March 27, 2013 by trailcats
This race report is all about how Harley and I tackled our first 50 mile race. Here are the quick stats: Holly, first female and 5th overall with a time of 8:49. Harley, 14th overall with a time of 10:28. There were several DNFs. Elevation gain: 7,000 feet. Number of awesome memories along the way: immeasurable.
The Lake Martin 50 had been on my radar since January. I had initially been thinking about the Georgia Death Race (GDR) but chickened out due to all the climbing and required gear we needed to carry. I ended up volunteering at the Winding Stair Gap aid station, which in most circles, is best remembered as the most kickass aid station of the race. Once I flaked on the GDR, I began to seriously consider the LM50. I pulled the trigger in early March and Harley signed up to the “27 mile fun run” that was being held simultaneously.
My training since Mount Cheaha has been less than ideal for running a first 50 miler. I think I’ve logged one 14 mile run and a couple of 7-9 milers. Sure I’ve been maintaining an average of 50 mpw, but I was a little nervous with the lack of long runs. To add to this, my friend Sarah Cat and I went to the beach for three nights the week of the race. Needless to say, there were a couple of long porch nights and this did nothing to improve my level of fitness! Though I did recover from the debaucherous nights by running out at Point Washington in the morning.
So the Adams were in route to Alexander City, AL Friday afternoon. I was excited about the location of this race as I have spent several long weekends on Lake Jordan at my friend’s Helene’s lake house – which is very close to where this race was being held, at Russell Lands on Lake Martin. We headed straight to Start/Finish to unload my drop bags and then down the road to Catherine’s Market to buy some JUMBO chocolate chip cookies and squid ink pasta (what can I say, I’ve been looking for it and never expected to find it smackdab in the middle of Alabama!). The race briefing was held next door and David Tosch reviewed some of the highlights of the double-loop course.
Right after the meeting, Harley pulled the old switcheroo. He changed his mind about running the 27 miler. He now wanted to do the 50 miler. Holy crap – are you kidding me? How does he do this? Before our first ultra – the Buncombe 55k, he hadn’t even planned on running it until two days before the race. I need time to freak myself out over these distances and he just pulls the trigger all willy-nilly style. Unbelievable. He said he didn’t want to hear me jibberjabber for days about running 50 miles. Now that’s a fair enough reason. Cuz I’m gonna jibber and jabber. In fact, I haven’t really slowed down yet.
On the way out I thought I heard some guy talking about the GDR, but I had Waffle House on the brain so I planned to catch up with him in the morning and figure out why the hell he was running this weekend after that!
Surprise, surprise. There is no Waho in Alexander City but there was one helluva a Huddle House! This would be my 3rd consecutive pre-race dinner consisting of a shit-ton of hashbrowns and scrabbled eggs. My favorite Harley quote from dinner: “So what goes with grits [as he stares at the grape jelly and hot sauce] – sweet or savory?” We chased the dinner with the aforementioned chocolate chip cookie when we made it back to our snazzy hotel room that I snagged on priceline.com for $35!!!
While prepping for race day back at the hotel room, I asked Harley what he was going to do about nutrition during the race. I mean, I spent a lot of time thinking about my drop bags and what I was going to eat and drink. He was going to rely on the aid station. Right before we had left the house he grabbed a headlamp to use the morning of the race, just in case it was still dark out. He asked me if mine was in one of my drop bags. I explained that I didn’t pack one. And that’s when I got a talk’n-to about being unprepared. How could I think of everything else but not pack a headlamp in my drop bag?! But Harley, I said, I don’t plan on running in the dark! Geez! And I was even planning on it taking me 10-11 hours to finish. Oh yeah, those were my goals. First goal was to finish in 11 hours or in top 5 females. My dream goal was to finish in 10 hours or top 3 females. Let’s get to the race shall we…
The race start/finish was at “the cabin,” down the way from Catherine’s Market and started a little after 6:30 when the morning sun lit up the trails. We were in top 10 when we hit the single track about half a mile in. The trails are used by runners, hikers, mountain bikers and horses. Some parts reminded me a lot of my hometown turf at Sope Creek and the goat trail (west trail) at Kennesaw. Other parts were strikingly similar to our first ultra – Buncombe 55k in South Carolina.
Much like the last two 50ks we had done this year, it had rained hard the night before so we were expecting some gnarly trails and stream crossings. Much to my delight, there were only a few places that were kind of “sticky.” My feet remained overall dry the entire time. Quite a difference from Cheaha! There were some sandy spots that were hard-packed due to the rain, which was nice.
There were two aid stations, “the cabin” at the start and miles 18, 25, 43; and “butterfly” aid station was at miles 7, 13, 32, and 38. The fact there were only two aid stations – made this a great first 50 miler – especially when trying to figure how to use a drop bag. I made two, but barely used them at all. It was comforting to know they were there though – and thankfully Harley, being the unprepared one, got to use them too! He put his headlamp in one. He never used it.
The trails were mostly runnable, but there definitely were more hills than we anticipated – to the tune of 7,000 feet of elevation gain. I mean, this was a race along the lake for crying out loud. I ran up the moderate ones on the first 25 miles and hiked the steep ones. I walked most moderate-to-steeps on the second loop. Speaking of the first loop. So the Adams were discussing their desired paces on the way there that morning. He thought I wanted to go too fast. I just wanted to go at a comfortable speed – one that didn’t feel awkwardly slow, but slow enough that I could maintain geeky trail talk, like – “So is this your first 50 miler? Do you get off on looking at Ultrasignup too? How’d you train for this?” And Harley, the little jackrabbit, left me before we even got to the first aid station. In fact, I owe my time to him as he kept me trying to catch up to him for the entire first half. I never saw him again until mile 24.
When we got to the Cabin AS at the half way point, I filled up with some water and was back on course. We never saw each other again until the finish. I have never run an ultra almost totally by myself – leave it to the first 50 miler – my longest distance to date. So what does go on in my head for nearly 9 hours. I was thinking music might be nice to run to one of these days. One song I could not get out of my head – and I thank Wilson for this, as he was blasting 70s rock at the Winding Stair Gap AS the weekend before, was – Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky.” But since I suck at lyrics, I kept singing “I’ve got a friend in Jesus.” I have no idea if that’s in the song. And if you know me, it’s even odder that’s the one song that was on an endless loop in my head.
I divided up each part of the course in my head as Cabin/Start-Butterfly, Butterfly-Butterfly, Butterfly-Cabin, and finally Cabin-Cabin. Cabin-Butterfly (~7mi) was really nice and mostly runnable single-track until the last ½ mile or so. It had some pretty steep climbs. Several stream crossings. I passed my last person around mile 30 and never saw another runner after that! When I made it to the Butterfly AS on the second loop, Kyle was there. He had just finished the GDR and I remembered him from the Winding Stair Gap AS. They had informed me I was the first female and was looking strong. I made that a quick stop and hit the road – bouncing out of there with my tail up!
I remembered from the first loop that the Butterfly-Butterfly portion (~6mi) was a lot of downhill at the start. I embraced it. I saw a lot of deer on this go round. What I did NOT like about this section was the road that seemed to go on forever. But I thought of Kyle and all the other GDR-ers and how they had to endure Nimblewill Church Rd. – and I sucked it up real fast. This is when my left ankle and IT band become increasingly worse. To the point I had negative thoughts in my head, like can I finish? Is it worth it? I combated those thoughts with, well, nothing is broken. This stuff can be iced, elevated, ibuprofened, massaged, foam rolled later. Grow a pair, Holly!
When I made it back to Butterfly, I decided to kind of dawdle there for a while. I prolly spent a total of 3-4 minutes there – much longer than any other AS that day. I sort of limped on out of there but was looking forward to the next portion of Butterfly-Cabin (~5mi), which had a lot of narrow single-track and rocks – which I like. They divert your attention away from your pain….and “Light in the Sky.” When I passed the stables and the massive horses, I knew I was close to Cabin AS and I perked up a bit. I checked in there and slowly made my way to the last loop of 7mi of several ascents and descents. Several. My IT band was so pissed at me, but I just told him, “Hang in there, little buddy!!”
Halfway through this last, painful loop I stopped to stretch my hammies, as I’d been doing about every hour. While doing so, I saw a man in a grey shirt running in the distance. I couldn’t tell if he was ahead of me or behind me – or even how far, owing to the loopy nature of this course. I was fairly certain it was the guy I passed at mile 30. Holy cow, I had really slowed down. So now, as crippled and humbled as I felt, I felt like I had to fartlek a good bit to guarantee I stayed ahead. If what I did was a fartlek maneuver, it was the saddest one ever. This is when I reminded myself that I was the one who had gotten myself into this mess (read: the race), and now I had to get myself out of it (read: stay ahead and finish strong). The last quarter to half mile was uphill on a red clay road. I kept looking over my shoulder to see if Grey Shirt was still on my tail. He was. All I wanted to do was walk. But I ran up that heinous hill and toward the finish line.
I finished my first 50 miler in 8 hours and 49 minutes. Holla! The second 25 mile loop was only 9 minutes longer than the first. Not too shabby. David handed me my awesome award that is now taking up residence on our mantle. And for now, I’m happy to note that I hold the female course record. I need to find more inaugural races – as I could get used to saying that!
I grabbed the chairs and the cowbell out of the car and sat my wearied body down at the finish line. It was so exciting to cheer for everyone coming in. A lot of runners I had met along the way had chosen this race for their first 50 miler. What a day of accomplishment for so many!!! I loved it! I saw some guys come in who said that Harley was not far behind them. I was so excited for him. I can’t believe he just jumped on board with this beast the night before. There he was. I spotted his token orange shirt and started jumping up and down. Goooooo Harley! [cowbell, cowbell, cowbell] Oh no! Someone was right on his tail. Harley run faster! There’s someone behind you!! It was such a fun finish. Harley maintained his lead and completed his first 50 miler in 10 hours and 28 minutes.
Such a fun day. The trails were in great shape; the course was well-marked; the weather turned out to be perfect despite heinous weather reports; the aid stations were well-stocked; and David and Marye Jo Tosch and their team of volunteers were first class. The inaugural Lake Martin 50 Mile Endurance Run was a success! I also need to give a shout out to all of those who finished the “27 mile fun run.” I ran with the first female for a little bit and she was doing awesome. We enjoyed a beer with the folks at the finish and noshed on some good post-race fare. Finally, we grabbed some of Catherine’s Market jumbo cookies for the road and motored on. Geeking out the entire way home 🙂
Once we got home, we realized we weren’t the only wiped out trailcats!
Oh, so what did I end up making with the squid ink pasta? Why Fettuccine al nero di seppia con calamari, of course.
[more race pics to be added later….]