After a 5 week layoff from training in December and January (and gaining 10 pounds) I sort of let myself get sucked into doing this Southwest Virginia Triple Crown series of three 50 k races that I was not planning on doing. I was thinking I would do 2 of those races, The Smith Mountain Lake Dam 50 k, and Promise Land 50k, but not the Holiday Lake 50k. Then this series became available. Amazing what we runners will put ourselves through for a Tee shirt! Anyway, doing Holiday Lake in February with little training was probably not a good thing for all these nagging pains I get that prevent me from training as hard as I want to. A month and a half later I finished the Dam 50k which included a good bit of road running which is good for my summer road marathon plans.
So, 4 weeks after the Dam 50k, now at Promise Land, the day started off with about 300 trail runners slogging uphill on the first ascent by headlamp in the rainy mist for the first 4 miles and I realized I was hiking uphill pretty good and was feeling ok. One never knows about how you will feel come race time until you are actually underway and moving along. As we started our rolling descents and ascents on the grassy horse trail road toward aid station 2 at Upper Reed Creek, I kept an ongoing check on how I felt, trying not to go too fast on the gravity aided down slopes and trying not to lose too much time on the short climbs. Alissa Kieth and I kept passing each other and tagging along together for a good bit all the way through aid station 3 at Sunset Field on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and then on the descent down the upper part of Apple Orchard trail. I was checking my time to that point and it seemed I might be on pace for a PR (Personal Record) or close to it. Once we got on the grassy forest road headed toward Cornelius Creek trail, Alissa pulled ahead and I let her go. I had to stop for about 4 or 5 minutes along there to fertilize the trees. On down the Cornelius Creek trail I again was trying to be careful not to go too fast. The slight downhill road section between aid station 4 at Cornelius Creek and where the course turns onto Whitetail Trail, I know I ran too fast, like I always do, but I usually recover pretty quickly with a little hiking on the single track section there. That would not be the case on this day. I had blown up, I was shot, out of gas, bonked, or whatever you want to call that "out of energy / legs will not co-operate" feeling that happens when you burn the wick just a little too bright on the front end of a race. I think I was way too optimistic with how good I felt early in this race and it greatly affected my speed, or rather lack thereof, on the "dark side". The "dark side" is what Promise Land runners, and especially us local runners in the Lynchburg area, have come to call the part of the course that is to the west of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I think I first heard that "dark side" descriptor from David Horton on a training run on that section back in 2008 when he was still running. That is about from mile 13 to about mile 29 in this 34 mile race, and includes a three mile steep climb up Apple Orchard Falls trail...after you have already done a marathon distance...on trails...in the mountains!
After reaching Sunset Field the second time, I glanced at my watch and realized I might have just run the fastest time I had ever done during this race from the start to Sunset Field the first time, and the slowest time I had ever done the segment from there back to Sunset Field the second time. So much for a PR. Not going to happen. I would be hard pressed to finish an hour slower than my PR on this course of 6 hrs 49 min. I tried to make the most of the down hill from there to the finish but had to be careful not to hammer the down hill too hard while still on the single track section, as I could feel my legs were on the verge of muscle cramps. I have cramped baaaddd in that section before and sure did not want to now. Finally, back on the gravel of Overstreet Creek road, that will take me back to Promise Land Camp, I let gravity work and ease off the brakes. The last mile my watch says I ran in 7 min. 25 sec. and at some point had reached a 6:34 pace for a few seconds. After I crossed the finish line I forgot to stop my watch for a few minutes, so I will have to wait for the official results to be posted. I was somewhere close to 7 hrs 40 min.
One of my slower overall times on this course, but it hasn't discouraged me. My training the past few weeks has been gearing up for a down hill road marathon I plan to do in June. I have not been focusing on the monster climbs these mountain races have. I did well for about 19 or 20 miles. I completed the Southwest Virginia Triple Crown and got the tee shirt! I got a nice pair of Patagonia Nine Trails running shorts with zippered pockets as the finish award for the Promise Land race! I am not injured. I am going into the heart of my road marathon training with a good base. Hopefully I will be able to get a Boston Marathon Qualifying time. Looking forward to Track Tuesdays and a few downhill runs on Thunder Ridge in the near future! If you want to join in, hit me on face book.