Do let the video/song play in the background while you read the race report.
Arrived in Charlottesville after a 9.5 hour drive. The route took us through about 3 hours of country roads that whipped around the Appalachians. I played a fun game that involved setting the cruise control at 60mph and then seeing how long i could go without either A) hitting the brakes or B) hitting the rumble strips on either side of the road. It was sort of like playing "Operation" but with higher stakes.
Night before I dipped into a number of Yuenglings, as I can't buy it up in Michigan and i love it very much, especially for high-volume nights of drinking, yesh.
The race started at the top of a dam between two beautiful mountains (i'll try to not to gush about how great everything looked, but this was the first time I had run mountain trails, so i was prone to gawking).
We entered the trail system almost immediately and, right on time, my head lamp fucked up. So i ran in the dark for a while, trying to closely follow a few guys so i could leech off of their light. Sunrise came soon enough and I was tempted to throw my headlamp into a ditch...but that would littering...so I opted to eat it, instead. Fucking garbage. Don't buy PTEC headlamps no matter how light and cheap they are.
The aid stations came fast and furious for the first 13 miles, which lulled me into complacency that I would pay for dearly. First, though, we hit a glorious 6 mile decent at about 6:30/mile, HR 140, chasing some guy, dodging rocks and runners and loving life. I should note, here, that the trail system around Sherando Lake has many sections that are extremely rocky. Not like loose stones, but like sharp, jagged rocks jutting out deceptively from the pine needles. Other sections are composed entirely of bread-loaf sized stone without dirt or sturdy place to foot plant. It was an ankle-snapping good time.
Onwards: We hit the half-marathon mark and headed out on 4 miles of gravel roads where i put some time on a few people. Upon turning back to the trails, I came to a section with an aid station that marks the trail heads for two spurs. The 50 milers do both out and backs.
Each spur involved a climb up and a decent. The first spur was a quick up-and-over a ridge and I hole-punched my bib at the bottom and ran back. As I passed the aid station on my way towards the second spur, I didn't realize how long it'd take to summit the second climb. I was running a fairly large calorie deficit and didn't refill my water bottle. What threw me off was 4 miles of flat trail leading to the summit itself, which involved a series of about 8 switch backs, some of which were around 20% or more grade. I started to bonk very hard here, tunnel vision and drunken weaving, limply swinging my empty water bottle. I watched the guy I had been chasing earlier power hike away into the distance. This part was pure suffering of the mental variety, but I stared at my feet and hiked for about 1,000 years until I got to the top. I ate as much as I thought I could handle before turning around and hitting the downhill. I felt better instantly and ran the switches back down as hard as I could.
In the back on my mind, I was also a little nervous about my effort in the race thus far. I was pushing it, I felt good, but like I was really working and I was still under the half-way mark. This was new territory for me.
After returning to the two-spur's aid station, the guy I had chased down that initial 6 mile decent and who had hiked away from me on that shitty summit was sitting down in a chair. I was a little surprised to hear that he, too, was dealing with some bonking issues. I felt rough still, but ate some more and started a slow shuffle away from the aid station, expecting the dude to catch me eventually. I actually walked a bit here on the flat jeep road. I needed to let all that food I had eaten settle. I had overdone it a bit. I also, um, called my girlfriend here. She had enjoyed her 10 mile race that morning and wished me luck. I considered texting her a photo of my johnson. Standard mid-race maneuver.
Back to running: I hit the gravel roads and tried to pick up the pace again. Now it was uphill and things were feeling rough. I kept thinking about that guy, sitting in the chair, gathering his strength and plowing past me in no time. I got to an aid station, refilled and lo and behold, here comes dude charging up the road, looking daisy-fresh. Fuck.
Not that I'm super competitive. It's more that I appreciate the added motivation that other runners provide during moments of difficulty. Or something.
Anyway, I refilled my bottle and got the fuck out of dodge. This began the worst part of the race. That fun 6 mile decent early on? Now we had to hike back up it. In general, it was 75% un-runnable for me. I was smoked. So tired. I learned quickly to not look up the trail, as it only continued to climb straight up the hill. Dude did not catch up.
After my 90th birthday, I finished most of the climb, ate some oreos at an aid station and then finished the last mile-ish of the climb. Now it was rolling and very very rocky again. Some parts were so rocky and my legs were so sloppy that I ended up picking my way through the stones rather than try to maintain a true run. I thought for sure that I was going to be passed here. I was just in survival mode, walking at times, shuffling when I could, etc.
Ultimately, I came to the final 2 mile decent off the mountain. This was the steepest and most technical section of the race. My quads felt like they had been worked over with a ball-peen hammer and I was really not looking forward to this part. The first few steps were excruciatingly painful, but I kept running and picking my way over the giant rocks and roots until all of a sudden, nothing hurt any more. I ran those final two miles as hard as I've ever run a downhill and it was by far the most challenging trail running I have enjoyed up to this point in my life. Transcendental. Epiphanic. Spiritual. All of the above.
Hit the bottom, passed an aid station and headed down the final 1.5 miles of mostly paved roads back to the finish. I kicked surprisingly hard with about a quarter mile to go and passed a guy with about less than 100 ft. to the finish...turns out my 10 hour day of running was good for 10th place out of 80-ish finishers. Balloons and cake.
This may be my most straight forward race report ever. I wrote it very early on Sunday morning...early enough that i hadn't started drinking, so that might have something to do with it.
I would post photos and video but my drop bag (with the camera) is supposedly being mailed back to me (or is sitting on the floor of some guy's apartment while he tries to craigslist the contents. if you see a purple dildo with "PDT4EVR" engraved on it, please let me know).
With the race included, I ran 76 miles this week. two 10-milers, a 5 miler the day before the race and 1 mile around the block in some new shoes.