Sunday, February 14, 2010

Iron Horse 100K Endurance Run

I have come to realize that there is very little personal accomplishment without friends and family there to provide support and encouragement. So while this might be a report out on my first 100K, it's really a reflection on all those who make each of us who we are.

About 2:30 Friday, I started to wonder what I was getting myself into! Delane picked me up at work and the snow was coming down hard.....and we had a 360 mile drive down to Orange Park Florida.....the hotel location for the Florahome, Florida Iron Horse Endurance Run 50M, 100K, and 100M event. After 4 hours of driving snow and sleet, we finally popped out of the severe weather and I was able to think about the fact that that I was running my first 100K in 12 hours.

I started the year with the goal of running 100K and began looking for suitable events.....and realized quickly that many were already filled. A GUTS member pointed to the Iron Horse Endurance Run. My first thought: Florida should be nice and flat. Somewhat a distant second was the realization that the race was like 4 weeks away and my long run in the preceeding 2 months was a leisurely 13 miles on the Silver Comet trail. Never claimed to be real bright! A quick email to the race director Chris confirmed there was still space and with little thought I stuck and stamp on the envelope and my fate was sealed.

My friend Nils pointed me to another GUTS guy, Ryan Cobb, that was running the 100 miler and I was happy to have someone to meet up down at the race. We both arrived too late for the race briefing at the hotel and after a brief 5 hours of restless sleep I tapped my wife on the shoulder and told her time to roll! It was a good hour drive to the start (Florahome is not close to much) and I cruised in around 6 with an hour to prep for the start.

The Iron Horse is held on an old railroad bed. The tracks are gone but not much else in the way of improvements. Lots of gravel...more on this later! It was a simple route....out 1.75 miles, turn around, back to the start/finish, then a long 11 mile out and back for a 25 mile round trip. I'd do the full loop twice then cover 12 miles to get the 62 mile distance.

Lots of nice people milling around before the race and a warm fire to help out with the chilly 38 degree temps.

And we are off.......after the 3.5 mile out and back I realized that flat didn't always mean easy! The trail was somewhat rocky and LOTS of spots with gravel that played havoc on the legs.....always had to watch the footing and I knew the uneven terrain would only get worse as the body tired! The first 25 mile loop came and went with little fanfare. Got to see Delane at a few aid stations (very friendly course for spectators) and it brought a smile to my face each time. But I knew it may be a long day when I realized that my watch said 3 hours flat. That was marathon pace, not 100K smart. I made a mental reality check and backed off to a more sane pace. Loop 2 was a much more sane 3:38 time. I was beginning to really look for my beautiful wife at each aid station for that smile and word or two of encouragement. Much needed. I was at 50 miles and knew it'd take all I had to do the final 12 miles. I was still running at this point but the pace was dropping fast!

I never thought I could hate something the size of a gold ball, but I started to really dislike the gravel! It had beat up my feet and legs for 50 miles and I swear I stepped on every errant stone the entire rest of the run! I took a few brief walking breaks to try to muster the energy for a decent finish and when I realized I had a mile to go there was much renewed energy....something about finishing my first 100K gave me new found strength. I can't describe the pleasure of crossing the line with my wife's big smile and the RD handing me my first belt buckle. It's something maybe only ultrarunners might know. I'm usually pretty interested in how I placed, but in this race it seemed almost secondary that I'd managed to cross the line in 1st place in 8:38. Happy with the win, but more excited about the finish.

I was so pleased to see Ryan Cobb wrapping up his first 50 miles and heading out for the next 50 looking fresh and energized. I had no doubt he'd bring it home! He finished his first 100 miler in 22:11. DWD Ryan!
A huge thanks to my training partners, friends, family, and especially my wife. She spent her Valentine's weekend standing out in the cold for 9 hours...her strength is my strength.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Red Top Rumble

With my first 100K looming in a week, I was only slightly excited about the GUTS Red Top Rumble 11.5 mile trail race on Saturday. My mind is focusing on a LOT of time on my feet next week and I hadn't been able to get jazzed about a trail race like I might normally.

Dave and I met up of Barrett Parkway to make the last bit of the drive up together. It was a cold morning so a coffee was in order. A cup of joe and interesting conversation with the mini-mart employee around 7 am livened up the day. We got there a good hour early after a bit of a slide on some black ice headed into the park. Was hoping the trails weren't as icy as the road!

As usual, the GUTS folks had everything well organized at the start. Dave and I got numbers and then headed back to the car to stay warm and have some in-depth discussions about what clothing to wear. He convinced me that a single thin shirt would be fine and that he was wearing the same.....more on that later.

Managed to pry myself out of the car around quarter till and socialized a bit. The GUTS group was well represented with lots of members running and helping with the race. With little fanfare, Dave and I lined up as instructions were given. Start was right in the parking area which was good since there were 350 people that would need to get sorted out a bit before we hit the trails. About this time I'm freezing and happen to notice Dave with a jacket one. Traitor! :)

.....and we are off. I'd decided to wear trail shoes but after the first three miles I was wondering if it was a smart choice. The first stretch was fairly flat, wide, and smooth trails and I was ticking off well under 7 minute miles.......and then the fun started. I saw a course arrow point left and look over and thought "where is the trail?". We turned onto what appeared to be a small stream! It was tight, wet, and hilly for a bit before we popped out on a fire road of sorts. A quick stretch on this and then a HUGE step up a bank back on to a nice single-track trail. The first hill had me a bit worried, as I got to the top and my legs felt like lead. Lots of miles the last month and I could feel every one of them. From this point it forward it was 8+ miles of up and down. Go up a bit, drop back down by the lake, repeat. The hills weren't too steep or too long, but they kept coming. I'd drop down by the lake and knew I'd be headed back up real soon. I got in to a groove and stayed fairly consistent with low 7 miles. I was 5-7th for the entire stretch..couple people passed me, I passed a couple people. But mostly I was alone and that is how I like it when I'm racing.

Plenty of aid on the course.....must have been 4 opportunities to get water/sports drinks/food but it was too cold to stop and I pressed on passed each on. Finished up strong and placed 5th OA in 1:18:19 for the 11.5 miles.

Can't say enough about the volunteers before, during, and after the race. First rate! Post race, Jaydene the RD pulled out all the stops with the food and giveaways! Tons of items raffled off. Barbecue, sides, bars, COOKIES, and a bunch of hot water and hot chocolate/coffee/soup mixes served up by cheerful volunteers. I mean......for a race of 350 it was out of this world!

Can't say enough good about the course.....absolutely beautiful trails. So many great views of the lake. All in all an excellent way to start the day.

Garmin Connect Profile: Watch showed 11 miles even but it tends to miss a bit on the twisty trails.