After months of training and two marathons this year it was time for the final Marathon Maniacs qualifying race: The Hell Hath No Hurry 50k in Settler's Cabin Park near Pittsburgh. It was a nice,cool morning even at 10:00 AM when the 50k started. Nice and cool because it had been and still was raining like mad. Here was the forecast for the day:
The course is laps around a 10k loop. I had 5 laps to complete and ample time to do so....at least it seemed like ample time. The weather conditions made even that hard pressed. There were two aid stations on the course. The main one being at the start/finish line and another roughly halfway through the loop.
The 50 milers (bless them, the brave souls) started at 6 AM and the 10k group started at 8AM. By the time we hit the course it had been trampled to mush. A few of the long downhills were particularly treacherous. All I could do was carefully inch my way down or point my feet downhill and crouch like a skier and let the mud carry me. I found it is much easier to run through the heavy mud than walk through it. More force hitting the ground provided more traction.
|All Trail Mud Pics courtesy of Alyssa C, the Wild Trail Turkey|
With each lap the trail conditions deteriorated further. I was already feeling fairly tired when I finished the 2nd lap (12 miles in). I approached the aid station for a refill on suppies.
The aid station volunteers were fantastic! They essentially crewed for each runner. Coming out to meet me they took my bottle and refiled it with water and offered up an assortment of foods. There were donuts, pb&j sandwiches, pizza, watermelon, trail mix, gummy candies, pretzels, easy cheese, crackers, and more. One of the awesome things about an ultra/trail race is the food. It is plentiful and wonderful.
After the aid station stop I saw John and Alyssa who were awaiting the 2PM start of the 30k race. We talked for a bit as I walked over to my gear to top off the Tailwind. Each lap I switched out soft flasks from a cooler. One with Tailwind and one with water. Then I mixed up a batch of Tailwind for the next lap and put the soft flasks on ice. Unlike a road race I took my time at the aid stations without worry of the consequence of time.
Starting the 3rd loop I wasn't certain how I would fare being so tired and with so many miles left to go, but in these conditions the name of the game is simply constant forward progress no matter the pace. I decided to try and take my poles for this lap. They helped tremendously on the slick uphills, but I found them to be cumbersome and slow me down over the rest of the course. I did not take them with me after the 3rd loop.
Suprisingly, I started feeling a little better over this 6 mile stretch. It was short lived, but a nice respite, regardless. Also, I started feeling muscles wanting to cramp. Keeping in mind this advice given to Pittsburgh Marathoners from Dr. Vonda Wright proved to be so useful: [When you cramp (or in my case are on the verge of doing so) stop. Do not try to massage the cramp out. Instead apply pressure on the area until it subsides.] Over the following 16 miles I used this technique many times and never once went into a full blown cramp/spasm.
|End of the 3rd Loop - Me stuffing my face with a PB&J|
The 4th loop - Every loop this mud was getting worse. There was a break in the rain which was welcome. At this point I spent the remainder of the race mostly walking with less and less of the trail being runnable. The splits from here on out were mostly between 15:00 and 19:00 minute miles. I was more than content knowing this was sufficient to meet the cutoffs by about an hour. These last12 miles I saw a lot of camaraderie out there. I met a number of people along the way. Julie, who was hurting from not fueling enough. I gave her a gel and we talked briefly. She told me how she couldn't quit because she told her children to always finish what they start. What an inspiration and a role model! I logged a good bit of miles with a guy from the Air Guard who was running the 50 miler. I met a number of others along the way. Most of us never asked each other's names. We were in it together and were all supportive of each other. There wasn't that competitive edge trying to get ahead. Just an urge for us all to come through it.
|This condition was present over most of the course|
|Approaching the Finish Line|
I set out to run 3 marathon length events in 90 days to quaify for the Marathon Maniacs. Ultimately, I ran 2 marathons and a 50k in 54 days. I also realized that I can run a 50 miler. After running 31 miles with almost 5000 feet of gain through these conditions I have no doubt I can run 50 in good conditions. Looks like I'll have some plans for next year! But, for now I will rest and recoup. In 2 weeks training begins for a sub-4 hour attempt at the Akron Marathon and possibly a PR attempt on the 50k distance in November at the Marshall Mangler.