This was another weekend of back to back trail races designed to further erode the last bits of energy in my system. On Saturday, I ran the Trails for Tails 40 mile ultra in Hanover, PA., then followed that brilliant move up by running the Conestoga 10 mile trail "run". Both races were challenging, but for different reasons.
I was joined in Hanover by my friend Paul Peters and his family. We all drove to Hanover the evening before the race and shared dinner together while plotting our strategy for the next day. As it turned out, Paul and I had a similar strategy...run as fast as possible for 40 miles. I like Paul because we think a lot alike.
We assembled at the start area at 6:00 AM, got our race packets and began getting ready for the race. Our group rolled in fully equipped for an ultra and immediately set up a tent, coolers, chairs and race gear of all kinds. Now keep in mind, this is how we roll at an ultra...it's not unusual to us...but we were the only group that was this well equipped.
Me and Paul right before the start....
As the picture suggests, the morning started off foggy and the air was thick. It wasn't warm yet, but it still felt oppressive.
After a few words from the RD, the race was off. Paul and I were planning to be pretty aggressive, so we took to the front early.
Please note...this is NOT a belly shirt I'm wearing. It just looks that way in the photo.
Paul is a faster runner than I am, so I was planning to keep him in sight as long as possible, but not burn myself out. I think I lost Paul somewhere in the first 400 meters. The dude is fast. Like cheetah fast.
This race is five 8 mile loops with some short sections of out and back. I figured I would see Paul again soon.
This race has a relay option, so I really didn't know if I was running with ultra runners or relay runners most of the time. SO I just settled in and ran my race, knowing it would all sort itself out over the next several hours.
Side note...why do people enter an ultra as a relay team anyway? Just go run a 10K like normal people. You're messing with my race and it annoys me. Do they realize that it DOESN'T make them an ultra runner? Anyway....
After getting lost once in the first loop, I came through the start/finish area in 1:15, which was right on my race plan. By this point, I was overheated due to the humidity and rising temps. I came through the finish line, took on some fuel, and shed some clothes.
As anticipated, my 8 mile splits were slowing down with each passing loop. My goal was to finish in under 7 hours, so I stayed focused on that during the run. I don't know where that goal came from, I think I pulled out of my ass because I never ran a 40 mile race before.
After my 3rd lap, Jo told me I was in 5th or 6th place when I came through the start area. I wasn't sure where the data came from, but I took it to be genuine and started thinking about the finish. My thoughts began to spoil my mind and I quickly decided that I wanted a top 3 finish. Nevermind the fact that I've never finished in the top 10 at ANY ultra...I wanted MORE!
But here's the problem with my greed...by this time in the race, I had run with all the people in front of me except the guy in the #1 spot, and I already knew they were faster. But I didn't want to give up yet, so I kept pushing toward the front...wherever that was.
After the 4th loop, I was told that I was IN FACT, in 5th place. By this time, I was pretty tired and I knew the best position I would end up with was the position I currently held. As I started back out for my final loop, I began to wonder about the person in 6th place. My mind was racing with the possibilities. It was screaming, "HOLY SHIT!!! If you know you're in 5th, then THEY know they're in 6th! DUDE!!! They're coming for YOUR spot!!!".
With this in my paranoid mind, I began watching my split times with my left eye, and watching over my shoulder with my right eye. To further fuel my paranoia, there were no less than THREE relay runners that tried to stalk me during that last loop. The first one passed me, and I confirmed he was NOT the evil #6, but just a simple relay runner. The other two were running slow, so I naturally assumed they MUST be #6, so I throttled it. It wasn't until later that I learned that I was running from innocent relay runners.
Fast forward...#6 finished 45 minutes behind me.
I finally crossed the line, finishing solidly in 5th place overall!!!
I was greeted by Jo and my friend Paul (who finished 2nd overall). I checked my time at the finish line and they recorded my at exactly 7 hours! I was a little bummed to miss my goal of sub 7, but it was still a good result.
Immediately following the race, I started to prepare for tomorrow's race by taking my supplements and eating like an Ethiopian refugee. It was a good day and I was feeling good.
On Sunday, I ran the Conestoga 10 mile trail race. This is no ordinary 10 mile race. This is billed as the "Hardest 10 mile race on the east coast". I didn't make that up...it's right on their website.
I hadn't planned to run ANY race on Sunday, but was eventually talked into it by my good friend, Leon. I had heard about Conestoga and I knew it was tough, but figured I could use it as my recovery run from Saturday.
I want to say this right now...nothing about this day turned out as expected.
Packet pickup started at 7:00. At least that's what they advertised on the website, fliers, and the emails they produced. However, there were about 120 of us in the parking lot at 8:20 when the RD finally decided to show up and get to work on the race he planned, organized, advertised and scheduled for this day.
Who does shit like that?
This picture is my "Losing my temper" face while waiting on the RD to show up. If you look closely, you can make out my fake smile.
So anyway, Conestoga is a point to point race and we were picking up our packets at the finish line. They had buses scheduled to take runners to the start, but my plan was to have Jo drive me and Leon there, then meet us at the finish.
We eventually got our race packets and headed to the start line. This is me and my dear friend Leon at the start.
The plan was simple. Leon and I were going to run this entire race together and enjoy the experience as friends and fellow trail runners. At this point, I still liked Leon and was excited to be sharing this with him.
Three minutes after this photo was taken, Leon vanished into the woods like a freaking forest gnome and I never saw him again.
So let me recap for you...
1. I never planned to race today
2. I ran a hard 40 miler yesterday
3. I'm here to run and enjoy time with Leon
4. I'm now alone in the woods and my buddy is evidently a gnome
Well, all is not lost. I still get to enjoy this beautiful trail and have a nice run. At least I thought that was the case.
If you have run the Catoctin 50K or have ever read the things I have written about the Catoctin 50K then you'll understand my feelings about this trail.
Conestoga has 3000 feet of vertical climb over 10 miles. The climbs are steep and so are the downhills. In addition to being steep, the trails are muddy and rocky. More "bouldery" than rocky. Like shit you have to climb over, or lower yourself off of. I quickly realized that this is more of a survival exercise than a trail run. In all seriousness, I think I ran 1 mile and performed mountaineering tasks for 9 miles.
After a couple of miles into the boulder climbing and mud bath, I realized that Leon took off so fast because he knew he had tricked me into this race and wanted to get away from me before I caught on to his little ruse! PRICK!
At mile 7 of the race, we had completed the last enormous and retarded climb of the day. There was still more to come, but this was the last of the really stupid climbs. This is also the final aid station and a spot where Jo could take some pictures.
Here's a picture of Leon trying to escape me.
Here's a picture of me hot on his tail!
Jo also took this picture of the view from the aid station. I think I was stricken blind by pure frustration and I never noticed it at all. It really was a nice view.
The last 3 miles were almost reasonable, but still annoying. But at that point it didn't matter. They could have installed a damn escalator and I still would have been irritated.
Note to race directors everywhere...if YOU can't run your entire course, don't get sassy and advertise it as a trail RUN. Be honest and call it what it is. It's a damn HIKE!
The course record for this race is 1:30:00, which is a blazing speed for this trail. That's 9 minute miles. There is a cash reward for anybody that break that record. I personally doubt that it will ever happen.
On this day, I was laying down 16:30 miles. This is the slowest pace I have ever had in a race. I finished in 2:45:03, behind Leon by about 15 minutes.
The race was won by Josh Emery, a very fast and talented friend of mine. He came across at 1:45. Josh is a fantastic athlete and I was so proud of him for his work today.
After the race, it was clear that Leon was concerned about my perspective of the event. In his defense, he did claim to have forgotten that there were so few decent sections for running. In my euphoria of having that ridiculous race behind me, I decided to accept Leon's oversight and forgive him of any potential plot to kill me. Deep down inside, I know he's a good guy and I love him like a brother.
This is a picture of me, Jason, Leon and Josh exchanging stories about the trail after the race. In all seriousness, these are all wonderful people and I love them to death. I'm blessed to have so many great running friends in our area.
This weekend double took a lot out of me and I'm seriously considering taking some extra time off to recover. But if the trail calls my name, I suppose that's where I'll be!
Happy Trails Friends!