Promise Land 50K++ (34+ miles) of tough mountain trails..LOTS of climbing..technical..and beautiful. This is arguably the toughest/best 50K on the East coast.
Look at the major climbing and elevation change!
This was my first 50K, back in 2012, when only barely trained up for a half marathon level. After that 2012 race, my ankles and hip flexors were absolutely trashed and hurting bad. I was happy just to finish the 2012 race under the 10 hour cutoff. I think I ended up with a 9:20 or so time.
Moving forward to 2015. I was still not trained up for this. I trained off and on the last part of 2014 at the 13 to 16 mile level. 2015 has mostly consisted of racing, resting, tapering and resting again, so no real training at all. But…that is basically how I roll. I tough out these ultras on half marathon level training.
My goal for this race was 8 hours, but realistically I was predicting around an 8:30 time. My prediction was based off of the other ultras I did this year. My time at Terrapin was 7:28, so I figured to add roughly an hour for the 4 extra miles (as Terrapin had lots of climbing, as well). I was also worried about my legs recovering and feeling strong for this race. I have done too many back to back races, without much recovery time. This will be my fourth ultra in 4 months, plus a 15 mile race, a 10 mile race, and a few 10ks. The 10ks were even extremely tough ones! I had a few decent training runs since November, but not many.
This race is/was exciting for several different reasons. First, it is an exciting race by itself, due to the toughness, atmosphere, reputation and beauty. This is pretty much a bucket list type race for the East coast, anyway. We camped out at the race site, the night before. Camping out there is an absolute must do. There is a big grassy field that everyone parks and sets their tents up at. Another reason it was exciting was that 2 of my best friends were doing their first ultra…Sara Martin and Robert Drinkwater. I was very excited for them. It was also Brian Lang’s first ultra.
Other friends that raced were Dru Sexton, Josh Gilbert, James Decker, Matt Prescott, David Landes and Caleb Johnson. Gina Gilbert was there crewing and supporting us all day!
Race start at 5:30am! I slept ok and got up at 4:30. I didn’t habe coffee, which is an extrem rarity for me. It was in the low 40s I think I had shorts, a short sleeve shirt and a long sleeve shirt on. I ended up tying the king sleeve shirt around my waist for most of the day. The weather is extremely unpredictable here, especially at the different elevations.
The race starts at the camp and goes up a gravel road for less than 3 miles. We hit single track after that. There is some climbing, but then you hit an extremely nice part..smooth trail, grassy with views and very little climbing. You climb some more. Early in the race and depending on where we were on elevation, it was sleeting! Yet, it was relatively warm while sleeting..odd. A technical beating downhill is next..then a good stretch of road going downhill. You are now at the lowest point at mile 20. You know there is lots of climbing left.
From mile 12sh to mile 30 is called the “Dark Side”. You can see why on the map. I had totally forgot how hard mile 20 to 30 is, especially with 20-mile-tired-legs. This part is going to Apple Orchard Falls and the climb after that. It is very very technical and lots of climbing. This is part of what makes this race what it is..it is beautiful, but comes with a price. I thought I had a chance at a sub 8 race until I got to this part. I was painfully slow. There was a group of 3 college age kids that was near me. One girl (that looked very strong earlier) kept bending over like she was going to puke. Her 2 friends kept waiting up for her, but finally left her after the falls.
At some point, later in the race, it got really cold. It had been light raining off and on all day. I had tied my long sleeve shirt around my waist. I put it on for the rest of the race.
At times the race felt like a death march. It was brutally slow (for me) and just flat out tough. Words cannot really describe how hard that Apple Orchard Falls portion is. People and myself were moaning and groaning in this section near Apple Orchard Falls. There was more water coming over the falls than I have ever seen.
We went through Cornelius Gap aid station twice in the middle of the race. It was great to see Helen MacDermott there volunteering and smiling.
These 2 videos give you a small taste of the Apple Orchard Falls section.
I FINALLY made it to mile 30..I had a couple small climbs left, then all down hill on a gravel road to the finish. My sub 8 hour time was long out of reach, but I finished before the 8:30 time that I figured I would be around.
Gina was waiting for me at end of the road..see below picture. I don’t look too tired and miserable :).
Sara, Robert and Dru were waiting for me at the finish line…always nice to have a reception.
My garmin report: https://connect.garmin.com/activity/757860206
Patagonia finisher shorts! (anyone that finished under 10 hours)
Sara and Robert did outstanding. Sara was right at the 7 hour mark and Robert was a little behind her. I was extremely happy for Sara and Robert.
Josh was the fastest I think at well under 6 hours. David Landes had a great race at a little over 6. Everyone did well. I am by far the “caboose” of our Mountain Junkie group. I think I was 45 minutes behind the second to last person in our group. I hate that they have to wait on me…and do not expect it. I do appreciate it though. It is a little humbling to finish 2 plus hours behind a few of my friends (not all of them by any means), but that is how good they are and how average I am.
I always feel like it is a success just to finish this race. There is so much that can happen.
Another great (pure) adventure and one for the books.