood shivering in the surprise snowstorm, after my brakes on my mountain bike kept icing up so I couldn’t ride it, having to make the decision between going on or quitting. Tony pretty much made that decision for me, just minutes before they closed the course down because of the weather. So I don’t really count that as a DNF. Then in 2005, at Hellgate 100K, the course was covered with a few inches of snow with an inch or so of ice on top of it. Sometimes the ice broke when you ran on it, sometimes it didn’t. When it did, all the people running in front of me had chopped it up into big, sharp chunks that turned your ankle with every step. Anyway, I missed the time cutoff at mile 42 and got pulled from the race. So that was a DNF, but not a voluntary one. I went back in 2006 and corrected that mistake.

This year, one of my big races was the Old Dominion 100 mile race in Virginia. I have posted my report from last year, so I won’t get into another course description. I’ve had some things not go as planned leading up to this race, particularly my hamstring and ankle injuries. (One week prior to the Run For Africa 24 hour race in April, I pulled/tore something in both hamstrings, and then hit a rock wrong and hurt my ankle. I ran 95 miles at the Africa race, then two weeks later Promise Land 50K, and have spent the last four weeks trying to recover.) Because of the injuries, I haven’t been able to train like I wanted to, but was optimistic because of the miles I got in in April. I felt like I had more endurance, and would just suck up the hamstring pain. I’ve always had tight hamstrings and have dealt with that, and it wasn’t like I had broken anything. (Did I mention I am stubborn?)

The race started well. I had plenty of energy going up Woodstock tower and wanted to get in as many miles as I could before it got hot. The downhill after the tower went well, although I had to shorten up my stride. The climb on the single-track trail was fine, but once I hit the rocky downhill, I slowed down. Things started to get a little worse on the miles of country roads. The ibuprofen was wearing off after two hours, but I didn’t want to take it that often. It also got very hot (88 degrees at 11:30), but I was still ahead of my splits from last year at the 32 mile point. The next section is uphill trail, with a mile or so of downhill on pavement before you start several miles of trail. I ran out of water twice (didn’t get enough at two aid stations) and was having a hard time running on anything rocky. After the medical check station at mile 43, there is a long gravel road, mostly downhill, but I was walking a lot (in the rain, which cooled things down considerably) and by mile 47 was 20 minutes behind last year’s splits. On the long gravel road to Edinburg Gap, I was taking a lot of walking breaks on the downhill. I was telling myself to just lean forward and that either my legs would move me or I would fall. After I climbed up the ATV trail, I wasn’t running more than 10 steps on the gradual downhill before I started walking again. It wasn’t my hamstrings that hurt, however. It was my ankles, my knees, and my quads. My quads have never actually hurt during a race. They’ve been fatigued, and then very sore after the race, but never during. I think what my body did was compensate for not being able to use the hamstrings. Not only did I switch to using the quads, but I was taking shorter steps on the downhill and flats, so my legs got more of a pounding.

Last year I really enjoyed the race. I was very tired at times, but never to the point where I couldn’t run downhill. This year I quit enjoying the race at about mile 14. So, fifty miles later I decided that it was time to stop. I was 40 minutes behind last year’s splits and had no shot at finishing under 24 hours. I’ve done this distance before, so I didn’t have to prove to myself that I am capable of doing it. I love to run, I love that course, and my favorite section was coming up. I remember last year blasting down the road to Mudhole Gap and then rock-hopping the trail that follows it. The thought of walking the downhills and figuring out how to get across all of those rocks, however, convinced me to stop. So I did. The aid station workers at Little Fort couldn’t have been better. I got a massage, was told encouraging things and that as an endurance athlete, sometimes you just had to know when enough is enough.

So, that’s my first voluntary DNF. Tony thinks I need some psychological counseling along with physical therapy to help me deal with it. It is very traumatic.

Things to do different next year:
1. Don’t run injured
2. Back off even more in the hot sections
3. Carry the pack rather than just a water bottle
4. Wear road shoes (more cushioning) until mile 32, then switch to trail shoes (Brooks Cascadias).
5. Eat more whether I feel like it or not. Supplement the GU with more real food or do more GU more often.

Promise Land 50K

David Horton’s Promise Land 50K is my favorite 50K, despite the fact that I have yet to have a really good run there. The course is beautiful and has a good mix of difficult trails and easier grass and gravel roads. The course starts at the Promise Land camp, some 15 minutes or so from Bedford. Many people choose to camp there the night before, but we usually get a motel. The race has a very early start, 5:30 a.m., so if you have to arrive late on Friday night, you don’t get much sleep anyway.

The course starts out, in the dark, on a gravel road which climbs uphill, steadily at first, and then rather steeply. At that point you get on a section of trail that you run the other direction during Hellgate 100K. The trail continues to climb until it dumps you out on a grassy fire road that is for the most part downhill. This section is usually beautiful. The sun is coming up, the grass is very green and the dogwoods and redbuds are blooming. Except for this year, because of a late freeze. And last year, when the torrential downpour and constant flashes from the lightning kept me from seeing very much at all. Anyway, after that section (which has some Horton miles in it, miles that tend to be much longer than the traditional mile), you head uphill again on trail and an old logging road until you reach the Blue Ridge Parkway. Then you have a nice, long, gradual downhill on a maintained gravel road which takes you to the only point your crew has access to, the Sunset Fields overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The next section is my favorite section. It is downhill on rooty, rocky, single-track trail. It ends up on some old logging roads, and then back on single-track that has way too many little rocks that turn your ankles. You cross a creek a couple of times (which was a little difficult last year in the aftermath of the torrential downpour) and end up at an aid station at the start of a road section. The road section is long and flat and pretty boring, but you can make up some time here as it is easy to run. Then you’re back on single-track and old logging roads and a couple more aid stations until you end up at the bottom of Apple Orchard Falls. The climb up Apple Orchard has gotten easier for me every year, but it is by no means easy. It is towards the end of the run and you climb back up to the Blue Ridge Parkway on steep single-track on legs that are already tired. There is a nice waterfall there that you cross in front of, but I haven’t paid too much attention to it. Once you make it to the top, you’re back on the single-track and gravel road from the beginning of the race, only it is now all downhill.

I didn’t have a great experience at the race this year. The week before the Run for Africa, I injured my ankle and then my hamstrings. I ran the 95 miles at that race and then wasn’t able to recover fully before this race, two weeks later. I should have just run this race easy, but I didn’t. When I got towards the bottom of my favorite single-track section, my hamstrings had started to hurt badly and I was unable to stretch out my stride. As a result, I started getting passed by many people on the downhills, which usually doesn’t happen. On the flat road section, I really started to hurt and the rest of the race was spent going very easy on the downhills and trying to make up for it on the uphills. On the last long downhill stretch of the race, Mike Day (who had run at Run for Africa, then Crowder’s Mountain 50K the next weekend) passed me and told me I could still get my PR if I hurried. I looked at my watch with a mile left and only five minutes more to get my PR, or so I thought, and with my legs not cooperating, I just took it easy. It turns out that I was mistaken about my PR and missed it by only a minute. Oh well. There’s always next year.

Old Race Report- Last Year's OD 100

Old Dominion (The Original) 2006

Two years ago I ran the MMT as my first and only 100. Thirty-five and a half hours later, along with 28 blisters and a black eye, I decided that I liked 50Ks a lot more. This year however, I decided to give 100s one more chance and picked the OD 100 as my trial run. This turned out to be one of my better decisions. From the prerace briefing Friday night to the awards breakfast Sunday morning, I had nothing but a positive experience. Everyone I encountered was so helpful, enthusiastic and encouraging. There were aid stations every four miles or so and the volunteers and other runners' support crews (thanks Anita, Susan and others) helped me with everything from filling my water bottle and making me jelly sandwiches to finding tape to fix my MP3 that I dropped.

The race started Saturday morning at 4:00 a.m. at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds. After a lap around the track, the runners were off with a police escort through the sleeping town of Woodstock. The first four miles or so were paved, but then gave way to a gravel road winding up the first significant climb to Woodstock Tower. I followed a veteran of many 100s, Dan Brenden, up the mountain, jogging here and there to keep up with his fast walk pace. He left me at the top, but I would see him off and on throughout the day. Joining me was Michael Oliva, from New York City, who was running his first 100. Not only was it his first 100, but he had also never run on trail nor in the dark. He would spend the first 50 miles with me and the last with Jay Finkle and ended up placing 2nd overall.

After the tower, the course followed gravel roads down deeper into the woods and then onto a rocky section of trail as it was starting to get light out. The weather turned out perfect- cool, overcast for most of the day, with low humidity and a breeze. After leaving the trail, the course followed winding dirt roads through the Shenandoah Valley countryside. The scenery was beautiful and the first 50K passed quickly and easily. The course again turned to trail, winding through mountain laurel in full bloom. The Duncan
Hollow Trail was the first slow section of our run as it climbed ever so slowly until it finally crested and dropped quickly to our first medical check station. We came up on horseback riders who willingly gave us trail and encouraged us in our run.
The next 12 miles or so again followed country roads and the race personnel had marked the 50 mile mark for us. At 10 hours and 36 minutes, it was a PR for me (although the Masochist is the only 50 miler I run!). It was at this point that Jay Finkle caught up with us and gave me good advice about finishing sub-24. He also pointed out the trail to Short Mountain, which thankfully we passed by. Jay would end up finishing 3rd overall with his best OD time.

The last half of the race is more difficult. There is a steep, rocky ATV trail, ("This is a monster hill, good luck!," said an ATVer who passed me) followed by another section of gravel road, and then the rocky trail with several creek crossings after leaving Mudhole Gap. This is followed by some nice downhill, to the next medical check station at Elizabeth Furnace at mile 75. (Brian Kistner, last years' winner, had been well in the lead when he was forced to drop out here due to a knee injury). Here I picked up my husband, who made the transition from my Happy Meal supplier (NFI) to my safety-runner, although he insists he is retired from running. The next eleven miles up and over Sherman and Veach Gaps are the slowest and most difficult of the race and I was very glad for his company. Joey Anderson is right- this part sucks. When I started the race, I was only hoping to finish. As the day went on and more and more people told me I could finish under 24, I began to believe them. Veach Gap made a disbeliever out of me.
I couldn't believe it took over 4 hours to cover 11 miles, 3 of them a stretch of dirt road. But after that section, something kicked in and I realized I only had a half-marathon to run. After the climb back up Woodstock Tower, blasting down the other side and a brief encounter with a skunk, who eventually yielded the way, I found my way back to the fairgrounds, completed the same lap around the track as I did in the morning (only I think they added a mile or two to it) and finished in 23:38. I was glad to see Fred Dummar come in shortly behind me.

I had a great experience and highly recommend this race. The course is beautiful with enough varied terrain and scenery to keep you distracted from the fact you are running 100 miles. There were bear and deer sightings, along with the skunks. The aid was excellent and frequent, the course well-marked, and the race was professionally run.