Monday, August 10, 2009

Dahlgren Rail Trail 50K

We arrived at Westmoreland State Park, Thursday evening. As we drove through the campground to pick our site, there sat my brother in front of their cabin. We knew they were going to be here, but finding them so quickly was an added bonus. Our site was just around the bend. This is a beautiful campground and would highly recommend it. After a good night’s sleep Thursday, we wondered around the trails. One trail led down to the Potomac River, and there was an olympic-size swimming pool, picnic area, boat rentals and fishing. Another trail led down to the fossil beach, and you could go swimming in the river here. Between hiking the trails and going down to the fossil beach I got in 6 miles plus some river swimming. Saturday night was campfire night, roasting hotdogs and marshmallows and catching up with my brother and his family. I tried not to think about the race too much, but finally had to excuse myself to get everything in order for the next day. I slept terrible. This was the night I could hear every single noise in the campground, the baby crying, the dog barking. Mosquitos were buzzing around my head but it was too warm to hunker under covers. 4 a.m. came early. I was a little worried because we had actually not driven to the race site, did not have exact directions and did not know how long it would take to get there. But all was good and my husband dropped me off with 7 minutes to spare before the pre-race meeting and ½ hour before the start of the race. Now here I did a silly thing. I was going to call him when I got done so I put my cell phone in my drop bag. I wanted my bag out on the course in case I needed something out of it. I have my own special gels, electrolytes, etc. But then, after the bags were gone I asked when they would be back at the finish line and realized it wouldn’t be until around 2:30(the official end of the race), which meant I would have to hang around even if I finished early. The pre-race meeting was quick. He described the course and how we would actually get down to the trail, but I wasn’t paying attention – I figured someone would be in front of me leading the way. I don’t usually eat before the start of a race – I took my Vespa, and filled my bottles with Ultima, and took an S-cap. Finally we line up and were off. My husband is yelling “Go warrior princess!”

The leaders start off fast, and I’m right behind them, but as we go down into the woods and make all these turns we’re supposed to make, suddenly they are out of sight and there’s no one in front of me. I get to an intersection and think “Which way did he say to go?” Fortunately, there were people coming up behind me and a guy yelled out “Go right!” With that we made it out to the road and down to the trail. This is where it got fun. My strategy was to try to maintain a 9:00min to 9:30min pace for as long as possible. I was in a group of about 5 runners and they were maintaining a steady pace, so I decided to stick with them as long as possible. The ground was lumpy and soft. Railroad ties were still stuck in the ground, sometimes jutting out at weird angles. You would get close to one side of the trail to try and avoid an obstacle and get whacked by a raspberry bush. I pretty much followed the path the person in front of me was taking. In this manner we went about 4 miles out to the end, then turned around and went back over that same lumpy ground. Between the group, we changed leads several times. Another woman caught up and joined the pack, then one eventually dropped back. At that point, I was the 4th woman. We ran by the spot where we got on the trail, and were now into new territory. It was “better” but not by much. Some stretches were thick with rocks. They grab at your feet and tried to twist your ankles. Some of it was packed dirt (I liked that best) and you could pick up the pace a little. Eventually, the pack started to break up, and I was at the end of it, seeing them get further in the distance. I was essentially running alone now. At about mile 13 the trail took a diversion and went onto a single track trail up a steep little hill. Oh, this is what I’m used to. But it only lasted for a minute and then it was back to lumps, railroad ties, and rocks. I passed the ½ marathon mark at about 2:08. I was still right where I wanted to be. Then, at the half way point of the race, this group of runners comes from behind me and passes me. Where’d they come from? Oh well, I slipped into 5th woman at that point and so my goal then was to not let anyone else pass me. Finally I made it to the turnaround point at about mile 19 ½. I had them fill my bottles with coke and gatorade. Caffeine and sugar – here we go! Now I could see who was behind me. I tried to give some encouraging “Great job. Way to go!”

Eventually, I found myself alone again. I passed one person, cruised into the aide station, filled up and kept going. My legs were on the edge of cramping. I started taking the s-caps, one per hour, then increased it to two per hour. I never walked, except at the aide stations, and up the steep hill with the single track trail. I hit the marathon mark at about 4:30. Five more miles, 4 more miles, keep moving forward – watch your form. The last aide station was at 3.5 miles out. “That’s just a little more than a 5k. I can do that!” I keep listening for footsteps behind me, but I’m all alone on the trail. Just keep moving forward. Finally, I see two gentlemen directing me up to the road and final stretch. I yell to them, “I’m so happy to see you, I could kiss you!” They brightens them up and then I throw each of them a kiss as I climb up the embankment and onto the road. The road isn’t closed at this point and I’m running on the shoulder. There are people trying to slow the traffic down, but some of the cars don’t want to move over very much. Then I get onto that last windy trail section with all the turns and no one to follow! Fortunately, I don’t get lost and am up in the meadow running toward the finish line and hoping my legs won’t seize up on me. I cross the finish line. I know if I stop I’ll cramp up, so I grab my finisher’s cap on the run, and the guy hands me a water bottle. Finally, I manage to get my legs to calm down. My final time was 5:35:29. , 5th woman and 17th overall (out of 53 finishers). I’m happy with the time, but I know I can do better. I need to maintain my pace over the long run, and figure out my electrolyte balance. I ate two gels, and one Vespa on the trail. I grabbed a few m&m’s, and other junk at the aide stations and mostly had them fill my bottles with Gatorade. I never really felt like I hit the wall, or bonked, but I really slowed down, especially in those last five miles. I enjoyed talking with the other finishers as they came in. One guy was crazy. He said he had his will all made out, was leaving everything to his brother, and was signing up for this really hard 100 mile race. He also said he almost passed out once on the trail but didn’t slow down. He likes to live on the edge. So I gave him the name of a race where since 1986 only 8 people have actually finished the race. “Where do I sign up?” he asked. My bag finally showed up and I could call my husband. They were enjoying George Washington’s birthplace while I was racing.

Saturday afternoon, I got two more miles while walking back down to the fossil beach for another swim. I was wearing sandals and had a pretty blood blister. A little stick flew up into my foot and ripped the blister open. Yucky mess. Then, Sunday, I did a 6 mile hike/trail run for recovery. My legs felt amazingly well. Tired, but not that sore. I did bring the mini-trampoline and bounced on it, and I think that helped too.

There were no great epiphanies during this race. I stretched myself, but not to the point of breaking. I can feel myself getting stronger, but can also feel where I’ve let myself slack (especially when it comes to diet). So I cross this finish line, and get ready for the next start line. The Warrior Princess has more to do before she’s through.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Friends of the W&OD 10K Race Report

Saturday August 1, 2009

It was the first day of August and it was going to be a hot one. The race was at 6:30 pm. The good thing about evening races is that you get to sleep in. The bad thing is, figuring out, how much and when to eat before the race. After a little snafu with getting my race packet because I was the last person to register online (it was filed by bib number, not alphabetically), I began my warm up and pre-race necessities(standing in the long line waiting for a porta-potty). The race was being held on the bike trail and with over 300 people registered to run, you can imagine how jam-packed we were. I tried to squeeze in a spot and was pretty far back from the starting line. I didn’t even know the race had started until the people in front of me began inching forward. 20 seconds to cross the line (glad this was chipped time) and then I started to try to weave my way through people. Finally the crowd started to spread out. By this time, I’m sure the temperature was approaching 90. The sun was right in our faces for the first half of the race. Mile one was fast, on a slight downhill incline (7:24), After another ½ mile we took a little spur off into a neighborhood. This had the only real hill in the whole course, and I was glad. Once back on the trail, I tried to concentrate on form, but by mile two (15:24) I had already slowed considerably. I was also beginning to feel the weight of food eaten earlier in the day. When we passed mile 3 (23:15), I thought the turn around would be at the 5k mark, but we kept going, and finally turned around right where a road crossed. Now I knew the reason for the spur, so we wouldn’t have to cross any streets. This was a water stop and I grabbed a cup and threw the water on me. At mile four (31:39), I was happy to see that I had beat my time in the last four mile race. It was then I realized that I might actually be able to get a new PR. The problem was it was so hot! My clothes were drenched with sweat. Sweat was running down my legs and into my shoes. Suddenly, I had a new problem. My bowels started acting up and I had to go to the bathroom bad. I started looking around, seeing if there was a place on the trail where I could duck off. I finally passed mile five(40:29). Focus on the finish, I told myself, then you can take care of business. Just 1.2 miles to go. I concentrated on trying to pass the person in front of me on the trail. Everyone was slowing down. I think I got by 3 guys when finally the finish line came into view. Sprint across the mat – official chip time 50:41, a new PR by 16 seconds! I’m inching down towards breaking the 50 minute barrier. Give me 10 degrees cooler, and 10 less pounds and I’ll have it. I liked the race, and I’ll probably do it again – some people were complaining about the fact that there was no Gatorade. One person was transported to the hospital in an ambulance, probably due to the heat. I wish they had 5 year age group awards instead of 10. I would have placed in the 45-49 age group. I came in 6th in my age group, 20th out of 157 women, and 80th out of 328 total runners.
Now to get ready for the 50K next weekend!