Friday, October 16, 2009

Race Report: New River Trail 50 km Part 1-to the Tunnel (Start to Mile 11)

With my friend Joe at the start of the race. He was running his first ultra and did a GREAT job!
Here I am getting passed by a young bicyclist. I believe she (and several others) were the children of some of the runners I was near. I clearly need a kid so they can bicycle alongside me and carry my stuff!

This is where I spend altogether too much time during any race. Here I am in line waiting patiently....

This is a typical scene alongside Chandler Creek. This is going upriver towards the turn around.

I am frightened by the unexpected turn this race took in needing to run through a dark, cold, wet tunnel...can you tell???

The New River Trail 50 km race was amazing. I am still thrilled about smashing my old 50 km record by nearly an hour and beating my VT 50 km time of 10+ hours with a time of 6:06. If I could take away the time I spent loitering at the aid stations, taking potty breaks (including 2 minutes waiting on a small line at an earlier porta potty) and the few minutes I spent getting a few candid pictures. Oh yes and if I only had not taken my version of the "Blair Witch Project" in the unexpected tunnel along the course on my return from the out and back, I might have broken 6 hours. But that can be my goal for 2010 when I definitely will return.

In addition to having a great time racing I have to fire my husband again. He was doing so well this year with moderate success at Umstead (until he brought up my dead cat) and at VT100 with only one aid station and a mile completing my pacing entourage of Shane and Dan he regained a little trust and faith. At VT50 he kind of bummed me out when he did not pick me up and carry me over the finish line as I struggled with the slick mudfest that VT50 became. And last week at the NH marathon he did relatively well including suprising me on the course (which actually was a great time because my camera unexpectedly ran out of memory because I did not think I would take 250 pictures considering how yucky the weather was). But alas at New River Trail 50 he kind of forgot to pick me up until well after our agreed upon time of 2 or 2:30. By 3:15 I was thinking I might need to find a kindly volunteer who would adopt me into their family or else I was going to have to work many hours to earn a taxi fare back to our hotel or even worse back home to MD! But even with this snafu I still had a great race and really enjoyed my entire experience.

Friday afternoon, Tristan, Gilligan and I packed into the car to drive to Galax VA. After a bit of holiday weekend traffic near DC we had an uneventful and pretty quick 5 hour drive to Galax. We had elected to stay at the Galax Motel and found the accomodations to be acceptable. I had phoned in my reservation and was not told our "pet friendly" room would be smoking. Unfortunately I HATE smoking rooms and would not have stayed at this hotel knowing this rule. Luckily the nice proprietor realized the dilemma and after being assured Gilligan was potty trained and would be minimally invasive we could have a non-smoking room. The room was relatively nice for the ~$50 nightly rate (including pet fee and taxes) and it had the benefit of internet and was really convenient to the race start.

After an uneventful night, I got up about 5:30 a.m. to get ready for the race. Tristan had agreed with my 6:15 "Butt In Seat" time. Suprisingly we both were ready by 6 a.m. so we headed to McDonalds for espresso (Tristan) and an Egg McMuffin (for me). I typically eat Snoballs, Donuts or other treats but considering all the hiking, running and how worn down I had felt recently a protein packed breakfast sandwich washed down with Diet Mountain Dew seemed like a good idea. We arrived at the race site about 6:40. It was pretty dark, but luckily in each of our cars we have a headlamp for just this issue so I was able to easily head to the tent to pick up my number, race t-shirt (an extra cost option of a pink/red patagonia shirt that was so worth it!!!) and race premium.

For the race premium entrants had the choice of a hand held bottle or a handmade ceramic mug. As I have my hydration needs completely taken care of, I opted for the ceramic mug but this lead to a bit of a challenge. About 50 beautiful and unique mugs were displayed and I was told to select my choice. Some had lots of pink, light green, different pretty patterns and I was at a loss as to which one should belong to me. I sort of narrowed it down to my top 5 and ultimately selected the one I had initially picked. My mug looks like it has mountains of green with a sky of pink, the "runner" insignia is running on a flat on my mug and it is just the right size. I am looking forward to adding to my collection for many years.

Once I had all my race stuff, Tristan and Gilligan took the items I did not need and headed back to the car to start their daily activity of a hike up some mountain in southwestern VA. At this point I started chatting with other runners and asked a few questions that I should have known the answer to (where were aid stations is always good to know although I am pretty self sufficient for smaller events). While milling about I ran into my friend Anita Finkle who had introduced me to Umstead 100. I had volunteered at Old Dominion 100 miler in 2006 where she was crewing for her husband Jay. During our time together she had talked about Umstead 100. Some of the "selling points" for Umstead included being a lap course, giving out pendents for females (not just belt buckles which I don't wear), that there is a 50 miler option for runners who complete more than 50 miles but less than 100 miles and of course she said the race was super well organized and a wonderful event. She is right and I have been "hooked on 100's" ever since!

While waiting for the race to start I also met Joe, a gentleman from Richmond who was running his first 50 km. He was really nice and we chatted about various topics. He seemed to know more about the race than I (probably because I have stopped worrying too much about any event less than 50 miles) so he was able to educate me about our upcoming event. I shared my experiences in ultra's and reassured him he would do great at the event. We both are running at Richmond in about a month (and have run that race previously) so we also talked about marathoning. He was really good company and made the time fly. Pretty soon it was announced there were only 30 minutes to race time. It was time for a potty break which was done quickly and without incident. About this time I realized I had been slowly drinking my water bottle and it was half full (or half empty) would prefer to top it off before I started the race since I now knew the first aid station was not until about mile 5-ish.

I asked at the information desk about available water and it was suggested I head to the firestation down the street. But on a positive note I was also directed towards the cans of diet mtn dew. I LOVED this race already. Unfortunately I was unable to locate the fire house spigot, but Joe helped me out by sharing a bottle of his water (Thank You So Much Joe!). Had Tristan not abruptly abandoned me at this race, I had several bottles of water in the car and a 2 gallon jug of skunky old (but not yet opened) Deer Park water. Alas I am sure at this event there were plenty of people who would have shared their water had I not been able to acquire some from my friend Joe. With my hydration needs met, it was time to start congregating at the race start. Since I knew Joe was going to be way faster then me, we parted company and I headed for the more appropriate "Back of the Pack". Finally I got to the end of the line of runners and confirmed I was with my fellow athletes planning to maximize their time on the course with a "I plan to run this in about 6:59:59 and not a second faster, am I in the right place?" With many in agreement I knew I was where I belonged.

At this time I realized I was getting warmer as the sun had risen (well at least it was lighter and getting warmer), so I stripped off my thermal pants and my jacket: three layers down, two to go!) and put my layers in my stuff sack. Because I was a little worried about the weather getting rainy and cold, I made the executive decision to carry my stuff sack with me. I would regret this decision for days to come as I ended up with rope rash on my neck that rivaled my previous neck rash from my necklace. Alas I am glad I have my various layers as it gave me confidence and the knowledge I can carry stuff long ways for absolutely no reason.

The race start was a funny phrase that I have inadvertantly forgotten (and shockingly I did not record with my camera). But essentially they announced that they would say, "3, 2, “word”--which was not "Go" (Note: the word was Blast Off!). They repeated the countdown and sent us on our way. Those of us aiming for 7 hours slowly meandered along still sort of walk/jogging as we passed the official start line. We were off.

After about 400 meters I realized my shoes needed to be readjusted. I apparently still cannot tie my shoes properly. I ended up having to retie both shoes and this actually was a bit of a challenge because I was wearing gaiters (as I had no idea what southwest VA definition of trail is so wanted to ensure dirt, rock and debris did not get into my socks/shoes). In reality these might have been overkill but my pink gaiters do complete my pink ensemble so I probably will wear them in the 2010 version of this race.

My shoe tying effectively earned me a last place ranking for a bit. I slowly crept up to runners and chatted with a few. Most folks in this race seemed to be running with a buddy or a spouse but everyone was very nice. For the first few miles I ran with a couple who was being escorted by their kids on bikes. After a bit I learned the kids were turning around at the first major intersection and was bummed I would not be able to bribe them to be my mule for 30 miles as my stuff sack was starting to irritate my neck. Continuing on I sort of ended up going my pace and sporadically would run with others but my pace seemed just too slow or too fast or I was on a different run/walk schedule. Also a few runners were using iPods which I tend not to talk much with these folks as quite often you are asked to repeat yourself and I assume the runner is trying to focus on the beat of the music. One gentleman with gaiters and I chatted for a while until he sped up. I did not. Our topic of conversation was mostly about gaiters since that was our commonality. He was new to ultra-running and I have no excuse for why I was one of just a few wearing gaiters. Of course my gaiter sissiness was to be completely obscured by my use of a poncho during the "rain-storms".

Pretty soon we were arriving at the first aid station. The volunteers were so nice and the treats laid out were yummy looking. I ran through the aid station the first time knowing we had .4 miles to get back to it for a short section that made the course 31 miles. On this out and back I saw my gaitered friend and a few other runners. I believe I was about 5th from last at this point but was not worried because timing wise I was running ~12 minute miles.

Coming back through the aid station a few minutes later nice volunteers plied us with food and drink. I drank several cups of gatorade and asked if I could mark my cup for later when I returned at mile 25. They asked what to put on my cup and I suggested "T" "a" "m" "m" "y". Then I suggested they write something de-motivational or un-inspirational like,

"You look really bad, maybe you should just quit now"

because it would crack me up later on the return. Sadly they just stuck with my name. I was getting tired of carrying my stuff and decided it was time to jettison at least my long pants and heavy jacket. I asked if I could put my bag at the aid station and pick it up later and they said this was fine. They even suggested if I forgot it, it would arrive at the main aid station which was really nice.

Upon arriving at this aid station I cased the joint examining treat options and saw the regular ultra fare of banana's, pretzels, salty potatoes, as well as special treats like a variety of homemade cookies. The homemade cookies were a big attractor for me at this race but I knew I needed to pace myself. I selected a cranberry nut cookie. My other options at this aid station were a orange cookie, oatmeal raisin and white chocolate chip. With my cookie in hand I crossed the railroad bridge over the New River and continued on my journey along Chandler Creek. The cookie was really yummy and luckily was fortified with courage....

After about 600 meters I arrive at the tunnel. This is an unexpected turn of events and I have no idea how long this tunnel is, if it has wild and rabid creatures in it or if anyone has disappeared in the tunnel. But alas with my cookie courage (and after a few goofy pictures upon entering the tunnel including: rage, fear, horror, sadness), I scampered through the tunnel.


joyRuN said...

Geez. You're making me want to try one of these things!

Congrats on a HUGE PR :)

Anonymous said...

Leaving me hanging! What happens next! Oh, the suspense! Does that mean she made it out of the tunnel alive??

Runner Tammy said...


You definitely should consider some ultra's. A 50 km is only 5 miles longer than a marathon, but in fact I would say there are many more folks who do lots of walking and little running. This 50 km had a 7 hour time limit (and everyone finished although a few finished a few minutes after the cutoff). But some 50 kms have an even longer cutoff.


Well, I will just say the tunnel changed me...or maybe I wussed out and ran back to the start ensuring a PR (since I did not have a pacer to protect me...which is a pacers job, right???)


CTmarathoner said...

wow --what an adventure!! Congrats on completing this tunnel 50K and sounds like your plans for Javelina are right on target --wish i was going to join you!!! I have had foot problems and will be lucky to finish NYCM without pain..think I did too much paved running and that's why this 50K and javelina sound great!!
I am hoping to join you for rr 50:)
In the meantime good job at the 50K -what happened in the tunnel??

Runner Tammy said...

What goes on in the tunnel stays in the tunnel...

Actually it was not too bad but it was very unexpected to go through a tunnel in a race.