Monday, October 17, 2016

Big Brad 50k Race Report 2016

Some races, the pieces all fall into place and it is just *right* out there. Some days, thing don't go your way but you gut it out and push on through and you Other times (see TARC Fall Classic 2016, Fells 2014, Pineland 50k 2010), it just doesn't happen for one reason or another, and you get a big, fat, sad DNF next to your name.

I think we learn from each and every race we run, but obviously the first scenario is the most fun. And Sunday, well, I lucked out and the pieces fell into place. I felt focused and good, I didn't get in my own way, I wanted and was able to push and it all worked out to what I would call a really happy race experience that I'm proud of. I met my goals, I enjoyed being out on the trails, I felt happy and strong and just plain *good*. And because I know they won't all be like this, it's even sweeter.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that this course intimidated me and I get nervous running where lots of people I know are watching. I have a competitive nature that I like to deny and I didn't want to let anyone (or myself) down with this race, even though I know no one really cares in the end. Sometimes it seems easier to race in anonymity far away than in front of all your friends and the awesome running club you run with. Perhaps that makes no sense to anyone but me, as TMR is *awesome* and totally supportive and of course, on race day, it was great to have everyone out there cheering me on. But in any event, that was what was in my brain, so, to lessen the stress I was feeling, I had framed the race in my head as a training run. I took a down week the week prior, but had run two 50 mile weeks before that. And during race week, I put in enough miles to make the full week a solid one, so my taper was perhaps a bit less taper-like than might have been wise ;)

The other complicated aspect of this race was that Ryan was manning his aid station out on Lawrence Road all day long, so me running meant Sam would have to be out there with him too. I was a bit unsure about how it was all going to work out, as I wanted her to have a good day and I didn't want her to get in the way of his job out there. We talked it through a number of times and Ryan convinced me she would be fine. So, at 7:15 am Sunday morning, with Sam in tow, I headed over to Lawrence Road, where I dropped her off before I headed to the start/finish. Thankfully, Sam was incredibly awesome all day long and had a lot of fun. I am so thankful that she just sees this stuff as normal and was content to run around and play with her little friend Emma for the morning, and knit with Keri, play in the leaves with John and Tyler, and help fill water cups and food bowls at the aid station and in general be an all-star kid for the day. I feel truly lucky to have such good friends who will play and hang out with Sam and to have such a great kiddo! It made the day much easier for me! Of course, she also apparently sat in dog poop while she was out there and waited a few hours before telling Ryan about it, but overall, I think we can call it a good day ;)

It was a beautiful morning, clear and cool. Despite the chill in the air at the start, I knew it was supposed to warm up, so I stuck with my plan to wear shorts and short sleeves, adding in a pair of arm sleeves and gloves to keep me warm at the beginning. We took off right at 9:00 am, headed uphill towards the park. I didn't want to start too far back in the fray, so I tried to place myself at the back of the front of the pack, or the beginning of the middle, which meant I probably pushed a bit more up Lunchbreak and out on the east side than I might have otherwise as I was either part of or leading a train in the first 7 miles or so, but I was just going with the flow and although I was working, I didn't feel on the brink. I knew that Jennifer VanDongen would be first female overall and sure enough, she took off like a rocket with a pack of fast guys at the beginning. I fell in behind a woman with a white shirt, and we ended up leap-frogging a fair amount throughout the first 7 miles before she got ahead of me.

Pre-race meeting. Game face or just plain fearful? ;)

The start, right next to the lady in white (Photo by: Tamerella's Photographs)

The course had been leaf-blown in a lot of spots and was very well marked, and the early miles went by quickly. I was feeling good and focused and didn't need to stop at Kate's aid station at 7+ miles, but I did make a quick stop at the bathroom there before continuing on. I had lost the girl in the white shirt and ended up with another woman trailing me for a few miles after that but eventually lost her going up the Connector hill to Tryon.

Loved the new boulder section at the beginning of Lunchbreak Hill!

Gorgeous trail

Leaf-blown goodness ;)

I was looking forward to seeing Ryan and Sam out at Lawrence Road and dropped my arm sleeves there before continuing on down to the road stretch. I like Snowman's loop - it is a good mix of terrain and fun to run. I ran with a few guys out there, chatting with them along the way and quickly enough was back at the aid station. Somewhere along the way, I ended up running and leapfrogging and chatting with a guy in a blue shirt and red Salomon vest. We would continue to run near each other for the rest of the race, me running faster on the uphills and him on the downhills.

Sam having fun in the leaves

Tyler burying Sam in the leaves

Awesome crew at Snowman's aid station 

Coming into Snowman's aid station at mile 10 (Photo by: Tamerella's Photographs)

Heading out onto the 3 mile loop

Ryan had asked me as I was leaving the aid station to head back up the hill if I wanted to know what place I was in. I said no, but I had a guess. I was guessing I was in 3rd, as the woman in white and Jennifer were ahead and I had managed to get ahead of two other women who I had been running near prior to the aid station. From Lawrence Road, it's only 3 miles back to the school but there is a good climb to get up near the summit before the downhill on Lunchbreak. My time coming through the first lap was around 2:52 and I was certainly happy with that. I had set up a chair with my water bottle and box of gels, etc near the drop bag area, so again, I skipped the aid station table and headed right over to my spot. My bladder was almost empty and the day was getting warm so I shed my gloves as I restocked my gels and filled my bladder up. I was sad to see that my snickers bar had melted in the sun but the Reese's PB Egg didn't seem too mushy so I grabbed that to eat as I walked up the hill. It was a fairly quick stop and soon enough I was off again. Only one more lap to go...

A bit more walking up Lunchbreak this time around but I was still feeling good. I also liked that I had a bit more space on this lap to do my own thing and not feel caught up in a group. Of course, as I came up to the summit and then down into the park, there were a lot of people on the trail, but they were people out walking and enjoying the day. Most were courteous and stepped aside; others not so much, but I tried to be polite and say thank you as I wound my way around them. I had had 6 gels on the first lap, and then ate my PB egg up Lunchbreak so I didn't feel the need to stop at Kate's aid station down in the park and just rolled on through.

Heading onto the east side at mile 17+

Coming back through at 22

Crossing Rt. 9, I saw Jennifer coming towards me, looking strong. 5 miles ahead of me already! WOW! Super impressive. I managed two gels on the east side loop, and although I know I was running slower this time around, I focused on keeping the pace up and not getting lost in lala land and really slowing down. And it paid off as when I was passing Kate's aid station the second time around, I saw the lady in white and her friend right up ahead.

Last year at TARC 100, I had gotten ahead of the woman in 2nd place on my final loop, but the stress of knowing I was in 2nd and that she was trailing right behind me was too much and I couldn't handle it; I told Val I needed to let her by. That might be my one and only regret of that race. I suspect I could have held her off but I just was not in a place mentally to do so. So, here I was, coming up on the 2nd place woman at mile 22+ in this race. But honestly, in this scenario, there was no hemming and hawing. I was going to pass her, for sure. I made my pass at the end of the field as we headed back onto the trail, and worked hard to make it a decisive enough pass that hopefully she wouldn't be tempted to try to pass me back ;) I said hello, and she said the first lap was more fun, to which I replied, it always is, and then I took off. I didn't sprint but I just powered up the trail as if it was nothing.

Of course, this meant that if my assumptions were correct, I was now in 2nd place and I wanted to stay there. With 9 miles to go, I still had a lot of ground to cover but I just kept moving along, steadily. I unfortunately ran out of water along the Connector and my quads began to feel a bit crampy. I had a few salt tabs with the little bit of water I could eke out of my bladder and hoped for the best. I wondered if my bladder was leaking as my back and pack were awfully wet, but Ryan told me later that a lot of people seemed to be struggling with dehydration and the warmth and humidity of the afternoon, which had snuck up on us after a cool morning. So, probably I had just drained my bladder, and before I had even hit 10 miles into the loop!

So, obviously, this time around, I did come to a full stop at the aid station and while Ryan and Tammy fill my pack, I drank back two cups of coke in quick succession. I knew I wouldn't be having any more gels. My stomach hadn't been thrilled with the last one around mile 21, as is sometimes the case when I'm pushing hard, and I knew the coke would do the trick. Nothing like sugar and caffeine to fuel the final miles of an ultra! ;)

As I got my pack back on, I asked Ryan to keep an eye out for the lady in white and to let me know how far back she was when I came through the aid station for the final time. I was running a bit scared, for sure. And with that, I took off down the road, following my friend in the blue shirt/red pack. A little more walking this time around but still pushing.

Downing a cup of coke before I take off for the final 3 miles

Fourth, and final, time through the aid station. Ryan said she was 3 minutes back to which I am sure I replied, "Shit!" One more cup of coke and another for the road, and I was off. No time to waste. I pushed as much as I could, but I was tired and my quads were seriously unhappy with me. I had no more salt tabs left so I just ran as much as I could and walked as fast as I could on the uphills and hoped I could hold out without succumbing to cramps until the finish. I mean, come on, Danielle, it's only 3 miles. But still, 3 hard miles! At some point on the Connector, I passed my friend in the blue shirt/red vest. I pushed and I hoped and I got down Lunchbreak as fast as I could. I tried to sprint across the line but it was more like a hobble. HA! Still, I finished with my watch showing 5:57 so goal #1 of under 6 hours achieved. And there had been no breakdowns, no negative talk, no nothing, just focus and happiness and a good attitude, so goal #2 of enjoying it while working it also very much accomplished. And yes, I had come in 2nd. Secret pie-in-the-sky goal #3 of getting a top 3 spot also achieved. Of course, Jennifer finished more than an hour ahead of me, and in other years there were certainly women with times in between Jennifer's and mine who would have bumped me out, but still, I was really happy with how I ran the race, and proud of my effort. And, oh so glad to be done :) It was a good day!

Odds and ends/shout outs/thank yous:

1) One of the really fun things about this course was that with the few two way traffic sections, I was able to see a lot of my teammates and friends along the way. It was great seeing Brendan and Mike rocking the 50k, and Jennifer too. I saw George when I was at the top of Lunchbreak the second time around and he was all smiles as always. I saw Laura, on her way to 1st female in the 50 miler, and Carolyn, Chad, Mike and Xar too. It was a boost each time I saw a friend out there. Congrats to everyone who rocked it out there!

2) Val, Mindy and Ian and the whole TMR crew put on a great race, with smiling, friendly volunteers, great food at the finish line, and one heck of a course. Sunday was a gorgeous day to be out running in the woods on the trails I know and love, and I am happy I made the decision to race this year. It was fun to experience this race from the runner's perspective after volunteering for multiple years.

3) And speaking of, to all my friends volunteering at the aid stations, thank you thank you thank you. This race couldn't have happened without you! Your cheers and smiling faces and help out there were awesome!

4) And of course, to Ryan and Sam, thank you for being so awesome all day long, and for believing in me as always :) I am one lucky lady. Not to mention, it was great to drive back to the aid station after I had finished and changed and chatted with friends and had some food, to find Sam still happily playing away, not wanting to leave. Future crew and ultrarunner in the making, with 9 hours out on the race course and still smiling :)

5) My prize was this awesome shoe, decorated by the kids from the elementary school. How cool is that?!

2nd place female

2nd of 15 women


Anonymous said...

Fun and exciting to read this report! Congrats, D!


Sparkplug said...

Thanks, Ann! So good to see you at the finish line!

Tami said...

You were amazing and I'm so happy that your day fell into place! Again, nice work! :)

Sparkplug said...

Thanks and you were pretty awesome too, Tami! 50k a few weeks before Stonecat, no problem?! Impressed!! :)