Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Jacks 50k Trail Race

Jacks 50k Trail Race

I lined up several races this fall to use as my long training runs, running solo gets a little boring and I thought the races would help those long runs be more exciting! I was really excited to run Mala Compra this weekend as a 30+ mile training run. Mala Compra is a 6 (ish) mile loop course. I love loop courses because I feel like it's really easy to access your drop bag, aid stations, spectators and to know exactly what to expect each leg. I also can judge what pace I need to be per loop to get whatever time I am going for.

Race: Jacks 50k Trail Race (at Graham Swamp)
Date: October 23rd, 2016
Finish Time: 6 hours, 41 minutes, 18 seconds
Distance: 33 miles
Gain: 8 ft

We had a wonderful little hurricane blow threw the week before the race, Hurricane Matthew and he destroyed our beautiful trail course. Dawn, the race director for this race had to make a quick decision on what to do. Rather than cancelling or post-poning the race, she decided to move it to another local trail that was about the same distance. Yay, you'd think... Great idea! She moved her race to Graham Swamp which is about a 6.5 mile loop course, but it's a tough mountain bike course! I know the swamp well because I run there regularly, but I could not imagine running more than 1 loop around it. Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck ALL WEEK about this race. I messaged friends and family trying to decide if I should drop down to the 30k option... I was scared I would DNF. Everyone told me the same thing "oh don't worry, you'll be fine". For your information you people out there reading this... that does not help! LOL.

 I found out it had an 8 hour cut off so I did the math and thought "if I can average 90 minutes per loop that would give me roughly a 30 minute buffer at the end". I normally run the swamp at an easy chatting pace around 75 minutes per loop. So I decided my plan was to run the first two loops around 80 minutes, then slow down as needed without exceeding 100 minutes my last 2 loops. I knew loop 3 would be the hardest loop for me both physically and mentally. It would mark the "highest" point of the race in my mind. That point was like reaching the top of the mountain because during the 3rd loop I knew I would be getting bored, tired, hungry, and sore. I knew 15 more miles would seem impossible. But once I got past that 3rd loop it was all down hill from there, counting down the loops was so much easier than counting up the loops 2...3...4...5... seemed like a lot, but "only 2 left" or "only 1 more loop" seemed easy! #mentalgames

I reminded myself over and over before the start of the race, I run this trail often, I have been diligent with my hip strengthening exercises (worried about re-rupturing my Achilles on such a technical trail), I know I have the endurance as long as my legs don't fail me. I carb-loaded for 3 days prior trying a little different approach as I was viewing this race as another trail run. I ate steal cut oatmeal and a banana for breakfast and headed out.

Race Start!
8:30 am sharp the race started. The 10k and 50k started at the same time, while the 30k race started 2 hours later at 10:30 am. I knew the first loop would be very congested and that it would thin out some by the time we went out for loop 2. Sure enough we took off onto the single file trail and felt very slow to start. I was running with a friend at the beginning and we joked that it was a blessing we were being held back from the get-go. We got to save our legs a little bit from the beginning with the hill-walking. Nothing really eventful happened during our first loop except the crazy people who wanted to go much much faster than everyone else. I happily stepped aside for them, while we casually passed a few others along the way... As we came in to the start/finish area (marking 1 loop) I saw my grandparents and mom standing there! I was so surprised this literally MADE MY DAY. They most certainly got me through that 2nd loop which was uncharted territory for me. My friend Mike and I made a very quick pit stop filling our water bottles and grabbing salt, then we snapped a quick picture to say "heading out for loop 2!"
Loop 1 - 78 Minutes

 Starting Loop 2 
Thanks Chris for the photo!
Hurricane Matthew's destruction path
on the trail was crazy!
I love the area's through
the pine trees. Beautiful.

Stay on the trail you are on and on't hop trails! And yes, they're ALL
Loop 2 was empty, almost desolate! Along this loop we met a cool older guy named Joe. Joe drove up alone the night before, and was driving home after the race. Crazy! He was a super cool guy who I chatted with several times along the 5 loop course. He has ran several 100 mile races and offered me some great ultra running advice. He was also looking into a 200k he had just learned about... that is crazy! 

 I watched two different people trip during this loop - tired legs were kicking in! I also met a girl this loop who was struggling a little with knee pain, she had gotten lost her first loop and ended up going 3 miles extra. My goodness how discouraging that would be, but she powered on and seemed like it didn't bother her at all. I encouraged her and told her my trick to not getting lost was to never look more than 6-10 ft in front of me. Seems like every time I look around at the Swamp I have to take a step back to remember what trail I am on because I end up off trail! As we came through the start finish this time My grandparents and Justin were there. I couldn't believe my grandparents came down to support and cheer for me for 3 minutes as I passed through. 
Loop 2 - 79 Minutes

Starting Loop 3
Beautiful scenery
I started on loop 3 still with my friend but he was starting to struggle, at this point I was surprised at how good I was still feeling. I tried to help support him and walk it out and encourage stretching ect, but in the end I ended up heading off on my own. This felt very early on to abandon my conversation buddy, but I thought it might bring me a nice challenge to run solo as I usually run tough races with company to distract and entertain me. I met an older guy this loop who had been lost on the trail, the aid station told him to head over the hill and meet up with the trail there. That's where he found me and decided to start running that direction. I couldn't imagine getting lost and adding all those extra miles on such a TOUGH trail. He didn't seem angry or frustrated, just excited to be back on course and going the right direction. I also saw my first of 4 snakes this loop! I came in finishing loop 3 alone and again saw my husband and Jess. I chatted for a few with them while refilling my water. I really needed some Vaseline or body glide because I could feel that my underarms were starting to chafe but didn't have any, I also needed to take my salt because in the excitement of unexpectedly seeing my family I totally spaced it. I grabbed another pack of gummies (which I left sitting on the chair they had) and headed out. My friends and family are amazing, I cannot believe the amount of support they provide to me, just seeing their faces is such a breath of fresh air and gives me so much push for the next "leg" of miles.
Loop 3 - 84 Minutes

Starting Loop 4

 I headed out for loop 4 and about 1 1/2 miles in I heard a weird noise in the bushes. I stopped to take a look and I saw a group of baby wild pigs. OH. MY. GAWD. They were SO cute. Probably 6-7 of them, some pink, some black and some spotted. Goodness seeing them stair at me just left me in awe of cuteness. I waited a few minutes hoping someone would come behind me on the trail and I could show them the wonderful cuteness I found, but no luck. As I stood there gawking over the itty bitty baby pigs I quickly realized where there are babies... there is a momma. I bailed pretty quick after that! This loop I met up with Joe again, and saw a few of my friends who were running the 30k. This course has a lot of switch backs so it was fun cheering for people I knew or met at the beginning of the race toward the end.
Never knew who was ahead of me or behind me on the trail, but it was fun cheering just the same! I met a girl from Ft Lauderdale who was running her first race EVER and she chose the 50k... on this very challenging course. I also met a girl in a cute running skirt who quickly moved aside for me but I stopped running and walked with her a minute. I enjoy "trail chat" and meeting people on the trails. It's probably one of my favorite things about rail races. Those little bits of conversation carried me a long way. During this loop I passed 12 people and heard comments from them saying I was looking "strong". I felt like I was running strong, I was feeling really good at this point (25 ish miles in the race). My legs felt strong, and mentally I felt "good". 
One more loop!
I came in from loop 4 feeling great, it was my fastest loop!
Loop 4 - 77 minutes

Starting Loop 5, my final loop!
ONE MORE LOOP. I got this. I felt good but was definitely getting a little bored and people on the trail weren't real chatty at this point. Most were hurting, and grumpy, and upset at how hard this course was. I ran into one guy who was hoping for a 50k PR before he started LOL, he decided after the first loop, he was hoping for a finish! I grabbed my music for this last loop, I needed a little something to distract me. I stopped to look for the pigs again but no luck. I ran along and I noticed ahead of me there were two guys who were just chatting away. They were in neon yellow and neon orange shirts, so they were hard to miss! I thought, "if I can catch up to them maybe I could just listen in on their conversation, or even join it!" I did catch up but the guy in the yellow had me pass telling me good job "speedy" and the guy in the orange just kind've took off. I met up with him later as he was struggling. He was from Miami and not accustomed to the climbs that the swamp offered. He was having some cramping issues, I ran with him a bit and ended up passing him.

More hurricane Matthew destruction

Coming in for the finish!
Trail roots
 Another guy I saw frequently was in a blue tank, same color as mine! I joked in my head (because after 4 loops of the swamp I was a little nutty and thought I was hilarious) how we looked like twins in our matching outfits #twinsies. I ended up passing this guy, who then passed me again. We chatted a bit and ran together for quite awhile. He was an ultra runner and had ran the 50k the day before. He encouraged me to keep my pace up because he was pretty sure I was one of the top females. I told him I thought he was mistaken, I mean afterall, I was just running easy and hoping to finish within the time cut off. My heart rate at this point averaged 157 BPM so I was doing good at taking it easy. I chatted with him for a bit, and he mentioned for me to let him know if I wanted to pass him. Why would I do that, then I would be alone again? LOL. I said "no thanks, I feel pretty comfortable at this pace". This seamed to light the fire under him, in shock he was like "WHAT!" I was just running an easy training run, and have to recover quick for more upcoming races, so comfort was where I was trying to stay the whole run. He gradually picked up the pace, so I did to. We only had about 2 miles to go and he powered up the last few climbs so fast! He kept reminding me that "Heather" who was "a closer" was catching up to us, and told me not to let her pass me. Ok? I thought. So I tried to keep up with him till the end. He lost me about 1/2 mile from the finish and finished 2 minutes before me! I passed 8 runners this loop!
Final loop 84 minutes

Final time was 6:41:18, I had hoped for 7:30 so that was a huge jump from my expectations of how I would do.

I rounded the corner to finish and saw my amazing husband, best friend Jess, Todd and Jenn (who were along the course the ENTIRE day from the start of the race encouraging and cheering for all of us who were running), and Carrie (who got 1st place woman in the 30k) all shouting at the finish line. What a boost that was to run in and see a bunch of my FCR friends standing there cheering for me :) Our running group has got to be one of the most supportive groups of people I have ever met, they are amazing.

Coming in to the finish!
Also, I beat the illusive closer "Heather" who I never got to meet but apparently she is a well known amazing runner-thanks to Andy and his crazy push at the end. I came in 3rd place overall female (10th overall finisher). Crazy? Did I really just run the swamp 5 times fairly COMFORTABLE? I could feel a little twinge in my hips but overall, I felt good. Like, really unexpectedly good! My training is paying off. I am feeling so strong and confident going into my 100 mile race in January. 

Post race Andy came and shook my hand telling me I would do great at the 100 if I ran it anything like I did the course today. I found out later that he is some crazy amazing awesome elite Ultra Runner who has done everything up to 200 mile races! And he feels like I am training well? What a boost of confidence that was. 

I've learned with Ultra running the littlest things that you say or do can help someone to finish their race. It doesn't usually take much, but those little interactions you have make a huge overall impact. I had a blast out there on this course meeting people and enjoying the beautiful TOUGH trail. It had 1 aid station on course, then the start/finish aid station (roughly ever 3 miles or so you had water refill, fresh fruit, avocado rolls, pickles, coke and cookies). Only downside to the race was there was only 1 porto-potty and it was located at the start/finish. Maybe there could have been 2? But that could have been part of the Hurricane Matthew debacle too, not sure if that was an original plan or all she could get to that location last minute.

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