Sunday, April 15, 2018

2018 Jordan Lake 6-Hour Challenge Race Report

We are hard pressed to go on vacation and not find a race to finagle into the schedule ;) This year, we looked and looked and weren't sure we were going to find anything, but a little bit of additional searching yielded the Jordan Lake 12- and 6-Hour Challenge. We weren't crazy enough to sign up for 12 hours of running in loops, but Ryan has always had an interested in these type of timed events, and I figured, what the heck, it would be a good 6 hours on my feet as a training run, so we signed on up!

My plan was for the week to be a second higher mileage week so I didn't really taper for the run, and honestly I wasn't quite thinking of it as a race as it was hard for me to envision how it would go shooting for hour versus miles. I did have 50k as my "at least" goal (24 laps of the 1.35 mile loop) with 27 laps (or 35.1 miles) as what I thought I might be able to pull off on a really good day. In any event, after keeping the mileage mellow but decent Tuesday through Thursday, Friday was a day off of running. We went up to the golf practice range and hit some balls around and Sam got in some swimming and water fun up at the indoor pool.

Later in the afternoon, Ryan and I headed up towards Raleigh for the night. The race started at 7:00 am and it was an almost 2 hour drive, so we decided that staying overnight in a hotel pre-race made the most sense. While we were gone, Sam, Neenie and Pip had dinner up at the club 💗

We got checked into the hotel, had a yummy pizza dinner at Your Pie, got a few supplies at Harris Teeter, got ourselves organized and headed to bed early in anticipation of an early wake up.

We arrived at Jordan Lake Educational State Forest, the site of the race, around 6:00 am and it was already 63 degrees. It was also still dark out and of course, neither of us had thought to bring headlamps ;) so we bumbled around in the dark for a while until the sky started to lighten.

We got our chairs and cooler set up near the aid station area at the start/finish and milled around with the other runners until it was time to start.

The loop was 1.35 miles long, but thankfully wasn't really monotonous as it was easy to break into little sections. We started on a gravel trail that wound up through a picnic area. The gravel seemed newly laid down and it was squishy and hard to run on - ugh! - especially in the earlier loops until it got packed down. Then we ran across a gravel road and through a maintenance area before hitting an open field that ran down to the edge of Jordan Lake. So pretty in the first few laps with the sun rising that I actually did take out my phone for a quick (if slightly blurry) photo. The field was the most open part of the loop and definitely got hot later in the day.

The course then ran along the lake on a wide uneven, grassy road with some little rollers for a ways, then met back up with a pine needle-laden path/trail that hooked back up with the gravel path that led us back to the start/finish area. And then it was the same thing over (and over and over) again :) The course was a bit less flat and a bit more uneven than I think either of us had anticipated, but with the different sections it kept things from becoming boring.

My plan was just to run comfortably at the beginning, not worrying too much about pace, knowing that I'd probably slow down later as it got hotter. My legs were a little creaky at first but I was running sub-10 minute pace and felt decent, and just sort of settled in. Ryan, of course, had shot off at the front and was nowhere to be seen. I was hoping I could get through 10 miles before he lapped me, and I ended up making it to 9.75 miles before he came through, so I'll say that's not that bad ;)

Although there was a slight breeze and it wasn't super hot in the first few hours, it was very humid and I was soaked. I had to stop after 3 laps for a bathroom break, but otherwise, just took in my gels every 3 miles and drank from my pack for the first two hours without stopping at the aid station/our area. I wasn't running with anyone, just passing people here and there and getting passed by some of the faster folks/relay teams, and my legs were still feeling creaky (guess I did that to myself since I didn't taper ;)) so I decided I would stop at the two hour mark, refill my pack with water and gels and take a few ibuprofin (I know, I know, but I have done it before and I will do it again and it works for me) and pick up my earbuds to listen to a few podcasts to keep my mind occupied. Although the laps weren't boring, I wanted to keep in a positive mindset and I thought a bit of distraction would help. The stop took me a bit of time, but then I got right back to it.

Ryan passed me again around mile 15/16, looking good and still running a pretty fast pace, and I wondered how far I'd make it before seeing him again. I went through 18 miles right at 3:00 and was feeling good, but the temperature was definitely starting to rise. I made it through 7 gels (21 miles/3:30) before it was getting too hot for them to taste good, and then I switched to coke, cold grapes and cold water as my fuels of choice. I figure the coke is pretty much the same as caffeinated gels, and I've successfully run races on coke alone for many miles, so I know it works for me! Of course, this meant I was stopping each lap to take a few sips and a few bites, so I was not as efficient in the final 2 1/2 hours in terms of stopping time and my overall pace slowed for sure with that and the heat. Still, I was feeling good and pretty steady, so I can't complain, especially since the temperature must have reached 80 or pretty close by the final hour of the race.

I kept waiting for Ryan to pass me again, but he never did and I wondered how he was doing. Then, around the 5 hour mark, I came back into the finish area and there he was at our chairs. He took off before I got there, and I had to stop so it took me until out in the maintenance area to catch up with him. We chatted as we ran down through the field, but I had decided long before that I wasn't going to walk any on the course itself, only in the start/finish area, and he was settling in to a walk, so I took off to keep up my own pace. Then he caught back up to me at the start/finish area again ;)

I took off my pack for the final few laps, as my podcasts were done and I wasn't drinking from the pack anymore anyway, and he continued on and I caught back up to him again. I asked him to come with me, but he didn't have the legs, so I got ahead again and came through the start/finish at 5:37. I knew this meant I had enough time for one more lap but I also kind of wanted to be done ;), so I stopped to take a long drink of coke and gear myself up mentally for one final lap. This meant Ryan passed me again, so once again I took off in pursuit and again, caught up to him. I told him to come with me on this final lap but his legs wouldn't have it, and since I was still feeling pretty strong, I just passed him and kept on running in an effort to get in that final lap at a decent pace. Came through the finish line at 5:50 and ta da! Done! My watch got 34.2 miles, probably due to my three out and backs to the port-a-potty ;), while the official mileage for my 25 laps was 33.67. I'm pretty happy with how it all turned out and I will gladly take it!

Ryan finished up shortly thereafter, and turns out he was 1st place for males, with 27 laps and 36.36 miles! Woohoo. A speedy woman was actually first overall, so the two of us came in 2nd and 3rd overall, with me as 2nd female. Not too shabby for two Mainers who haven't run in the heat at all this season! 

Definitely felt the effort once we were done, but it was a fun event, very well run and a good and interesting change from our typical races. We sat for a bit after the awards and then after a quick change, took off in search of Bojangle's so that we could refuel with biscuits and chicken tenders before heading home. Yum!

While we were out playing on the trails, Sam and Neenie whipped up a beautiful looking strawberry rhubarb pie that we ate for dessert. Delicious and the perfect way to finish up the day!

So, all in all, a successful first timed event and a fun way to get in a long run during vacation!

25 laps/33.67 miles
3rd overall/2nd female

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