Monday, October 8, 2007
Talking the whole time: A shared adventure at Triple Lake Trails 40
Beginning of Triple Lakes Trail 40 miler, Greensboro, NC 10/6/07 Picture courtesy of Laura MacLean
Question: Why did the runner leave the awesome trails and mountains of western North Carolina to spend a day running in Greensboro, NC?
Response: Because the runner was curious.
Ever since hearing of the Triple Lakes Trail runs I have been wondered about how there could be a trail ultra smack in the middle of Greensboro, NC? I’d been to Bur Mil Park in the past for some cyclocross racing, yet I never remembered the area being vast enough to accommodate an ultra. The website educated me about the watershed system trails and I began to understand!
After my frustrating experience on the Iron Mountain 50 course last weekend where I had to “pit stop” often (due to giardia that I was diagnosed with 3 days ago) I was pleased to find that since I did not “go all out” I had some legs left to run Triple Lake 40. My goal last weekend was to run hard and since I did not accomplish that and the Flagyl antibiotic I am taking is helping with the giardia symptoms, I thought I would do my best to “run hard” in Greensboro. I wanted to see if I could push my self without my hamstring seizing up. After reviewing past results of the 40 miler and learning what I could about the terrain, I chose a goal of running under 6 hours.
The morning of the race, I was happy to reunion with many NC running friends and was excited to see my Montrail/Nathan teammate and awesome human being, Bethany Patterson readying to run. I met Bethany the night before my 1st ultra at Uwharrie in 2003. She went on to set the CR on that course the next day. Since then we have run in many of the same events and have had brief interactions on the trails-depending on the event or year, we would finish ahead or behind one another. Little did I know that today we would do neither.
The run started out on pavement and after a mile or so moved to dirt. I don’t remember much about the terrain as I was immersed in the conversations of the runners surrounding me. As the field filed into single track Bethany and I took to running with one another, chattering the whole way. We talked running, work, food, gear, relationships…a huge variety of topics. I learned Bethany doesn’t run with a watch…I can’t imagine-I use mine regularly as a reality check and to either keep me from going to fast or being lazy!
The course was well marked and it was easy to “zone out” and not pay attention to route finding. Before I knew it, the out and back turn around came. Some where along the run I shared with my running companion that I hoped to run under 6 hours and speculated that if we kept what we were doing, we’d both make a serious dent in the CR. I was feeling good and Bethany reported the same. We commented that we felt like we were on a long training run together. At the turn around it was around 2:44. At this point there was still cloud cover and we ducked back into the trees for our return.
I first felt the heat 5 or 6 miles later at a sunny aid station, and swallowed another Succeed and put a Nuun tablet in my water. I was grateful for grabbing Clif Blocks out of my drop bag, because for me, they go down easier than real food in the heat. On the return Bethany and I got separated a couple of brief times-a pit stop and bothersome stomach caused her to slow for a little while. I slowed a tiny bit-but not much-because as much as I was celebrating running with Bethany, I still really wanted to run sub 6 hour and was spot on pace for that-I felt certain that she’d catch back up-and she did- within 10 minutes or so I felt the bobbing of the shared boardwalk as she bounded up behind me.
In the several minutes I was alone-I appreciated the woods, the feeling of solitude. I appreciated the joy of running and the memory of my sister Cheryl, and my Dad whom I think of at some point during every race.
Not long after passing the aid stations with the 2nd drop bags we passed several marathoners walking. They spoke words of encouragement to us and we to them as we continued our jaunt back to Bur Mil Park. For me, somewhere around mile 32 I started to feel the day’s effort: my hammie was getting sorer, my stomach not being psyched about the Coke I swallowed and I tripped again. (I took 3 falls in total during the run-more than usual…I attribute it to talking instead of concentrating on my footing! Sometimes I am not good at multi-tasking!) Bethany and I had longer stretches of quiet…I couldn’t help but wonder if she too was starting to feel the effort?
Usually I am a fully competitive person-complete with a secret dorsal fin and “Jaws” theme music oozing from my pours. Yet today was different –I only felt like racing Bethany for a little while-but didn’t act on it …I am not sure that it was my time goal that kept me from wanting to compete-or just enjoying the lack of stress from not racing…I think it was a bit of both. For me, mental burnout comes faster than physical burnout and because I have done a couple of hard competitive events in the last month (The New River Trail Challenge and little Railroad Grade Run 5k-Iron Mountain doesn't count so much due to the circumstances...) and am looking to go full out at Mountain Masochist 50 next month, I felt good about putting “Jaws” on hold. As the mile markers ticked by-eventually we discussed what our plans for finishing were. Were we going to race one another or finish together? After a quick discussion, finishing together in less than 6 hours was the goal that felt the best.
We continued to run and I look at my watch and announced that we were perfectly on schedule. I was becoming increasingly focused as we were only 2 miles away with 19 minutes left…mountain bikes would come rolling down the trail and I did not stop to give them passage. As a fellow mountain biker (admittedly very timid and unskilled) I know the rules of the trail and this day I was going to take advantage of having a cyclist yield to us! Bethany was so gracious-thanking them and apologizing for being in the way. I was not so kind and didn’t say much -probably coming across arrogant like I owned the trail. I admired her politeness and reminded myself that this was something I need to work on…yet time was of the essence and stopping to yield to mountain bikes would have taken more time than I thought we might have. A needless worry because it turned out, we emerged onto the grass at about 5:55ish and quickly plodded our way around the pond. We crossed the finish line together at 5:57:35!
Triple Lakes Trails 40 miler is a very well done event due to the clear course markings, sufficient aid at good locations and intervals. The website provided ample information to be prepared and opportunity for drop bags was helpful. Bur Mil Park, is a perfect race venue-ample parking, porta potties and on a day like Saturday-lots of open space for luxurious sunshine. One runner described the course as a “flat Uwharrie”. I can see the similarities: plenty of roots, curvy trails, and road crossings. Yet this course is also varied-it is mostly flattish with a few “get your attention” hills in the last 3rd. Hardwood forests with smattering of pine groves complete with pine straw running carpet in places.
After the event and the day after I felt pretty “wiped out”, bruised and happy about Saturday’s run. Triple Lakes Trail Run was a lesson to me: Mountains are not a necessity for a great trail ultra. A generous amount of single track trails, helpful volunteers, willing race director and bunches of other passionate people really made for a fabulous and challenging day!