Saturday, October 17, 2009

New River Trail 50 km-Part 2 the Tunnel to the Tunnel (Mile 11-22)

The aid station volunteers taking great care of the runners
Homemade bread, yum!

My friend Joe heading back to the finish line..Go Joe!

The aid station at the turn around. It was nice to have a small break here before heading back to the start/finish line.

Dealing with the rain as best I could complete with my poncho. Luckily the rain did not last too long nor was it too heavy at any time.

I made it through the tunnel in one piece, without any incident or getting kidnapped by aliens or attacked by a serial killer (I think) and it was time to proceed with the next part of the race.
The first part of the NRT50 km obviously was slightly downhill as we were running alongside the New River and were passing by small rapids as we ran down stream. On the other hand, our journey along Chandler Creek was upriver. The incline was pretty minimal but it definitely was there. We passed several small rapids and wound our way along some very pretty scenery. The course passed cow pastures (complete with cows), pine forests, desiduous tree's changing colors and lots of farms and single family cabins along the river. It was very pretty even though the weather was not optimal.

During this section of the race, I started seeing the front runners coming back. They were running super fast. Some of the runners I recognized from other events, blogs or perhaps "Ultra running" nagazine (or as Tristan who speculates I am addicted to running calls it "Ultra High"--based on this addiction he also calls Running World "High World" and Running Times "High Times", hrmph!!).

Pretty soon I was arriving at mile ~11 aid station. The volunteers here were super nice and helpful. They refilled my waterbottle and chatted with me as I made some executive decisions about what food and beverages I wanted to partake in. Again, knowing I would be returning I asked to mark my cup and wrote "TA". Sadly sharpies were not available and I was having a terrible time of marking my cup thus I sissied out and hoped no one else had my poor handwriting or the same first letters of their name. Although I certainly would not mind sharing since I am sure in many ultra's I have "shared" with others as well as perhaps the ground! After marking my cup it was time to fill it with gatorade, ginger ale as well as some coke. I was feeling good and was pretty happy because up until this point we had only had a few sprinkles and I was really enjoying the race. I grabbed a cookie for the road as well as a piece of homemade bread. My cookie selection was the orange cookie with nuts, which I assert was pumpkin nut but may have been something entirely different. Regardless the cookie was REALLY good. The bread was also really good and I was glad I was running a 50 km to make up for all the treats I was eating along the way.

Just after I left the aid station it started raining a bit heavier. Of course I come prepared, so I grabbed my poncho and put it on. Sadly I would put on and take off my poncho multiple times during the race as the rain would increase and decrease. This same issue occurred with my hat. I really hate hats, but to keep rain out of my glasses I have to use a hat. Thus I would take off and put on my hat as though it was my full time job! This section of the course was very cute with lots of farms and cows and horses along one side of the trail and the river on the other side. The changing tree's, critter infested landscape and cute little rapids made for a very pretty course that kept me entertained.

Soon enough I was heading to the “turn around” aid station at mile 16. I was so excited to be past the halfway point and was well ahead of my goal of 3 hours 40 minutes at this aid station (I think I arrived about 3 hours 25 minutes). I was feeling really good and decided after I left this aid station, it was time to put some pep in my step.
At the Aid station I helped myself to some Gatorade, ginger ale and coke while the super nice volunteers helped fill my waterbottle. It was raining pretty hard at this point and I was in no hurry to leave the protection of the tent (even though I had my poncho on). One of the aid station volunteers was the nice lady who helped me pick out my mug (and answered many of my questions at the packet pickup site early in the morning). She was really nice but I forgot to ask her name. I nibbled on some pretzels and banana’s for their salt and potassium and continued to chat and procrastinate. I really was not looking forward to heading back into the rain and hoped it would slow down a bit or ideally clear up!

As I finally decided I had to head out of the aid station, I grabbed a fresh made cookie. This time it was chocolate chip. I was running along and after a few hundred meters started munching on. It was the BEST chocolate chip cookie ever! I considered heading back to the aid station for seconds but realized I would then add several hundred meters to my race as I was well clear of the aid station. What I should have done is negotiated with a runner heading to the turnaround and ask them to snag me some cookies and I could wait for them. Or else have the runner convince a volunteer to catch up to me with a cookie (or 20) in hand. Alas I did neither and now will just have to wait a year for the tasty cookie!

Continuing on my journey I passed a few runners heading for the turn around and encouraged them. Since I was about 600 meters by the time I ran into a runner I did not say anything like “You are almost there”, because in my world you better be able to smell to cookies, hear the volunteers or be mere steps to the location before “you are almost there” is uttered. Of course in hiking I am always telling people it is just around the bend, just another 10 minutes or only 1000 feet until you clear the cloud cover but in hiking it is different!

Because I had decided to speed up a bit, I was catching runners slowly but surely. Each time I passed a runner I offered encouragement and a few times I told them I was training for JJ100 (Javelina Jundred 100 miler) and was trying to challenge myself with a bit of speed when I was tired. Some of the runners I had leapfrogged a bit at the beginning but then I started catching up to runners who were new to me. Many looked really tired and as though each step was painful. I know I will be feeling the same way in just a few weeks at JJ100.

This part of the course was downhill until just past the tunnel, so I took advantage of gravity lengthening my stride. I also got a bit warmer and luckily the rain stopped so I was able to take off my poncho. I kept it out for a while but after a half hour with no rain, I tied it in my bandana to my fanny pack. I was really glad the rain did not last too long and there really was no torrential downpour. Apparently Tristan and Gilligan did experience torrential downpours where they were only a few ridges away but that is their punishment for not staying around to cheer me on and bring me treats along the course.

On the way back because it was an out and back, the course was identical. But the views dramatically different. On the way out on this section, I saw little waterfalls, faster runners and the “front” of various items. On the way back the sights included the rapids, the “backside” of items and far fewer runners. One cute park about 1 mile from the turnaround had a very small park and camp Virginia State Park campground. It looked really cute and I considered heading over to the campground to forage for some food from campers. Alas in the interest of time I continued on. Well I should say after a potty break, I continued on. This potty break was a bit of a bizarre experience for me. There were two gentleman cleaning the Virginia State park latrine. There was a distinct male and female side although it was a pit toilet (my least favorite!). But since we would never be too far from the river, I was using the bathroom facilities. The gentleman in the ladies room asked if I would mind waiting a few minutes. I kind of didn’t know how to respond since I was sort of in a race. But sort of nodded my head and shrugged my shoulders. The ranger in the men’s room said, “if you want to use this side, I am done”. I leapt at the chance to use a facility sooner rather than later. Also I was curious if men have it better and welcomed the chance to scope out the place. I was a bit disappointed in that it looked like the women’s side, but alas it was what I needed. A few moments later I was back to running.

Very soon (less than 1 hour after leaving the turn around) I was shocked to arrive at the mile 20 aid station. I was flying! And I was feeling really great. At the aid station I used my “TA” cup and filled it with Gatorade then ginger ale. I feasted on some pretzels and banana’s then grabbed a piece of homemade bread and a cookie for the road. After thanking the volunteers I continued on my journey happy to be about 10 miles from the finish line.

I continued my quick pace running fast enough to feel like I was moving but not fast enough to get out of breath. I was having a great time and really enjoying the course. The fall foliage was gorgeous. The river was very cute and made my favorite soothing sound…babbling brook noise. And I pretended as though all the horses and cows I was seeing along side the course were cheering for me.

As I ran this section I decided while I was on pace for a sub 6 hour 50 km, I wanted to have a good time and was willing to sacrifice some time for a good picture/video. So I decided I was going to create a “Blair Witch Project” spoof in the tunnel. I created my skit in my mind including my lines in which I would say hello to all my pets/husband and tell them I love them. And of course I would allude to the fact that over 100 runners had set off for the New River Trail 50 km but I hadn’t seen any runners for hours (it was my movie so I could take artistic liberty). Sadly as I approached the tunnel there was a bicyclist who I was a little worried would get into my shot (or I would totally freak out) so my movie got edited a little for time. But for appropriate lighting I had to get my tiny petzl e-lite and put it on. And I needed to change my camera to movie mode.

At the tunnel I created a lead-in video explaining what I was doing as well as to test out my lighting (since I was in charge of lighting, directing, acting, catering, etc. for this feature). When I played back my movie on my camera I could see myself and hear what I had said. So it was time to be in my first feature film. Alas somehow my movie will not play on my computer even though it will play on my camera (stupid electronic stuff!). But my 1 minute short had me in my featured “Mocumentary” about the tunnel. I did try to sniffle a bit and considered owning some snot a la Blair Witch project, but in the end I decided that without a solid 6 figure salary to do this, I would just let my extraordinary acting ability be sufficient. Since my movie did not come out (well except for a black screen in which you can hear me but not see my face illuminated by my elite petzl headlamp) I now have a goal for next year. After this attempt at changing my profession to cinematographer, it was time to continue my journey to the finish line. At the time I thought my movie had come out and was going to catapult me to fame, glory and a new profession so I was pretty excited. This added even more pep to my step.


Carolina John said...

You are insane. glad you finished and had fun!

joyRuN said...

They don't have good food like that at road races - especially not a memorable chocolate chip cookie!

A shame about the movie not working out :(