trailstasher

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Promise Land 50K trail race April 25 2015

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.

http://www.extremeultrarunning.com/2015_pl/application.pdf

http://www.extremeultrarunning.com/2015_pl/entrants

Look at the major climbing and elevation change!

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PL2

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.

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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.

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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.

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My garmin report: https://connect.garmin.com/activity/757860206

Patagonia finisher shorts! (anyone that finished under 10 hours)

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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.

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Willis River 50k Jan 2014

A group of 12 of us participated in the Willis River 35 and 50K, near Farmville, VA.  Farmville, is roughly 2.5 hours from Roanoke, on the eastern side of  Lynchburg.  The race is a trail race in the Bear Creek State Park.

Friends that participated with me, are as follows:  Gina Gilbert, David Landes, Carla Cross, James Decker, Robert Drinkwater, Helen MacDermott, Sean Cooper, Dru Sexton, Josh Gilbert, Jon Robinson, Matt Prescott and Emily Morris.  Sara Martin had planned to race with us, but an injury kept her out.

This was an incredible adventure and experience.  I knew days ahead, that the forecast was calling for rain on race day.  I did not think much of it, as the temperature was supposed to be in the 50s.  I had recently ran a rainy, 39 degree trail half recently and fared well.

I got up at 3 am and met Gina, Josh and some others to caravan to the race.  We got there and realized that the ground was completely saturated with rain.  People were parking their car, upon arrival and getting stuck in the grassy field.  I was a little concerned with how to dress, as I knew more rain was coming and it seemed cold with no relief in sight.  I went with the MJ Rnuts series black base layer with a technical ss shirt on top of that (the 2012 CtC shirt).  I wore gloves and shorts.  I never got cold..what I wore was perfect.

8am start…we were off around 5 minutes after.

The race is a primitive, wooded trail  Most or all of the trails are not very worn down.  Some parts of the trail seem like you are just running through random woods.  You go 10 miles to an aid station on a road, then turn around to do the same 10 miles the other way.  That is the 35k race.  You then have a choice to go the opposite way and do 5 miles, then turn around and come back, for the 50K.  There are aid stations approximately every 5 miles.

The trail is very hard to follow!  You are following white hash marks, but you are also following white ribbons.  At times, there are white ribbons telling you to make a turn.  You can easily miss a turn, if you are looking ahead at other white hash marks and not looking for ribbons.  There is no shame in missing a turn on this race.

The trails were water filled and extremely muddy.  Your feet sank into the mud and water.  The trails were like creeks with running or standing water in them.  You had no choice but to run in the water.  It was a constant slop, slop, splash, slop..

The mud was so bad that my feet were constantly sliding off the mud and one foot would bang into the other leg.

It started getting dark about 2 miles in and started raining soon after.  The steady rain lasted the majority of the rest of the race.  Lightning and thunder happened, as well.

Where there are not normally creeks, there were creeks..everywhere.  These were big enough that you could not hardly jump over and had to step into the water.  There were some normal creeks that you had to cross.  There were big rivers that you had to cross.  On a normal day the creeks would be really low and the rivers not a big deal.  This day was not ordinary…everything was way up.  We had to cross several rivers that were very high with very strong current.  They were 10 yards or so wide..some may have been wider.  I heard reports of people getting swept by the river current and having to get helped out of the water.

Through all the conditions, I felt pretty good.  I never got cold like some of the others, even though I was drenched.  I tried to start slow, but still passed some friends the first few miles.  Carla Cross and I ran together for a small portion.  I saw her for the last time at the 10 mile aid station.  I lost track of Gina, David and Helen before the 10 mile mark.  I turned around at the 10 mile mark and kept expecting to see them behind me.  Several minutes later, I still had not seen them.  I was thinking “What the heck is going on?  Where are they?  Did I miss them?”.  Finally, 2 miles from the turn around I ran into them.  They were not sure where they were.  I advised that they had 2 miles to go, just to get to the 10 mile turn around.  They were pretty disgusted.  They had missed a turn and wasted a solid hour or so.  Helen and Sean decided to turn around at that point and take a DNF.  David and Gina completed the 35K, but did not finish in enough time to be able to finish the 50K.  I really hated that for David and Gina.  This was David’s first 50K and Gina had never went past the 35K on this race.  They both really wanted to finish the 50K, so it was disappointing to have the missed turn mess them up.  They were in a group and got detoured by someone else.  I noticed Dru didn’t look good at the 10 mile turnaround.  She ended up being cold (and recovering from a cold)..she dropped out.  Robert was running with her and made sure she was taken care of.

I was amazed by the conditions and my excitement about it all.  I kept feeling like I was in Navy Seal training.

Josh met me at mile 19 and ran the last mile with me to the 35k finish.  Everyone was beat down by the mud, rain, water, river crossings, cold, etc.

After I finished the 35K finish line at 4:09, Josh and the race director assumed and asked if I was done.  I said to let me think about it for a minute.  I asked them if Robert had stopped.  Josh had already said that Decker stopped at the 35K.  He said Matt Prescott wanted to stop, but the director told him he had a good chance to win the 50k, if he went on.  John Robinson went on for the 50k, but was having a knee issue.  At first, I thought that if Robert went on to do the 50K then I would.  If he only did the 35K, then that would give me an excuse to stop at the 35K.  I was tired, but I actually felt pretty decent.  After I found out that Robert stopped at the 35K, Josh and I talked.  He suggested that I could outdo Robert if I completed the 50K.  That made up my mind.  I told him and the director that I was going on.

That last 10 was kind of lonely, as there was only 15 of us that went on.  We were pretty spread out.  The first mile or so was easy, as it was a very popular, well used trail.  It soon got back to the tough woods, the swamps and rivers.  The rivers got worse on that stretch, as it had been raining more steady.  I used a big stick to help me wade through the rivers.  I just kept trudging on..I had to hike a lot.  My legs were too tired to run, unless it was flat or downhill.

I met Matt and then John, as they were heading back to the finish.  I assumed they were first and second place and I was happy for them.

I finally reached the 5 mile aid station and turned around.  I “ran” with a guy from Richmond for a while.  He was in his 50s and part of the Richmond Road Runners Club.  He has done this race several times and has done Promise Land 8 or 9 times.  He passed me and put a little distance between us those last 3 miles.

With around 1 mile to go, David Landes was waiting on me, near a river crossing.  I was glad to see him.  He ran that last mile with me.  I was also happy to see that Gina, Dru, and Sean were waiting at the finish line for me..that meant a lot.  I was honored that they waited, even though I asked Josh (at end of 35K) that no one wait on me.

I finished the race at 7:04, so it took almost 3 hours to do that last 10, between me being tired and the conditions and terrain.

I got several compliments for finishing the race in those conditions.  I would say that was my best race yet, as far as the adventure aspect of it.   I had a blast.  I had felt good and strong all day…that is a great feeling.

Here is my garmin report. http://connect.garmin.com/activity/429039183

Here is the results link, separated into 35K and 50K http://www.rrrc.org/page/rrrc-race-results

I would definitely do this race again.  The conditions would not normally be like this, but I enjoyed it.  The conditions added a lot to this race.  There are no big climbs…relatively flat, runnable terrain.

I highly recommend this as a first ultra race.

http://stasher.blog.com/2014/01/15/willis-river-50k/willisshirt-2/

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