Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fun Bull-Run Run

As expected (or I should say hoped), the Bull-Run Run 50-miler was a fantastic event.  The course is deceivingly difficult, in that the first 17 miles are pretty flat.  So you get to thinking that the entire course will be similar and you also just move faster when it's flat.  But going out too fast comes back to hurt later on.  Especially when the course starts to get more challenging with steeper and more frequent climbs and descents.  The weather was also a little warm but we got lucky with some cool breezes most of the day. 

It was pretty chilly the morning of the race and I arrived at around 5:15AM.  I met up with David Snipes, the man who led me through my first "real" ultra back in 2010 (GEER 100K).  He and I were part of a 4-man team which just amounts to him choosing me and two other people to make a team.  Teams are created just for fun.  They have prizes for fastest and slowest teams (all male, female, co-ed) and also oldest team.  Our team was the youngest by far with a combined age of 230.  The oldest team was twice our combined age!  So our team was aptly named by Sniper as "Young Guns".  To make it official, Snipes went to his favorite locale (The Dollar Tree - I seriously should buy stock in that company, currently trading at $96.5) and bought some Sheriff Star pins and bandannas so we look the part.  Unfortunately, we couldn't find our other two teammates in time to give them their shwag.  And for some reason, Snipes didn't wear them.  So I was the only one wearing this pin on my shirt and a bandanna around my arm. 

Since the sun doesn't rise until about 6:10, I was wearing my headlamp all morning.  Maybe it was because of all the fun stuff I was wearing but no one mentioned to me I was still wearing this as daylight broke and about 3 minutes before the start I realized I was still wearing it!  Luckily, the course has us do a very short maybe 1/3rd mile loop around the parking area and I threw my headlamp right beneath the front left tire of the car I drove there.  I made a loud verbal note to myself and those around me NOT to back up the car after the race without retrieving my headlamp first (I did remembered)! 

The course was very peaceful and scenic.  Taking us through the Blue Blazed Bull-Run Trail nearly the entire race and seeing beautiful blooming bluebell flowers along the course.  We were going at a nice pace and easy enough for me.  Everything was going well but sometime after mile 15 or so, Snipes just wasn't feeling it.  This usually happens to most people in a 50-100 mile race multiple times and usually passes.  We were still making good time and a sub 10 hours pace so I wasn't concerned and anyway, I was there to have fun, not worry about how fast I can run 50-miles there.  While my legs were itching from the week+ Taper to move faster, my mind was easily in control and it was easy to just enjoy the scenery and conversation.  And even though Snipes said he wasn't feeling good and was having a bad day (it was the first hot race of the year), you would never tell by his normal constant talking to me and everyone else on course.  He knows everyone in the Virginia area running scene and if he doesn't, you sure will know him!  Even random hikers/walkers not participating in the race got to meet him.  On many occasions, slowly going up a climb he would introduce himself as "David Snipes. Lead East Coast Ultra Runner" and shake random people's hands.  At one point in the course we have to run by a large group of soccer fields and I was lucky enough that a ball was kicked over the goal and rolled to me and I got to kick it back on the field, displaying my versatility!  Snipes saw a bunch of soccer moms sitting under a shaded area and again introduced himself and said to meet him back there later that afternoon and we'll do shots of Mountain Dew (there were kids around so he didn't want to say an alcoholic beverage).  You really will enjoy the time out there when you're running with this guy. 

The aid stations were very well stocked with food but I stuck to mostly pretzels and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, while just drinking water and taking Enduralyte pills. Around mile 30ish,  I started to drink a small cup of Mountain Dew at each aid station.  The best aid stations had Popsicles and I even ate some ice cream sandwiches.  While it wasn't the best idea to have one of those ice cream treats (never know with dairy) it didn't bother me at all since we weren't going that fast and since it was only a 50 miler, I wasn't worried about how it would make me feel 10 hours later.  As our pace slowed more and more, mostly due to more walking on some slight uphills we could have ran, Snipes began to be concerned that we may not break 11 hours.  Originally, he thought we would finish around 9:40.  Around mile 20 or so, he figured breaking 10 was not going to happen.  As I kept telling him, I was fine with that.  As we approached the last aid station (mile 44.5) he told me that he thought breaking 11 hours may be in question.  I looked at my watch when we were in the aid station and it said about 9:20.  That would be 100 minutes to run 5.5 miles. How could we not do that?!  He must have been feeling pretty bad at that point.  I tried to will him to just forget about it, we'll break 11 with not problem but he really wanted me to break 11 and didn't want to take a chance that I don't (you need a sub 11 hour 50-miler or any 100-mile finish to qualify for Western States if you do get in via the lottery). 

So after enough arguing and pushing, he convinced me to just go on and enjoy and do the last section as fast as I would like.  Well if I was going to leave him, there's no way I'm going to do this slow!  So I filled my bottle with ice and water and took off.  5.5 miles, that's all.  I was off like a bandit!  Everyone I passed was shocked at my pace and my strides.  Hey, I was feeling great from holding back all race and if you're feeling good at the the last 10% of a race, whether it is a 5 miler or a 50 miler, you run hard and by feel.  And I felt like I could run hard.  Uphills, on flats, downhills (ok, some uphills I walked a little because there was no way I could run those and it was more efficient walking up those and then cruising on the flats and downhills).  I finally got to a section where I remembered Snipes saying there is less than a mile when you get here.  I knew I was close so I pushed harder.  Finally, the finish line was in view and I started sprinting.  I finished in 10:07, completing that last 5.5 mile section (or whatever the actual distance was) in about 46 minutes.  That was such a great way to finish. 

Afterwards, I stretched an watched everyone else cross and Snipes finished in 10:38.  And after a quick shower (the campsite there had showers) we enjoyed the awesome weather, BBQ, and watching everyone finish up to and even right after the 13-hours cutoff. 

So the race was a great success and I am happy with the result given my new training of more intensity, less time/mileage.  The next event is the Bear Mt. 50 Miler.  That race will be much more difficult than Bull-Run.  The trails are more technical and the elevation gain is a little less than twice that of Bull-Run.  It will be interesting to see how I do there on a challenging course and without Snipes.  I may run with Jim (who ran VT100 last year and the Balled Eagle Fatass) but not sure how much of the race. 

So 2 races down, 3 to go.   

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