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!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Iron Mountain 50

Wow, what a day Saturday was! I looked forward to the day, trained for it and pined for it when overwhelmed at work when all I wanted to do for weeks is the freedom of running hard for hours at a time with nothing else to worry about!
Early Saturday morning my friend Perry Edinger( in the state briefly from his home in AZ) drove over to the start in Damascus-me in my down jacket and Perry with chattering teeth as we tried to stay warm for the 42ish degree start temperature.
I wanted to run in 8ish hours. Even with my inconsistentcy in hard workouts due to hamstring flareups-I still thought I was well trained for a "go consistent on the ups and flats and fly the downhills" because rarely does my hammie bother me on the down hills ('cept for when I stumble)...

The first 10 miles went fast-being fully on pace for an 8 hour finish...yet a stumble here and there and stomache "issues" appearing after 4 more miles...the last 36 miles of the run seemed more of a contest to see how many pit stops I could make. I didn't feel sick-just unsettled and quickly ran out of rump soreness from prickly leaves quickly added to the frustration of not being able to run well. The harder I ran -especially the more I pounded the wonderful technical downhills-the jostling in my belly would demand a pit stop. So the slower I ran-the less stopping had to happen. I have only had this phoenomena 3x before..out of 50+ ultras...each during 100 mile runs somewhere around mile go figure-what was going on?

It seemed that all day long I heard runners just ahead of me and as I would look forward to catching up-ooopps-time to take a break. Sigh. Yet I was not having a bad day-just a frustrating one! Perry reported having a cruddy day-legs leaving him limp because of too many previous miles...makes sense-the Iron Mountain is a toughie-runnable for sure-yet still makes you work and gets your attention and I think 150+ mile weeks all summer that Perry packed in finally caught up and made him slow way down. Perry and I chatted briefly with 8 miles left to go-he planned to walk some-I didn't know where the next woman was, didn't want to be passed-and although I lost my shot at 8 hours and then 8.5 long ago-I was still in range for my next goal of 9 hours...I knew Bethany Patterson ran in a little over 9 hours the previous year and I wanted a shot a the CR-And my ego wanted to come in at least under an hour past my goal time!
Fortunatley my body cooperated and only demanded 2 more pit stops and pretty soon the descent down Mock Holler came sooner than expected. I knew I needed to hit pavement and 1 mile left to go my 8:50. I got there in 8:46 and motored (by end of 50 mile ultrarunning standards anyway!)...crossed some roads, shared the VA creeper trail with dozens of famllies and kids on bikes and trikes-almost tripping over a few in my eagerness to not be stuck in "traffic"...I pulled in to the Damascus Gazebo at 8:57:16...relieved, tired and sort of content...Happy not to have been passed by another woman..and to have run sub 9:00...yet not satisfied...

I quickly put on more clothes, drank some Clif Recovery and was settiling down to drink water and stretch when Perry hurried across the finish...Great job...I know he was bummed-yet I still cheered-he has been through alot this year-and has pushed his body far...I don't know him well-but celebrate his small part in my life (and the fact he let his awesome kitty Mama Grey move in with George and I when he moved this past April). We didn't stick around for long-I was feeling puny due to lack of calories over the day-and Perry needed to get up at 3am in order to drive to Charlotte to fly back to AZ to be back at work Sunday night....

Now a few days later, I am able to articulate my lack of satisfaction...not so much due to "stomache issues"...but because I didn't push myself as much as I hoped to. I wanted to see how my hammie would do. Yes it was sore from some stumples and my approach to hills since the injury is different..yet I really want to to be strong again...and I'd hoped to use this race as a tool to see how I am doing? I queston myself-did I subconsciously create the belly thing from having to not face my hammie? Am I a "has been" who now makes excuses? I really can't be sure! Because the stomach thing is not common with me I have a hard time figuring out what happened? Was it physical or a physical effect of my psyche?
I did enjoy Saturday-and am pleased with the "win" (and awesome finishers shirt)...yet I think I will be unsettled until I can push as hard as I can w/o being dumb and see what happens-stomache? Fear? Hammie? Sigh. My personal mystery continues!

If you are reading this -make plans to come to Damascus for the Iron Mountain 50M next year. I can honestly say that based on terrain, challenge,variety, placement of aid, race director and volunteers, that it is easily on my top 5 list of favorite ultras. It is worth traveling to. It is tough-yet runnable- And If not tough enough-run it faster! I really hope to next year! Actually-I'll keep things in perspective-last year I was still so injured I worked aid stations for the whole morning and went to the gym in the evening to work out on the elliptical trainer-because I was still having trouble running fast enough to break a sweat!

The next day (Sunday) one of my friends RD'd a new off road duathalon 30min driving from where we live (Dark Mountain Challenge). I participated in the 4 mile run, and 14 mile bike ride to support her and her event...There were 26 participants and I think I finished 3rd from last! Yet it was a good slow motion day for me. (I am sooo scared on a mtn bike I don't think I'd have been much improved even without Iron Mtn day before!)