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.
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!"
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|
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
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.
|One more loop!|
Loop 4 - 77 minutes
Starting Loop 5, my final 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!|
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!|
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.