Monday, August 25, 2008

Putting in the final run touches

This past weekend was my last time out at George Washington National Forest to cover the last 1/3 of The Ring course. For the last few weeks, I've covered all but about 17 miles of the course - the first 8.7 from Signal Knob out to Veach Gap, and then about 8 miles from the top of Short Mountain across, and down to Edinburg. The latter section took me over 5.5 hours during MMT when my feet were so tender I had to limp it in. I was hoping that by covering nearly 3/4 of the course in the weeks leading up to the race, that I would be in good shape come race day. Well, after Saturday's run, I don't know if that's the case.

I hit the trail about an hour earlier than I had the previous weeks. When looking at this map, I started at #13 and finished up at #16. I ran more with the curve of the mountain at the top of the map instead of staying with the blue trail as it jogged right a bit. It's hard to explain that I'm following an orange blazed trail when the map isn't colored as such and doesn't entirely follow the Massanutten Trails. Just trust me on this.

I hadn't been on the Edinburg to Woodstock (13-14) section since the Chocolate Bunny night run in March, and I don't think I had covered Woodstock to Powell's (14-15) since I first ran it in February. It was part of a few MMT training runs that I bailed on. The trails are very runable, so I ran. It wasn't until I got to Woodstock when I checked my phone and found out my GF was bailing on her hike. She had parked over at Signal Knob (16) to do a circuit hike with the dog, but he had other plans. Those plans included lying down on the trail and not moving.

Her day was done in 90 minutes, and I had 4.5 hours to go with little cell phone service.

I made my way from Woodstock to Powell's Fort. I figured it would take me 90 minutes to cover this section, and I was spot on. It's a fairly 'flat' section with only a few ups and downs the closer you get to PF. I took a break at a small spring across from the start of the Mudhole Gap trail to refill all my bottles. It was about 12:30pm at the time and the fire road section of the trail was pretty exposed to the sun. I wanted to stay as hydrated as possible. I had finished 1.5L of my 3L bladder, and about 3/4 of the 24oz other bottles I was carrying. I downed a bottle of water, wiped off my face, refilled everything, and kept moving forward.

This section really bothered my feet in the '07 MMT race, and the pain was coming back. It's not the relentless rocks jutting out of the ground that make it seem like you're playing hopscotch instead of running, it's the 'pea gravel' type rocks that dig into the bottom of your feet. There's no avoiding them, so you keep going even though you know you have blisters.

By the time I got around the reservoir and started up to Signal Knob Overlook, I was finally able to get a signal on my cell phone. I called my GF and left a couple messages regarding my status - where I was and how long it would take me to get back. I was somewhat surprised at the number of people I saw hiking out toward the overlook. I saw more people in that 5 mile stretch than I had had seen in the last 2 weeks on the trail. I was in the minority by going clockwise, as well as the only person running. This section was all downhill, but pretty rocky as well. My downhill running is sub-par at best, but I tried to move as quickly as possible. I got a "where are you??" call from my GF who had been patiently waiting for me in the parking lot. I gave a "30 minutes. Promise!" reply and moved along faster. I had only climbed this section before, but it seemed longer going downhill than it did going uphill.

Thirty five minutes after the last call, I emerged from the woods and made my way across the parking lot to the car. I still had my stick in had that I used to knock down cobwebs, and promptly teased the dog with it. He was tied up to the car dog and could only stretch about 6' out, and I held the stick about 6'3" away. I got the "that's not funny" look from the GF before giving it to him while I changed.

In total, the run was 23 miles in 6:50. Not stellar by any means, but I'll take it. I drank probably 4.5L of water, had 690 calories of CarboPro, another 500 in GU, and fewer salt tabs than I should've taken. I wore Injinji toe socks for the first time since MMT in May. I had no problems with them then, but had mirror image blisters on the ball and big toe of each foot. I don't know if it's the socks to blame, terrain, weather, or what, but it could be my feet saying to me "Wtf.. enough with these trails already. You want me to callous? I'll callous," and with that, I'm getting my hardened trail feet back.

I don't know if I'm ready at all for The Ring. My mileage isn't the greatest, I'm guessing on my nutrition, I haven't done a night run, and I'm still having problems with my feet. I'm really feeling no pressure with this run since there are no cut offs times to beat. I've put in the time on the trail and can only hope it was enough.

I'm taking some R&R Labor Day weekend and will be off the trails for a bit - no running, just hiking. I have mentioned a few goal times to my GF, but haven't written them down yet. I want to take the times I've run certain sections to see if my goals are attainable. I'll have plenty on my plate before the run, but hope that some downtime will help me get in the right frame of mind to successfully cover the distance.


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