Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Passing the Test and Exceeding Expectations

I have very little to be disappointed about with my performance at this weekends Reverse Ring. The weather was perfect day and night and I finished about 5 hours ahead of schedule in 23:30 (6:30am).

I was the last one trudging up toward Signal Knob Saturday morning. I stopped part way to take my jacket off and put it back on so it covered my Camelbak, which was already starting to freeze. I didn't want a repeat of the training run MLK weekend where I was waterless most of the run. I knew it would be warming up throughout the day, so I wasn't too worried, but I didn't want to start off the run on sour note.

I caught up with a couple runners about 5 miles up the trail and hung with them most of the next 20 miles. There was a little conversation about the trails, shoes, and other races, but we mostly kept moving - one foot in front of the other.

I thought the pace was fairly conservative, which I didn't mind one bit. Everything was feeling fine even after twisting my right ankle around mile 25 (Short Mtn). I continued to move on it, albeit gingerly, until the pain subsided. My nutrition plan was a little scattered as was my hydration, which I thought I was keeping in check.

Around 3pm I left Moreland Gap (mile 30) and wound my way up Jawbone. Kerns Mt has been a nemesis of mine and I wanted to put up a good fight. I finally turned on some tunes (Dance Party 2009 - woohoo!) and set it on cruise control into Crisman Hollow Rd. I was very grateful for the aid that was hiked in since the road is closed off and grabbed some chips and a cup of Coke before heading out. The sun would be setting in 10-15 minutes and I wanted to get down Waterfall Mtn before sunset. I made it down right around 6:30pm and finally turned my headlamp on a few minutes later as I made my way up Duncan Hollow towards Scothorn.

Staying on the orange trail and heading toward the Strickler Knob connector trail, I took the time to cover up my light and admire the stars. What an amazing night! I was passed by another runner who was on a mission to get to Camp Roosevelt, which was about 6 miles away. This was a long 6 miles and a bit of a low point for me. Mentally, I was getting frustrated because I wanted to be there already, and trail markings weren't where I thought they would be; sections were longer than expected.

I finally pulled into Camp Roosevelt (mile 46) and took a seat in front of the nice fire. I tell ya, at 8:30pm, sitting feels nice especially when it's in front of a toasty fire. I took the time to enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich and slice of cheese pizza while getting my water refilled then changing socks for the last time and lubing up any chaffed areas (don't ask). I was ready to go a little after 9pm and hobbled my way out.

My feet were a tad tender as I started up again and worked my way up toward Edith Gap and again on up toward Kennedy Peak. Once here, I tried to do a little mental math and quickly gave up. One of the volunteers said the lead runner could make it from Camp Roosevelt to the end in 5 hours, then challenged us to do the same thing.

Yeah right

Then I realized how easy the math was going to be and continued the mental calculations. I took twice as long as the lead runner in the fall running of The Ring and thought I'd take at least 2x as long to cover these last 25 miles that he might be able to cover in 5 hours. So 5 hours for him would be 10 hours for me (yes, 10 hours) with at least 2.5 miles per hour. It was challenging terrain and, well, dark out, but I thought it would be do able. And I wanted to do it, or at least see how close to 10 hours I could get. So I ran.

I broke down the ridge into two pieces - the 15 miles to where the trail joins up with the Tuscarora trail, and then the last 10 miles to the end. Based on earlier calculations, I wanted to cover the first 15 miles in 6 hours and the last 10 miles in 4 hours. There were other mental 'notes' of trail intersections along the way, and that's how I was able to break up the monotony of the run and the length of the run ahead of me.

It was a mix of Katy Perry, Pussy Cat Dolls, Tracy Chapman, Johnny Cash, Gwen Stefani, and a host of others that carried me along the ridge line. I ran with confidence and took what most looked like a trail even if it was heavily covered in leaves and hard to decipher. Quick and confident decisions helped since I didn't want to spend time looking around or behind me wondering if I was on the trail or not. I had to keep moving forward.

I made it to Tuscarora in 5:13 and was thrilled to have met that goal. It was about a mile descent to the unmanned aid 'tent' where I grabbed a handful of chips and a little more water before continuing up the trail again.

I hit another low point here when I thought about how much longer I still had to go. I did a bit of an interval run awhile back on this section to get me to the top, and tried to 'go there' mentally on how quickly I moved, how light I was on my feet, and how it wasn't that bad of a climb at all. Soon enough I was at the top and I stated looking back at the lights. Were they house lights or the headlamps of other runners? I didn't want to find out, nor did I want them to catch me as I had passed two runners back around mile 56 and hoped they hadn't made up all this ground!

So I ran.

The next low point came as I hit the trail intersection with Sherman Gap. The sign said 2 miles to Shawl Gap, and it was the longest effin two miles. I knew Sherman Gap was blazed pink, and the Massanutten trail is blazed orange, but the blazes looked very pink. Knowing that the orange trail is also the blue Tuscarora Trail all the way into Elizabeth Furnance, if ever in doubt (and there were many times I was) I looked for a blue blaze even if it meant looking on the backside of trees. I don't think I lost too much time, but I never strayed from the trail, and there were no other trails I could've taken, so I don't know why I was so worried.

I finally got to the intersection with Shawl Gap and Buzzard Rock trails, and I knew I was homeward bound. It was a little more than 2 miles to the finish on a long and winding decent. I thought I was making good time until I saw the lights of a car along Fort Valley Road and it looked a long ways away! I glanced at my watch and had around 90 minutes until the 24 hour barrier and wasn't sure if I'd make it or not, so I picked up the pace and ran scared. I finally got down to Elizabeth Furnace and it took me three tries before I could find where the trail continued. Lack of sleep, delirium, and my 5 hour energy drink wearing off will do that. I crossed Fort Valley Road and walked the remaining 3/4 mile to the Signal Knob parking lot where a honking horn announced my arrival at 6:30am. A finish time of 23:30. What I thought would take me 10 hours took closer to 9.5. I had accomplished my goals.

Immediately finishing, I felt great. I had a permagrin that was hard to remove. My right knee was a little achy and the bottoms of my feet tender, but nothing like the soreness I felt in September at the end of The Ring. I was very chatty with my GF and one of the RD's since I hadn't seen or talked to anyone for nearly 8 hours. Of course, once I got in the car to change and warm up, the eyes fell to half mast and I wasn't as vocal as sleep started to set in.

In the couple days following, my right knee continues to feel sore, and I've been feeling a deep pain in my butt, which I've had before - piriformis syndrome. I'm rolling the crap out of my legs with the TP massage ball and roller in hopes of loosening things up as well some stretching.

I feel like things are starting to come together, and I hope I can figure things out with my piriformis. I definitely have some hydration and nutrition issues to figure out since my hands were beyond swollen when I finished and lips extremely chapped. This is a rest week for me, so I'll use the down time to tend to my wounds, but still get a few workouts in before the weekend.


Post a Comment

<< Home