Monday, February 14, 2011

A Weekend Sandwich in Greensboro, NC: Groundhog Gallop Half Marathon, 2/12, Valentines Massacre Marathon 2/13

A weekend when 2 races were the bread and other adventures, the filling! 
Start of Sunday's Massacre Marathon
 (And yes, I do love bread!) Photos in this post are courtesy of Scott Bassett and Shannon Johnstone

George getting ready to hit the trail after 3/4 mile of pavement
George and I left at 5:30am on Saturday morning, 3.5 hours before the start of the Groundhog Gallop races at Northeast park in Gibbsonville, NC. This day would be the 2nd time George would run the 8k trail race and 3rd time for me in the 21k distance.

 Like many area trail runs, the bib pickup was a reunion of friends and running acquaintances. Bradley Smythe, who finished 2nd in last weekend’s Uwharrie 40 was out there volunteering, handing out bib numbers and doing a bit of everything else. Shannon Johnstone (40-mile champ last weekend) and her husband Anthony, also a top finisher last weekend were out there preparing to run.

I was surprised to find that attendance for this fine event was down. (Last year driving conditions were slick with fresh snow, so it was easy to understand the lower turnout). In 2009 the combined participants to both races was 171. This year 101 runners. I can’t help but wonder what has driven the attendance down? Same great trails and race organizer…Hmmm…

The 8k is a single loop on mostly single track trail. The 13.1 is a larger loop x2 with 4 calf deep water crossings. Both courses are a mix of flat, groomed and technical trail. Lots of little ups and downs with no big climbs. Thawing ground turned parts of the 13.1 run into very slick patches of mud that necessitated caution around some of the tighter turns.

The 13.1 (which my instincts say is a bit shorter than that), celebrated 2 young students from Duke University as the winners. First woman was Megan Beavis, 20 finished in 1:29:26, she was 3rd overall. David Roche, 22 won in 1:17:39. 

For me, the race was with Luanne Coulter, 49 who has won this race in the past and is a sub-3:00 marathoner, is just returning to racing after taking a year off.  I passed Luanne about 2.5 miles into the first loop. She looked very strong and I told her so. She thanked me and informed me she was out of shape-though I never would have guessed!  We stayed together for the next 7ish miles, she pushed me to stay steady and I like to think I pushed her to stay with me. Luanne flew by me when I stopped to re-tie my shoe, just before the 3rd water crossing.

Playing catch up with Luanne (in black)
I did a bad job the first time and lost more seconds when retying it a 2nd time. Chase, chase-what fun! I was working pretty hard!

Reversing the chase at the last water crossing...
I passed Luanne just before the last water crossing and we stayed within meters of one another until almost the very end. I was very grateful for my Mountain Masochists that gave such good traction on the mud, Luanne had road shoes on, and I think the traction and confidence the shoes gave me is what finally allowed me to finish in 1:36:45, 2nd place and she just behind 137:02. I thank Luanne for a great run together. I’ll need more than shoes with good traction to stay with her as she works her way back into being "in shape!"

The 8k winners were Allison Peters, 31 at 37:14 and Curtis Swisher, 39 with a time of 32:48. Somehow George got left off the results, he was in 28th place with a  time of 45:50, just behind Jeffery Branin, 32.

Results for both races here
After George powered down some chili and I had some PB &J on a bagel we made our way across town for an early check-in at Spring Hill Suites.Nice place! This all suite hotel with a hot breakfast, and indoor pool and hot tub has great weekend rates that allowed us to indulge in something more special than Budget Inn.

After cleaning up and chilling for a little while we were back in the car headed for Greensboro Natural Science Center to see the Bodies Revealed exhibit. Lines for tickets stretched out the door! After purchasing tickets we learned we had to wait 70 minutes until our scheduled time to enter the exhibit. We used the time to check out the animals, most of whom were out and about on the warm winter day.

The zoos 2 tigers. Photo courtesy of Natural Science Center  FB page
A exhibit piece of Bodies Revealed-photo from FB page
The exhibit was intriguing and absolutely fascinating. See above link to learn the story behind the exhibit.

After a slow, traffic-filled drive the 10 miles back to our room I intended to swim. The pool however was taken over by a tribe of screaming, splashing children so I settled for a 10 minute stretch in the hot tub.

The restaurant we chose for our early Valentine’s Dinner was Italian and only a couple blocks from where we stayed. George and I got fancied up and hanging out in the rooms sitting area, shared some champagne we’d brought along while we exchanged cards and gifts. Usually we don’t buy each other big things, but try instead to think of things that are needed. This year, George made an exception. After the pretty card and antioxidant filled chocolate bars, he presented me with a velvet box and said he hoped I like what might be traditional for other couples, but not traditional for us. I was puzzled/curious and after opening the box so very pleased! He gave me a pair beautiful earrings with a small stone in each!

Wow! I also consider this type of jewelry for “other” people, yet I really, REALLY like these. They are oh-so-classy and exactly what I like, even though I’d never thought about it before! Thank you George, what a grand surprise!

Dinner was at Villa Rosa and was quite yummy!
Inside Villa Rosa Italian Restaurant

Passing the transition area around mile 14ish

 The Valentine’s Massacre Marathon is at Country Park in Greensboro, NC. The course is a 1.6 mile slightly hilly loop around 2 small lakes. The majority of the participants were teams of 2-4 people switching laps. Only a handful of us were solo and would run 16 laps.

Some members of teams were decked out in costumes...

In contrast to yesterday’s race which was also directed by Scott Bassett of On the Mark Sports, this Team event has GROWN!  I first experienced the event in 2008, running as a team with Carrie Richardson. There were 56 teams and solo runners in 2008. I ran solo 2009 and 2010. This year the event grew to 138 teams and solo!
Team members were of all ages and running experiences-and they had fun!

The course ran around this lake (and hundreds of Canada Geese!)

George brought his mountain bike clothes and had his bike on the car, ready for a day on the trails while I ran…only we had a snafu and left the rack keys at home.  He was bummed, but a good sport and he walked and hiked on the bike trails while I did my circuits. The weather was breezy/windy and temps ranged from 40-55 degrees. 

The transition zone/finish line area felt like a carnival with music, costumes and tons of cheering/screaming runners cheering on teammates! This was a very fun place to run through! I ran with ear buds in my ears yet listened to music only after lap 8, and then just every other lap, turning it off when coming through the transition zone, way too much excitement to miss  out on which I would have with music blasting into my ears.
One loop to go!
  I had a chair set up near the transition zone on which was deposited fuel and drink. I carried a Nathan bottle for a lap every couple laps after the first several. It was nice to have both hands free for most of the run.

I hit 13.4 split in 1:41:29 and 26.2 in 3:17:54. It was a solid, focused,  training effort and gave me 2nd place in the overall solo division and 33 out of 138 in the combined team and solo.

Jack Mignosa, 40 was the solo winner. His time was 3:03:08 and he was 13 of the entire 138.
Full solo and team results and lap splits are at the website.

Before we left for home, George and I stopped by Earth Fare and got some lunch to go: ½ sandwiches and soup, which we ate on a blanket in a nearby park. By now it was 60 degrees and spring-like! Too bad we had to return to the chill of the mountains! We did however, happily make our way home and had a short reunion with Mama Grey who clearly missed us. Ice bath soak and sleep...

Monday is a short swimming day. I’ll start back running on Tuesday.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Uwharrie Trail Runs 2011

One of the water crossings...Photos in this post by Shannon Johnstone (2011 40 mile champ!)
Saturday, February 5, 2011 was the 20th running of the Uwharrie Trail Races. Each race course is 100% trail, (except for a few hundred yards on paved road to let the field jockey for position) and are on the Uwharrie Trail in Uwharrie National Forest near Troy, NC. The Uwharrie Races are 40 mile  (out’n back) 20 mile (point to point) and 8 mile.

As I understand, all races filled within 24 hours of registration in November of 2010. By good timing and acquaintance, I was able to get in through a back door with an entry from La Sportiva, one of the race sponsors. La Sportiva offers a non-ultra USA series, and this link shows a feature of this first race of the series. I hope to complete 5 of the 10 races. The 20-mile run was part of the cup. I am transparent that my recovery from last October's injury is going great, yet am getting stronger slowly and am not in good race or ultra shape, yet the entry appeared and I was happy to accept.

I planned on running Uwharrie 20 mile with the attitude of going out for a strong training run and that is exactly what unfolded. I didn't research about other women running, course records, or winner finishing times.

Mid winter weather in February also has reason to give pause. This weekend, especially. It rained all day Friday (mid 30’s). The normal 2.5-hour drive to Asheboro, NC, home of packet pick up wound up being 3.5 hours due to slow traffic and difficult dark and wet driving conditions.

Bib pickup was at The Exchange in Asheboro and it was great to reunion with several fine, wonderful running friends and new acquaintances: Sean Andrish, Scott Williams, Ryan Woods, to name a few! I must admit, while picking up a bib for the 20 miler, at first I felt kinda lame, just running the 20, compared to my love of ultra distance. Yet, it didn’t take long for reality to kick in. I am not trained right now for ultras and although I am moving in that direction, running the 40 would be a set back and a clear demonstration of impatience on my part.

Race start was 36ish degrees and drizzling. Driving to race start was slow with driving rain, yet by 8am, the weather had mellowed to mist and spitty rain.

I always have such a tough time deciding what to wear in cold rain…Yet I settled on Montrail Sabino Trail shoes, Dry Max socks, Zensah compression calf sleeves, Mountain Hardwear short pacer shorts, Patagonia sports bra, Mountain Hardwear Team jersey tank with LS Mountain Hardwear shirt of the same weight underneath. I had warm gloves and homemade water resistant over mitts on  my hands with chemical hand warmers and a Mtn Hardwear beanie that wound up stuffed in my sports bra when I warmed up a few miles in. I carried no calories or liquid and relied on the evenly spaced aid stations. Perfect choices and at mile 16ish, I slithered out of the long sleeve shirt and kept it tied around my waist.
Rollicking along at mile 17ish

I had a great time out there! I really like the format of being able to cheer on the 40-mile runners when we either passed them from behind or greeted the speedier ones head on as they returned from the 20-mile turn around. It was wonderful seeing so happy faces: Michael Mason, Brandon Thrower, Rick Gray, Shannon Johnstone, Angela White, Brian Beduhn, Brad Smythe, and so many other familiar kindred spirits. All you 40 milers influenced me with your endurance and tenacity! Thank you for your kind words too!

The weather turned out fine. Yes there was rain and mud and slick leaves and most of us mortals probably chose to slow a bit for the muddy creek crossing with invisible depths or bottoms.

typical Uwharrie trail
I got my challenging training run in-running/slogging the up hills instead of hiking, as I would have if running the ultra. Fueling was Heed and water from the aid stations and  bits of PB&J squares to equal about ¾ a sandwich. Perfect! If it were hot, this would have been a bad calorie choice, yet the cool temps allowed me to fuel less conservatively using “food” instead of gel. (Don’t get me wrong-I love my Clif Shots, yet did not carry them due to my projected lack of finger coordination in the cold to tear off the tops!) Good decision!

About ¾ a mile from the end, runners received a gift:
Uwharrie treat!
I’d been running alone in the southerly direction for a couple miles (though sharing trail with several returning 40-milers) and sitting under a tree on a log was a guy I can only describe as a magic man. Guy sitting on log in rain gear,  with a banjo, wearing a hat and working his mouth over a harmonica. How beautiful was his simple music! Not long after that was traffic sounds and the end. I entered into the finish line area and asked where the line was? A patient volunteer informed me that I had just crossed it!

Then I was congratulated and a big paper bag thrust into my hands. I protested. I was not 3rd woman! No way…wasn’t there several girls ahead of me at race start as well as me being passed by 2, even though I passed a couple?  But it turns out I was mistaken and I did wind up with a 3rd place finish of 3:26:25. Cool!

And just as cool, at the finish line, volunteering was Brian Beatty and Elizabeth Towe. Brian and Elizabeth are a stellar couple and couple of humans that work at Balanced PT/ Balanced Movement in Carrboro, NC and helped me through some tough times when I was recovering from a hamstring tear several years ago. Saturday was awesome little reunion, if only for a few minutes! Thanks to both of you for helping and everyone else!

During the van ride back to the parking area I met Rachel Cieslewicz, age 31 with the Newton Running Team from Salt Lake City. She finished 2nd in 3:15:26 and she invited me to stay with her if I run in Utah at one of the series races in August. I would gratefully accept if that race fits in my work life and potential World 100k in September.  The top speedy girl was wayyy ahead of all in 307:40, Martha Nelson, 29, of Washington, DC with the Wasatch Speed Goats. Great runs girls!

Ryan Woods of Boone, NC was 1st overall in the 20 mile. He was dealing with a sensitive ankle, high water crossings, yet still busted out a CR 2:23:16! He is a chiropractor and one of the folks helping me learn how not to get hurt again.  Congrats Dr. Ryan! After him were Scott Jared of AZ and Tom Clifford of Wilmington, NC. 

Please go to for complete results of the 40, 20 and 8-mile runs.

If you want a technical challenge and no flat running, are willing to appreciate wet feet and many leaves and roots, this well marked course and superbly managed event may be for you. Registration fills fast so keep an eye out at the above website. 

Side note. This past fall I was given the opportunity to test Dry Max Socks. Several of my ultra running teammates hold them in high regard for preventing blisters. I tried them spring of 2009 when preparing and racing 2009 World 24 Hour in Bergamo, Italy. I got blisters.
This time around, I did my homework. The socks are designed to work without taping and foot lube (both of which I used in 2009). This winter I have been wearing the socks with great comfort, only achieving blisters when I have yax trax strapped on my running shoes for several hours. The Uwharrie 20 miler was the true test. In the past during training runs and when running the 40 Mile I have limped for a couple days dealing with raw feet and loosing several toenails a week later. 

Saturday morning while dressing I did not body glide or tape my feet and ran with wet feet for almost 3.5 hours w/o hot spots or blisters! Wow! I need to wear these socks more to see if I got lucky, or if they are as special as I am told. Yet, from Saturday's surprise absence of blisters, I expect they just might be for real! Stay tuned for more reports on Dry Max Socks!

Many thanks to my fellow runners who shared the trails and shared support on our adventure on Saturday!