The course was a ten mile loop, basically a figure 8 on a stick. The trails (like in northern Virginia) are named for colors and the sequence was purple, blue, yellow, blue, purple. That was a bit confusing, but once you did a loop, it was not difficult.
Most of the course was single track, with some double track, and about a mile of gravel road that you could opt for that paralleled a section which ran through a power line cut. The trail was pretty rough, with lots of roots, a few rocks, and a lot of hoof prints which had hardened in the mud. (The trails are used as horse trails). The terrain was very hilly, with very few flat areas. The climbs and descents were not long, but they were frequent. There were around four pretty steep climbs, but they were short, in comparison to mountain runs.
The day started off warm. Sections of the area had been burned, and some areas were exposed with no shade. There was a breeze blowing in some areas, but by midday, it was very hot. By mid-afternoon, though, there was some cloud cover, and it got pretty chilly at night.
The terrain and the heat made it a pretty slow course. My earlier prediction that there would be several 100 mile finishers would not hold up.
It was another good day. I was very relaxed, and knew that for every mile I covered, I was making $8.20 for The Butterfly Fund. It was nice to see a lot of familiar faces and I enjoyed talking to different people on the first couple of loops. After that, everyone spread out and I spent the next several loops solo.
My energy level stayed pretty steady and whenever my stomach started to have issues, I just slowed down for a little while. I avoided a lot of sugar and caffeine and that seemed to do the trick. After the first loop, I settled into a pattern of what hills I would walk and I didn’t deviate from the pattern the whole race. I slowed down a little each loop, but remained between 2:00 and 2:30 all day, until my last couple of loops, when I was pretty tired and had already realized that nine loops would be the most I could get in under the time limit.
After the first two loops, I was having some issues with breathing, and I think it was because I was running with people and inhaling a lot of dust. After that, it was fine, despite the high pollen.
For the first time, I ran farther than 50 trail miles in my lightweight road shoes (Brooks Ravennas). After a couple of loops, my toes started to hurt some from the downhills, but I guess they got used to it and didn’t cause any more problems. I had figured I would need to change out of the shoes early on and switch to beefier trail shoes, but all I did was readjust the lacing at one point. After 90 miles, I have no blisters or sore spots.
The high point of my run was when Tony arrived at mile 70 and ran with me. He hasn’t run much in the past four years because of knee and other issues, but he has started to run a little in the past month. He has probably logged about 20 miles in a month, but still ran 20 with me this weekend. On more than one occasion, I would watch his light slowly disappear up a hill, before he realized he left me far behind.
I used 5 hour energy, gels and chomps, and ate “real” food at the aid stations. I ate a half a chicken sandwich a couple of times and cream cheese crackers went down really well (although are hard to eat and run). Powerade didn’t work for me, and the Heed tasted like I imagine a cactus to taste like.
I had a great time. Terri Hayes made it a very low-key, relaxed event. Families came and hung out and even ran some loops with their runners. With the campground right next door, some people went and took naps and then came back to run more. Some events are rather tense with strict rules about what you can or can’t do, but this was more like a fun run atmosphere. The aid station workers were all extremely helpful, including the cross country team that manned the outlying aid station. Although I dislike running in circles, the ten mile loop was not bad, and the figure 8 format, with the different trails linked together, kept it from getting too monotonous. You had the opportunity to see different people at different parts of their run, and it was nice to see the race director out there getting her birthday miles in in the middle of the night. I wouldn’t change anything about the race, but I would recommend making sure you have everything you need before you head there. I think the closest pizza place was over an hour away.
What was unexpected
1. The location. I didn’t know that there were areas in South Carolina so far removed from “civilization.”
2. The race entry fee. There was none.
3. The aid stations at a race with no entry fee. Great stuff. Pizza, soup, brownies, lots of Hammer gels and bars, potatoes, crackers, fruit, soda…
4. The terrain. South Carolina. Once you get out of the upstate foothills, it’s flat, right? Nope.
5. The difficulty. It’s a 24 hour run. Ten mile loops. If it all goes good, I should be able to get 100 miles in. It all went good. I barely got 90 in.
6. Doing more miles than anyone else and winning the race, on top of raising $739 for charity. Who would have thought it?