So there I was, at beer school on a Thursday night about 5-6 weeks ago, discussing the finer things in life. Running, beer, recovery, did i say beer.. the usual.
Steve, JP and I were talking and discussing what was next for us. JP had his back to back marathons of Rock’n’Roll DC and One City, Steve had Shamrock. I was set to help pace JP at One City, basically just being support to provide comedic relief along the way. More on that here. I feel like I wanted to write about it more, but JP did a great job and I was honored to help out. Steve briefly mentioned a small, somewhat local 50k about 3 weeks after One City. I chuckled, as I knew I couldn’t get back and ready to run it that fast, could I? He smiled and said something about only having 2 weeks to get ready after Shamrock, dammit.. Speirpressure in full effect.
You know that feeling you get after a big race is over, feeling empty, like a part of you died. You aren’t sure what to do next. Well, I haven’t had a chance to feel that way in quite sometime before Rocky. I went from a 12 hour race, 10k, 50k training runs, 50 miler, 10k, 50k race, 5k at the end of a back to back 20 mile weekend, 35 mile training run, to Rocky Raccoon 100. There wasn’t much down time from September to February. (by the way, February needs to learn how to spell, took me 3 times to fix it correctly, it’s not phonetically correct, is it? I mean, why is there an “r” after the “b”. Who says it that way) So when that feeling arose, I felt lost. Training was getting stale, just getting out to run was a bit of an effort. I knew I needed something new. I have envied top ultrarunners and their ability to bounce from one long effort to the next. I guess I am slowly getting there, but… not quite yet. I figured, what the heck, lets give this a go and took the plunge.
A few days before the race, JP decided to ride up there with me and hang out, support and get a bit of a run in at a new place. Little did I know this would be a blessing in disguise.
We arrived up there at 6am, Steve, Ally, Ally’s mom, and Aaron were already up there. A few minutes later, Shawn arrived too. We went and got our bibs, JP got the ok to start the race with us and we geared up.
I had my normal gear for an ultra. My Honey Stinger trucker hat, Patagonia shorts, Direct Performance PT t-shirt, Hoka Speed Instincts, Injini socks, and my Ultimate Direction Vest. I brought along 2 Chocolate Honey Stinger Waffles with Sunbutter, 1 Vanilla waffle and lots of extra Tailwind. I had Tailwind in both bottles in my vest as well.
Once the gun went off, my strap to my vest popped. Now, I’ve had issues with this vest before, even got Ultimate Direction to send me new straps. But shit, one strap popped in the first 20 seconds of a race. This couldn’t be good. JP and Steve mentioned at least I had 1 strap left. Maybe a minute later, the 2nd strap to the vest popped and now my vest was useless. I couldn’t hold it for 30.5 miles while running. I am severely disappointed that this issue was not fixed by them the first time I told Ultimate Direction about it. Now, it was going to ruin my race. I hate to be a complainer, but for over $100, this thing should not pop off. I’ve had it less than a year and it has caused constant grief for me. Here’s where having JP come saved me. He asked me if I had a water bottle handheld in the car. I did, I overpack, it’s what I do. He turned around, ran back to the car, and sprinted back as fast as he could. All the while I kept running with the lead pack trying to fix it. Steve and Todd showed me the best place to drop my vest. Out of nowhere, I heard the “tap, tap, tap, tap” of JP in his crazy Luna Sandals flying back. Perfect timing. For those that ran with me a few years ago when I wore my Merrells and you yelled at me for how loud my shoes were, I am sorry. Man, these sandals are just as loud! We switched out bottles and now I was a few minutes back of the lead pack. I knew i had time to spare to catch them, but nothing like giving me a disadvantage that early in a race. All of this took maybe 5 minutes.
It took me about 2.5 miles to catch the lead pack after navigating through all the small packs behind. I may have gone a bit faster than I should have to catch them, i prayed that it wasn’t going to cost me in the end. But hey, it’s a race, one that was mostly a training run to see what I could do on tired legs. Well, this would add to it I suppose. Oh well, time to enjoy the ride and have some fun. There were 4 of us together initially. I had run this part of the trail years ago. Somewhat technical, hilly, but not too bad. We had to do 2 loops here, with each loop being about 5 miles. We stayed together here as a pack of 4.
Once we finished this section, we got on the road for a quick out and back. Steve and I kept chatting and slowly starting pulling away from the other two.
The next bit was the more challenging of it all. I had never run here, but heard it was tough. That was an understatement. Switchbacks going up hill, and once you think you reached the top, back up you went, questioning how you had room to go higher. Looking at the Strava data here
For the first loop of D and E, we had a pretty solid lead. We just kept it a hard effort, but knowing that we had something left in the tank if we needed more. We both wanted to come away being able to keep training without taking time off.
This was a tough section. Felt like we were flying at times, but our watches said otherwise. Oh well, everyone was suffering a bit here I’d suppose. But nothing like having one of my favorite training partners and good friend to enjoy a trail run and good conversation. I had hoped to get outta my rut and have this race spur me on and get me feeling normal again (it did by the way). We finished the D and E section of the trail, filled up our water bottles, thanked the volunteers and went back out for the 2nd and final loop.
As we were chatting we went past Ally and said hi and asked her how she was doing. Something along the lines of these hills suck came out of her 🙂 I felt her pain. Maybe 3-4 minutes later, one of the guys that was with us at the beginning shot by us like we weren’t moving. Seriously, I have no clue how anyone could be running a minute or two faster per mile than us at this section. And to have caught us… We kind of looked at each other and said let’s just keep running our race and see what happens. In the back of my head, I knew this meant, let’s catch him. This is also where I had my first.. 2nd, all the way to 6th fall of the day. I had done so well the first 25 miles. It’s a curse, but I can’t help but trip over roots. Steve started to pull ahead a teeny bit, but I was maybe 5-6 steps behind only.
As we finished up the D section of the course, I was feeling pretty dehydrated. We only have about 4.7 miles to go, but I needed something to drink. Steve grabbed his drinks and headed back fast. Told me he’d see me in a bit and took off. I topped off my water bottle, laughed and told JP I just wanted some new legs when he asked me what else I needed and headed back out there. I thought I was running fast here. I pushed hard. I didn’t wanna get “Leeched” again. My last 50k, my buddy Michael Leech beat me in the last 1/2 mile. I fell twice on this section, once going uphill, so I walked a second to regain composure. I wanted to walk more, but, i pushed on anyway, hoping I’d see Steve or the other guy ahead. As I closed out this section and got back on the road towards the school to finish, I pushed to a full on sprint. Well, it felt that way. I rounded the corner to the school and the finish. Here was the only bad thing I can say about this amazingly well put on race. There was no sign which way to go. I saw all my friends, but there was no sign to turn, nobody standing out there, and I had no clue which way to go. This close to the finish, maybe 200yds to go, and didn’t know if i was supposed to go straight or around. I chose the wrong way of course. If you look at my final time, you can subtract about 2-3 minutes for getting mixed up. I”m ok with is since it didn’t cost me a spot overall, but this was the only drawback to the entire race.
As I finished, I saw the guy that passed us and asked him how he did. When he told me my buddy has passed him and took the win, I smiled. So happy to hear Steve came back and took the win. I can’t remember the last time my legs were that sore. Standing was not an option, and sitting hurt just the same.
We grabbed a beer, and watched and waited for our other friends to finish. Aaron was next, then Shawn, Bill, and then Ally.
Singletrack Maniac 50k was one of those small but fun races. I highly recommend it. I’ll be back with hopes of going sub 430. Def would love to get a crew there next year.
Thanks again to Honey Stinger, Direct Performance PT, Tailwind, Squirrel’s Nut Butter, Injinji and Hoka for helping me to a great race. Oh, and thanks again JP. Race saved.