Saturday, October 25, 2014

Patapsco Valley 50K

I went into this event slightly injured and undertrained due to illness, so I didn't have many expectations. On the other hand I was feeling optimistic because this is effectively my home course - I run the trails here all the time. And I was determined not to DNF. I figured if I could get to the start again (first 20/21 mi were a loop that came back to the start) and was feeling OK, I could definitely hike the remaining 10/11 mi.

The race started early - 6 am - so the initial hour or so required headlamps. It was kinda fun starting out, one dispersed mass of 120 runners and their headlamps, heading up an immediate climb.

At 5 mi in to the event it was light enough out to turn off the headlamp.

Already the crowd had thinned out quite a bit, and for the next bit it was me running in between two small groups of friends. I kept running to catch up and then falling behind because of temperature issues - I had a short sleeve shirt and a thin jacket on, but I found that I was too cold in the shirt (I could have used gloves) and too warm in the jacket. So I kept stopping to take off my vest and jacket over and over.

Right after the Buzzards Rock viewpoint (pic above) was the 2nd aid station at the Hilltop parking area. My friend Carrie was helping out - she also helped at registration - and we chatted for a bit before she reminded me I tend to dawdle at aid stations.

Leaving aid station 2 the course followed Sawmill Branch, turning south along the river to the short rock scramble. I happened to run near a young woman, Aubrey, who told me this was her first 50K. Nice! Kinda tough for a first 50K but I didn't mention that to her.

At the rock scramble I stopped to take a pic and she offered to take one of me:

That's me in my Crazies running shirt, with my jacket wrapped around my waist (still was juggling being too warm/cool but soon enough I was fine in just the shirt), and bib number 7, not 1 - the number folded slightly and at many aid stations I had to correct someone that said "bib number 1, check"!

I made it back to the start area at mi 20/21 with about 30 mins to spare for the 6 hour cutoff. I was feeling tired and wearing down, but my foot felt OK so I continued. Besides, the weather was perfect and I had another 4.5 hours to do the next 10/11 mi, which I was positive I could do. I changed at my car real quick (swapped shorts for the tights, dropped the jacket) and headed out.

The second time doing the big orange trail climb was tough, especially at the top when another runner popped out and asked for directions. I knew he was a mile from finishing and I had another 10 to go. All I wanted to do was finish, no time goal, so I kept on.

Somewhere around mile 25 my slow run turned into a hike/fast walk. In my haste to leave the start area, I forgot to top off my bottles. I was low on water but I knew I could make it to the aid station at mi 27. Right before reaching the aid station, I drained my last bottle but was able to refill it minutes later. I chatted with Laura for a bit before heading out. We both agreed that I could easily do the next 4 mi in just over an hour... which seemed odd and not quite right. While half-walking half-running down the blue trail I realized we both shorted me 1 hour of time - I actually had just over 2 hours to make it. Whew, haha, that would be no problem.

Being familiar with the course had one downside - I knew the trail the race would take to the finish included the orange Ridge trail, one of the tougher ones, especially at mi ~30 of an event. It isn't too bad really, but it is narrow with lots of ups and downs, and popular with mountain bikers. I was tired for this section I don't remember seeing one of my favorite landmarks along it - a large rock in the middle of the trail with an orange blaze mark on it. I nicknamed it "the troll" and I'm sure it is there still, I probably just was a little out of it when I went by.

I was so happy to see the finish line I picked it up slightly and grinned from ear to ear. It was a fun event and I'd like to do it again next year. My Garmin shows 8:50 moving time, 9:09 elapsed, and 32.5 mi.