Monday, January 9, 2017

Harbison 50k Race Report

This past weekend, I toed the line for my first ever 50k race. Which is kind of amazing when you consider I had the audacity at some point in my life to call myself ultrarunningboy. I had looked up the runners predicted to beat me-there were a lot and the common thread was they all had completed a fair amount of ultras. Meanwhile, I've actually only done two(Pineland Farms 50miler and Leadville 100). Or four if you count my two DNFs at Vermont 100. But I don't so thanks for bringing it up!

Anyway, I had signed up for this race because partially as a tune up, over-mileage training run for my A-race(Columbia marathon in March) but mostly because I LOVE running at Harbison State Forest with some of the best trails anywhere near where I live. I also like running there because there are very few rocks/roots and the ground is some kind of clay that makes running a breeze and you feel like a super hero. Or at least a sidekick. At least when it's not running. Which of course it was on Saturday.

In fact, during the 30 miles of running, it rained, sleeted and briefly snowed. Come on! This is South Carolina! Apparently Mother Nature didn't hear me berating her nor my sobs later in the race when my uncovered hands(I didn't bring any gloves down to SC) started going numb and swell. Oh, I am getting ahead of myself.

So back to the start line...

I had read other runner's race reports saying that the pack took it out super fast so I was prepared to let the leaders go and hope to catch some as the day went on. However, when the gun went off, the pace was fairly leisurely. A group of three of us went through the 5k in around 24-25 minutes and it felt comfortable. I also felt good about my decision about wearing my road marathon running shoes instead of my more grippy but considerably more heavy trail shoes. Right about this time when I was getting confident about the prospects of a podium finish, the trail abruptly changed to that clay I referenced earlier. Not so nice running in it when wet. In fact, the pace slowed markedly as we slid, trudged, and glissaded over the next several miles. The pace still felt very comfortable but now I was started to feel strain in all those little intrinsic muscles that were working overtime trying to stabilize me.

Around mile 9, the leader stepped aside to let me and the other runner go by. We picked up the pace and settled into a good rhythm. Which lasted about 3/4 of a mile before we came to the Bluff Trail. Or as I like to call it Holy Hell What Did I Get Myself Into? trail. The trail is a side cut in a steep bluff which probably isn't terribly scary when dry but very nerve wracking when wet. So much so I half walked, half-hugged trees as I tried to keep myself sliding down into the ravine.

It was about this point when I was thinking that I didn't like Harbison too much nor did I have any plans to run another lap of this. 15 miles was more than adequate for a training run. This feeling was further confirmed when about two miles later the other guy took off like I was standing still(which I may have been) leaving me to run alone in second.

Having no motivation to push myself at this point, I was just looking forward to the turn in towards the finish(or second lap-however you want to look at it). And yet, when I came to the junction in the trail where I knew I needed to take a right turn, the course marshall told me to continue straight.

Danny: Errr, but there is a big WRONG WAY sign going forward.
Course Marshall: Nope, go straight.
Danny: You sure?
Course Marshall: Yes, go straight, right is for the second lap.
Danny: Oh, okay...

And off I went thinking that there must be another turn to take later on. And that is how I managed to go off course on probably the best marked trail race I have ever been on.

And that is also the first reason why I didn't DNF despite my best intentions.

As my GPS went off at mile 17, I grumpily realized I was duped and I wasn't going to be able to drop at the half. However, my plan was to get to the next aid station and drop there.

Unfortunately as I approached, volunteers were cheering happily for me and informing me I was in first place. Huh? This is when I knew I went off course and silently cursed the course marshall while also slightly ecstatic that I how had a justifiable excuse to quit.

And yet... As I was about to quit, I hear Mr Smiley! And I turned to see one of my school's teachers there. She was volunteering at the aid station and spotted me. She proceeded to tell me how she was going to tell all her students how Mr Smiley ran the 50k.

Crap. Now I couldn't quit. And yes, some of the students call me Mr Smiley as a way to differentiate me from another skinny browned haired staff member.

So instead of doing as planned and quitting nobly, I grabbed a full sleeve of Oreos, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and trudged on. Yes they really do serve that at ultra races. No, I didn't let a single one go to waste.

Bolstered, albeit slightly, from the cheers and the spike in my glycemic index, I started moving. Or so I thought until I was passed at mile 19 by the guy who had already passed me once. After asking him what mile he had on his watch[20.3], I realized I was a full 1.3 miles behind.

Some of you out there might be thinking that this fact would have been disheartening, but no. In fact, this lifted my spirits. Why? Well, because that meant that instead of 11 more miles I had less than 10. Anyone can run/walk ten miles. So I did just that. I ran all the uphills and most of the flatter flats and walked/slid the downhills. Well and nearly crawled that half mile of the Bluff Trail that second lap.

After what seemed like forever, I finally came on the finish line and poor Kenny who had been out there waiting for 3 hours(thinking she'd see me at the half). I explained how I missed the out/back on the first lap and therefore was disqualified to the race director. I said this with a mixture of relief for being done and trepidation. The trepidation was justified as he did what I somewhat expected he might, which was to tell me I could do the out and back now and get a finishing time based on that.

Crap. So after running ~28.7 miles, I had to turn around and do that out and back, where I passed the course marshall now for the third time, gave him my angriest stare-downs and then headed back to the finish.

Certainly not the time that I was expecting, but I was happy with the effort and, in retrospect, glad that the course marshall sent me off course. Otherwise I would have ended my day prematurely.

But the day was not yet done!  After heading home and quickly showering(as quickly as a octogenarian feeling, mud-covered person can), Kenny and I headed back out to Pawley's Front Porch because I had a date with a burger challenge. The challenge, for which you get a steak knife on their walls and a gift certificate, was to eat three half pound bacon cheeseburgers and fries in under 30 minutes.

The timer stopped at 24 minutes. No I did not DNF this one. I stopped because I had finished. Finally! Something I'm good at and very little chances of getting lost:)

All in all, a great Saturday. I hope all of yours were too.

Until next time,


1 comment:

  1. Well done and Happy New Year. Good to see you keeping up with the running.
    Michael Dwomoh.